Nikon AF-S 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR
Big, butch and surprisingly affordable, this lens puts the ‘super’ into super-telephoto
Super-telephoto lens £1180, $1400 www.nikon.com
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