Nikon 500 PF Initial Specs Review

You know, I feel sort of bad for the new Nikon 500 PF lens.

With all the hype and hoopla surrounding the new Z6 and Z7 mirrorless cameras, this lens sort of got lost in the shuffle. In fact, I think Nikon should have given it an announcement day all its own. The truth is, it’s looking like a fairly impressive piece of glass. As a “first batch” user of the Nikon 300 PF (one of my favorite lenses), I’m looking forward to seeing how this one compares in the field. 

However, the lens isn’t available just yet, although the specification are. In the video below, we’ll take a walk down Tech Spec lane and I’ll give you my take on this hunk of glass. 

 

PS – If you enjoyed this post, I think you’ll REALLY like my e-books, Secrets To Stunning Wildlife Photography and Secrets To The Nikon Autofocus System. They’re filled with hundreds of pages of information just like this. Check ’em out – click here (hey, it’s free to look 🙂 )

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83 Comments on "Nikon 500 PF Initial Specs Review"

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Gilbert Rolland
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Steven, Have you heard some thing about a new Nikkor 600mm PF 5.6. I have already the Nikkor 200-500mm and this lens with the TC14 seems a great format for bird photography. Thank you and have a good day.

Joseph Smith
Guest
Hi Steve and others. I have had my new Nikon 500mm f5.6 for about two weeks now. I find it easy to use, image quality is great and AF acquisition is better than I had anticipated. I have not done a lot of low light shooting yet, so I have not tested out the AF in those conditions. I have uncovered on BIG PROBLEM, the lens foot on the tripod collar mount. (The tripod collar mount is fixed to the lens and is not replaceable. ) I picked up the lens by the foot and the next thing I knew… Read more »
John Grgas
Guest

How do you know when your af is locked on the bird?

Chet
Guest

If you test one of these, make sure you take a close look at the VR. On my D850, it has the same problems the 300PF has. At shutter speeds around 1/100, the VR is not good at all. Otherwise, it seemed like a nice lens, but not worth the premium over the 200-500, IMO. Sharpness was about the same compared to my copy.

Bruce
Guest

In your original post on the lens you mentioned shooting at 1/100s in burst mode and naturally VR is not going to be effective and actually counterproductive in such a situation. What is important is how fast the camera can lock focus for wildlife photography and this is where I have found the 80-400mm lens to be more effective than the 200-500mm lens on my D500 camera in the field with fast moving subjects.

Ralph F Smith
Guest
Great article as usual but my question is more to do with small birds around eastern PA. I want to improve cropped picture quality. I have a d500 and a 200-500 f5.6. To improve cropped quality I could 1) buy a d850 but not sure that pixel density is that much better than my d500, 2) replace my 200-500 with a 180-400 f4 tc1.4 – 1 stop better and faster focusing but big big bucks or 30 assume my 200-500 (which was rebuilt under warranty last month) will be good in that range but buy a 600mm f4 prime??? Suggestions?… Read more »
Kevin Lohman
Guest

Steve! You are a bad influence. I ordered the 500PF. Hoping it will ship within the next 2-3 weeks. And I am still sorting through photos from Costa Rica! Loved the workshop! https://www.kevinlohman.com/Wildlife/CostaRica/

Bob
Guest

If you were to buy just one lens for what you do (nature photography) would you purchase something like this Nikon 500 pf or say a 200mm – 500mm zoom or 80mm – 400mm lens? How often does the zoom function come into play? It seems like top photographers are always pushing for longer lenses in favor of zoom lens. Thanks.

Bruce
Guest
Having a 500mm lens with the size and weight of a 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom lens is on the surface quite appealing. But my 500mm f/4 was also usable as a 700mm f/5.6 lens with a near doubling (96%) of the image size at 700mm. I will be traveling to Alaska and due to PenAir’s onerous carry-on restrictions I will be leaving the 600mm f/4 behind and taking the 200-500mm instead. If i had the 500mm f/5.6 lens I would be leaving it at home and taking the 200-500mm f/5.6. With a prime telephoto and larger critters there is a tendency… Read more »
Murli Ranganathan
Guest

Hi Steve:
Thank you for that crisp pre review. Am waiting for the detailed one. I just bought the 200-500mm for hand shots about 2 months back and now i feel bad. If i had known that this lens was coming along shortly, i would have preferred to wait. I had got the 200-500mm since i found lugging the 600mm f4 (the old one and heavier) quite irksome.
By the way, those e-books were great and am waiting eagerly for the third one.

