Nikon 500mm F5.6 PF VR vs 500mm F4 VR vs 500mm F4 VR FL

Joined
Jun 6, 2013
Messages
443
Location
Ghent, Belgium
I always wanted a 500mm prime lens and I'm about to purchase one. But I'm not sure which one to buy. I already have the Nikon 80-400 and the Nikon 200-500. At first I wanted to sell my 200-500 and buy the 500 F5.6 PF. But the more I think about it, the less I want to buy it. With the 200-500 I already have lens which goes to 500mm @ F5.6. Okay, the 500mm is a bit faster and a bit sharper. But I'm sure you'll have to pixel peep to notice the difference. So what's the big advantage?

Most of my wildlife photography happens from a hide on a tripod. I don't do BIF very often. And if I need to, I can grab one of my zooms. Also I don't want to sell my 200-500 because this lens gives me a lot of flexibility for zooming in and out. I can do close-ups and do pictures which shows more natural habitat without changing lenses.

The 500mm F4's give you an extra stop of light. So photographing in low light, which happens more, is easier. They offer a clear advantage over the 200-500 and 500 PF. The extra weight; I *think* is not that bad, because I will use this lens most of time on a tripd. I only worry when I will need to travel with this lens by airplane. When traveling, I never leave my 24-70 at home, love to have an extra macro lens with me, etc. With a 500mm F4 I will need to carry an extra gimbal head, since I use an Arca Swiss ballhead now. Will I find a good bag, and won't it exceed the allowed weight?

I would buy a 500mm F4 second handed. The 500 F4 VR goes for 3500-4000 EUR. Is the FL worth the double?

What would you do? A lot of people are ditching their 200-500's and/or their 500 F4's for a 500mm F5.6 PF. I'm not seeing it, why this lens is the popular one? Do these people only photography when there's enough light?

This topic has probably been discussed a lot. I just want to take the best decision. These lenses are not cheap. :)
 
Joined
May 11, 2006
Messages
41,542
Location
CHARLOTTE
Real Name
Randy
I didn't like the 200-500 for HH but it has great IQ
I shoot a 500pf and a 500e (and an 80-400) for wildlife. The 500pf is best for BIF, the 500e is best at f/4 and if I am shooting from a boat or some place I can't move then I prefer a zoom

edit: the 500e was a great upgrade for me but it was pricey, I got $4700 for my G and paid 8k (used) for my e
handling was a big improvement. I couldn't HH the g but I can the e
 
Joined
Jun 6, 2013
Messages
443
Location
Ghent, Belgium
I didn't like the 200-500 for HH but it has great IQ
I shoot a 500pf and a 500e (and an 80-400) for wildlife. The 500pf is best for BIF, the 500e is best at f/4 and if I am shooting from a boat or some place I can't move then I prefer a zoom

edit: the 500e was a great upgrade for me but it was pricey, I got $4700 for my G and paid 8k (used) for my e
handling was a big improvement. I couldn't HH the g but I can the e
Thank you Randy! So if you needed to sell one, which one would it be? The 500 F5.6 or the F4?
We already agreed on the fact the 80-400 is a great lens. :)
 
Joined
Feb 1, 2005
Messages
1,713
Location
Tennessee
I think more people are leaning to the 500mm f/5.6 over the f/4 is for the size, weight, and $$$ savings. But the main reason is that high ISO continues to improve. I shot a high school football game Friday at ISO 6400 1/1000 sec and the images needed no noise reduction. I shot in RAW so there was no in camera noise reduction either.

People don't have to fear the higher ISOs now. There will still be people that crop their image and then view the crop at 400% and complain about noise, but for real world view and printing you should feel free to bump the ISO. And with that you can run higher shutter speeds or get away with f/5.6 instead of needed f/4.
 
