Review of super-telephoto lenses Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4E FL ED VR and AF-S NIKKOR 500 mm f/4E FL ED VR

Nikon has released two new models of professional super-telephoto lens Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f / 4E FL ED VR and AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f / 4E FL ED VR. These lenses are upgraded versions of Nikon’s super telephoto lenses.

The new 500mm f / 4E lens is lighter than its predecessor by 20%, and 600mm f / 4E by 25%.

Main Features

Maximum of opportunities. High definition. This super-telephoto lens with a focal length of 600 mm is enclosed in an incredibly lightweight case. Thanks to the use of the most modern technologies, it will be able to cope with shooting both wildlife and sports competitions.

Both models have a new optical design that contains lightweight fluorite elThis bad guy has 5 buttons and 5 switchesements, nanocrystalline Nano Crystal Coat coating and ED glass elements. Thanks to the use of fluorite elements and a magnesium alloy body, it was possible to achieve a significant reduction in the weight of the lenses. Both lenses use an electromagnetic diaphragm, which provides a more accurate and repeatable exposure during high-speed burst shooting.

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 600 mm f / 4E FL ED VR

A new lens with a focal length of 500 mm weighs 3090 g (approximately), which is 790 g less than the previous model. The lens with a focal length of 600 mm weighs about 3810 g. This is 1250 g less than the weight of the previous model.
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 500 mm f / 4E FL ED VR

Of course, a smaller mass is not the only advantage of new lenses. The manufacturer claims that the tracking tracking speed is significantly increased, which is especially important when shooting sports events, which, along with shooting live drives, is one of the main applications of new lenses.

In the lens, Nikon uses such developments as an electromagnetic diaphragm that provides a more accurate and repeatable exposure during high-speed continuous shooting, and an image stabilizer that provides a four-stage gain. Taking into account the scope of the lenses, the stabilizer has a Sport mode, useful for tracking fast moving objects. In addition, one can note the presence of a fluorine-containing protective coating on the front element.

Vibration reduction system developed by Nikon gives the advantage in four steps, and the SPORT VR (Sport VR) mode allows you to track fast moving objects. The electromagnetic aperture provides accurate exposure during high-speed continuous shooting. Thanks to the fluorine-containing coating, which increases the wear resistance, the lens is protected from water, dust and dirt.

Nikon’s ultra-quiet ultrasonic (SWM) motor provides ultra-fast and virtually noiseless autofocusing with the ability to easily switch to manual mode. In addition to the manual mode, two AF modes are available: A / M (auto focus priority even when using the focus ring) and M / A (instant switching from autofocus to manual control in AF mode). Both of these lenses are equipped with a new focus-limiting switch that determines the focus area and allows focusing even faster on the desired objects. It can be installed in one of two available positions: FULL (full range) and from ∞ to 10 m on a lens with a focal length of 600 mm, as well as FULL (full range) and from ∞ to 8 m on a lens with a focal length The distance is 500 mm. In addition, the minimum focusing distance is now only 3.6 m for a lens with a focal length of 500 mm and 4.4 m for a lens with a focal length of 600 mm.

Optical construction

Each lens has an optical design with 16 elements in 12 groups, including two fluorite elements (to reduce chromatic aberrations and weight) and four ED glass elements with ultra-low dispersion. Nanocrystalline and fluorine (on external surfaces) coating is applied. In a lens with a focal length of 600 mm, four elements with ultra-low dispersion (ED glass) are used, and in a lens with a focal length of 500 mm, three such elements are used. Both models use Nano Crystal Coat nanocrystalline coating and two fluorite elements. Due to this, it is possible to obtain images with minimal chromatic aberration, and also effectively eliminate image doubling and glare. In addition, both lenses are equipped with a diaphragm with nine rounded lobes.

Both lenses are equipped with a transitional ring for a tripod with supports of the newest design, providing a smoother transition from a horizontal position to a vertical one. Mounting the tripod is located closer to the rear of the lens, which makes it easier to carry the lens, and also easily turn the whole lens hood (supplied). In addition, each lens comes with an adapter for mounting to monopod, which provides even greater stability during shooting using a monopod. Both lenses are compatible with optional accessories, the installation diameter of which is 40.5 mm.

