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Thread: Nikon 200-500mm f5.6E ED VR final review

  1. #1
    A. P's Culinary Indiscriminant mongo's Avatar
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    Nikon 200-500mm f5.6E ED VR final review


    These will be Mongo's final thoughts on this lens unless he discovers something that may be important to report back. Given the various findings to date that keep developing, now that things are relatively stable and settled into what may be expected in the long run, it is perhaps appropriate and fair that Mongo give a final quick "review" of this lens. He hopes you find it helpful.


    Mongo was sort of lucky enough to be one of the first to get one of these in Australia. He has had it now for about a month. There is good and bad about it but mainly good (now that is). Mongo purchased it from an authorised Nikon dealer for $1700 Australian Dollars which is a very good price.


    AF Issues


    Initially, Mongo had considerable trouble with the lens. The AF seem to go “to sleep” at times and would not work unless you woke it by manually turing the focus ring or turning the camera on and off. Not really what you need when trying to catch wildlife (particularly birds in flight), sports action, aviation etc. These are the things this lens was surely designed for.


    The other problem Mongo noticed was that the lens seemed very slow to acquire focus on moving objects. The lens was relatively OK on stationary objects (apart from falling asleep as described above). This mystery was largely solved in two steps. First, having the “sleep issue” “fixed” with the firmware update. Secondly, by using the most appropriate VR mode.
    Unfortunately, Mongo had to work out the do’s and don’ts of VR on this lens largely by himself and the odd rare comment he could find on the net as the lens was still reactively new and few people had used it. It seems that “normal” mode reduced the the AF speed whereas, “sports” mode seems to have far less affect on AF speed. Unfortunately, the lens does not come with a real explanatory booklet - it only has a single open-out sheet. Mongo is all for cost saving to be able to provide this lens cheaply to customers but some information should not be skimped on.


    VR


    When you look through the viewfinder and engage “normal” VR mode, the effect is dramatic ! the movement is almost completely halted in a way Mongo has not previously experienced with other Nikon VR lenses. The claim that his lens’ VR is the best to date is probably well founded. However, as with any fast car or precision tool, you must know how to use it to get any good out of it.


    Mongo has determined that, “normal” mode is best used when handholding the lens and focusing on stationary objects. “Spots” mode VR should be used in all other instances including on a monopod, panning etc. Some of this information is in the instruction sheet but not all of it an not enough to have worked this out effectively in Mongo’s opinion.


    The combination of the above two steps have now brought the lens to a reasonable standard and one that Mongo is happy enough with and could, potentially, be very pleased with subject to further testing. However, all indications so far are that there is a little more that can be extracted from this lens and that should bring it to the that level of satisfaction.


    Quality Control


    Typically, Nikon realised the lens (in Mongo’s view) half baked and poorly tested - if at all. Untypically, Nikon came out within weeks of the lens being sold to admit there were AF issues and had a firmware update to rectify it. See: http://nikonrumors.com/2015/10/06/so...px/#more-98465


    So, Mongo was not wrong when he had earlier complained to Nikon that the lens had AF issues. It should be noted that Mongo noticed the problem within the first few hours of using the lens. One would have to ask how Nikon could not have notice this problem if it had carried out any credible testing. Again, as Mongo has previously stated, this should never have happened and Nikon needs to get its act together about properly testing its products before subjecting the public to them and expecting the public to be its test guinea pigs. If it does so, it may keep more of its customers and regain a lot of lost respect.


    If you buy a lens with a serial number greater than 2008365, the issue should already have been rectified. So, in the scheme of things, the problem was caught relatively early after the lens’ release.


    Build Quality & Features


    Mongo could go on at some length about this but it is easier to summarise it extremely good and excellent value for the money. It is solid, well built and well finished, movements are very precise (not sloppy) and no lens creep. Also, the foot on this lens is not like the 300 f4 AFS. It is , In Mongo’s opinion, it is very solid and well designed for this lens’ needs. In short, you will not have the need or urge to go out and buy an after market foot with possibly one exception. Most of us use the arca swiss attachment system and this lens does not have that feature. That is unfortunate as the foot is big enough and solid enough to have machined that profile into it. Mongo assumes this has not been done due to possible patent issues. Nonetheless, you can buy a short arca swiss plate/rail and attach it to the lens’ existing foot without any
    concerns.


    Image Quality


    What would you expect to get for this money in this zoom range? Well, you would have to think that it has to be at least as good as Tamron and Sigma offerings or there would be no point in making it. Mongo has only tried the Tamorn 150-600mm and found it to be a respectably good lens. He has not tried the Sigmas (although he managed to get a look at them and handle them as well as see some images from them). From that small amount of largely indirect knowledge, it seems they too are very good performers.


