The Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6
Affordable Wildlife and Birding Lens
The Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR is a relatively inexpensive option for birding and wildlife shooters. One of the prime requirements to photograph wildlife is a long lens. A long lens means a lens that has a long focal distance. Longer the focal distance of the lens, longer it can see and bring an image closer. It is almost like the magnification capabilities of a binocular, except in this case the focusing elements produce a sharp image on the digital sensor/film.
A long lens means a lens that has a long focal distance. Longer the focal distance of the lens, longer it can see and bring an image closer. It is almost like the magnification capabilities of a binocular, except in this case the focusing elements produce a sharp image on the digital sensor/film.
A longer lens ensures a bigger more tightly cropped image of an animal even when it is several hundred yards away. Wildlife photography is, unfortunately, a heavy gear genre. If you don’t have fast long lenses or good cameras, you will struggle to make the most of your photo opportunities.
- Compact super telephoto zoom lens for birding, wildlife, motorsports, events and more
- 500mm of zoom power on FX-format DSLRs; 750mm equivalent on DX-format DSLRS, Minimum Focus Distance: 7.2 ft.( 2.2 m), Focal Length Range:200 -500 mm
- Fast f/5.6 constant aperture for beautiful out-of-focus backgrounds and low-light performance
- 4.5 stops of Vibration Reduction with Sports mode
- AF compatible with optional TC-14E series teleconverters and DSLRs that offer f/8 support
Having said that, a fast long lens can be an extremely pricey piece of tool to own. Long lenses such as the Nikkor AF-S 200-400mm f/4G ED VR II can cost anything around $7K. Unless you are planning to sell off a kidney or have been born with a silver spoon in your mouth these lenses are beyond the reach of most beginner photographers.
But don’t lose heart just yet. Even if top notch lenses are beyond most photographer’s reach, there are some relatively cheaper but yet surprisingly good quality lenses that you can hope to own. This is where the Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR comes into the picture.
The Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR is a telephoto zoom lens designed for the discerning birding and wildlife enthusiast. This is a relatively cheap lens and thus falls within the budget range of Nikkor lenses.
The lens has a total of 19 elements arranged in 12 groups. Overall, the weight of the lens is 4.60 lb (2090 grams). That should be ok to work hand-held in some situations. But it is not recommended to use it for prolonged period while hand holding. Ideally, you should use a tripod or at least a monopod. The lens comes with a tripod collar for easy mounting on a tripod.
The lens construction includes three Extra-low Dispersion (ED) glass elements. ED elements reduce chromatic aberrations, the inherent problem of all wavelengths of light unable to focus on the same focal plane. The lens also has Super-integrated Coating (SIC). This coating is instrumental in reducing internal reflections, ghosting, and flares.
The lens aperture consists of a total of 9 blades. A 9 blade aperture creates a very nice rounded bokeh for the subject of your image. This is perfect for isolating your subject from the background.
The lens is compatible with Nikon’s crop sensor cameras such as the D7200 and the D500. These crop cameras with their smaller sensors increase the effective focal length of the lens. The crop factor for these DX format DSLR cameras is 1.5x. Thus, the 200-500mm focal length becomes the equivalent of a 300 – 750mm. Please note, the actual focal length does not change.
What happens when you mount this (and for that matter any lens with an image circle optimized for the larger sensor) lens on a smaller camera, is that only the image from the middle of the lens is captured and the rest is discarded. This invariably makes the image appear ‘zoomed-in.'
For a lens that extends from 200mm all the way to 500mm, it is imperative that it has some image stabilization built-in to it. The Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR has up to 4.5 stops of vibration reduction (VR) capability built into it. It means when hand holding the camera you can shoot at a shutter speed that is up to 4.5 stops slower than what the usual norm is.
The presence of vibration reduction gives the lens greater usability, especially in low light situations. This is very important as you are likely going to use this lens mostly in such low light fast action situations.
In addition to the ‘standard’ vanilla Vibration Reduction technology, this lens also has an additional Sports VR mode. This mode is ideal for situations where you are panning with the subject of your photo. This mode will compensate only for any movement that is vertical to the panning axis. Therefore, panning will be smoother and the final image will have the subject sharp. The panning or Sports mode is ideal for moving subjects, such as a bird in flight, or a cyclist or a vehicle and so on.
- All modern Nikkor lenses come with the Silent Wave Technology. This technology has a near-silent focusing mechanism that does not buzz or hum when the focusing elements work to acquire focus. This is crucial when shooting wildlife. Though this technology alone does not guarantee that your camera will work silently but it is good to have. Along with this you also have full-time manual focusing override. Now, this is a really useful feature to have.
- Manual focusing override allows the photographer to instantly correct focusing issues. In low light or lack of texture, the two primary reasons why your lens may be unable to focus correctly in a particular situation, you can immediately grab hold of the focus ring and turn to get a better focus lock. This you can do even when auto-focusing is engaged without having to first switch the camera from auto to manual focusing.
- The minimum focusing distance of the Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6 is a 7.2’. For such a long telelens this is a serious advantage because it means you can get a proper focus lock even for relatively close subjects.
- There is also a focus delimiter switch; this switch is designed to reduce the overall time frame for the lens to acquire focus. When shooting wildlife or fast moving subjects this option is useful.
- There are two modes, you can either select the full focusing range of the lens, in which case the lens will take longer to acquire focus; or you can choose to limit the focusing range between infinity and 6m. In the last case, the lens’ focusing elements will have a shorter distance to traverse and lock focus. When you are shooting animals or birds at a distance, you know roughly the distance to focus at. In these situations, you can easily set the lens to focus between infinity and 6m which should be the range at which the animal/bird is. This saves a lot of focus hunting time for the photographer.
Is The Nikkor 200-500mm F/5.6e ED VR A Good Buy?
The Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6 is a great lens for a beginner birding enthusiast and wildlife photographer. Beyond the 200-500mm there are a bunch of Nikkor lenses which probably do the same thing. However, these are beyond the reach of the average budget constrained photographer. Focusing speed is a tag slower compared to some of the premium options that Nikon offers. The maximum aperture is fixed which means even when you are shooting at 200mm you won’t be able to shoot at a faster aperture.
However, these are beyond the reach of the average budget constrained photographer. Focusing speed is a tag slower compared to some of the premium options that Nikon offers. The maximum aperture is fixed which means even when you are shooting at 200mm you won’t be able to shoot at a faster aperture.
Having said that the lens is compatible with smaller cameras like the D5100, the D3100, and even the Nikon 1 series cameras. This means you can take advantage of the crop factor. That means you get a closer and tighter composition than with a full-frame camera.
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Wanderlust at heart and a shutterbug who loves to document his travels via his lenses; his two passions compliment each other perfectly.
He has been writing for over 6 years now, which unsurprisingly, revolve mostly around his two favorite pursuits.