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Nikkor 200-500 advice

Discussion in 'Lens Lust' started by Cleanimage, Jul 11, 2018.

  1. I've got the 80-400 AFS and I'm shooting with a D810. The 80-400 is a good copy but I'm interested in the 200-500 in order to get more reach. I've read that it's sharp but I am interested in whether any members have used to to capture birds in flight and whether it quickly captures focus. I've also read that although it is heavy, you can use it without a tripod for a limited time.

    I've had some success using group focus to get images of birds in flight but I always feel I'm right at the edge of equipment's limitations.

    I'd appreciate any feedback that members would be willing to give me regarding their experiences with the 200-500 lens. Thanks in advance
  2. For me, it is light enough to hand hold - lighter than many others I would use. It is ok for focusing on slower moving large birds.
  3. I have the 200-500 and use it with the D500 mostly, with no problems. It's not as fast as my 600mm but plenty fast enough for capturing birds in flight. Once I'm on the bird, it tracks very nicely. The trick, if there is one, is to get on the bird quickly before the action is past and to do that a little pre-focus can help.
  4. Butlerkid

    Butlerkid Cafe Ambassador Moderator

    Apr 8, 2008
    Rutledge, Tennessee
  5. PM Will (Trenchmonkey) and ask him. He wrote the book on that lens for BIF. If you can, you might want to think about one of the newer bodies (D5, D850, D500) for their updated and blazing AF systems. I've used the lens extensively for small birds (perched) with a 1.4 tc and the combo plays very well with the big boys. The only time I haul my big stuff out anymore is for low light situations.
  6. I'm very happy with the IQ of the 200-500, but prefer it's AF performance on the D500, rather than my D810. I've hand held the lens and it's VR performance is among the best I've used, but it's heavy. I rarely zoom mine and am quite interested in the about-to-be-released 500/5.6 PF, since I expect similar IQ and VR with much smaller size/weight and much faster AF.
  7. It's a feasible proposition on the D810 and even with a 1.4 TC, but the keeper rate is lower than with the D500 because of the less capable AF. If you're on a special bird shooting tour for example with unrepeatable opportunities you may end up voicing profanities
  8. Talkin_Tarn_20180707_0709.jpg
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    It's not impossible to get images of awkward flitty subjects with the 200-500....
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    • Agree Agree x 1
  9. Allan - Thanks for the feedback. It looks like it is about 1 1/2 lbs heavier than the 80-400 which would still be manageable although it would be a pretty heavy kit at that point. I'm thinking of slower moving birds so it sounds like it would fit the bill.
  10. Louie - Thanks for the feedback. I'm also thinking about upgrading my camera but like all of us have other competing expenses. I've had reasonable luck with my D810 capturing moving birds using group autofocus but from what I've read, and from the pictures I've seen on this forum, the D500 or D850 would be a real upgrade. I've uploaded a picture that is pretty heavily cropped that I took earlier this week. I'm thinking that with another 100 mm of lens reach and the upgraded autofocus system in the D500 or D850 I would have gotten a stellar shot. Now I guess it's just a matter of coming up with the cash. Thanks again for the feedback.
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  11. Rick - I appreciate the feedback. I have been thinking about a new camera. I expect that the D500 or 850 would be a big improvement in the autofocus department.
  12. It works very well for BIF, AF is plenty fast enough
    The barrel is very thick making HH and zooming a bit awkward. I usually shoot it at 500/5.6
  13. I sold my D810 and bought a D5, D850, and D500. You will be very pleasantly surprised with the AF among other things.
  14. Gary - Thanks for the feedback. When you say it's slow to focus compared to everything are you talking about other zooms (Nikon and non-Nikon) or their prime lenses? I've only used the 80-400 to try to track a bird in flight so I can't really speak from much experience.
  15. Baywing


    Feb 22, 2005
    CT USA
    The 200-500 is slower on initial focus than the 80-400 but once locked on, seems to keep focus a little better. Notice I said a little. As Louis indicates, initial focus acquisition is the key. As I only shoot larger birds with it (osprey to be exact) they are "slower" than the smaller birds and I haven't really had any issues. That said, I do have the D5/D500/D850 trio. I wouldn't use my D810, mostly because I have better options to chose from.
  16. BLev65


    Oct 5, 2017
    The answer to your question depends on the type of birds that you are intending to photograph. If you are looking to photograph herons, spoonbills, vultures and eagles where you can track the bird at a distance, the 200-500VR will do just fine. Once the lens locks on, it can keep pace with the subject. On the other hand, if you are looking to track songbirds, swallows, ducks, and serendipitous fly-bys, the 200-500 will fail. The AF motor is slow to acquire focus, thus the lens is challenged by unpredictable flight patterns.
  17. Isn't the body and technique as important as the lens in that assessment?
    In any case, my experience is that the keeper rate drops but not to zero.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  18. BLev65


    Oct 5, 2017
    The body definitely matters, but so does the lens AF motor. In the case of the 200-500VR, Nikon has not installed their pro-spec AF motor. Furthermore, the 200-500 has a lot of glass to move around, and if the AF motor is slow, it will take longer to pick up on the target.
    For the sake of comparison, my 200-400 has a lot of glass and an all metal construction. While not as fast as my 300mm f/2.8, the AF of the 200-400 is noticeably faster than the 200-500VR... I tend to use the D500 with these lenses, so the AF system is pretty robust.
  19. Sure.
    My D500 with the 200-500 is slower to focus than my lightning fast M43 G9 but it's more likely to lock onto the right thing, so maybe we need to be talking about effective focus speed.
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