Included Accessories

  • Front cover: non-standard.
  • Back cover: LF-4.
  • Hood: HK-40.
  • Cover: CT-608.
  • Strap: LN-2.
  • Holder for 40.5 mm filter.
  • 40.5 mm NC filter.
  • 40.5 mm Polarization Filter: C-PL405.
  • Clamp with tripod socket

Technical specifications of AF-S Nikkor 600mm f/4E lenses FL ED VR and AF-S Nikkor 500mm f/4E FL ED VR

  • The focal length is 500 and 600 mm;
  • The maximum aperture is F / 4.0;
  • The minimum aperture is F / 22;
  • Optical scheme – 16 elements in 12 groups, including three and four ED elements
  • The minimum focusing distance is 3.6 and 4.4 m;
  • The maximum magnification is 0.14x;
  • The number of petals of the diaphragm is 9 (rounded),
  • Filter diameter is 41 mm;
  • Dimensions – diameter 140 mm, length 387 mm and diameter 166 mm, length 432 mm;
  • Weight is 3090 and 3810 g.

The lenses are compatible with AF-I / AF-S teleconverters, up to models of the TC-20E series, and a new circular polarizing filter C-PL405. The package includes hoods, monopod adapter, neutral plug-in type filter with a diameter of 40.5 mm, front lens protective cover (removable) and LN-2 strap. In addition, you can buy containers CT-505 and CT-608.

Key Benefits

  1. Professional super telephoto lens: large maximum aperture f / 4 and focal length 600 mm or 500 mm.
  2. Reliable design and light weight: the use of fluorite elements has made it possible to reduce the weight of these super telephoto lenses. Lightweight, durable and reliable lens housing is equipped with professional protection against dust and moisture.
  3. High-quality optics: two fluorite elements, four ultra-low dispersion elements (ED glass) and a Nikon Nano Crystal Coat nanocrystalline coating ensure a minimum level of chromatic aberration and image dithering.
  4. Vibration reduction (VR): in the SPORT mode. The VR function minimizes the camera shake effect, so you can shoot at shutter speeds of four stops longer than usual.¹ SPORT VR mode provides sharpness in the viewfinder when shooting fast moving subjects and allows continuous shooting at the same frame rate and The minimum delay of the shutter release, as with the VR function turned off.
  5. Electromagnetic diaphragm: provides higher accuracy and repeatability of exposure during high-speed continuous shooting.
  6. Silent ultrasonic motor (SWM): ultra-fast and virtually noiseless autofocusing with the ability to instantly transition to manual mode
  7. Focus-limiting switch: has two positions – FULL (full range) and from ∞ to 10 m.
  8. Fluorinated coating: reliably protects against water, dust and dirt without loss of image quality. The coating is applied to the glass, which protects the lens front lens. So the glass can be cleaned easily without damaging the surface.
  9. Closest focusing distance: 4.4 m
  10. Tripod ring: Advanced supports increase the reliability of fastening and provide a smooth transition from horizontal to vertical position. The tripod ring is located closer to the lens bayonet. This is convenient for transportation and, in addition, allows you to wrap the entire blend (included in the delivery).
  11. Short adapter for monopod attachment (included in the scope of delivery): increases stability during use of the monopod.
  12. Case CT-608 (included in the scope of delivery): lightweight but durable road container with a foldable handle, which is convenient for traveling.

AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4E FL ED VR – price. Where is the best place to buy?

The recommended retail price for the AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4E FL ED VR in the US is about $ 12 300. And the recommended retail price for the AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/4E FL ED VR in the US is about $ 10 300. At this cost, you can order it on Amazon. Plus Shipping, so the total cost of AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4E FL ED VR when ordering on Amazon will be about $ 12 300. I would not recommend ordering anywhere else except on Amazon. Since you are less likely to find cheaper, and if you do not take into account the fact that Amazon is probably the most reliable online store, it still very often provides free shipping.

Experience

Is it really noticeable that the weight loss is almost 2 pounds (790 grams), compared to the previous version of the Nikkor 500mm?

Naturally!

For $ 10,300, it would be better if these answers were affirmative. Are there any flaws in this lens? Is its price worth $ 2,000 more than its predecessor, the legendary Nikkor 500mm f / 4G ED VR, one of the sharpest and most productive lenses ever produced? And this is just a couple of those questions that I will touch on in this review.

The acquisition of a super telephoto lens with a fixed focal length is a serious decision. Before I put about eight thousand for my Nikkor 500G, I asked my friend who owns Canon’s 500mm lens whether he regretted that he paid so much for the lens. “Not a second,” he replied. I can say the same thing. If you want to experience the excitement of a successfully imprinted frame in the wild, then at some point you will desire one of these lenses.

