Author Topic: New kid on the block: AFS 200-500 mm f/5.6 Nikkor E  (Read 39233 times)

Bjørn Rørslett

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Re: New kid on the block: AFS 200-500 mm f/5.6 Nikkor E
« Reply #30 on: October 25, 2015, 15:02:17 »
I've been busy testing the 200-500 with TCs. Apparently the newest TC14E.3 does work quite well and you get reliable, albeit slow, AF on the newer cameras capable of AF at f/8.

However, the tendency for the 200-500 to show lateral chromatic aberrations towards the longer focal setting become much more pronounced when any TC is added. Not surprising of course, but still something to keep in mind. You really need to remove CA in the work flow for the images to be useful. Image sharpness might suffer less by the shorter TCs, but the propensity for lens and camera vibration increases dramatically and even VR cannot be relied to bail you out. Shooting at 700 mm (lens set to 500 mm plus the TC14E.3) makes captures a troublesome experience even with the lens mounted on top quality tripods, unless mirror lock-up is engaged and you work in a slow, method fashion.

You do get the opportunity to try exposure settings say of f/45 at 1/6 sec, though, with the TC attached. Something for the experimentally inclined photographer perhaps, but don't expect miracles as they will not manifest themselves no matter how strong your faith is.

Bjørn Rørslett

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Re: New kid on the block: AFS 200-500 mm f/5.6 Nikkor E
« Reply #31 on: October 25, 2015, 15:05:08 »
I plan to do a new series of comparisons between the 200-500 and various 300 mm lenses. Not sure which ones yet, except that the 300 PF is a top candidate. My car goes into the repair shop for its annual checkup tomorrow and I'll be without the required 'wheels' for whatever period the Peugeot shop requires for fixing any issues.

Ilkka Nissilä

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Re: New kid on the block: AFS 200-500 mm f/5.6 Nikkor E
« Reply #32 on: October 26, 2015, 13:54:10 »
It would be interesting to compare the 200-500 mm with the old and new 300/4 + converters in terms of sharpness.

I don't have first hand user experience with the 200-500, so I can't answer that question directly.

But I find the use of a TC typically reduces the AF keeper rate especially when photographing moving subjects at mid to long distances (tens of meters to infinity). A native lens of a given focal length is better because it is designed to focus well for typical distances where such focal lengths are used whereas a TC is typically added to a lens when the distance to subject is greater than normal for the native focal length of that lens and also the aberrations are increased by the TC which makes the job of the AF system more difficult. I have used one TC+prime lens combination where the AF performance is excellent across all distances, that is the 200/2 I/II + TC-14E II/III (technically that is two TCs and two different lenses but they're similar).

Even if the 300/4+1.4X TC may be sharper in a test chart test than the 200-500/5.6 (which could be the case, but not necessarily) it doesn't mean the real world performance of the TC rig is as good as that of a longer lens that achieves the desired focal length without the use of a TC or cropping. I would assume that the clarity of the image and colours are probably better with the 200-500 than with the 300/4 PF + TC-14E III; the PF isn't quite the best lens in terms of clarity and contrast to begin with and if you add a TC and long distance to the picture then the results probably aren't all that great. I think TCs in general work ok at relatively short distances to subject, and I've gotten good results with both III-series TCs on the 300/4 PF, but AF is severely impacted with both TCs especially the 2X. I would always preferentially choose a native lens of a given focal length rather than use a shorter lens and a TC, but there are those who like to use a shorter lens and TC (the 300/4 PF of course is ridiculously small even with TC attached compared to the 200-500).

From some 200-500/5.6 users that I have discussed the lens with, I gather that the 200-500 has great AF at long distances (planes, sports in bright light) but struggles a bit with bird in flight shots (compared to e.g. 300/2.8 or 80-400 AF-S). Thus it would seem that the optimal area of application of the 200-500 is different from that of the 300/4 + TC.  My experience  with the 80-400 AF-S is along the above lines of thought: it autofocuses very well at 400mm even at distances of 50m or so, whereas none of my short lens + TC rigs has quite done that. I have read user comments (from those who have both 200-500 and 80-400 AF-S) that the 80-400 autofocuses better for birds in flight (this could be thanks to its aggressively focal length shortening focusing method) than the 200-500.

Anyway, hopefully I'm not overanalyzing the situation. I just want to emphasize that AF performance and lens image quality on a static subject and AF performance and resulting image quality and consistency in dynamic, action tracking situations are not the same and this should be considered when deciding which lens to use for a given task.