Walter Baliero
Guest

Hi Steve.
As always, I pay attention to all your posts. I own – among others lenses – the 500 mm f/4 which I use plus TC1.4 for bird photography. Looking at this new 500 PF I think will wait until the 600 PF appears – can’t afford the “real one 600” – then my thought is that in this case I will have 600 PF + TC1.4=840 mm for tripod shots and the 500 PF for hand held, so I will cover a nice range of shooting. What do you thing about my idea?

Dinuka
Guest

Hi Steve, if you have to chooes one from 400f2.8 500f4 600f4 (all Nikon) to buy as your prime lense for brids and wildlife which one will be your pick. I’m considering buying one prime and cant decide which one to buy ( would be lovely to have all of them if I can afford). I do own 200-500 f5.6 currently and thinking of keeping it with the prime lens. Any adivice is highly appreciated.

Markku Sulonen
Guest

Hi Steve,

Thanks for the great video. Yes, this makes me hungry for having this peace in hands. I think you say something that this lens maybe handheld in the fields, as well as some comments below. As far as you will write about your field experiences, pls, comment on this. Now, I have both 300PF and 200-500. The former is a great performer, even with 1,4 TC, handheld. The 200-500 is close to that but not exactly, due to its weight. Now, my expectations are that 500PF could be better in that respect.

B.r: Markku

Peter
Guest

How does the Nikon 200-500 compare to the Tamaro G2 150-200 and is either one better than the Tamaro G1 150-600. When do you think the 599P will be aailable to test against both of the above lenses to see if the cost of almost 3x is worth it
Thanks

חתול
Guest

the thing i would really want to see (and almost no videos ever show) is the autofocus speed. not only from the viewfinder view, but also from the focus distance “window”. the 70-200 f2.8E for an example is extremely fast, that window does actually indicate the real life autofocus speed. only when the lens is aimed at the sky without the cap on :).

Georg
Guest

I love the 500 FL f4. I think this lens is even not to heavy for the hand shutting sometimes. I use 300 PF f4 with 1.4 teleconverter. It is OK but I don`t love this lens. I can not see any reason for purchasing this 500 f 5.6 lens, waste of money

חתול
Guest
waste of money? clearly you dont hike and walk in thick bush or in thick forests. just try walking with a huge lens/huge bag/huge anything in the israeli bush.. just try. this 500mm f5.6 is PERFECT for me, since i ONLY walk and search for gazelles and wild animals to photograph. a 500mm f4 is too long, too thick and too heavy to walk around with, run around with, or climb on a tree with when you are chased by an angry wild boar (which didnt happen to me, but im ready for everything, i encounter them often.). this 500mm… Read more »
Paul Digney
Guest

I have (and love) the 300PF. It almost always has the 1.4x TC behind it so I’m using it at f 5.6. This is a lot more money than that combination and heavier. But I only go from 420mm to 500. I’ll be interested in what you think about the trade-off when you get your hands on it.

ADDAL K R
Guest

As usual, you are wonderful, my only concern with this lens is, if light conditions are overcast or you can say low light, then what will happen ? I don’t think it is possible to fit my 1.7 tele converter, even with d850.

david cowles
Guest
Thanks Steve very comprehensive as always. He is Australia it will be a lot more $ however. I have an unrelated question. I see on some of your web videos that you sometimes use a Flash Extender over your Flash. I gather this is for subjects up in the tree in some shadow? my Nikon sb-5000 flash has a separate diffuser dome & good reach up to 20m. I believe? What would be the advantage of having a flash extender wrapped around the flash. Would it spread the light wider and more even ? Does it not annoy the subjects/critters… Read more »
Shanti LFE
Guest

I use the Magmod flash extender,easy & portable as folds down..so far birds have not really cared about it–no reactions..can’t say for bigger mammals..might piss off a bear 🙂

PETER CLAUSSEN
Guest

Thanks for the initial thoughts. I’m an amateur and I think this is a better option for me than a 14K lens. ordered one. If you and the family want to stay at 9000 ft in the rockies let me know

PETER CLAUSSEN
Guest

Thanks for your books….Thanks for the initial thoughts. Ordered this one

Gary Irwin
Guest

Thanks for the “initial specs” review Steve! Everything about this lens looks stellar…except for the fact that it’s f5.6. I’ve been shooting wildlife (birds) long enough to know that f5.6 just doesn’t cut it for action shots which I’m “focusing” on since Nikon released the D500/D850. So as much as I’m impressed with the 500PF specs, I keep coming back to the idea that a 500E is my best, most versatile companion to my 600E, even though they’re just 100mm apart.