Now that you’ve decided which of your kidneys are going to sell, let’s get down to business. Investing in a super telephoto with a fixed focal length is a big responsibility, so the review will be quite extensive.

Build Quality

Even in spite of its relatively low weight, the 500E FL feels very reliable, not plastic. All switches are located conveniently and work clearly, the tripod bracket is very smooth, and the ease of rotation of the manual focus ring leaves a feeling of a silk scarf slipping off the remaining shoulder of Venus of Milos.

Sharpness

sharpness of the Nikon lens AF-S NIKKOR 500 mm f / 4E FL ED VR

Nikon D810 + 500mm f / 4E FL @ 500mm, ISO 400, 1/800, f / 5.6

100% crop center frame, RAW, without sharpening.
sharpness of the Nikon lens AF-S NIKKOR 500 mm f / 4E FL ED VR

100% crop of frame angle, RAW, without sharpening.

So, if you can not notice the difference, then why does someone need such a sharp lens? Because if Nikon ever releases a 64MP camera, then fans of unprecedented large prints can notice the difference in the results. We, at the moment, can notice the difference by running Imatest (if we need it). I’m sure 500E FL will show results better than 500G, and will fly to the top of the rating.

From a practical point of view, buying this lens just because the results of its test is better than the 500G is just ridiculous. Both lenses are insanely sharp enough that you can recharge in your eyes when you look at the photos taken with their help. Here is a picture of a jay shot from 500G.

Ease of use

Compared with other super telephotos, with which I dealt, in terms of ease of use, this lens is just a fairy tale. I’ve always preferred the 500mm f / 4 option, rather than 400mm f / 2.8 or 600mm f / 4 because it’s easier than others, hence it’s more convenient to use. The new 500E FL for 2 pounds (790 g) is lighter than the 500G – this fact makes my back happier.

The weight is slightly more than 3 kg – it’s a little bit for a 500 mm fixation, but overall it’s a pretty heavy lens. For comparison, the venerable Nikkor 70-200mm f / 2.8 weighs about 1.5 kg and, according to many, is a fairly brutal lens. If you think that with 500E FL you can run easily and quickly, think again. The lighter weight of the 500E FL is more helpful when handling it with hands than when carrying it.

The FL marking indicates the use of fluorite elements, which in 500E FL are two – both in front of the lens. Fluorite is much lighter than other optical glasses. The secret of weight loss 500E FL is the use of fluorite in large front elements, which is why the front part of the 500E FL does not outweigh the 500G.
Optical circuit Nikon 500mm f / 4E VR FL

Since the front of the lens is less heavy, you have the opportunity to conveniently position your hand slightly closer to the body and rest your left elbow directly into the chest, which gives a very stable position for shooting with hands. I use the same position with the 500G, but with it it is not so comfortable, because the camera-lens system turns out to be unbalanced, except when I use heavy D4S.

One of the biggest advantages of reducing the weight of the lens is that when shooting with hands you have more time before the muscles get tired. How many? I’m glad that you had this question, because to get a response to it I spent one of the most stupid tests of photo equipment of all that I ever did. I moved both lenses to manual focus mode and, looking through the viewfinder, tried to keep focus on the selected point and prevent it from going beyond the autofocus frame. With the 500G, I managed to hold out for 3 minutes 21 seconds, before my shoulders were numb and I could no longer hold the point within the frame. With 500E FL, I lasted 4 minutes and 39 seconds. The extra minute and 18 seconds may not seem like much of a stretch of time, but when shooting sports events and wildlife, to horror, the most interesting events occur the second you lower the camera.

In fact, I can blame the 500E FL for the fact that because of him I got one of the most unusual injuries in my career as a photographer. For one day, spent at the edge of the Grand Canyon, I removed the vultures from the hands in flight – for a total of several hours. The next day, I began to have sharp pains in the right thigh and right side of the waist, in addition, when walking, I experienced some discomfort. As it turned out, during the previous day of shooting, I overloaded the lumbar muscle, since my torso was constantly bowing back to balance the weight of the camera-lens system. With a heavy 500G, I would stop shooting and go home much earlier, which would allow me to avoid injury. So, learn the lesson for the future – taking pictures with a heavy lens, monitor the shooting time to avoid overexertion of the lumbar muscles.

