The 600mm lens is Nikon’s beast. It is a physically huge lens and carries a heavy price tag. It really is a very specialized lens only used for wildlife, particularly birds, and some sports photography. Other than that, there’s no reason to even consider dropping the cash necessary to own this beast.
I use the older version of the lens, the one lacking Vibration Reduction (VR) technology. Sure, I’d love to be able to afford to sell this lens and upgrade to the VR lens but it just doesn’t make financial sense. That technology, while spectacular and I love it on my other lenses, just isn’t worth the $5,000 that would be required to cover the difference. I was fortunate to be able to pick up my lens a few years back used when a bird photographer made the switch to Canon and couldn’t afford to have two 600mm lenses.
It is a beautiful lens and works wonderfully. The reach, particularly with the 1.4x teleconverter is unrivaled in the Nikon world. It’s sharp. It’s bright. It focuses well. What more can you want? I’d guess that 95% of the bird photographs I take are with this lens, particularly if the bird is sitting still.
While I love the lens, it is by no means the answer to everything. The minimum focus distance is not all that close (18.4 feet) so occasionally I have to break out extension tubes, something Nikon woefully lacks (I use Kenko’s version). Also, it is a big lens, weighing in at almost 11 pounds. This means that by the time you add a pro camera body, the entire rig weighs right around 13 pounds. The weight means that handholding is difficult to say the least. There are a few images of me handholding this lens floating around the site and they are a little misrepresentative. I almost always use the lens on a tripod and when I do hand hold it, it is only for a few minutes.
If you are a Nikon photographer and want to get closeup shots of birds and animals you can’t approach then this is the lens for you. It will cost about as much as a small car but it is often the only answer when trying to photograph birds.