First Time Big Glass Warning
If you have never shot a big honkin’ super-telephoto prime before, don’t panic if your first results don’t look awesome. These are lenses that reward good technique, which is a kind way of saying they punish poor technique. The slightest camera/lens movement or missing focus by an eight of an inch will become immediately apparent. I was aghast at some of my early 500mm efforts.
For that much money, the shots had better be prizewinners. Alas, that was not the case with most of them. But of course, a few were tack sharp where you could count the legs on the tick in the deer’s ear. If you can nail one perfectly sharp image with the lens but the others are blurry, guess what? It’s not the lens’s fault. The longer I shoot with any lens or camera, the better my results get. All camera gear comes with a learning curve – because of high magnification values, the curve for super-telephoto is a lot steeper than most. Realize too that at 500mm and beyond those pricey pieces of glass only work a few hours a day. Once the sun rises and the heat shimmers start, the resolution goes to hell unless your subject is real close.
The 500E FL is an absolute marvel of technology. Everything functions as it should, it is far more handholdable than its predecessor, and the sharpness is outstanding.
Before the 500E FL popped out of the womb it had an arranged marriage to the D4s. This is a pro lens designed to be used with a pro body. The small advantages offered by its electromagnetic diaphragm and improved AF tracking will be noticeable when coupled with a D4 or D4s, but less so when mated to slower bodies.
The huge advantage offered by the 500E FL is the light weight of this lens. This advantage carries over to all bodies and for those who plan to shoot a lot handheld, this is the reason to upgrade. Be warned though, even though it’s much lighter then the 500G it’s still a handful to handhold – if you’re not physically fit and also a wee bit masochistic you’ll probably prefer a lens like the Tamron 150-600mm, Sigma contemporary 150-600mm or Nikon 200-500mm. If your chosen wildlife photo experience is walking 15 yards from the car at Bosque del Apache, setting your tripod and big glass up next to a pond full of Sandhill Cranes and snapping away then there is little reason to own this lens instead of the less expensive 500G. Ditto if it’s going to sit on a beanbag on the rail of a Range Rover in the Serengeti.
On paper this lens is sharper than the 500G, however, in practice the differences are negligible. This could change with the introduction of even higher megapixel bodies.
Bottom line – is this the best 500mm prime on the market? The answer is Yes.
Where to Buy
To buy this incredible life-changing hunk of magnificence click here. If in stock don’t hesitate – such lenses are made in limited quantity and often hard to find.
If you think the 500G is more your style, mine is for sale with its impeccably matched 1.4x TC14-II. If you pick it up in person in Arizona it comes with a day of shooting and instruction with yours truly.
Nikon 500mm f/4E FL VR
- Optical Performance
- Bokeh Quality
- Build Quality
- Focus Speed and Accuracy
- Image Stabilization
- Size and Weight
Photography Life Overall Rating
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