Controls

This bad guy has 5 buttons and 5 switches:
Controls for the Nikon 500mm f / 4E VR FL

Buttons and focus function switch

Five inches from the front of the lens (without the lens hood) there are 4 buttons for focusing functions – they are placed on 12, 3, 6 and 9 hours of the barrel of the lens, respectively. There is also a switch for selecting the functions that are activated by these buttons. AF-ON activates autofocus, AF-L locks the focus, so you can change the composition of the frame, and Memory Recall selects the previously saved focus distance. I rarely use the buttons, because, in my opinion, they are too far away on the case for convenient access while shooting from the hands. At 500G they are located in the same place, but since the front part of the 500G is heavier, they seem to be placed for use more naturally and in a balanced way. Another reason I rarely use these buttons is because I use the back button on the camera to lock the focus.

The only thing for which I use these buttons from time to time is to recall memory. The Memory Recall function allows you to pre-focus on an object, for example, on a second base when shooting a game of baseball, to lock the focus distance using the MEMORY SET button next to the lens mount. That is, if during the shooting you were focused in some other place, and you need to quickly focus on the second base, you simply click on one of the four main buttons on the lens case, and the 500E FL immediately focuses on the specified distance without any interference. Or wanderings.

Focus limiter switch

This switch is very important for minimizing the wandering of focus when shooting objects that are further than 8 meters. I would like it to be located more conveniently, rather than among a bunch of other switches. If the object is closer than 8 meters and you need to switch to the full range of focus, finding this switch without taking the camera away from the face is difficult. It would be great if the function buttons could be set to switch the focus range (Nikon, how about this in the new firmware?). Either that, or it would be nice to make the shape of this switch different from the others and you could easily find it by touch. After all, for example, if you hit the switch below, you can turn off the vibration reduction function, instead of activating the full focus range.

Mode switch M, M / A, A / M

M takes the lens to manual focus mode – autofocus does not work.

M / A allows you to use autofocus, but you can also refocus manually by rotating the focusing ring.

A / M works in a similar way to M / A, but to cancel the autofocus you need to rotate the focusing ring more than 1/10 of a turn. This helps to prevent accidental rotation of the focus ring and knocking down the aftofocus – this is probably a good option when you hold the lens by pressing the focus ring, or if the focusing ring contacts the bean bag or when panning.

Since I hold the lens closer to its base, I use the back focus button, and I often focus the focus manually, I leave this switch in the M / A position.

Beep sound activation switch

The lens emits a beep when you memorize the focus distance, or when it focuses on it in Memory Recall mode. With this switch you can leave or turn off the sound signal. In order not to frighten wild animals, I turn it off, but I saw how sports photographers leave the sound signal turned on – in noisy stadiums, it certainly helps.

Vibration reduction function (VR) switch

500E FL is equipped with two modes of vibration suppression – Normal and Sport, in addition, you can completely turn off this function. Normal mode is designed to reduce camera shake when shooting still subjects. Sports – for shooting moving objects, for example, sportsmen or wild animals, and also recommended for panning. And one and the other mode can be used when the camera is mounted on a tripod, although some users may prefer to turn off the vibration reduction function when shooting from a tripod or at long exposures (more than 1/500 sec).

Vibration Reduction Performance

Would you like to see a bunch of blurry photos? I do not think so, so I tested the performance of the vibration reduction system when shooting with hands.

The table below shows the number of acceptable sharp photos (by my picky criteria) that I managed to get in this or that mode. For example, 1/4 means that I received one clear frame of four attempts made in this mode. Pay attention: although several decades have passed since I could pull myself up 50 times, I feel that my hands are quite strong compared to most photographers, but at the same time they tend to tremble a little.

Exposure 500G VR Off 500G Normal 500E FL VR Off 500E FL Normal 500E FL Sport
1/500 2/4 4/4 4/4 4/4,4/4 4/4,4/4
1/250 2/4 4/4 2/4 4/4,4/4 4/4,4/4
1/125 0 4/4 0 4/4,4/4 4/4,4/4
1/60 0 2/4 1/4 3/4,2/4 2/4,4/4
1/30 0 2/4 0 2/4,1/4 1/4,4/4
1/15 0 0 0 0,0 0,1/4
1/8 0 1/4 0 0,0 0,0

Even if the second attempt in the sports mode for 1/8 seconds, I got a zero result, then the degree of blur was still much lower than in normal mode – certainly not so much that I would save the photo, but still better. I repeated this test several times with different objects and got similar results. Any vibration reduction mode for 500G ED and 500E FL works well up to shutter speeds of 1/125 s.