Joined
Oct 5, 2017
Messages
48
I bought the 500 PFE using my NPS membership. I have had the lens for over a year now and have used it from a blind, from a sailboat, from a zodiac, and on the trail. At the time of my purchase I owned a 200-500 f5.6 and 200-400 f4VR. I owned all three for about a year and sold the 200-400 one month ago due to lack of use.
When I decided to pre-order the 500PF I had to make a choice... get the 500G w/ the f4 advantage or go for the newer tech and lighter lens.
Bottom line.. the 500PF is super sharp wide open. From what I have seen and heard, you would need to stop the 500G down to f/5.6 to get the same level of detail that I get shooting my lens wide open. Furthermore, the 500PF is easy to travel/fly with and is much easier on the back when hiking.
I am attaching a few pics taken w/ the PF all shot handheld... btw, when shooting from a tripod, I use my sidekick gimbal... the lens is that light!
cheers,
bruce
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
 
Last edited:
Joined
Jun 6, 2013
Messages
443
Location
Ghent, Belgium
I bought the 500 PFE using my NPS membership. I have had the lens for over a year now and have used it from a blind, from a sailboat, from a zodiac, and on the trail. At the time of my purchase I owned a 200-500 f5.6 and 200-400 f4VR. I owned all three for about a year and sold the 200-400 one month ago due to lack of use.
When I decided to pre-order the 500PF I had to make a choice... get the 500G w/ the f4 advantage or go for the newer tech and lighter lens.
Bottom line.. the 500PF is super sharp wide open. From what I have seen and heard, you would need to stop the 500G down to f/5.6 to get the same level of detail that I get shooting my lens wide open. Furthermore, the 500PF is easy to travel/fly with and is much easier on the back when hiking.
I am attaching a few pics taken w/ the PF all shot handheld... btw, when shooting from a tripod, I use my sidekick gimbal... the lens is that light!
cheers,
bruce
Thank you for your feedback! Seems you were in the same boat as me. :)

You're right about stopping the 500mm F4 down to get the same sharpness. I'm almost convinced to go for the 500 PF. The only thing that worries me a bit, is photographing at low light. The extra stop does matter. But you can always bump your ISO a stop. Myself knowing, if I would be photographing with a 500G, I would do the same probably to achieve maximum sharpness.

How's the lens paired with your Z6? I would be using my lens on the Z7 and D500.
You sold your 200-400 ... how about the 200-500? Do you still use it often? I can image the 500 PF is much sharper and has a creamier bokeh?

Btw love those pictures! Really really sharp! I think your post just convinced me. :)
 
Joined
Oct 5, 2017
Messages
48
Thank you for your feedback! Seems you were in the same boat as me. :)

You're right about stopping the 500mm F4 down to get the same sharpness. I'm almost convinced to go for the 500 PF. The only thing that worries me a bit, is photographing at low light. The extra stop does matter. But you can always bump your ISO a stop. Myself knowing, if I would be photographing with a 500G, I would do the same probably to achieve maximum sharpness.

How's the lens paired with your Z6? I would be using my lens on the Z7 and D500.
You sold your 200-400 ... how about the 200-500? Do you still use it often? I can image the 500 PF is much sharper and has a creamier bokeh?

Btw love those pictures! Really really sharp! I think your post just convinced me. :)
My concerns about losing the f4 aperture matched yours and was a real source of "might miss it" anxiety for me. In the end, I invested in a really good noise reduction software package (Topaz DeNoise Ai) and have felt comfortable pushing my ISO's up to 6400 w my D500 and Z6. I have the 70-200FLE and a 300 f4 AF-s D (not PF) if I need more light. Truth be told, I miss the 200-400 f4 for slower tripod shooting, but I don't miss the crazy inconsistency in long and distant focus w/ my DSLR's. On the Z6, the 200-400 focused more accurately, but was not as fast as I would have liked. While I would like the new Nikon 120-300 f2.8 that is being introduced, it will be way out of my budget... the Sigma Sport will be in my future and be used to replace the 70-200 and 300 f4 combo platter.
Apologies for the wandering... back to your point. I have resolved my 500mm f5.6 bokeh dilemma in two ways. First, I loved the bokeh of the 200-400 @ 400mm and f4, but that lens became soft and less contrasty at that combination. The 500mm f5.6 @ f5.6 has the same bokeh, but better sharpness and contrast wide open (I've attached a shot to illustrate how it looks even when the foreground and background are messy). The second thing I do is get low on my subject and keep myself eye to eye. By being on the same parallel plain, I find that the distracting bokeh becomes less distracting.
On the Z-bodies, the 500PF is fantastic. I use a Z6 for its low-light performance... in fact I'm heading out for a sunrise shoot on a beaver pond in less than an hour and will be using the Z6 w/ the 500PF. The AF issues related to the Z-bodies are what they are... they don't like low contrast subjects and do not track erratic subjects well. However, when things are working well, the 500PF and Z system seem to be a perfect match.