I have used the 300/4 PF quite a lot by now, for sports and concert photography, and after initial testing I have not used it with TCs, mainly due to AF jitter in low light. The images do have high resolution and I simply prefer to crop a bit when required and retain the full AF performance that the lens is capable of. The reason I've used the lens a lot is its supreme practicality and compactness; I don't have to think about whether to throw it in the bag or not. However, I don't think it produces quite the level of image quality and consistency that the 200/2 or 70-200/2.8 II give; it is "different" for lack of a better word. In low light the results do not quite match those of the faster lenses, but they can be "ok" still. I have found that a good, and practical to use 300mm is long enough for 99% of my telephoto needs, but if I really needed a longer lens I would start by looking at lenses that achieve a longer focal length without TC and only use a TC occasionally when a situation appears which was not possible to plan for.

elsa hoffmann

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Re: New kid on the block: AFS 200-500 mm f/5.6 Nikkor E
« Reply #33 on: October 30, 2015, 11:42:56 »
Any further feedback on this lens?
or experiences by others?
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Ilkka Nissilä

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Re: New kid on the block: AFS 200-500 mm f/5.6 Nikkor E
« Reply #34 on: October 30, 2015, 14:47:23 »
Any further feedback on this lens?
or experiences by others?

I have so far one night session and one daylight session behind me with this lens.

I find the tripod collar better than what Nikon supplies with the AF-S 80-400, but it's not quite as rigid as I would like. After letting go of the camera, the lens still wobbles about for about 2 seconds before stabilizing. I find that there is some blur with 1/60s shots made at 500mm or 700mm, but things look ok at 1/125s, using my tripod (3-series Gitzo Systematic). I am considering the acquisition of Kirk's collar and front support but will first see what the upgrade to 4-series, 3.2kg tripod legs will do to help with the vibration.

I like the balance of the lens when hand held, and the VR stabilizes the lens very nicely. The 500mm focal length does mean the image tends to wander to a different composition during the time the viewfinder is blacked out, so I find myself striving to maintain precise composition. However this is the first time I've ever used a 500mm lens hand held so I don't have the required practice behind me. The lens feels great to hand hold it is not too front heavy and while my hands start feeling it a bit after 15 - 20 min, it is overall a pleasant experience.

However, there is a catch. The zoom ring has a long throw (about 180 degrees of turn from 200mm to 500mm) and the ring is quite stiff, so you have to use some force to turn the ring and I find myself taking the lens down from the eye and grabbing it with two hands to adjust the zoom and then take it back to the viewfinder for shooting. This to me implies that I should try using a monopod with it because the monopod would hold the lens and camera orientation still while my left hand turns the zoom ring. I have to say the 80-400 is far easier to zoom hand held than the 200-500.

I tried to photograph some plants and leaves and image quality was very good but the autofocus often didn't find anything to focus on, so I had to get the focus close by focusing manually and then refine it with AF (since I was hand holding I felt the autofocus would compensate for my hands and body swaying in depth so used AF-C). I felt  the image quality was a positive but clearly there are some practical issues that I have to learn to deal with when hand holding this lens.

I will try a monopod next. Hopefully it will be a pleasant experience that way. I think if I'm to hand hold it I will mostly preset the zoom and then shoot, instead of dynamically adjusting the zoom according to subject movement. This is quite restrictive vs. the way I typically use a zoom. So my first experience with this lens is not all roses and sunlight. However, I will give it a due chance to earn its place in my kit.

I think perhaps the large elements have to move so much when zooming that Nikon decided to play it safe and implement a (hopefully) durable but stiff zoom control instead of a loose but wobbly design.

simsurace

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Re: New kid on the block: AFS 200-500 mm f/5.6 Nikkor E
« Reply #35 on: October 30, 2015, 15:02:52 »
I hope that the rather stiff zoom mechanism keeps the lens safe from zoom creep when pointed at steep angles (such as when taking a moon shot or down from a cliff).

I think perhaps the large elements have to move so much when zooming that Nikon decided to play it safe and implement a (hopefully) durable but stiff zoom control instead of a loose but wobbly design.
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Ilkka Nissilä

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Re: New kid on the block: AFS 200-500 mm f/5.6 Nikkor E
« Reply #36 on: October 30, 2015, 15:42:59 »
I hope that the rather stiff zoom mechanism keeps the lens safe from zoom creep when pointed at steep angles (such as when taking a moon shot or down from a cliff).

The zoom indeed doesn't creep. I think this may well be the reason it was implemented in this way. However, it does interfere with easy hand held use of the zoom  especially in situations where tracking an approaching subject requires rapid adjustment of the focal length. In designs where the lens doesn't extend while zooming (such as the 200-400/4) the zooming action is lighter but then the lens is too heavy to hand hold on a regular basis (at least for me). I will go with the monopod approach next to see where that leads me. It is a pity as the VR seems to make the lens eminently hand-holdable if we ignore the stiff zoom. If one can shoot with the lens without zooming frequently while tracking the subject then I think the lens works well hand held.

