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FORUMS Gear Reviews Lens Reviews 
Thread started 22 May 2020 (Friday) 11:05
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List all reviews of Nikon AF-S Nikkor 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR, reviewed by MatthewK

 
MatthewK
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May 22, 2020 11:05 |  #1

This is my first "official" gear review, but over the past year I've written (and posted a ton of photos) a good amount about this lens over in the 500PF thread in the Nikon Lens sub-forum. Suffice it to say, this Nikon 500mm lens is absolutely brilliant. End of review.

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:-)

Why is it brilliant? You get the reach, color, sharpness, contrast, AF speed, at a 1/3 of the cost of the f/4 Super Telephotos, but in a lens the size of a 70-200 f/2.8. In exchange, you're giving up that f/4 aperture for f/5.6. That may be a limiting factor to certain photogs in certain low-light situations, where you need all the light you can get (think: rainforest in Coasta Rica). Coming from the Canon 500 and 600 f/4 on my 1DX2, giving up that stop of light was a major consideration, but coupled with the equally remarkable sensor in the Nikon D500, that stop of light wasn't as detrimental as I had anticipated, and I soon parted ways with the big glass when I discovered that I was able to make the shots I wanted using the diminutive 500 PF.

Online reviews and videos don't do the size comparisons justice: when you first pull this lens out of the box and witness just how small it is, you'll laugh. Yet, the build quality is top-shelf, you can tell this is a well constructed piece of equipment. The only knock against it would be how the factory tripod foot is attached to the body, with reports of users accidentally detaching the foot from their lens (see Steve Perry's review). I mitigated this issue by purchasing a third party foot (recommend Hejnar).

The 500PF's raison d'etre: the small size and weight allow for a freedom to get shots you may not get with the comparable f/4 prime or super tele-zoom. Leave your tripod at home, this is the lens for us hand held shooters. Often times shooting birds, I'm motionless w/ the camera up to my eye for good stretches of time while I wait for the right moment, or I'm holding an extended yoga pose in order to frame up the right composition. With the big f/4 glass, those situations are exhausting, you're forced to drop the rig in order to rest your failing arms, and that movement can mean you scare the bird off or aren't in the position to get the shot. Not to mention, carrying this lens around all day through thick woods and brush is significantly easier than the bulky big lenses, and my back/shoulders aren't screaming at the end of the day. This reduced bulk has made a huge impact on my quality of life and enjoyment in the field.

AF performance: this will be a combined function of lens + body, so bear that in mind; with that being said, the lens focuses extremely fast on my D500, and is easily more than adequate for perched or slower moving BIFs. Compared to the Canon Big Whites on a 1-series body, I'd say the pint-sized Nikon combo is about 90%. Trust me, AF performance won't be a reason you miss shots with this setup.

IQ: perfect, couldn't ask for anything more. I've not witnessed any weird bokeh caused by the PF (aka DO) optics, flare is well controlled, and the colors come out nice and inky.


Conclusion: Nikon has done something very special with this lens. It's not everyday that you see a manufacturer precisely target a market segment like this, as the 500PF lens is laser-guided shout out to nature and wildlife photographers! If you're a hand held shooter, and you are tired of the gigantic super teles, definitely take a look at this Nikkor 500mm PF!


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Chris1966
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Post edited over 2 years ago by Chris1966. (3 edits in all)
     
May 25, 2020 13:25 |  #2

Nice review Matthew, and nice images! The 500PF surely is something special. I use it on the Z7 now, and can toss it in a backpack anytime and hardly notice it on my back. Performance on the Z7 is seamsless as far as I am concerned, as long as you don't mean to follow 100mph action, and don't intend to shoot in coalmines...

I can only find fault with the 500PF in two regards: it loses much of its magic with the 1.4TC, and it loses its magic when shooting in very bright, harsh light from an angle (that nonetheless can produce nice images with a lens that can handle such light. The 500PF cannot really, it get's a bit fuzzy and loses clarity.)
The Canon 400DOII that I used for a year just laughed at the 1.4TC, but choked even more on the "bright harsh light". The only lens that I have owned that could really elegantly handle that type of light was my Pentax DA560, that could produce wall hangers of e.g. seals lying on a beachside near the sea in baking spring light, shooting the image across the water. Try that with either the 500PF or 400DOII and you won't want to hang them on your wall...

So for me, the 500PF is a "particular use" lens: when I don't want the burden of weight and size, and it is just utterly superb for that use. I am however still looking for my major lens, it could be a Nikon 500mm F4E FL coupled with a 1.4TC, or if that also chokes on harsh light, a Nikon 600mm f4, which is a bit heavy, but saves the weight of the 1.4TC.




  
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DocRoger
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Jul 18, 2020 07:54 |  #3

Excellent review, outstanding photos, I am in total agreement :-D.


https://www.flickr.com​/photos/jazzdoc/ (external link)

  
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MatthewK
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Jul 19, 2020 10:01 |  #4

DocRoger wrote in post #19095018 (external link)
Excellent review, outstanding photos, I am in total agreement :-D.

Thanks, Doc!




  
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Pagman
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Nov 04, 2020 23:14 |  #5

MatthewK wrote in post #19095564 (external link)
Thanks, Doc!


Have to ask - will it be a large improvement when mounted on a D500 over my old set up - D7100/Tammy 70-300VC?

P.


Nikon D7200 / AFS-D 300F4 / MkII 1.4X TC.

  
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MatthewK
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Cream of the Crop
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Location: Wisconsin
     
Nov 05, 2020 05:56 |  #6

Pagman wrote in post #19147852 (external link)
Have to ask - will it be a large improvement when mounted on a D500 over my old set up - D7100/Tammy 70-300VC?

P.

I haven't shot with the combo you mention, so can't give any real comparisons, but the general assumptions can be made regarding primes being better performing than zooms in terms of IQ. In addition, you're getting 200mm more reach and a native f/5.6, compared to the max 300mm f/5.6 of the Tamron. Finally, the D500 vs D7100, I'm not sure how those bodies compare sensor-wise, but I know that the D500 has the better AF.

Overall, I think I could safely say that this combo would be a fantastic upgrade.




  
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Pagman
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Nov 05, 2020 15:45 |  #7

MatthewK wrote in post #19147922 (external link)
I haven't shot with the combo you mention, so can't give any real comparisons, but the general assumptions can be made regarding primes being better performing than zooms in terms of IQ. In addition, you're getting 200mm more reach and a native f/5.6, compared to the max 300mm f/5.6 of the Tamron. Finally, the D500 vs D7100, I'm not sure how those bodies compare sensor-wise, but I know that the D500 has the better AF.

Overall, I think I could safely say that this combo would be a fantastic upgrade.

Thank you for that.

P.


Nikon D7200 / AFS-D 300F4 / MkII 1.4X TC.

  
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MatthewK
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Location: Wisconsin
     
Nov 06, 2020 05:25 |  #8

At this point in time (Nov 2020), there's a $300 rebate on the Nikkor 500mm f/5.6 PF! Hard to believe it's already running a discount, seeing as how this lens has been extremely difficult to find in stock anywhere up until recently.




  
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Nikon AF-S Nikkor 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR, reviewed by MatthewK
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