In all the whirlwind Nikon mirrorless announcements yesterday, what normally would have been a top-tier headline – Nikon’s announcement of a new 500mm f/5.6E PF lens with a phase-fresnel element, selling for $3600 – almost became a footnote! That’s a shame, because this lens brings a lot to the table. For Nikon DSLR users, especially sports and wildlife photographers who want a lightweight option with as much reach as possible, it could be the lens you’ve been waiting for.
Although Nikon had already released a development announcement for this lens, the most interesting thing we learned with the official unveiling is the size and weight of the 500mm f/5.6. At 237 mm (9.33 inches) and 1460 grams (3.22 pounds) not including the tripod collar, this lens is essentially the same size as the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8E FL! That is quite an achievement for a 500mm f/5.6 lens, especially one with an MTF chart as good as this:
Normally, I would point you to our article on how to read an MTF chart, but it wouldn’t help much in this case – the chart for the 500mm f/5.6 is practically perfect. This is going to be one sharp lens, akin to Nikon’s other supertelephoto primes that can cost thousands of dollars more.
Nikon already has a 500mm prime lens (see our review), but it’s an f/4 version that weighs 3.09 kilos/6.81 pounds and costs $10,300. By comparison, the new lens is very portable, as you can see in the comparison below:
This new lens manages to attain its comparatively small size and light weight for two reasons. First, it is an f/5.6 rather than f/4, which certainly helps. Second, it uses a Phase Fresnel (PF) lens element, a specialized element that allows Nikon to replace multiple standard lens elements with one that is smaller and thinner. The result is a 500mm lens that, by all indications, will be easier to handhold than any other 500mm lens Nikon has ever released. (Even the Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 weighs an additional 840 grams/1.85 pounds.)
Along with the PF element, this lens also has a fluorine coat on the front lens surface, which helps repel water beads on the surface, as well as making it easier to keep the lens clean. The 500mm f/5.6 PF also has an electromagnetic diaphragm, which we have only started to see in Nikon’s new lens releases recently (mainly supertelephotos, but also the 28mm f/1.4E). The 500mm f/5.6 has a 1:5.5 reproduction ratio as well, which is very close focus.
The 500mm f/5.6E PF has 19 elements in 11 groups, including three ED lens elements along with the PF element and fluorine coat. Here is a lens diagram provided by Nikon:
Along with the announcement, Nikon has also released some sample photos from the new lens to showcase its autofocus, sharpness, flare, and other performance capabilities. Take a look:
Nikon simultaneously announced that they are releasing the DF-M1, a dot sight accessory for telephoto photography to help keep track of a fast-moving subject. The DF-M1 will retail separately for $174.95. When it arrives, we hope to test it at Photography Life to see whether or not it truly helps track quick subjects!
Here is Nikon’s official press release for the 500mm f/5.6 lens:
Nikon Releases the AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR, a Fixed Focal Length Super-Telephoto Lens Compatible With the Nikon FX Format
Delivers Exceptional Agility that Makes Hand-Held Super-Telephoto Photography Enjoyable, as well as Offering Superior Optical Performance and Functionality
MELVILLE, NY – Nikon Inc. is pleased to announce the release of the AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR, a fixed focal length super-telephoto lens compatible with Nikon FX-format digital SLR cameras.The AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR is a high-performance, FX-format, super-telephoto lens that supports 500 mm focal length. The adoption of a Phase Fresnel (PF) lens element has significantly reduced the size and weight of the lens, making hand-held super-telephoto photography easier and more enjoyable.
With a maximum diameter of 106 mm and length of 237 mm, the AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR, which weighs 1,460g (roughly the same weight as the AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR) is significantly lighter than previous 500mm lenses which can typically weigh up to more than 3,000g. The AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR is designed with consideration to dust- and drip- resistance, which in addition to the fluorine coat applied to the front lens surface, allows greater agility when shooting.
The use of one PF lens element and three ED glass elements enables extremely sharp and detailed rendering that is compatible with high pixel-count digital cameras. In addition, the materials used in the new PF lens element have been developed effectively to reduce PF (diffraction) flare, allowing light sources to be reproduced in near-original colors. In combination with Nikon’s coating technologies, such as the Nano Crystal Coat, effective in controlling ghost and flare, extremely clear images are achieved.
AF speed has been increased by making lens elements in the focusing group lighter. The AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR is equipped with a VR mechanism that offers camera shake compensation equivalent to a 4.01-stop increase in shutter speed. The SPORT VR mode that has been adopted is especially effective when photographing fast-moving and unpredictable subjects such as wild birds, or in scenes such as sporting events. The stabilization of the image displayed in the viewfinder is also an effective feature for recording movies.
Additionally, the use of the Mount Adapter FTZ will allow the lens to be used with mirrorless cameras Nikon Z 7 and Nikon Z 6, also announced today. Users will be able to enjoy super-telephoto shooting at the 500 mm focal length with a system that is even more compact than ever before.
We are also planning to release the Dot Sight DF-M1, an accessory that is highly effective with super-telephoto photography. With super-telephoto shooting, a narrow field of view in the viewfinder tends to be made visible – making it easy to lose track of the subject. The Dot Sight DF-M1 makes it easy to keep track of the intended subject within the frame, even if the subject exhibits sudden movement.
PF (Phase Fresnel) Lens Elements
The PF (Phase Fresnel) lens, developed by Nikon, effectively compensates chromatic aberration, utilizing the photo diffraction phenomenon2. It provides superior chromatic aberration compensation performance when combined with a normal glass lens. Compared to many general camera lenses that employ an optical system using the photorefractive phenomenon, a remarkably compact and lightweight body can be attained with fewer lens elements.
- Significantly smaller and lighter with the adoption of a Phase Fresnel (PF) lens element, making 500 mm hand-held super-telephoto photography easier and more enjoyable
- Designed with consideration to dust- and drip-resistance; fluorine coat applied to front lens surface, effectively repelling water droplets, grease, and dirt
- Adoption of one PF lens element and three ED glass elements for extremely sharp and detailed rendering, compatible with high pixel-count digital cameras
- Optical performance that is not compromised with the use of the TC-14E III AF-S teleconverter
- Materials used in the new PF lens element effectively control PF (diffraction) flare
- Ghost and flare effectively suppressed with the adoption of the Nano Crystal Coat, enabling clear images
- AF speed increased by making lens elements in the focusing group lighter
- Equipped with a VR mechanism that offers camera shake compensation equivalent to a 4.01-stop increase in shutter speed, in two modes: NORMAL and SPORT
- Electromagnetic diaphragm mechanism adopted for extremely precise aperture control
We will release the Dot Sight DF-M1 (available separately), an accessory that is highly effective with super-telephoto photography. This accessory makes it easy to keep track of the intended subject, even if the subject exhibits sudden movement.
Price and Availability
The AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR will be available September 13 for the suggested retail prices (SRP) of $3599.95*. The Dot Sight DF-M1 will be available for $174.95 SRP*. For more information on these and other Nikon products, please visit www.nikonusa.com.