Big, butch and surprisingly affordable, this lens puts the ‘super’ into super-telephoto. Get our verdict as we put the Nikon AF-S 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR through its paces.
Current Nikon super-telephoto zooms run up to the 400mm mark, like the 80-400mm VR and top-flight 200-400mm VR II. This new lens pushes this to 500mm, in line with the previous generation of Sigma and Tamron lenses.
However, both of these independents are now making super-telephoto lenses that stretch to 600mm, so Nikon is still playing catch up in that sense.
In terms of size and weight, the new Nikon falls between the Sigma 150-600mm C (Contemporary) and S (Sport).
It’s a handful at 108x268mm and 2.3 kilograms and, unlike many constant-aperture telephoto zooms, the physical length increases at longer zoom settings. Fit the lens hood and the whole package extends as much as 44cm from the camera body.
With its constant-aperture design, the Nikon is one-third of an f-stop faster than the competing Sigma and Tamron lenses.
Autofocus therefore remains available even with a 1.4x teleconverter fitted, if your camera has f/8 AF compatibility.
Unlike the Sigma 150-600mm S, the Nikon isn’t fully weather sealed, but it does have the usual rubber gasket on its mounting plate to help keep out moisture. Switches give access to an autofocus limiter and normal/sport options for VR. The VR sport mode aims to give optimum stabilisation for fast-moving subjects, as well as avoiding a slow-down in continuous shooting.
The autofocus speed isn’t massively quick but it’s very accurate and reliable, while VR (Vibration Reduction) is good for 4.5 stops.
Sharpness and contrast are very good, too, and there’s minimal colour fringing, thanks to its three ED (Extra-low Dispersion) elements.
Distortions and vignetting are also negligible, and resistance to ghosting and flare is good, despite the absence of Nano Crystal coatings.
Overall performance is very impressive, especially considering the down-to-earth price of this lens.
Image quality and autofocus speed aren’t quite a match for the Nikon AF-S 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR but, then again, this 200-500mm gives more telephoto reach and costs barely more than half the price.
Full-frame compatible Yes
Focal length 200-500mm (300-750mm equivalent on DX)
Image Stabiliser Yes
Minimum focus distance 2.2m
Max magnification factor 0.22x
Manual focus override Full-time
Focus limit switch Yes (6m+)
Internal zoom/focus No
Internal focus Yes
Filter size 95mm
Diaphragm blades Nine
Weather seals Sealed mount
Supplied accessories Hood, soft case, caps
Dimensions (diameter x length) 108x268mm
Weight 2300g (including tripod collar)
Well worth the wait, this new zoom lens offers mighty telephoto reach alongside very pleasing image quality at a highly attractive price.
Value for money: 5/5