Nikon AF-S Nikkor 500mm f/4D IF-ED II Interchangeable Lens Review

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 500mm f/4D IF-ED II test

| Nikon AF-S Nikkor 500mm f/4D IF-ED II in Interchangeable Lenses

This lens is well into the serious amateur/professional category, if only by price. For many it would be a dream purchase but it has some features that make it an essential tool for a specialised job. We take a look here at the features that put it in the top class.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 500mm f/4D IF-ED II Interchangeable Lens Review: Nikon AF-S 500mm f/4Specification

  • Focal Length 500mm
  • Aperture f/4.0
  • Angle of view 5º
  • Filter size 52mm drop in
  • Construction 11/9 elements/groups
  • Focus type Internal Silent Wave Motor (SWM)
  • Closest focus 460cm
  • Weight 3.43kg
  • Dimensions 139.5x394mm
  • Mounts available Nikon
  • Tripod bush Yes,
  • Price (SRP) £6300

Build and handling
As you would expect from a lens of this class, the build quality of this monster is superb. It comes supplied in its own dedicated aluminium lockable case with compartments for filters etc. You also get two straps, one for the case and another for the lens. This is not a lens you would want hanging from the mount and the camera strap!

A soft, Velcroed and drawstrung bag applies further protection and, having a hard bottom, doubles up as a lens cap. The lens hood is a large carbon fibre tube which, once attached in the working position, would get you arrested if you used it anywhere near an airfield! Attached with a clamping screw, it proved to be sturdy and strong, but still lightweight.

The tripod mount collar is not removable, but is supplied with two alternate shoes that are fairly simple to change. These are a high and low level version and the high level one doubles as a carry handle. Both have three mounting bushes to balance various body weights.

A large manual focus ring, mid way up the barrel, which did not rotate during autofocusing, felt good and well placed in use. A focus limiting switch and AF/MF switch completed the controls. The limit switch worked either side of 8m.

A twist knob holds the slide that contains the 52mm drop-in filters and a polarising one is included.
Autofocus on this lens is fast. Extremely fast! So fast in fact, that, on a D70 it went through the point of focus on a number of occasions! Even with the D70 firmware upgrade, the problem persisted. If you’re buying this lens, make sure you are putting it on a professional body like the D2Hs or D2X or at least a D100.

Optical Quality
Once again, this lens is in the quality bracket. It is capable of stunning results once the specialist handling problems of a lens this size have been mastered. The contrast delivered is superb and the control of aberrations and distortions are first class.

The sharpness peak, unusually for any lens, is achieved wide open, making the attainment of that fast shutter speeds required when using long lenses that much easier.

An ideal lens for getting closer to the action, on the full size file you can count the water droplets. 1/200sec at f/5 ISO250.

It was neither sensible nor possible to get close to this nesting Kestrel. The detail in the crop goes some way to showing what this lens is capable of. 1/400sec at f/11 ISO250

With the quality being so high, it is more than possible to crop to improve composition. 1/800sec at f/5.6 ISO 400

Click on each comparision photo below to view full size versions

500mm at f/4

500mm at f/8

Below is our lens test data. To find out how to use these graphs look at this article: How we test lenses

If you have a good reason for justifying the price of this lens, you will not be disappointed with the results. You will need to mount it on a pro-spec body to extract the best from it, because the autofocus is extremely quick and needs the faster reacting camera to cope with it. With the weight of the lens, combined with the weight and bulk of the carry case, you will need some serious determination in order to get it to the location you are using it in, but the results in the end will probably be worth it.

In summary the main positive points of the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 500mm f/4D IF-ED II are:
Focus speed (with appropriate body)
Optical quality

Negative points are:
Weight (especially with case)
Closest focus over 4 ½ metres

Check the latest price of the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 500mm f/4D IF-ED II here

Test performed by Ian Andrews of

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