Ilkka Nissilä

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Re: New kid on the block: AFS 200-500 mm f/5.6 Nikkor E
« Reply #37 on: October 31, 2015, 09:25:55 »
I noticed that when hand holding the lens, it is easier to zoom when the tripod collar foot is in my palm. The lens is more difficult to zoom if the collar is removed as it is harder to keep the main barrel from rotating without placing strain on the body/lens interface.

Monopod use seems to be a good option as image sharpness seems improved but I need to get used to the monopod way of shooting. It looks like the VR works well with the lens on monopod. But I still feel that I'm doing more pre-zooming and then shooting rather than zooming while shooting because of the way the zoom is implemented on this lens. The tripod collar provided seems acceptable for monopod use but I am still considering the Kirk products because it would be nice not to have to use a separate QR plate and the front support appeals to me.

Image quality seems very uniform across the image.

Ilkka Nissilä

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Re: New kid on the block: AFS 200-500 mm f/5.6 Nikkor E
« Reply #38 on: November 02, 2015, 22:25:56 »
I got my new GT4542LS tripod which has thicker tube diameter than my regular GT3542LS.

I did some slow shutter speed tests with the 200-500mm set at 500mm, lighting a textured subject with a halogen spot and adjusting the light to subject distance to get access to different shutter speeds. I used 1/6s and 1/15s, f/7.1 (I assumed that would be close to the optimum aperture), ISO 800, on the D810. I took series of 3 shots per set of parameters to test the reproducibility of the sharpness. I tried with EFCS on and off at both shutter speeds. These tests were done with VR OFF.

I would say the difference is very subtle, in favour of using EFCS which gave slightly higher sharpness than when using full mechanical shutter. The reproducibility of sharpness with the 200-500mm + GT4542LS (standard collar) was excellent, in contrast with the AF-S 80-400 on my GT3542LS (with Kirk collar). I will next carry out a similar test in subdued daylight to get a feel for what kind of shutter speeds I can safely use with this rig and whether the purchase of a Kirk support system is warranted. It would seem from my initial testing that the reproducibility of sharpness is acceptable at least in the indoor environment with very little air flow.   

I tested the image stability using Live view at maximum zoom. With VR off, the image settled in approximately 1 second after tapping the camera. This seemed to be an improvement over using the same lens with the GT3542LS, no doubt thanks to the more rigid tripod. However, I think there is room for improvement in the collar part of the setup. However, after the 1-1.3 second waiting period the image seemed to be very stable. When I then turned VR on, the image started to drift about in a small region in a seemingly random fashion. So, I will definitely keep VR OFF when using this lens on a tripod. On a monopod I was happy with the results with VR on. I think that with appropriate care, it should be possible to get good sharpness in field conditions at slow speeds using this lens and the GT4542LS tripod in a consistent fashion, and EFCS boosts sharpness slightly, giving more confidence to using the lens although I think it would be very hard to spot the difference in a print of "normal" size.

I think both the tripod and the lens even with standard collar represent an improvement to my previous 80-400 AF-S and GT3542LS when it comes to use at slow (or intermediate) shutter speeds and there doesn't seem to be any of the inconsistency that bothered me with the lens that I had before. I also find that the 200-500's AF doesn't cause any noticeable lateral wobble in the image whereas with the 80-400 AF-S, the image shook left and right a bit when the autofocus was active. This problem seemed to cause some indecisiveness on subject AF tracking when photographing birds in flight with the 80-400, and it bothered me personally (OCD). This lateral wobble in the image is absent in the 200-500, suggesting it is built to tighter tolerances for the focus group (or I might have had a less than perfect copy of the 80-400). I look forward to verifying my findings in field conditions outdoors and see how well the setup handles wind. I am cautiously optimistic about it and hope that I can avoid the cost of additional support. I should probably have investigated the 4-series tripod already with the 80-400 AF-S but it does represent 1.2 kg of extra weight and the lens seemed to be a part of the problem not just my tripod. Now I understand it was a combination of factors.

I will try to investigate also how the tripod-based sharpness differs from monopod mounted and hand held to get a feel of how much of a compromise I would make when choosing less support (the advantage of less support is greater mobility and a faster shooting experience). So far it is my impression that the monopod does provide a significant help compared to hand holding this lens, but I'm not really a fluid monopod user, so I'll have to work on it. Mounting the lens on the monopod is a nervous moment for me as I'm used to one component (the tripod) being stable and both hands being free to position the lens while it is being attached. When mounting a heavy lens on a monopod, both are in motion and only one hand is free to support the lens. I really don't want to drop my kit ...

Erik Lund

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Re: New kid on the block: AFS 200-500 mm f/5.6 Nikkor E
« Reply #39 on: November 02, 2015, 22:42:08 »
What head did you use and how did you mount it?
Makes a lot of difference...