    Mongo’s analysis of the MTF charts lead him to believe that the Nikon is most closely aligned to the Sigma Sport.


    It would be unfair for Mongo (in these circumstances) to attempt to draw some comparison between the various lenses. So, he will comment on the Nikon more directly.


    The image quality is surprisingly good, indeed, very good. Even wide open at f5.6, the lens delivers sharp images with good contrast. As a habit , Mongo now largely shoots at f5.6, f6.3 and f7.1 averaging f6.3 most of the time. Even so, he finds that you may need to stop down a little more but largely for extra DOF and not for want of sharpness. This lens is small enough to fool you into forgetting it is 500mm and that you may be too close to the subject unless you add more DOF. Funny but you never seem to forget this when lugging the 600mm f4 around. It is something you will get used to quickly when using the 200-500mm.


    Having owned and used a Nikon 200-400 f4 VR for a few years, Mongo can say he can not tell the difference in the image quality produced by both lenses. If there is any, it could not justify 4 times the price and more than 30% more weight. The extra stop is not enough to faze Mongo either.


    Teleconverters


    Mongo must admit that, due to the other initial issues to try and get the lens right, there has been some delay in testing the teleconverters properly. Mongo had an initial try with the teleconverters before the lens was firmware updated and calibrated. Therefore, those old results are not reliable. Nonetheless, Mongo can tell you that the 1.4EII. 1.7EII and 20EIII all work with this lens although, not necessarily the AF.


    To break those results down, on the D800E, you get AF with the 1.4EII only but you can manually focus the other converters and the shutter releases and it all works etc. On the D4s, you get AF with the 1.4EII and the 1.7EII (which is very surprising becuase the latter combo is f9.3 wide open i.e more than f8 and theoretically the AF should not be capable of working …..but it does !).
    Neither body auto focus with the 20EIII. The images Mongo got from all these combos were all good to very good but read further below.


    While having the firmware update carried out on the lens, Mongo also asked that it also be calibrated (together with calibration of his D4s and D800E). Since getting the gear back about 10days ago, Mongo has been flat out trying to AF fine tune the lens to the camera bodies. At present , despite all having been calibrated and theoretically no AF fine tune should be needed, Mongo has found that the D800E and the lens are best at +4 AF fine tune. Accordingly, Mongo will have to calibrate each of the teleconverters with the lens and redo all the test with them. It may well be that he will get even better results than before the lens was firmware updated and calibrated. This remains to be seen.


    Conclusion


    Nikon 200-500mm f5.6E ED VR is clearly aimed at the Tamron and Sigma competitors and despite its unfortunate troubled birth, it will make a serious indent into their market share of this approximate zoom range. Mongo would now recommend this lens.


    a quick sample image:


    D800E , 200-500 @500mm, f6.3, 1/800th, ISO 2000, -0.3EV, +4 AF fine tune, monopod

    Wren-in-the-forest-Light.jpg
    Nikon and Pentax user



  2. #2
    Still in the Circle of Confusion Cage's Avatar
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    Mate, I'm glad you've reached a state of reasonable satisfaction with the lens.

    It is still on my lust list of long glass. I concur with your thoughts that a long established manufacturer like Nikon should never release a product that has not had extensive field testing. Not good enough Nikon !

    Your lovely shot of the wren should go a long way toward re-establishing some confidence in the lens.
    Cheers
    Kev

    D800 & GAS

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    Member Unique Faces's Avatar
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    Thanks for taking the time to pen this summary. Will certainly help anyone who is interested in purchasing this lens (me included) with their deliberations.

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    Ausphotography Addict feathers's Avatar
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    Thanks mongo. A very good review. Beautiful capture of the wren

  5. #5
    A. P's Culinary Indiscriminant
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    Mongo forgot to mention two other things (but unfortunately, he cannot go back in and edit his original post):-

    1. the lens has a remarkable and pleasing close minimum focus for a 500mm lens;

    2. the balance of the lens feels very good in hand.

  6. #6
    Member bigshowoz's Avatar
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    Thanks mongo for the review

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    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mongo View Post
    .... unfortunately, he cannot go back in and edit his original post .....
    Yeah, sorry 'bout that chief! .. but thems the rulz.
    If you want me(or any other mod too), if you PM me the (formatted) the text you want added, we can do it for 'ya.

    Good to see, easy to understand review and I'm sure many will find to be a good assurance on the capabilities of the lens(now).

