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

January 12, 2016 | Zoltan Arva-Toth | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star Half rating star


The announcement of the AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR lens in August 2015 came as a pleasant surprise for Nikon camera owners. Not only is it the only genuine Nikon zoom that goes out to 500mm, but it also costs less than some comparable third-party offerings, at least in certain markets. Centre sharpness is very good to excellent at all apertures throughout the zoom range, with the corners also being impressively sharp at most zoom settings. Chromatic aberrations are among the lowest we've seen in any lens. The bokeh is smooth and vignetting is quite well controlled at most focal lengths and f-stops, with the exception of 500mm f/5.6 where it's quite noticeable but still not too bad. According to our own measurements, the maximum magnification ratio is 1:4.3, which is slightly better than the official figure of 1:4.5 quoted by Nikon. Instant manual override is possible when the focus mode switch is set to the M/A position. The Vibration Reduction (VR) system is very effective in combating camera shake, and features both a “Normal” and a “Sport” mode. Focus acquisition may not be the fastest we've encountered but the AF system is still quite speedy, quiet and highly accurate. The lens comes with a removable tripod collar, which has a well designed and sturdy foot.

For those wishing to buy a Nikon branded long telephoto zoom, the choice essentially boils down to the AF-S Nikkor 80-400mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR and the AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR (unless you are ready to pay top dollar for the AF-S Nikkor 200-400mm f/4G ED VR II, that is). If you prefer a wider focal range, faster focus acquisition and lower weight, the 80-400mm VR lens may suit you better; but if your priorities are a longer telephoto reach, superior optical quality and a lower price, the AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR is the better choice.

When it comes to third-party options, the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports lens gives you a wider focal range, broadly similar optical performance, robust weather sealing and even more telephoto reach – in a considerably bigger, heavier and (in the U.S., at least) pricier package. Sigma's 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM “Contemporary” lens is lighter and more affordable than either the Nikon lens or the “Sports” version, making it the strongest rival of the AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR.

4.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4
Features 4.5
Ease-of-use 3.5
Image quality 5
Value for money 4