The photos I’ve been getting from the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR have all been pretty amazing. From the very first shots, it was very sharp, with very fast AF, and an ease of use I’ve never experienced in a lens that falls in the “super telephoto” category.
These flamingos were shot at the local zoo, prior to any calibration efforts. They look pretty good to my old eyes. (Note that all of the photos in this post were shot with a Nikon D810, handheld, and have been cropped, several rather severely.)
Still, when I added the Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III, I felt the initial results were quite good. This shot of the iron worker, reposted here from my last blog post, is testament to the sharpness of that lens/TC combination “right out of the box,” as it were.
But I wondered — could it be better? Is it possible to get even better image sharpness from this already incredible piece if glass?
I have a confession to make. I am, admittedly, old school. When I first started in photography oh so many years ago, everyone shot film. Digital wasn’t even a dream. So whenever we bought a new lens or a new camera, we just screwed the two together, and started shooting. The idea that something might need to be tweaked in some manner to get the best results just wasn’t a concept, much less a requirement. As a result, when I moved to digital, I never even considered calibrating my lenses’ auto-focus to ensure maximum sharpness. I’ll go so far as to admit that I pooh-poohed the idea completely.
The 500PF, and especially the combination of the 500PF and the TC-14E III, have pretty much made a believer out of me — in an effort to make sure I was getting the sharpest images possible from the 500PF (both with and without the TC-14E III), I decided to calibrate. Unfortunately, at my age, I can no longer trust my eyes, so I decided to follow a friend’s recommendation, and purchase Reikan Technology’s FoCal software. According to their website, the “Plus” version only supports lenses up to 400mm. Since my primary intention here was to calibrate a lens with a focal length of 500mm (or 700mm when combined with the TC-14E III), I purchased the “Pro” version.
I’ll write something in more depth and specifically about my experiences with FoCal at a later date, but suffice it to say, it did fine tune that 500PF lens and the 500PF with the TC-14E III to a point where I feel like I’m getting some really great results. You can judge for yourself, but my final word on the Nikon 500PF is — what a great lens, and when combined with a TC-14E III, what an incredible setup. Any negatives people talk about are just no longer an issue. I do find that when shooting with the TC-14E III, things are much easier with the VR set to "Sport." As small and light as all this is, my old hands still benefit from the extra help the VR gives.
If you’re into wildlife, aircraft in flight, or anything else that requires long lenses, the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR is the super telephoto to have, and when combined with the AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III, you'll have a kit that can't be beat.
(Of course, you KNOW I’ll have more to say about the 500PF, but for now, this will do.)