With a 1.4x teleconverter or shooting with a DX of 1.5x, I managed to get good results with both 500E FL and 500G up to 1/250 s. At 1/125 with the images of objects became soft, especially with 500G. Below you will see 100% of the crop of images shot with 500E FL in sport mode and 500G in normal.
NIKON D7200 + 500mm f / 4E FL @ 500mm, ISO 250, 1/250, f / 10.0

NIKON D7200 + 500mm f / 4E FL @ 500mm, ISO 250, 1/250, f / 10.0

NIKON D7200 + 500mm f / 4E FL @ 500mm, ISO 250, 1/125, f / 14.0

NIKON D7200 + 500mm f / 4E FL @ 500mm, ISO 250, 1/125, f / 14.0

At 1/125 with 500E the FL blurs the image significantly less.

Vibration reduction system in the new 500E FL works even quieter than in the 500G, a quiet buzz of which has never frightened off any one I take off an animal or a bird.

Autofocus

Speed ​​of autofocus

To compare the speed of autofocusing, I manually focused both lenses at a distance of 10 feet (very close to the minimum focusing distance), then pointed the lens at a more distant object and simultaneously pressed the AF buttons. I could not tell the difference in speed of focusing of the lenses – both were very fast.

Where the autofocus speed is noticeable, this is in Memory Recall mode. 500E FL was definitely faster, taking a picture almost instantly, while the 500G spent some time focusing.

Tracking

To check the tracking focus, I took a lot of pictures of flying birds. I was hoping that the 500E FL would be an ideal lens for shooting flying birds. Unfortunately, despite the fact that with 500E FL I managed to get some great photos of birds in flight, he was not a magician in this area. For 500E FL, the same problems are typical for other lenses when shooting flying birds – an overloaded background, etc. Getting good results when shooting birds in flight depends more on the technique of the photographer than on the lens used by him.
Nikon D810 + 500mm f/4E FL @ 700mm, ISO 640, 1/640, f/7.1
I managed to get the best tracking results when installing 500E FL on D4S, not on D810. This is somewhat strange, since both cameras have the same autofocusing module and processor, but after making several thousand photos of flying birds, I still hold this opinion. Perhaps the D4S allocates more processor power for the autofocus function.
Nikon D4s + 500mm f / 4E FL @ 700mm, ISO 1600, 1/2000, f / 9.0

Autofocus wandering

Here, again, everything depends more on the technique of the photographer, and not on the equipment. Focus 500E FL can usually wander in scenes with low contrast and oversaturated foreground / background. So, my advice to anyone who wants to buy a top lens is to first test it yourself and evaluate the results.

Nikon D7200 + 500mm f / 4E FL @ 700mm, ISO 1000, 1/320, f / 6.3

For example, I photographed this cat through the thick grass, which the lens on the foreground blurred almost completely, so the cat’s image turned out to be somewhat soft. Autofocus scoured as much as the cat stood, so I had to focus manually.

Manual Focus

For 1/4 turn of the focusing ring 500E FL, the lens travels from infinity to 23 feet (7 m). 500G for the same 1/4 turn goes from infinity to 38 feet (11.6 m). The 500G has a slight advantage in terms of miniature adjustments in the manual focus mode, but 500E FL moves faster in the focusing distance. When photographing, I did not notice any of these differences, but if you shoot a video and use raids and change of plans, then it is likely that you will be able to see the difference.

Manual focusing Nikon D810 + 500mm f / 4E FL @ 700mm, ISO 1000, 1/1000, f / 8.0

This hare in the grass provides an excellent opportunity for manual focus.

Electronic aperture

Have you ever seen a series of frames shot with the same exposure parameters and under the same lighting conditions, in which some frames looked brighter or darker than others. This effect is caused by the fact that between the frames the diaphragm did not have time to open up to the desired size. The letter E in the title 500E stands for the use of an electromagnetic diaphragm. While most Nikkor lenses for adjusting the diaphragm rely on the mechanical levers located in the mount, the 500E does this by placing an engine in the lens that is connected to the camera through the contacts in the bayonet. This allows the 500E to adjust the aperture faster. With high-speed serial shooting, this is an undoubted advantage. At 11 frames per second, issued by D4S, mechanical diaphragms experience problems with holding the desired hole, but for slower semi-professional and amateur cameras this does not present serious problems. Typically, these changes in exposure are within one stop and are easily adjusted during post-processing.