I find a huge difference between series 3 and series 5 Gitzo!
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Ilkka Nissilä

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Re: New kid on the block: AFS 200-500 mm f/5.6 Nikkor E
« Reply #40 on: November 02, 2015, 23:07:38 »
What head did you use and how did you mount it?
Makes a lot of difference...

I find a huge difference between series 3 and series 5 Gitzo!

I use an Arca-Swiss Z1 sp head, firmly mounted on the tripod (with locking screw from below the top plate of the tripod), and a Burzynski QR plate on the tripod collar of the 200-500 (the Kirk collar on the 80-400 had its own dovetail so no QR plate was needed). The Z1 is not convenient for tracking moving subjects but I would be using the tripod with this lens for landscape and detail shots mainly, and when I need to use it for a moving subject, I would be using either a monopod with ball head, or hand hold the lens if there is no possibility of using a support.

The 5-series Gitzo is  unfortunately heavier than I'm willing to carry around (I have occasional back problems and I try to minimize the instances where they hit me), and the 4-series seemed like a good compromise that would give me more stability when using a long lens. It is closer to 5-series than 3-series in weight but I think I can manage it.  I will keep the 3-series for shorter focal length work.

With 300mm and shorter lenses I've been happy with the 3-series, but 400mm and 500mm focal lengths clearly exhibited problems with achieving sharp results below 1/100s.

simsurace

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Re: New kid on the block: AFS 200-500 mm f/5.6 Nikkor E
« Reply #41 on: November 03, 2015, 13:17:20 »
Thanks for the observations regarding stability!

What about weather resistance? Has anyone had the chance to test in harsh conditions or seen a test regarding that?
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Bjørn Rørslett

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Re: New kid on the block: AFS 200-500 mm f/5.6 Nikkor E
« Reply #42 on: November 03, 2015, 15:10:07 »
Today I got my review sample of the 200-500 updated at my Nikon repair facility. The procedure was quicker than I had anticipated and including a great deal of humour and chatting with the techs, took less than 10 minutes.

Now I have to stand up to a family funeral tomorrow and some associated chores and then back to full test drive mode again.

simsurace

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Re: New kid on the block: AFS 200-500 mm f/5.6 Nikkor E
« Reply #43 on: November 03, 2015, 16:02:35 »
Today I got my review sample of the 200-500 updated at my Nikon repair facility. The procedure was quicker than I had anticipated and including a great deal of humour and chatting with the techs, took less than 10 minutes.

Now I have to stand up to a family funeral tomorrow and some associated chores and then back to full test drive mode again.

Glad the fix was quick and pleasant.
Sorry to hear about that, wish you the best.
Simone Carlo Surace
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Ilkka Nissilä

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Re: New kid on the block: AFS 200-500 mm f/5.6 Nikkor E
« Reply #44 on: November 03, 2015, 16:27:42 »
Here is an outdoor test with the GT4542LS and two shutter speeds, f/8, with and without EFCS (100% crops from D810 images); 500mm focal length setting. I recommend looking at the leaves under the shutter speed text as those seem to be closest to being in focus. Also the larger branches show differences. As you can see, both EFCS and faster shutter speed help, but the leaves fluttered a bit in the very light wind so a part of the benefit of the faster shutter speed may have been due to the leaves not being perfectly still. I also did a shot at 1/200s with EFCS on but that wasn't any perceptibly better than the 1/100s shot with EFCS on. The differences here are a bit larger than in my indoor testing. The shot-to-shot consistency (within each set of parameter values) was however, very good.

I guess a fluid head would provide some additional stability, and then there is the Kirk solution as well to consider. However, these do cost additional money and at least some of the fluid heads recommended by the good people of this forum are three times the weight of the Z1.  ;) Perhaps I can just restrict myself to using the lens at 1/100s and faster for the most part, although that feels very restrictive for shooting in the pre-sunrise winter light. If anyone can suggest a fluid head that would help me with this lens, and would be lighter than the typical 2kg ones I've read about, I welcome such suggestions!  :) At this point I'm willing to believe that both Nikon's collar as well as the head may contribute to the lack of perfect stability at slow speeds.

What worries me a bit is that Nikon hasn't put EFCS with RAW capture in their other camera bodies, and its support in future bodies isn't quite clear. Anyway, I think the feature has its place and it gives me a bit more leeway in using slow shutter speeds with improved results given the camera support that I have available. I've found that it helps especially when using light weight smaller to mid aperture telephoto lenses on tripod collars and vertical captures in a certain shutter speed window. With the 200/2 (even with TC-14E III) the difference between EFCS on and off is almost imperceptible, whereas with a lighter lens such as 70-200/4, the difference is very obvious.

I will try to make a similar test with the 300 PF with TCs to compare.