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A Hands-On First Look at the New Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E VR

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My name is Tanner Johnson, and I’m a local photographer from Bozeman, Montana, who works at the local camera store, Bozeman Camera. We recently received the new Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E

Two days ago, I was able to take it out for a quick field test and was pleasantly surprised. I’m shooting on a Nikon D3s and have been on the lookout for a solid but affordable 500mm wildlife lens option that didn’t break the bank.

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First off, it has a constant f/5.6, which was a nice surprise to have out to 500mm, and it’s very sharp even wide open. The weight of the lens, 4.60 lb (2090 g), was pleasant as well, considering it’s a 500mm f/5.6. Being used to hand-holding a Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8, it was a relief to hold a lighter setup. I’ll still always use my mono-pod with the tilt head for extended use.

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The next thing that caught my eye when hand holding was the VR system — it works remarkably well. I took a handheld shot of a fellow coworker inside at 500mm and 1/25s shutter speed, and the eyelashes were tack sharp.

This means you can just handhold in lower light and have the chance of getting a sharp usable image (though it doesn’t do anything for your subject’s movement).

Note: All images are unedited RAW Files saved as JPEGs to post. You can also click the sample photos below to view them at a higher resolution.

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The focus speed is decent for a lens of this caliber. Nikon used their Silent Wave Motor system, which is fast, silent, and accurate. When I was photographing birds standing still or mule deer at sunset, I never felt like I needed to keep re-focusing to make sure it locked where I wanted it.

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The last thing I looked at was the tripod collar, which left little to be desired. It’s not the smoothest in rotation, but it did the job and did feel like it was made of metal. I will be waiting for Kirk Interprise or some other company to make an aftermarket version that’s more solid and maybe smoother.

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With the lens just coming out, this is just my first impressions and is not a detailed review. You’ll see many more of those in the coming days.


P.S. The new Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E VR is in stock and in rental at Bozeman Camera. Give them a call at 406-586-8300 if you’re interested. It’s in-stock at $1,399.95, and they ship all across the country.


About the author: Tanner Johnson and Randi Johnson are photographers based in Bozeman, Montana, who run Yellow Horse Photography. You can find more of their work on their website here.

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