500mm f/4.0P ED-IF (AI-P) vs AF-S 200-500mm f/5.6 ED VR

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by fluppeteer, Jun 2, 2016.

  1. Bumping this
    So, Andrew, what did you do and what do you think? I read your usage pattern with interest, because I am looking for something probably 400-600, and started researching the 500 f/4 manual for my d810. I figure, God willing and the creek don't rise, the solar eclipse of 2014 may be my last and wanted to shoot it. Currently I have been using a 500 mirror lens, Bausch and Lomb (but one of the "good" ones, that was was a freebie from an friend). I will say, the clock drive works well.

    The 200-500 Nikkor has turned my head and for the premium for it vs the 500/4 I thought it could be money well spent, unless it is "extremely soft" at 500, where I'd shoot the eclipse.

    Soooo, how does this story end?
  2. Hi John. Right.

    I did get rid of my AI-P (which didn't do me much good on the trade in because it had got a bit of mould in it while sitting around; I now have a dehumidifier) and I got the 200-500.

    Is the 500mm tack sharp at 500mm? It's probably not perfect, and I could believe even the old prime has the edge at f/5.6. It's pretty good, though, and DxO helps. Bear in mind I tend to under-sharpen a bit for this site (I'm working on it), but there are some early images I took with it here, here, here and here. Several of those are probably at a lower shutter speed than I should have used, and were through windows, which won't be doing any favours.

    I did lose some quality with a TC-14E on it (yes, on a tripod); see here.

    On the other hand, the images I took were mostly in focus, I could fit the 200-500 in a bag with other lenses (see here), and - for several of the above shots - I could hand-hold it (the balance point on the AI-P was too far forward for me to do that, and I can hold a 400 f/2.8). The 200-500's VR is exceptional - much better than, say, my 70-200 VR2 - much of the blur in my images is the subject moving. For "the lens you have with you", it was a much better choice - I found the AI-P too painful 99% of the time (despite throwing money at better support for it) so I barely used it, whereas the 200-500 gets quite a lot of use. But I'm still hoping to hire an 800mm (or possibly 600mm + TC20) next time I go to Yellowstone. And I'll remember my remote trigger next time.

    At 500mm I'd certainly prefer to be at f/8, or at least not completely wide at f/5.6. But it depends what the alternative is. The Sigma 150-600mm Sport is allegedly very good at the long end, and might be marginally better - but it's more expensive and appreciably bigger than the Nikkor, and at f/6.3 at the long end it's going to start struggling with the TC-14 I tried.

    The story will end sometime after I work out how to afford my own 400mm f/2.8, though. :)
  3. Thanks for that, and I agree the first images looked a bit soft, but later less so with improved dynamic range I think, too. The money question tho, and maybe you've done this...pictures of the sun and the moon?
  4. How slow/fast is the AF on the 200-500?
    Is it usable for sports where I would pre-focus on the player, then have to track the player +/- about 25 ft as the player moves about.
    Manual focus tracking my 500 mirror is HARD, as the DoF is quite shallow. My hit rate is about 30%.
  5. I'll try to dig out a moon shot to post tomorrow. Forgive me for not pointing out at the sun!

    The AF isn't blindingly fast (compared with my 70-200 and 200/2, for example), but it's not awful. I'll try to do a specific comparison and report back.
  6. Nikon didn't use the fastest/strongest motor in the 200-500, so there's some AF performance difference to the more expensive superteles. Initial focus acquisition can be a tad slow (improvement possible with pre-focusing manually) but I have found that once focus is acquired, tracking is excellent. I would consider the 200-500 AF speed to be at par with that of the AF-S 80-400.

    Here is an example of a sequence I got - those plovers move fast and I was able to take 26 images of this fly-by, 17 of which are sharp
    (clicking on the image will take you to flickr were you have access to a higher resolution version).

    Obviously, panning with a moving target is not exactly the same as having the AF track a moving target but without moving the camera - here the performance of the AF module becomes a lot more critical (and in 3D or Auto mode I have only found the D500 to perform at a useful level whereas the D200, D300, D7100, D7200, and D810 fall short).
    Andrew Garrard likes this.
  7. Thanks Dieter, that is just what I wanted to hear.
  8. One more thing: I found I needed to do AF fine tuning for the 200-500 on every camera I used it on (D7100, D7200, D500). Same was true for the 80-400 and the 300/4E. Don't expect to take the lens out of the box, mount on your camera and get tack sharp images right away.
    Andrew Garrard likes this.
  9. I guess there's some sample variation here, as my 200-500 seems to be spot on without fine tuning. That's fortunate, as I used it initially on a D3200, which can't be tuned anyway. But since I initially tried it in the store with the D3200, I knew how that specific lens would behave, and I knew beforehand as well that the D3200 and the D7100 I am now using are well matched. I'd expect that for one bought without first trying, fine tuning would be in order.