Bill Anderson
Guest

Steve, I agree completely. Wildlife photographers probably should be focusing (no pun intended) more on this lens than the 1st generation Z cameras. I am also curious; did you ever make a final decision on the 180-400 f/4 zoom lens? Thanks for your videos. Bill

Jack
Guest

Good info Steve. Waiting for the 600 PF f4 . . . Would you rather have the 500 PF f5.6 or the 300 PF + 1.7 TC at 5.6?

Janet Zinn
Guest
I’m sooo tempted to get this lens for all the reasons you mention. But what do I do with my 500 F4E which I have only had less than a year?? Selling it would be like selling my firstborn (if I had one lol.) And I’d surely lose money on it. But, I am afraid I’d find little reason to carry the big prime if the baby brother is as good as Nikon is claiming. Thank you for pointing me to the article on fast glass, those are all great and valid reasons for the F4, especially (for me) the… Read more »
Brian Bernard
Guest

Steve, you made mention in your video of the Sport Mode, and that you leave it on on your 200-500mm. Does that mean you leave VR on all the time with the 200-500mm regardless of shutter speed?

Bruce
Guest

I am curious on how this will perform with a 1.4 TC, it would be fantastic (and I’m probably dreaming) if, like the expensive 180-400, it performs just about as well with a TC WITHOUT having to be stopped down. I traded in my 300PF because it needed at least 2/3rds of a stop, and usually a full stop down before it was tack sharp (at least F7.1 and I usually shot at F8). Can’t wait to see your review.

ABHIJIT BANERJEE
Guest

Thanks Steve. I will eagerly waiting for your review about the 1.4 TC III performance with this 500 PF lens. I have used 1.4 TC III with 200-500 on D500 but sharpness drop noticeably.

Jack Palmer
Guest

Perhaps you have Abhijit, but if you haven’t you should auto-fine the AF for the 300 Pf + 1.4 TC III combo. I did and the sharpness tended to increase or at least no longer back-focussed. And the AF fine tune value was different for the combo than for the 300 PF alone. Jack

Michael Goodman
Guest

Thanks Steve for your always insightful thoughts esp. for wildlife photographers!

Adam
Guest
Thanks, Steve! I agree, looks very appealing and at a price that is fairly inexpensive… for Nikon! I’ll be curious to see where this fits in your work. I have the 600 f4 and 300 pf also and as cool as this looks, I’m not sure it fills a necessity. I’m only a hobbyist but this certainly wouldn’t replace the 600 and with the 1.4 TC, the 300 pf closes the gap, and is a killer hiking set up. Definitely a slamdunk for someone that doesn’t want to dive into the big 500 or 600. Curious, did you end up… Read more »
Steve Swope
Guest

I ordered mine last week, should be in September 14th

Dagny Gromer
Guest

I pre-ordered one last week as well. I was looking at the 300mm PF + 1.4 TC when I heard the 500mm was coming so I waited. I have used the 300mm PF (don’t own one) and I need more focal length than it had.

Shanti Lfe
Guest

Looks tempting,but my 300pf+ 1.4 @ 420 may be just as sharp?? 80mm is no big deal.. but the 600 pf is another story I hope. Look foward to your tests Steve.

Phil
Guest

Looking forward to your field review of the 500 PF.

Especially interested in how it does optically and AF wise compared to the 200-500mm on long end and also with a 1.4x III TC.

Nikon should be dropping another shoe sometime in future with a 600/5.6 PF. That will be very interesting unless it’s co$t is way more than the 500 PF.

https://nikonrumors.com/2018/02/01/the-latest-nikon-patents-400mm-500mm-and-600mm-f-5-6-phase-fresnel-pf-lenses.aspx/

Gary Haigh
Guest

Great point on focus acquisition when using the 200-500 Steve. I find my greatest loss of shots is due to the camera hunting for focus, sometimes never managing to lock on in time. I do however like the zoom range of the 200-500 which is a luxury you will not have with the 500 PF

Bruce Herrick
Guest

Can we have a written review? No time to watch videos.

Troy Phillips
Guest

I think it is a great price for what you’re getting. I have the 300 f/4 afs . Got it in the mail from B&H the exact same day the 300pf was advertised for preorder. Kind of wish I’d have switched up on the lenses. B&H did make that offer to me. Just mainly for the better af.
This is where this new 500 of should really shine . Those light weight elements and a d5,500 of 850 locking on should be extremely quick. Can’t wait for the review

Ian Douglas
Guest

A real shame (as usual) that Nikon UK translate the USA dollar price into UK pounds at an exchange rate of 1:1 which makes this a very expensive lens in the UK 🙁
Also it will be interesting to see the flare performance of this lens in the field (a weak point of the 300mm PF F4).

Brian Bernard
Guest

It will be interesting to see how this new lens compares to the 200-500mm once its available, considering they are both f/5.6 at 500mm