I picked up a copy of the new Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR AF-S lens for Sunday’s NFL football matchup between the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints. I thought I would give it a real world sports review.
The conditions I was using the lens in were not ideal to say the least. A general light rain or mist was constant throughout the entire match. Most shots were done at ISO 1600 on my D7200. I decided to use the crop sensor of the D7200 over the D4 just so that I could really test the reach of this lens. I was not disappointed. Shutter speeds here were around 1/1000, which actually is not ideal for pro football. You still will get the occasional motion blur. But, as the lens maximum aperture is 5.6, I decided to risk motion blur instead of extra noise from a higher ISO. Personal choice.
The build of the lens is fairly solid. It is not a tank like the nikon 300mm 2.8. It does have more of a consumer feel to it. The lens hood for example is plastic, not rigid metal. This may or not be a big deal for you, it isn’t for me, especially if it means a 1500 dollar price tag.
My biggest physical complaint about the lens is the zoom ring. To go from 200-500 takes quite a bit of rotation and time. A bit less would have suited me a little more, but after a while of working with it I didn’t notice it any more.
The autofocus on this lens is excellent, as good as the Nikon 70-200 2.8. It tracked well and rarely gave me an unusable shot. I imagine using this lens in a nice bright sunny day will only increase its performance in this respect.
The VR on the lens is as advertised. I have not purchased a VR lens in a good number of years. The technology has improved dramatically. Although I used this rig on a monopod, I would have no problem hand holding (just not for three hours straight).
This lens is sharper to my eye than the Sigma and Tamron lenses that compare to it. I have used all three. But, that is something we have all come to expect from Nikon lenses, isn’t it?
As someone that typically uses no longer than 300mm on game days and uses his feet more than other photographers, I can say having the luxury of the 500mm reach is quite nice. Being able to really reach in from over 40 yards and get a shot like the one above is amazing.
I know this review doesn’t have the charts, graphs, numbers that a lot of gear heads crave. All of that type of info never meant much to me. However, what I can provide you is the general feel of this lens from real working conditions on the field.
So, my conclusion is this: Would I purchase this lens over again? Yes, absolutely. It was a pleasure working with it and overall provided me all I needed to get the shots I wanted.