LensTip.com

Lens review

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 500 mm f/5.6E PF ED VR

12 September 2018
Arkadiusz Olech

10. Autofocus

The Nikkor AF-S 500 mm f/5.6 PF is equipped with a quiet, ultrasonic SWM motor; small wonder the autofocus work is noiseless. Still it is not fast. Running through the whole distance scale and setting the focus takes about 0.8-0.9 of a second – it is not an impressive result. Fortunately the producer decided to add a focus limiter and it helps – after setting it on the 8 meters to infinity range the focusing time decreases to about 0.3-0.4 of a second, a very good value indeed.

After attaching the lens to the newer D500 body you can’t reduce these results in a noticeable way. The only difference we managed to observe was a bit less of focus play. When the image is distinctly out of focus and the photographed object is not especially contrasted the D3x can go slowly in the wrong direction, return after a while and only then find a proper position. In the case of the D500 the autofocus working in the same conditions goes where it should at once.

It also should be noticed that the tested lens is characterized by a not especially impressive minimum focusing distance, amounting to 3 meters. For example the same distance of the Nikkor 200-500 mm amounts to 2.2 meters. At first I thought these 3 meters it’s too far, you can definitely come closer to e.g. small birds. The practice, however, showed that 3 meters are more than enough because even on full frame a small bird is able to fill almost the whole frame so there is no need to come closer. Still you can forget about any substitute of macro photography.


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Both in studio and outdoor the autofocus didn’t let us down. It worked with consistent accuracy, without any front or back-focus problems. The Nikkor 5.6/500 didn’t need any microcalibration on either of bodies we used in our test.

Nikon D500, 500 mm, f/5.6
Nikon Nikkor AF-S 500 mm f/5.6E PF ED VR - Autofocus
Nikon D3x, 500 mm, f/5.6
Nikon Nikkor AF-S 500 mm f/5.6E PF ED VR - Autofocus