    Of course I have my gripes with the big N, and of all the gripes I have, this one lens was the one that settled the main grievance .. that of price relative to other products(even one's more capable)
    So the big bad N finally makes a well priced AND capable lens product, that does require selling off the entire country! .. and they stuff it up with annoying quality control.
    But more to the point, as I've said in other threads over the past few years .. if they are going to have annoying QC issues(and it will happen .. without a doubt), then the BEST way to counter this is to go the Sigma way and allow the user to fix 'em up as needed.
    Your issue would have been solvered in a few moments, and other's same issues would have been too .. why clog up the service network with issues that it needn't have to deal with.
    That way all those D800's, D600's, D750's .. etc would have been fixed quicker

    the sad thing(for me) is that the IQ looks so tempting, almost to the point where I want to go against my better judgement and take the plunge!
    But I know that the Sigma S lens will give me what I'm pretty sure I want(the flexibility to tweak if it's needed).

    Anyhow .. let me(at least), or any other mod, and we can add to your OP.
    Nikon D800E, D300, D70s
    {Nikon} -> 50/1.2 : 500/8(CPU'd) : 105/2.8VR Micro : 180/2.8ais : 105mm f/1.8ais : 24mm/2ais
    {Sigma}; ->10-20/4-5.6 : 50/1.4 : 12-24/4.5-5.6II : 150-600mm|S
    {Tamron}; -> 17-50/2.8 : 28-75/2.8 : 70-200/2.8 : 300/2.8 SP MF : 24-70/2.8VC


  8. #8
    A. P's Culinary Indiscriminant
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    thanks Arthur. They are only a few minor typos and possible a couple of extra lines re MFD and handling. Will let you know. thanks again.

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    Who let the rabble in? Lance B's Avatar
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    Excellent write-up and excellent sample image, Mongo.

    After having a play with your lens, I am now the proud owner of a Nikon 200-500 f5.6 and couldn't be happier. This will be my travel bird/wildlife lens.

  10. #10
    Moderately Underexposed I @ M's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lance B View Post
    This will be my travel bird/wildlife lens.
    Interesting concept in that reply without the / 'tween travel and bird.
    Andrew
    Nikon, Fuji, Nikkor, Sigma, Tamron, Tokina and too many other bits and pieces to list.



  11. #11
    A. P's Culinary Indiscriminant
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lance B View Post
    Excellent write-up and excellent sample image, Mongo.

    After having a play with your lens, I am now the proud owner of a Nikon 200-500 f5.6 and couldn't be happier. This will be my travel bird/wildlife lens.
    thanks Lance. Mongo assumes your copy of the lens is past the affected serial numbers and is work well from the get go. Mongo will see you on the bird/wildlife trail soon.

  12. #12
    Who let the rabble in? Lance B's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mongo View Post
    thanks Lance. Mongo assumes your copy of the lens is past the affected serial numbers and is work well from the get go. Mongo will see you on the bird/wildlife trail soon.
    Yes, I checked the numbers and also emailed the guy at Nikon service just to make sure. All's good.

    Maybe go and check the Pardalotes either tomorrow or Sunday morning. I took an American friend from Fred Miranda Forums who was visiting Sydney there on Tuesday and the Pardalote showed up and went into the nest, so something is still happening!
    Last edited by Lance B; 23-10-2015 at 7:58pm.

  13. #13
    A. P's Culinary Indiscriminant
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    subject to weather, the weekend sounds fine. will be in touch

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    Thanks heaps for this review Mongo, it helped me heaps in deciding which of the new long zooms to buy. I now have the Nikkor 200 - 500 and am very happy with the results I have been getting.

  15. #15
    Member torro's Avatar
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    Hi Lance, did you have any of the quality issues that Mongo mentioned ?

  16. #16
    Who let the rabble in? Lance B's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by torro View Post
    Hi Lance, did you have any of the quality issues that Mongo mentioned ?
    Not at this stage.

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    Got to read this 2nd follow up post. Many thanks Mongo!

  18. #18
    Ausphotography Regular Brian500au's Avatar
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    Mongo I am not a Nikon shooter but nonetheless I really enjoyed reading your final review. Thank you for taking the time to write such comprehensive review - as a Canon shooter it does give me information on other brands. Much appreciated.
    www.kjbphotography.com.au

    1Dx, 5DsR, 200-400 f4L Ext, 100-400 f4.5-5.6L II, 70-300 f4-5.6L IS, 70-200 f2.8L IS II, 24-70 f2.8L II, 16-35 f4 IS, 11-24 f4L, 85 f1.2L II, 500 f4L IS, 300 f2.8 IS, ∑50 f1.4 A


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