Nikon AF-S 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR

Big, butch and sur­pris­ingly af­ford­able, this lens puts the ‘su­per’ into su­per-tele­photo

NPhoto - - Gear Zone -

Su­per-tele­photo lens £1180, $1400

Cur­rent Nikon su­per-tele­photo zooms run up to the 400mm mark, like the 80-400mm VR and top-flight 200-400mm VR II. This new lens pushes this to 500mm, in line with the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion of Sigma and Tam­ron lenses. How­ever, both of th­ese in­de­pen­dents are now making su­per-tele­photo lenses that stretch to 600mm, so Nikon is still play­ing catch up in that sense.

In terms of size and weight, the new Nikon falls be­tween the Sigma 150-600mm C (Con­tem­po­rary) and S (Sport). It’s a hand­ful at 108x268mm and 2.3 kilo­grams and, un­like many con­stant-aper­ture tele­photo zooms, the phys­i­cal length in­creases at longer zoom set­tings. Fit the lens hood and the whole pack­age ex­tends as much as 44cm from the cam­era body.

With its con­stant-aper­ture de­sign, the Nikon is one-third of an f-stop faster than the com­pet­ing Sigma and Tam­ron lenses. Aut­o­fo­cus there­fore re­mains avail­able even with a 1.4x tele­con­verter fit­ted, if your cam­era has f/8 AF com­pat­i­bil­ity.

Un­like the Sigma 150-600mm S, the Nikon isn’t fully weather sealed, but it does have the usual rub­ber gas­ket on its mount­ing plate to help keep out mois­ture. Switches give ac­cess to an aut­o­fo­cus lim­iter and nor­mal/sport op­tions for VR. The VR sport mode aims to give op­ti­mum sta­bil­i­sa­tion for fast-mov­ing sub­jects, as well as avoid­ing a slow-down in con­tin­u­ous shoot­ing.

The aut­o­fo­cus speed isn’t mas­sively quick but it’s very ac­cu­rate and re­li­able, while VR (Vi­bra­tion Re­duc­tion) is good for 4.5 stops. Sharp­ness and con­trast are very good, too, and there’s min­i­mal colour fring­ing, thanks to its three ED (Ex­tra-low Dis­per­sion) el­e­ments. Dis­tor­tions and vi­gnetting are also neg­li­gi­ble, and re­sis­tance to ghost­ing and flare is good, de­spite the ab­sence of Nano Crys­tal coat­ings.

Over­all per­for­mance is very im­pres­sive, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing the down-to-earth price of this lens. Im­age qual­ity and aut­o­fo­cus speed aren’t quite a match for the Nikon AF-S 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR but, then again, this 200-500mm gives more tele­photo reach and costs barely more than half the price.

Switches are on hand for M/A A fo­cus modes, an aut­o­fo­cus lim­iter (six me­tres and above), VR on/off , VR nor­mal/ sport and zoom lock

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