The user’s manual warns that at certain aperture values, the continuous serial shooting speed may decrease. To test this warning, I removed in manual mode a lot of series on D4S at a rate of 11 frames per second at a shutter speed of 1/1000 sec. Here are the results of the rate of fire for different apertures 500G and 500E FL turned out for me:

Lens f/4 f/5.6 f/8 f/11 f/16 f/22
Nikkor 500mm f/4G VR 10 10 10 10 10 10
Nikkor 500mm f/4E FL VR 11 11 11 11 11 10.5

I did not expect this. My 500G with a mechanical diaphragm shoots 10 frames per second, and I’ve always been sure that it honestly shoves everything 11. The only drop in the rate of fire I noticed at the 500E FL was at f / 22. But I rarely use this aperture value, so this fact does not bother me at all. I checked 500E FL on a 1/125 sec exposure to see if the result from the previous test was different. And it was – the rate of fire fluctuated between 10.5 (f / 8-f / 16) and 10.75 frames per second (f / 4-f / 5.6). The difference between 11 and 10 frames per second may seem small, but it means 10% more chances to catch a successful shot – sometimes this is exactly what you need.

The last note about the aperture 500G and 500E FL – on f / 4 results in slightly dark results (compared to equivalent exposures on other apertures).

Bokeh

Bokeh’s background on the cream scale is somewhere between cappuccino and latte, while the foreface of the foreground is more like a makiato. The best way to tell about bokeh, in my opinion, is to give readers the opportunity to independently evaluate images and draw their own conclusions. After all, quality bokeh – a thing very subjective.

Bokeh Nikon D4s + 500mm f / 4E FL @ 500mm, ISO 2000, 1/2000, f / 5.0

Meet this is Coop, our young Cooper hawk, who quite graciously agreed to pose me in my backyard. The wires in the foreground and background are blurred beautifully, and the bokeh turns round.

Bokeh Nikon D4s + 500mm f / 4E FL @ 500mm, ISO 2000, 1/2000, f / 5.0

Here we see a small blurred halo around the bird in the background, caused by some kind of backlighting.

Curvature of the field

I did not notice him. You can focus using a more accurate center point and change the composition without worrying about the object falling out of focus.

Chromatic aberrations

At first I decided that the blue border in the upper part of the Moon and the red in the bottom – the result of chromatic aberration, most likely enhanced by a 1.4x teleconverter (some softness of this image is caused by the smoke of forest fires). But, as one of our readers told me, it’s differential refraction.

differential refraction Nikon D7200 + 500mm f / 4E FL @ 700mm, ISO 800, 1/250, f / 8.0
All super-telephoto displays chromatic aberrations, but since they are easily amenable, most users do not see this as a problem.

Diffraction

All lenses suffer from diffraction and the 500E FL is no exception. Up to f / 11, the lens provides excellent results, a slight softening of the image becomes noticeable on f / 16, but it easily corrects during post-processing. Before f / 22, I covered the diaphragm only in cases where it was really necessary for me to get specific frames.

Highlights

As in the 500G, some 500E FL elements have a nanocrystalline coating that prevents the appearance of glare. Thanks to this coating, the lenses allow you to obtain images with a higher contrast directly from the camera.

lights NIKON D7200 + 500mm f / 4E FL @ 500mm, ISO 560, 1/500, f / 8.0
Sunlight, almost flooding the hood and front element, in some places generate common light.

Tripod bracket

The tripod bracket 500E FL is equipped with roller bearings, which makes it easy to change the horizontal orientation to a vertical one. I like this updated bracket – not counting the reduction in the weight of the lens, this is my favorite improvement in the 500E FL. The bracket 500G often limited and slowed me down.

In addition, the tripod bracket 500E FL has a groove for the cable lock – at 500G it was not. Despite this, no one has tried to stealthily steal 500G …

Cons

Despite the fact that the 500E FL is perhaps the best lens ever created, it is not without some drawbacks. Let’s begin to carp at him.

The Nikon camera strap supplied with the 500E, nice and soft is a welcome relief after suffering with the carrying of a heavy 500G on a Nikon D-Kapitator strap. The drawback here is that Nikon made the new belt too short.

By spending a little more nylon, they could make each end of the belt longer, which would satisfy the needs of any photographer. If you do not like a strap that is too long, you could cut it’s ends – it’s incomparably easier than trying to lengthen the strap, sewing extra straps to it.

The offered case for the lens is KT-505 – although it is made of light polycarbonate, but in comparison with its predecessor KT-504 is huge and clumsy.