    I have used the old 500/F4 AIP lens as well, and it certainly is sharp and gives beautiful images, but as others have mentioned, it's not an easy lens to carry around or to hold steady, and even on a sturdy tripod it can be hard to keep from vibrating. The 200-500 is so much easier to use and its VR so good that in real world performance it's likely to do better. I had pretty decent luck with birds in flight even with the D3200.
  10. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    If you shoot anything that moves, having AF is typically a major advantage. Way back in 1998, I upgraded from the 500mm/f4 AI-P to the AF-S, after a trip to Kenya where I realized that I couldn't manually follow focus with the 500mm/f4 P on a pride of slowly walking lion cubs.

    AF on the 200-500mm/f5.6 AF-S VR is certainly on the slow side, but slower AF is still better than no AF.
  11. With the Novoflox Rapid Focus (or follow focus: Novoflex - Adapters for follow focus lenses) I probably had the fastest manual focus option available at the time; still there was no way I could have beat AF.

    More like tolerances at play. AF fine tuning one 200-500, two 80-400, and one 300/4E to altogether (over time) seven bodies (one D7100, one D7200, three D500, two D810) I have not found one occasion where the same lens on a different body needed the same AF fine-tune parameter.

    The only time I realized in the store that a lens will need AF fine tuning was with the Sigma 24/1.4 Art. In all other cases, testing in the store proved mostly inconclusive.

    When I had my 200-500 in for repair and left one D500 with it, it was returned perfectly matched with the AF fine tune parameter at zero. Didn't affect the other lenses parameters at all, so I assume that the fix was made permanent either inside the lens or camera firmware.
  12. Um. I haven't forgotten, but despite weather reports to the contrary, last night clouded over, so no moon. I'll post back when I can.
  13. +1
    I tried and failed follow focusing on a tennis player with a 500 mirror, with my D7200.
    While I can easily manually focus the 500 mirror on a stationary subject, follow focusing a fast moving subject like a tennis player was REALLY REALLY hard (with the D7200). I think I had a 25% (or less) hit rate. It might be better with my old F2, and a screen that was designed for manual focusing.
  14. Mwahh.. MF is hard work! I missed many a shot with my beloved 400/3.5..
    See: 400mm f/3.5 AI-s on modern DSLRs
    ...Now.. should I try to sell it.. I do want the 200-500 in my bag .. and when it would end up there, I know that the 400 will become 'shelved'..
    But I'm still not a faithful Marie Kondo adept, and am struggling with letting go..
  15. Sorry for the delay. As requested, here's a sequence of moon shots with the 200-500 with my D810. These are from Friday (not tonight's supermoon) - there was a little light cloud drifting past, hence slight lighting changes. Hopefully that won't have affected sharpness significantly. They're all hand-held (hence showing shutter speed differences); I discarded a few slightly worse ones, especially without VR. These are lossless (jpegtran) crops (with my best effort to line them up) of out-of-camera JPEG Fines with auto WB, spot metered on the moon, auto ISO. Hopefully Photonet's servers aren't recompressing them and bypassing my work. I could obviously sharpen a bit more in post, and could do a bit better both on sharpness and noise with DxO - but I figured it was simplest to show what the camera makes of it.

    The first few are at 500mm; I'll show the TC14E-II ones later.

    Firstly, hand-holdability. f/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 200, no VR:

  16. Next f/5.6, 1/1000s, ISO 280, no VR. I claim this is a little sharper. Still, this is a hefty lens, and it's not too hard to hand-hold steadily even at 1/focal length - pointing fairly high above the horizon in the cold is hardly optimal hand-holding conditions.

  17. Now, hopefully proving that VR isn't robbing too much sharpness, here's f/5.6, 1/250s, ISO 180 with VR on. The most visible improvement for VR was how much easier it made it to frame the moon centrally.

  18. I think that holds up well against the no-VR/high shutter speed version. Here's f/5.6, 1/125s, ISO 72 with VR on, for a bit more dynamic range (yes, I missed ISO 64). I think it's a little softer, but still respectable.


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