Nikon 500mm f4 P on a D800

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by steve_larese|1, Mar 7, 2014.

  1. Hi all,
    Can anyone speak to the quality of an older 500mm f4 P on a D800? I understand it's a manual focus lens, and I'd be using it primarily for static shots (no BIF). I'd love to see comparison shots with a newer AF version, but haven't found any so far.
    I'm currently using a 300mm F4 with a 1.4x, and find the images a little soft and in need of more reach for what I'm doing.
  2. I have an old Nikon 400mm f/5.6 ED AI-S lens and just bought a new AF-S Tamrom SP 100-500mm f/5-6.5 Made a test shoot from my balcony, Nikon Df, lens at 400mm f/8 ISO 800, bright sunny day, same subject and both images turned out has exactly the same sharpness. AF or not AF is not making the lens better. It is more convenient for some of the cameras, which has a very pure view finder, as most of the digital cameras has, or people with pure eye sight.
  3. Hi Steve.

    I can't speak for the comparison with the AF versions, other than noting that Shun felt the need to stop his down slightly to get the best out of it on a D800.

    I tried my 500 f/4 AI-P when I first got my D800e - I've not had as much chance to shoot with it since as I'd have liked. My notes are "okay at f/4, appreciably better at f/5.6 and still improving to f/8" - although f/8 tends to be past the point where a D800e has any advantage over a D800. It's much worse with the (adapted) TC-16A that I was relatively happy to use on my D700 for some AF assistance (moving birds benefit from it). It's certainly not the "ew" that was my reaction, even on the D700, to the 500mm end of my 150-500.

    I don't remember trying it with my TC-14E (with the tab filed off) on the D800 yet; I'd expect it to be somewhat better.

    My impression of my 300 f/4 was that it's really pretty good - but I've not compared what the TC-14 does to it to the 500mm on its own. Obviously the 500mm, in addition to being manual focus, is much more of a pain to handle. I found it very front-heavy - I can't really hand-hold it, whereas I'm quite happy with my 200 f/2 and seem to be able to hold the 400 f/2.8 without trouble when I've tried them. It essentially lives on my Manfrotto 393 (whose QR foot won't fit inside the hood).

    The advice I've seen around here is that the 300 f/4 + TC-14 and the 500mm f/4 AI-P are the cheapest ways to get to decent 500mm performance, with the latter presumably being an improvement. My advice is not to expect miracles - there's a reason I'd been looking at the current 400mm, although there's also a small pricing reason that's stopping me jumping - but it's certainly not terrible. It's not a trivial lens to start using, though - apart from anything else, it made me upgrade my 055CXPro3 to a TVC-34L.

