Photography

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

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.

Panthers-Saints-1.jpg

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.

Panthers-Saints-15.jpg

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?

Panthers-Saints-19.jpg

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.

Conclusion

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.

 

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