Its dimensions – 607x354x253 mm – exceed the maximum allowable size of hand luggage for domestic flights, and even for international ones – even more so. The ST-504 was easily sized for hand luggage. While the performance of the 500E FL can slightly reduce the value of 500G, the CT-504 just can significantly increase it. Well, why are developers so careless about the ways of transportation and security of the new lens? Or they decided that if you can afford to buy such a lens, then you can easily allocate a separate place for it in your personal Gulf Stream?

Another problem with the case – it is true for all super telephoto Nikon, which I have used – is that in the case you can place only the lens. It would be convenient to be able to place in it a lens with an attached teleconverter, but the form of the foam plastic case does not provide this. Instead, the user is offered a separate small pocket, into which a detached teleconverter can be placed. The fact is that the case is so big that it would be possible to place the lens with the Nikon D4S attached to it, if the bed’s molding was different. Perhaps third-party manufacturers will fix this situation by offering alternative versions of the box for the CT-505.

To the advantages of CT can be attributed rubberized legs, which, in comparison with the CT-504, significantly reduce the glide of the case on smooth surfaces.

Another stone in the garden of ST-505 – its latches do not inspire confidence. In this regard, CT-504 is much more solid and safer, in my opinion. After all, what is the use of the case if it is so large that you rarely want to use it?

The most significant factor that keeps users from owning this lens is its price. 10 300 dollars for most of us is quite a large sum. In my case, I had to refuse not one, but two trips to Paris to buy this glass. I admit I’m ready to suffer for my art.

Add to this amount the cost of insurance (and not to insure such a lens is just stupid), which you will get into a couple of hundred dollars a year. And do not forget to throw another hundred bucks for an unreasonably expensive, but damn useful lens case. If you do not have a 1.4x teleconverter (500), then it would be extremely silly not to buy it. Since with it you can turn this lens into an excellent 700mm f / 5.6.

As you can see, you do not just buy a lens, you will marry him – and you will be with him in sorrow and joy, and prosperity and poverty.

Teleconverter wars

So how will the new 500E FL show itself with the new TC14E III vs. the old 500G with the old TC-14E ​​II? Looking at the raw RAWs, I can say that the 500E FL with the TC14E III bypasses its predecessor, at least half.

The new TS-14E III shows noticeable vignetting, both at 500E FL (photo below) and at 500G. The previous TC-14E ​​II did not notice such a shortcoming.

Vignetting Nikon D4s + 500mm f / 4E FL @ 700mm, ISO 400, 1/640, f / 7.1 “max = width: 600px; “>

500E FL with TC-14E ​​III gives a truly explosive combination. Based on the results of the shootings, I realized that most of the pictures I made with the teleconverter, and not without it.

With a TC-17E-II at 500E FL, a focal length equivalent to 850 mm can be obtained. Here’s a 100% crop of pictures taken on the D810:
Filming with 1050 mm hands Nikon D7200 + 500mm f / 4E FL @ 700mm, ISO 1250, 1/320, f / 7.1

Shooting from hands to 1050 mm?

So, the combination of the TC-14E ​​III and FL 500E FL installed on the D7200 gives me an easy and convenient equivalent of up to 1,050 mm.

1050 mm means a large increase and shooting with hands at such an increase – the task is not simple. However, by switching the Vibration Reduction switch to Sport mode, I was able to make quite a few good photos (they are perfect for use on the Internet, for more impressive results I would use a tripod).

Comparison with competitors

In this review, I compared the 500E FL only with its direct competitor in the line of Nikon lenses – 500G. The old 500G is still very good, as expected. If you shoot using a tripod or a bag of beans, then I see very few reasons for switching to a new lens, unless you travel a lot and do not want to reduce the weight of your photo equipment. In matters of shooting from hand 500E FL is the undisputed leader.

And what about super-telephoto zoom? The lens market has recently been expanded with several “affordable” telephotos: Tamron 150-600mm f / 5-f / 6.3 for $ 1,069, Sigma Contemporary 150-600mm f / 5-f / 6.3 for $ 1,089, Sigma Sport 150-600mm f /5-f/6.3 for $ 1,999 and Nikkor 200-500mm f / 5.6 for $ 1,399. I can say with confidence that for a lens for a thousand dollars Tamron produces a damn good image.

Nikon D4s + Tamron 150-600mm f / 5-6.3 @ 500mm, ISO 2000, 1/1250, f / 8.0

Here is the jay, photographed with the help of Tamron. In my opinion, for use on the Internet it looks very good.

So why on a 500-mm fix spend money eight or nine times more?