    Good luck if you get one! (It's at least good for intimidating people, even if it's not the most portable lens in the world.)
  4. Very helpful responses, thanks Bela and Andrew :)
  5. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Steve, I don't think you need to be too concerned about the optical quality of the old 500mm/f4 P. If it is not quite as great as the 500mm/f4 AF-S versions, it is not far behind. I had that lens from 1992 to 1998, and I bought the first 500mm/f4 AF-S in 1998 and still own it today. I had both lenses for a few days but never tested them together, and it would have been on film SLRs back then, anyway. Whatever comparison results I got in 1998 is not going to be useful today.
    The question is how you are going to achieve critical focus, manually, on the D800. That is where the challenge is going to be.
  6. Thanks, Shun. Critical focus via live view when possible (static landscapes), rangefinder otherwise (with fingers crossed).
    I've played around with an adapted Mamiya 500mm f5.6 that did OK for what it was.
    I could also consider a Canon 400mm f5.6 as I have a 5D Mark II (that can't autofocus to save its life). Wrong forum, I know, but would be curious if there are any thoughts.
    Thanks, Shun!
  7. "The question is how you are going to achieve critical focus, manually, on the D800. That is where the challenge is going to be." Shun Cheung.
    Well said, Shun - one solution is a split image focusing screen with a Nikon DG-2 Magifier. Solves the problem.
  8. I have this combo. Have been extremely pleased with sharpness.......when properly focused. I bought the lens used in 1999 & would surly like the new AF with VR, but can't justify cost.
  9. This "critical focus" issue on current cameras drives me nuts. Critical focus has always been important for all the 34 years I have been taking pictures, no matter which of the 10 bodies and 34 lenses that I have used across 5 platforms. Yes, I have had great practise with manual focus and maybe I am just good at it. I do find liveview to be a huge help though, and I use it to confirm focus for landscapes and to confirm focus when trap-focusing for sports.
    Last night I got a Nikon 105/1.8 AIS for my 5D II and focusing is not an unsurmountable challenge even without liveview, and that was in dim light in my house and with the standard screen. There are many posts here concerned about manual focusing superfast lenses, but I have not had a problem with 55/1.2, 85/1.4, 135/2, 200/2 or 400/2.8 either, and that was before liveview.
    Forget the EF 400/5.6, either the Canon or Nikon 300/4 with 1.4x will at least tie it, if not beat it. The EF 300/4 L (non-IS) and EF 1.4x is no slouch. The combo has little to no CA, and the simalarily aged Nikon AF lenses that I have used lead me to believe the 300/4 AF ED and TC-14e would be no different. If I can get by with manual focus the Nikon 400/2.8 AIS is still my preferred lens. Even though it shows more CA (which corrects well in PS), it is still significantly sharper. I have not used the 500/4 P AIS but I am confident it would perform similarily. The 500/4 P is a newer design than the 400/2.8 AIS.
    Elite lenses like the 200/2, 300/2.8, and 400/2.8 that I have used are crazy sharp wideopen when compared to the much more common primes and zooms available so the fact that they all get even sharper when stopped down to f4 is just heavenly, (yeah, getting a little carried away) and really helps when you have to add a 1.4 or 2x. I think you will be pleased with the 500/4 wideopen, and ecstatic at 5.6. I was pleasantly surprised how well the 400/2.8 AIS with EF 2X works on the 5D II at ISO 100 or 200 at a combined aperture of f8 (using f4 on the lens itself.)
    I have no trouble with AF on the 5D II for brightly lit outdoor sporting events (soccer, competitive whitewater kayaking, and motor racing) with either the 70-200/4 L or 300/4 L with/without EF 1.4x. The camera is always set to AI Servo with just the centre focus point. With the same settings I had no problems a few weeks ago with the EF 50/1.4 in a bright basement, ISO 800 and f5.6, with fill flash, as I recall. I have read that AF becomes problematic as soon as you leave the centre point although I did do that a few times in the basement event without trouble.
  10. Don't know about the 500/4P lens, but I do think that the D800 is one of the easier DSLRs for me to achieve good focus with manual lenses, for whatever reason. The Df may be better at this, but I don't see myself getting one.
    I have a 300/2.8 AF-S ver.1 and TC17eII that I have never tried together. That ought to create a decent 510mm f/4.5 AF contraption that used does not cost a fortune when bought used. Will have to try it out.
  11. There us a broad misconception that because a Nikkor is an AIS it is going to be inferior to a newer one. Many of the latest Nikkors use the same optical configuration as the older AIS lenses. I use a 600mm f'/4 ED-IF AIS Nikkor all the time and I will stack the images it produces up against any new version. One thing that you have to take into account is the fact that the focusing screens on modern DSLR's are not very good for manual focusing, in fact some of them downright suck for critical focus. The first thing I did when I got my D700 was to replace the standard focusing screen with a microprism screen from . It makes all the difference in the world. The focus confirmation is usually close to the microprism in most cases but if there is a discrepancy I always go with the microprism, especially when the light levels are low. I have held off getting another body, but now that manual focusing screens are available for the D800 I may go ahead and get one.
  12. I use this lens regularly on a D300. Shorter lenses weren't and option for me I cannot afford the Nikon 500mm autofocus lens. These days, we have third party lenses that offer the 500mm and even 600mm focal lengths at more affordable prices but I went with this Nikon lens even though it does not autofocus.
    Like Andrew, I'm not impressed with the sharpness at f/4 but at f/5.6, it's as sharp as any lens that I have come upon. I see no significant loss in sharpness even when I use the TC14B at f/5.6 (for example the photo below):
    The manual focusing surely slows me down significantly, but getting my subject sharp is not so much of a problem thanks to the 'electronic rangefinder' feature (look for the green dot at the bottom left of the viewfinder, you have to keep the shutter release button half way down while focusing).
    I have even used this lens on a Canon DSLR with the help of an adapter which had a 'focus confirmation' chip on it, that way when I keep the shutter release button half way down when focusing, the focus point would illuminate when in focus.
    I haven't stopped down this lens past f/5.6 yet, but I'm about to now that I have the TC301.
    I'll post some results when I have them. I'm interested to observe sharpness with this 2-x teleconverter. This photo below was made without the teleconverter:
    At the end of the day, I prefer the results of this lens over third-party lenses.

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