Or big, or fast or sharp....
No, I'm not talking about me, although....
Nope, not me.
I'm talking about the new Nikon 200-500mm lens. Ever since I got rid of my Sigma 150-500mm lens I have been craving a big zoom that can get me out close to where I'm shooting with the 600mm f4 "bazooka" lens but with less weight and some hand hold-ability when necessary.
Low and behold Nikon brings out the 200-500mm f5.6 lens, just released in September. It's even "affordably" priced for a big zoom. I just received mine this morning and took it for a quick spin before going to work. I must say, my first impressions of this lens are very good.
Shooting from 200-500mm is a pretty handy zoom range and this lens is sharp throughout the zoom. It seems the sweet spot for sharpness is f6.3 to f8 but even at f5.6 I have no complaints with how the images look. The auto-focus on the lens is fast and snappy. Some of the reviews I have read said the auto-focus was "moderate" in speed and it may be compared to a six or ten thousand dollar lens but for shooting birds in flight it worked plenty fast.
This is at 500mm with the bird being about 250 feet away. This was shot handheld, which is pretty easy to do with the new VR on the lens. Nikon says you can get four and half stops from the new vibration reduction and it seems to be just that. Since the lens only weighs five pounds it's a lot easier to tote around than the 16 pound 600mm f4.
This is Lily. She was pouting because I was playing with my new toy instead of her. This is at 500mm and handheld also. The lens is exceptionally sharp for a non-prime lens, showing all of the detail in her hair if you look closely.
Even using a Nikon 1.4x teleconverter gave surprisingly decent results. This lens isn't as sharp with the teleconverter as the 600mm prime lens is but I wouldn't expect it to be. I think if you are shooting the right subjects, something a little larger like a deer, elk or whales you could use the teleconverter and get good results.
This duck was shot handheld at 700mm using the 1.4x teleconverter. My D3s even auto-focused with the teleconverter and the auto-focus didn't seem to loose any speed with the teleconverter on the lens.
So far I have only found two draw backs to the lens. The first is the lens "case" that it comes with. This is a cheap cloth bag that wouldn't protect the lens from anything except a little dust.
The other drawback I have found is the zoom itself. If you are at 200mm and want to go to 500mm it takes a 180 degree rotation of the zoom ring to get there. This isn't a big thing but if you are wanting to zoom fast you have to have that in your mind so you can grab the lens in the right spot to make the zoom all in one move.
I'll be buying a separate case for the lens which solves one problem. The zoom I will get used to eventually so that problem will solve itself.
Hopefully I can get out this week and do some more testing with this lens. I'll post some more photos when I get them.