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Lens review

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 200–500 mm f/5.6E ED VR

30 October 2018
Maciej Latałło

3. Build quality and image stabilization

In the following chart you can find a comparison between the basic parameters of the tested Nikkor and other, similar lenses. Even if the zoom ratio of the Nikkor is officially the lowest in this group (along with the Tamron) still the tested lens remains physically the heaviest and the biggest. It is really interesting because the Nikkor is not as optically complex as, for example, the stabilized Sigmas.

In the photo below the Nikkor 200–500 mm VR is positioned between two Nikkors, the AF-S 85 mm f/1.8G and the AF-S 24–70 mm f/2.8G ED.

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 200–500 mm f/5.6E ED VR - Build quality and image stabilization

The tested lens starts with a metal mount surrounding contacts and an inner tube which is properly blackened, matted and ribbed. Inside that tube you can find a rear element, 29 mm in diameter, which doesn’t move and is set about 1.5 cm deep. From this side the lens looks just splendid.

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Nikon Nikkor AF-S 200–500 mm f/5.6E ED VR - Build quality and image stabilization

The proper body of the Nikkor starts with a ring which increases its diameter; on that ring you can see a white dot, making an alignment with a camera easier. Then you find a tripod collar for attaching a solid tripod adapter, added in the box with the lens.

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 200–500 mm f/5.6E ED VR - Build quality and image stabilization

Further on there is a distance scale expressed in feet and meters, positioned behind a window. It is surrounded by an inscription with the name and parameters of the lens. On the left side of that window you see an array of switches. The first one allows you to choose between two focusing modes: M – completely manual and M/A – autofocus with a manual focus override. The second toggle controls focus limiter and there are two possible options, FULL and from 6 meters to infinity. The third switch is used to control the vibration reduction unit (VR ON/OFF) and the fourth sets its mode (NORMAL/SPORT).

On the side opposite to the distance scale you find the brand name, an inscription with SWM VR ED IF ø95 symbols meaning technologies applied in the lens, the filter diameter, the serial number of the lens and information that it was produced in China.

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 200–500 mm f/5.6E ED VR - Build quality and image stabilization

Then there is a manual focus ring, as wide as 29 mm, and completely covered by comfortable, rubber ribs. Its full range amounts to 180 degrees, it moves smoothly with a small but still acceptable resistance. Unfortunately it has some slack – a light touch and turn of the ring doesn’t produce any result when it comes to the distance scale.

On the next immobile ring you find the LOCK 200 button. It allows you to block the lens at 200 mm. We rarely used that function because the tested lens didn’t have any zoom creep tendencies.

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 200–500 mm f/5.6E ED VR - Build quality and image stabilization

The zoom ring is the biggest part of the body of the lens, as wide as 99 mm. Most of its surface is covered by rubber ribbing under which you see focal length markings at 200, 300, 400 and 500 mm. That ring moves smoothly and is properly damped.

The front element of the Nikkor is 88 mm in diameter and surrounded by a non-rotating filter mount, 95 mm in diameter, along with a hood mount. The front element system extends with the increase of focal length on a smooth, uniform tube so the lens gets longer by 77 mm.

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 200–500 mm f/5.6E ED VR - Build quality and image stabilization

The optical construction of the Nikkor 200-500 mm consists of 19 elements positioned in 12 groups. Three of them (including two big elements from the front element system) are made of low dispersion ED glass. Inside you can also find an aperture with nine blades which can be closed down to a value of f/32 at the maximum.

Buyers get both caps, a hood, a solid tripod adapter and a soft pouch in the box.

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 200–500 mm f/5.6E ED VR - Build quality and image stabilization


Optical stabilization

In the case of the Nikkor 200-500 mm VR the producer declares that the efficiency of the vibration reduction system is supposed to amount to 4 EV. In order to check that claim we 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 200–500 mm f/5.6E ED VR - Build quality and image stabilization


As you see the maximum distance between two curves reaches 3.8–4.0 EV so the producer is right. Within the margin of error our measurements confirm the declared stabilization efficiency - a very good and completely praiseworthy result.