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Lens review

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

12 September 2018
Maciej Latałło

3. Build quality and image stabilization

The following chart presents a comparison between the properties of the tested lens and those of other, similar instruments. When you look at the weight and dimensions of the Nikkor and the traditionally built Pentax you see what the Fresnel element technology can offer. Of course you still have to remember that the Pentax features a bit longer focal length and a bigger front element.

In the photo below the Nikkor 5.6/500 PF is positioned next to two other full frame Nikkors, the AF-S 24–70 mm f/2.8G ED and the AF-S 85 mm f/1.8G.

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 500 mm f/5.6E PF ED VR - Build quality and image stabilization

The Nikkor AF-S 500 mm f/5.6E PF ED VR starts with a metal mount which surrounds contacts and a rear element, about 25 mm in diameter. That element doesn’t move and it hides about 2.5 cm inside the barrel. Around it you see a very nicely blackened and matted tube covered by ribs. From this side everything seems to be as close to perfection as it is only possible – the lens is sealed and blackened very well.

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Nikon Nikkor AF-S 500 mm f/5.6E PF ED VR - Build quality and image stabilization

The proper body of the lens starts with a black, plastic part on which you can find a white dot, making an alignment with a camera easier, a MEMORY SET button, which allows you to recall a chosen autofocus position, the serial number of the lens, information that it was produced in China and a long list of technology employed (Nano Crystal Coat, SWM, VR, PF, ED, IF). The filter diameter amounts to 95 mm.

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 500 mm f/5.6E PF ED VR - Build quality and image stabilization

Further on you see a ring for attaching a tripod adapter. You cannot remove the ring itself but you can detach the ending of the adapter. Both the ring and the adapter are already made of metal.

Then there is a plate with the name and parameters of the lens and a distance scale widow, including a scale expressed in feet and meters. Although you deal here with a classic ‘prime’ the producer didn’t include any depth of field scale.

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 500 mm f/5.6E PF ED VR - Build quality and image stabilization

On the left side of the plate there are several switches. The first of them allows you to choose the focusing mechanism working mode (A/M, M/A, M), the second is a focus limiter, with two ranges, FULL and from 8 meters to infinity; the last of switches controls the stabilization and you have three possibilities: OFF, VR NORMAL and VR SPORT. The next switch is used to set the mode of buttons which are positioned every 90 degrees at the front of the lens. We can choose between the modes: AF-L (AF Lock) which attributes the Focus Lock function, MEMORY RECALL, which saves the location of the remembered autofocus position and AF-ON which gives you the ability to activate the autofocus by the aforementioned buttons, positioned at the front of the lens. The last switch on this side gives you a possibility to turn on or off the sound while recalling the memorized autofocus position.

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 500 mm f/5.6E PF ED VR - Build quality and image stabilization

The next part of the barrel is a rubberized and ribbed manual focus ring. It is as wide as 33 mm, moves smoothly and is well-damped, without any play. Running through its full distance scale needs a turn through an angle of about 200 degrees. It is a very good value for an autofocus lens.

Then you see an immobile ring with a golden stripe, its considerable part being also covered by rubber ribs, which features buttons set every 90 degrees apart - their functions can be programmed by using the AF-L/MEMORY RECALL/AF-ON button we wrote about earlier.

Further on, you find a hood thread which is used to attach a lens hood; it surrounds a non-rotating filter thread, 95 mm in diameter, and a front element with a diameter of 88 mm which doesn’t move.

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 500 mm f/5.6E PF ED VR - Build quality and image stabilization

When it comes to the optical construction you deal here with 19 elements positioned in 11 groups. One of them is a Phase Fresnel lens and three others are made of low dispersion ED glass. Inside you can also find a round aperture with nine diaphragm blades which can be closed down to f/32 at the maximum. The front element is fluorine coated and inside you can also find nano-crystal coating.

Buyers get both caps, a hood, a tripod adapter and a hard case with a strap. You certainly can call it a rich accessory kit.

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 500 mm f/5.6E PF ED VR - Build quality and image stabilization


Optical stabilization

According to the producer the efficiency of vibration reduction system is supposed to amount to 4 EV. In order to check that claim we used the Nikon D3x camera and took several dozen photos with shutter speeds ranging from 1/500 to 1/5 of a second with the stabilization switched on and off. Then we calculated the percentage of blurred photos at every speed and presented the results as exposure time function graph, expressed in EV (with 0 EV being the equivalent of 1/400 of a second). The graph below shows the lens’s performance.

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 500 mm f/5.6E PF ED VR - Build quality and image stabilization


As you can see, the result is worth an expensive lens aimed at advanced users and professionals. Officially it exceeds a bit the declared value of 4 EV, amounting to 4.3 EV. It is an excellent performance and it deserves to be praised.