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More on the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR Lens -- the Good Stuff and the Great Stuff

Since everyone has been gracious enough to listen to my whining about the foot coming off the 500PF, I thought I’d share some of the things I just love about this lens.

It’s sharp. Probably the sharpest lens I own. Stunningly sharp. This kind of sharpness makes cropping easy. (I "grew up" photographically in a B&W darkroom, where cropping was SOP, so while I’d prefer to “get it right in the camera,” I'm not afraid of that crop tool, either.) For example, this is the full frame of this small black bird:

And here is a 100% crop of that same image:

To my eye, that's pretty darn great resolution.

The 500PF can also be used as a portrait lens . . .

That I can tell, there are 5 things the 500PF lacks over its big brother, the 500mm f/4E — Obviously, the 1 full stop of maximum aperture, a drop in rear filter holder, strap lugs, some serious extra weight & size, and a $10,000.00 price tag. The strap lugs might be cool. The drop in rear filter holder would be great, and the f/4 max aperture would be fantastic. But I can do without the $10,000.00 price tag and the extra weight.

I don’t find the f/5.6 max aperture a problem. My D810’s are not as good with high ISO noise as, say, a D850 or a D5, but I manage. Even on a less-than-bright, sunny day, I can get 1/2500 sec shutter speed at ISO 360, which is all but noise-free.

It is also obviously small and light. While those two attributes make it very easy to hand hold, and I do at times, I still prefer a monopod or tripod. As I get older, it gets harder and harder to hold a camera still, regardless of the lens I’m using, and at a focal length of 500mm, things are all over the place. Which brings me to the VR.

The VR in this thing is amazing. I use back button focusing, so whenever I press that focus button, not only does everything snap into focus (the AF motor is incredibly fast), but I can actually see the VR kick in, as everything all but stops wiggling all over. And that’s in normal VR mode. In sport mode, it’s even better.

The AF does get lost on occasion. Specifically, when there is a rather small object (i.e., a bird in flight) against a plain background, such as the sky, the AF can have a bit of trouble finding focus. Changing the focus switch from Full to ∞-8m helps a lot.

There is a tiny bit of a downside to all this great AF and VR stuff — I’ve been burning through batteries like crazy. Both of my D810’s have grips, and I use AA Lithium rechargeables in them. This lens drains them faster than any other lens I own, and I suspect that any Nikon lens with this generation of AF and VR will drain batteries. So if you’re not in the habit of carrying extra batteries, you might start.

More to come.

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