First, there is a noticeable difference in sharpness when printing large-format photos. If you just place photos on the Internet, then this difference should not be worried.

Second, the wider maximum aperture of the lens – f / 4 – gives twice as much light as the lenses with f / 5.6 aperture. This is definitely an advantage in low light conditions, in addition, it increases the performance of autofocus. The camera autofocus modules work the better, the more light they receive. Even if you set the exposure to f / 11, the AF sensor collects information when the aperture is open. Therefore, for an equal period of time, the camera’s autofocus sensor with fixed f / 4 fix will receive twice as much light as the autofocus sensor of the camera with the f / 5.6 zoom set. And this increases the accuracy of the camera’s autofocus system. If you shoot at noon in the African savanna, then such a difference, most likely, will not be of significant significance. But if you decide to shoot in the early morning in the rainforest, it can be significant.

Finally, more expensive lenses have high-tech lens coatings that increase the contrast, especially when shooting in backlight. To some extent, post-processing can improve the contrast of the image to help less expensive lenses catch up with their older brothers and sisters, but for critical situations there is no substitute for the option with the camera capturing the optimal image.

Attention Beginners

If you have never before filmed large super-telephoto fixes, do not panic if your first results look unimpressive. These lenses reward photographers for good technique. The slightest movement of the camera / lens or an error in focus for a tenth of a centimeter becomes noticeable immediately. Some of my first attempts at shooting at 500 mm just depressed me. For such a lot of money, I expected to get masterpieces. Alas, this was not the case with most photos. But, nevertheless, some of them were strikingly sharp enough that you could view the ticks’ paws on the deer’s ear. If you with the same lens get one image strikingly sharp, and the other – blurry, then what wash should come to your head? It is true that it is not the objective. The longer I shoot with any lens, the better the results I get.

Also remember that expensive pieces of glass from 500 mm and more work only a few hours a day. After the sun rises and the warm air starts to create a haze, the resolution and sharpness roll to hell, unless your subject is very close to you.

Output

Of course, 500E FL is a miracle of technology. It has excellent performance, outstanding sharpness, and it is more suitable for shooting with hands than its predecessor.

Since its birth, 500E FL has been doomed to an alliance with D4S. Such a professional lens should only be used with a professional camera. Advantages of the electromagnetic diaphragm and improved tracking auto focus will be fully appreciated in combination with D4 or D4S.

The huge advantage offered by the 500E FL is its relatively light weight. For those who plan to take a lot off their hands – this is a weighty argument in favor of choosing this lens. But be careful if you are not well developed physically and are not inclined to masochism, choose your choice for something like Tamron 150-600mm, Sigma Contemporary 150-600mm or Nikon 200-500mm. If for you wildlife shooting is to mount a lens on a tripod near the nearest pond and shoot the birds that inhabit it, then you do not have reason to choose 500E FL instead of the cheaper 500G.

On paper this lens is sharper than 500G, however, in practice these differences are insignificant. But with the advent of cameras with even greater resolution, the picture may change.

So, let’s draw a line. Nikon 500mm f / 4E VR FL – the best 500-mm fix, offered by the modern market?

Answer: Yes!

Manufacturer Trick

Improving the performance of the autofocus 500E FL in comparison with the 500G is too exaggerated. If there is a difference, it is very insignificant, in my opinion. If this was the only selection criterion for switching from 500G, then I would not take such a step.

Cost of models

The cost of AF-S Nikkor 500mm f / 4E FL ED VR and AF-S Nikkor 600mm f / 4E FL ED VR is $ 10,300 and $ 12,300 respectively.

Sample photos

Sample photo AF-S Nikkor 500mm f/4E FL ED VR и AF-S Nikkor 600mm f/4E FL ED VR
Sample photo AF-S Nikkor 500mm f/4E FL ED VR и AF-S Nikkor 600mm f/4E FL ED VR
Sample photo AF-S Nikkor 500mm f/4E FL ED VR и AF-S Nikkor 600mm f/4E FL ED VR
Sample photo AF-S Nikkor 500mm f/4E FL ED VR и AF-S Nikkor 600mm f/4E FL ED VR
Sample photo AF-S Nikkor 500mm f/4E FL ED VR и AF-S Nikkor 600mm f/4E FL ED VR
Sample photo AF-S Nikkor 500mm f/4E FL ED VR и AF-S Nikkor 600mm f/4E FL ED VR
Sample photo AF-S Nikkor 500mm f/4E FL ED VR и AF-S Nikkor 600mm f/4E FL ED VR



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