The Z 180-600mm f5.6-6.3 VR is Nikon’s longest zoom lens to date. At only 2kg weight, 316mm length, and optical stabilization good for up to 5.5 stops the lens is very handholdable. And with its 3.3x zoom range reaching up to 600mm focal length it should be a versatile lens for wildlife, sports, or aircraft photography. The lens is sold at 1999 EUR / 1697 USD / 1799 GBP and should become available in August.
Facts and features
Let’s compare the new Nikon Z 180-600mm f5.6-6.3 VR (“Z-Nikkor” for short) to the Nikon AF-S 200-500mm f5.6E ED VR (“F-Nikkor”) and Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 for Nikon F-mount (“Tamron”). Both F-mount lenses still can be used via FTZ adapter on Nikon’s Z cameras. As usual I’ve rated the features with a [+] (or [++]), when it’s better than average or even state of the art, a  if it’s standard or just average, and [-] if there’s a disadvantage.
Size (diameter x length): 110 x 316mm (4.3 x 12.4in.) plus an estimated 90mm for the lens hood. Zooming does not change the length of the Z-Nikkor. The F-Nikkor is 108 x 268mm extending to a total length of 435mm with attached lens-hood at 500mm focal length. The Tamron is 108 x 258mm extending to 434mm with attached lens-hood at 600mm focal length. Add 30mm for the FTZ adapter to use the F-Nikkor and Tamron on a Nikon Z camera. So, with lens hoods mounted the Z-Nikkor is as long as the Tamron (plus FTZ adapter) at 150mm focal length. Zooming in to 600mm adds 79mm to the Tamron while the Nikon stays put. [+]
Weight: 1955g (4.3 lb.) plus 185g for the tripod mount and an estimated 100g for the lens hood. The F-Nikkor is 2300g (including tripod mount) + lens hood. The Tamron is 1790g + 200g tripod mount + 108g lens hood. Add another 133g for the FTZ adapter to use the F-Nikkor and Tamron on a Nikon Z camera. [+]
Optics: The Nikon Z 180-600mm f5.6-6.3 VR has 25 optical elements in 17 groups including six special dispersion elements and one aspherical element. It has fluorine coating at the front lens to repel water, dust, and dirt and make cleaning easier.. The F-Nikkor has 19 elements in 12 groups, the Tamron is a 21/13 design. [+]
Minimum object distance is 1.3m (4.3ft.) at 180mm focal length. Maximum magnification of 1:4 is achieved at 600mm focal length and results in a working distance of almost 2m. The F-Nikkor and the Tamron have a minimum object distance of 2m and achieve a maximum magnification of 1:4 resp. 1:3.5 both at their longest focal lengths. So the Z-Nikkor is more flexible at close range and probably offers a higher magnification on the short end. [+]
Filter-thread: 95mm. That’s larger than most of us have filters for and may mean that you need to get new filters for the lens. But that’s par for the course as both the F-Nikkor and the Tamron need 95mm filters. 
Image stabilization: All three lenses in this comparison offer optical stabilization which works in conjunction with the body-based stabilization on Nikon’s full-frame Z cameras to achieve a claimed 5.5 stops of stabilization over 5 axes for the Z-Nikkor. For the F-Nikkor and the Tamron the Z cameras only add roll correction to pitch and yaw correction from the lens’s own image stabilization. [+]
Aperture ring and other control elements: The multi-function control ring of the Z-Nikkor is located behind the zoom ring and can be assigned to operate the aperture (which is the default), exposure compensation, ISO or focus. Neither the F-Nikkor nor the Tamron have a dedicated aperture ring. The Z-Nikkor also has 4 buttons at the front (L-Fn) which can be assigned one extra function like AE/AF lock. All lenses in this comparison also sport a focus-limiter which in case of the Z-Nikkor prevents the lens to search focus closer than 6m (20ft.). [+]
Autofocus: All lenses in this comparison offer autofocus with built-in focus drive. Manual-focus override is by simply turning the control ring – if MF is assigned to it. [+]
All lenses in this comparison cover full frame sensors or can equally be used on a cropped DX camera body. [+]
The Z-Nikkor comes with the usual flimsy pouch with no strings to pull it close. The lens hood is included and locks in place to avoid accidentally falling off plus it is reversible for transport. A removable tripod-collar is also included which has two eyelets to attach a strap to as you should not use the strap on the camera to carry such a heavy load. Unfortunately Nikon missed out (again) to make the foot Arca-Swiss compatible (like the Tamron). The tripod foot has two mounting threads: one 1/4″ and one 3/8″. The latter can be used e. g. for mounting the foot directly on a half ball – which should give you the most rigid connection to a tripod. The F-Nikkor and the Tamron also come with a soft pouch, detachable tripod collar and reversible lens hood. 
Sealing: The Z-Nikkor is fully weather sealed. The F-Nikkor has the usual rubber grommet at the lens mount and the Tamron offers some additional weather-sealing. [+]
Price: The Nikon Z 180-600mm f5.6-6.3 VR costs 1999 EUR (incl. 19% VAT) / 1697 USD / 1799 GBP. The Nikon AF-S 200-500mm f5.6E ED VR currently sells for 1330 EUR / 1060 USD / 1140 GBP, the Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 is 1060 EUR / 1200 USD / 1280 GBP. I think the price is adequate compared to the older lenses or the Nikon Z 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 VR S which currently sells for 2570 EUR / 2500 USD / 2420 GBP 
Use with teleconverters: The Z-Nikkor can be used with Nikon’s teleconverters for Z-mount: The Z TC-1.4x for 549 EUR (incl. 19% VAT) / 547 USD / 549 GBP and Z TC-2.0x for 660 EUR / 597 USD / 580 GBP. Keep in mind though that the Z TCs cannot be used with the FTZ adapter. [+]
The score of 0[-]/3/10[+] shows that the Nikon Z 180-600mm f5.6-6.3 VR is well featured: It is a relatively compact and lightweight 3.3x zoom lens reaching 600mm focal length at an adequate prize. It’s fully weather sealed, offers good close-up capabilities, and should have very good image stabilization. If image quality holds up the new lens should be a very interesting addition to Nikon’s line-up of long zoom lenses.
Sharpness and contrast
Let’s have a look at the theoretical performance of the new Nikon Z 180-600mm f5.6-6.3 VR and compare it to the Nikon AF-S 200-500mm f5.6E ED VR and Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2:
These MTF charts show the computed lens-performance of lenses wide open without influence of diffraction at 10 line-pairs/mm (red) and 30 lp/mm (blue). Higher values are better (more contrast) and the closer the dotted and solid lines are together the less contrast dependents on the orientation of the test-pattern (less astigmatism). The x-axis displays the distance from the optical axis (=center of the sensor) in mm.
From the charts the Nikon Z 180-600mm f5.6-6.3 VR should be pretty contrasty and sharp both at the short and the long end. At the short end it probably is sharper than the F-Nikkor in the corner or the Tamron in the center. At the long end the differences look not as big with the F-Nikkor probably the sharpest lens in the center but developing astigmatism faster and stronger than the Z-Nikkor.
Check back for my full review with all the real life results and comparisons as soon as the lens becomes available.Check prices on the Nikon Z 180-600mm f5.6-6.3 VR at B&H, Adorama, WEX UK or Calumet.de. Alternatively get yourself a copy of my In Camera book, an official Cameralabs T-shirt or mug, or treat me to a coffee! Thanks!