Finally, I still have my 200-500VR. I was an early adopter, I have a good copy, and it is matched to one of my D500's. It is my wife's primary telephoto and we love it for its flexibility. I am excited that the Z-system will include a 200-600 and am hoping that Nikon will design it in a way that matches the Sony lens with an internal zoom... sadly, it looks as if that lens is 2 years down the road.
regards,
bruce
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
 
Joined
Jun 6, 2013
Messages
443
Location
Ghent, Belgium
My concerns about losing the f4 aperture matched yours and was a real source of "might miss it" anxiety for me. In the end, I invested in a really good noise reduction software package (Topaz DeNoise Ai) and have felt comfortable pushing my ISO's up to 6400 w my D500 and Z6. I have the 70-200FLE and a 300 f4 AF-s D (not PF) if I need more light. Truth be told, I miss the 200-400 f4 for slower tripod shooting, but I don't miss the crazy inconsistency in long and distant focus w/ my DSLR's. On the Z6, the 200-400 focused more accurately, but was not as fast as I would have liked. While I would like the new Nikon 120-300 f2.8 that is being introduced, it will be way out of my budget... the Sigma Sport will be in my future and be used to replace the 70-200 and 300 f4 combo platter.
Apologies for the wandering... back to your point. I have resolved my 500mm f5.6 bokeh dilemma in two ways. First, I loved the bokeh of the 200-400 @ 400mm and f4, but that lens became soft and less contrasty at that combination. The 500mm f5.6 @ f5.6 has the same bokeh, but better sharpness and contrast wide open (I've attached a shot to illustrate how it looks even when the foreground and background are messy). The second thing I do is get low on my subject and keep myself eye to eye. By being on the same parallel plain, I find that the distracting bokeh becomes less distracting.
On the Z-bodies, the 500PF is fantastic. I use a Z6 for its low-light performance... in fact I'm heading out for a sunrise shoot on a beaver pond in less than an hour and will be using the Z6 w/ the 500PF. The AF issues related to the Z-bodies are what they are... they don't like low contrast subjects and do not track erratic subjects well. However, when things are working well, the 500PF and Z system seem to be a perfect match.

Finally, I still have my 200-500VR. I was an early adopter, I have a good copy, and it is matched to one of my D500's. It is my wife's primary telephoto and we love it for its flexibility. I am excited that the Z-system will include a 200-600 and am hoping that Nikon will design it in a way that matches the Sony lens with an internal zoom... sadly, it looks as if that lens is 2 years down the road.
regards,
bruce
Again, thank you for your feedback!

The bokeh on the picture looks very creamy, love it! I'm convinced! I'm going to order the 500 PF. With a bit of luck I have one in 2021. ;)

At this moment, I have the 80-400 and the 200-500. I have seen the roadmap. I'm really excited for their Z alternative's! But we'll see. No apertures for those lenses are known so far ...

Good luck on your beaver shoot! I'm curious at those low light shots. :)
 
Joined
Oct 5, 2017
Messages
48
Again, thank you for your feedback!

The bokeh on the picture looks very creamy, love it! I'm convinced! I'm going to order the 500 PF. With a bit of luck I have one in 2021. ;)

At this moment, I have the 80-400 and the 200-500. I have seen the roadmap. I'm really excited for their Z alternative's! But we'll see. No apertures for those lenses are known so far ...

Good luck on your beaver shoot! I'm curious at those low light shots. :)
I was at the trailhead by 6:30 am and at the edge of the pond in my hide by 7:00 with the sun still below the horizon. Sadly, the beaver caught me entering the territory, did a warning tail slap and retreated. I waited it out for about two hours and the best I could produce were some geese flying through some autumn color... This was with the 500PF and D500.
cheers,
bruce
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
 
Joined
Oct 5, 2017
Messages
48
Frank,
Here's one with the Z6. Exif is ISO700 shot @ f5.6... not cropped at all.
cheers,
bruce
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
 
Links on this page may be to our affiliates. Sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
Nikon Cafe is a fan site and not associated with Nikon Corporation.
Forum post reactions by Twemoji: https://github.com/twitter/twemoji
Copyright © 2005-2019 Amin Forums, LLC
Top Bottom