Nikon 500mm f/5.6E PF Field Test: A superb super-telephoto without the super-weight


posted Friday, November 30, 2018 at 6:14 PM EDT

Click here to read our Nikon 500mm f/5.6E PF Field Test


When it comes to photographing sports and, in particular, wildlife, this often requires a supertelephoto lens. Now, for full-frame and APS-C DSLRs, that often comes with some rather unpleasant consequences, namely extremely large and heavy lenses. Furthermore, these lenses also typically cost thousands upon thousands of dollars. However, there are a few lenses out there for your full-frame DSLRs that give you supertele reach without that supertele size and weight. Canon has a few "Diffractive Optics" or DO lenses (those L-series lenses with the Green Ring), while Nikon has a similar series called Phase Fresnel lenses, which first debuted with the 300mm f/4E PF lens. These lenses use specially-design diffractive optical elements that allows lens designers to create smaller, lighter yet still-long telephoto lenses.

Earlier this year Nikon announced their second Phase Fresnel lens, a Nikkor 500mm f/5.6E PF lens. When we reviewed the 300mm f/4 PF lens, not only were we impressed by the optical quality but also at just how small and lightweight this full-frame DSLR lens was. Well, now the same can be said for the 500mm f/5.6E PF lens. While we haven't yet lab-tested this lens, the real-world images we've seen are simply fantastic, and as expected, the PF optical design creates a shockingly-small 500mm supertelephoto lens!

Nikon D500, 750mm-eq., f/5.6, 1/320s, ISO 1100

Resident nature-lover and long-time Nikon shooter Jeremy Gray recently spent time field testing this new 500mm lens, putting it to the test with some wintery wildlife up in Maine. Not only did he find the build quality up to the challenge of snowy weather conditions, but also the lightweight design and top-notch VR made it an excellent hand-holdable lens paired with cameras like the Nikon D500 and D800E. What's more, Jeremy found that the 500mm f/5.6E PF lens was also small and lightweight enough to pair well with the compact Nikon Z7 mirrorless camera along with the new FTZ adapter, mirroring the experience fellow photographer William Brawley had with this lens on the Nikon Z6.

To get a full rundown on how this lens handles in the field, including image quality, AF performance and build qualty, check out Jeremy's in-depth Nikon 500mm f/5.6E PF Field Test. Also, be sure to check out the extensive real-world image gallery.

Nikon D500, 750mm-eq., f/5.6, 1/2500s, ISO 900

• Nikon 500mm f/5.6E PF Field TestGallery