Nikon 500 pf vs 200-500 Sharpness

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Woodyg3

Well-known member
Supporting Member
Steve and others have indicated that the center sharpness of the 200-500nn f/5.6 is very close or even equal to the 500 f/5.6 pf. After saving my pennies for quite a while, I found a used copy of the 500 pf at a price I could manage. I just took it outside and took a few test shots and already I see better sharpness than I was ever able to achieve with my 200-500. This is not to say that the 200-500 wasn't fairly sharp, but the 500 pf is clearly sharper. Maybe this is the typical variation between copies of the 200-500 that people talk about, I don't know, but it's got me wondering.

Also, of course, the 500 pf's AF is snapper, and the lighter weight makes it easier to handle. I think I'll be quite happy with this lens.

Anyway, are there others out there who have seen a significant improvement in center sharpness with the 500pf over the 200-500? Maybe my 200-500 is not quite as sharp as the average 200-500?
 

eaj101

Well-known member
In my opinion, the two lenses aren't even in the same ballpark. It's not just 'sharpness', but the images from the 500 PF are crisper, have better contrast and color, and just more punch. The 200-500 is a fine lens and quite an achievement at its price point, I but I don't think there's any comparison.
 

Patrick M

Drives a Jeep
Supporting Member
I loved the 200-500, but tho I’ve never owned the 500, it looks a level above in most regards.
 

Woodyg3

Well-known member
Supporting Member
Thread starter
In my opinion, the two lenses aren't even in the same ballpark. It's not just 'sharpness', but the images from the 500 PF are crisper, have better contrast and color, and just more punch. The 200-500 is a fine lens and quite an achievement at its price point, I but I don't think there's any comparison.
Yes, the contrast certainly seems better. It's a cloudy day today, and this stood out right away to me when viewing the test shots I took.
 

NorthernFocus

Well-known member
Supporting Member
I had good results with the 200-500 but when I got the 500PF it is superior in every way. Lighter, faster, better contrast, less CA, and sharper. Also it is sharp wide open at f5.6 which is typically not the case with long lenses. As said previously the 200-500 might be considered better value, i.e. performance vs price, but it does not deliver the same IQ as the 500PF.
 

Darwin

Well-known member
Supporting Member
I might have had bad copies but I doubt that. The 200-500 is not in the same atmosphere as the 500 pf. The 500 pf is closer to the 500 f4 then it is to the 200-500.
 

Charles Loy

Well-known member
The 200-500 is a great value, and slams out great photos (if you have a good one). I own and use both, 500PF all the way better lens-especially for wildlife. That said, I have shot the waxing moon (70% of full) and simply can not see any difference in contrast or sharpness-click back and forth and they are spot on the same. Other subjects the 500 PF is tops.
 

Fishboy1952

Well-known member
Supporting Member
I have both, but primarily use the 500 PF, if zoom capability is not needed. I agree with the others. I can get great shots with the 200-500, but I get them more consistently with the prime. I first purchased the 200-500 and was very happy with it considering the price. But after purchasing the 500 PF, the 200-500 doesn’t get a great deal of use. Images are just overall better.
 

Steve W

Well-known member
Supporting Member
On the basis of what you pay and what you get, the 200-500 is a great lens. The 500 PF however is on whole other level.
I got the 200-500 (two actually...one for me and one for her) to replace sigma 150-600 contemporary. No regrets over that.
I acquired a 500 PF earlier this year and for me, it is superior in every way apart from no zoom.

I rarely used the 200-500 at the shorter end so I fill that gap with 70-200, 300 PF and a TC14E-III
 

ElenaH

New member
I have both lens and always wonder how actually 200-500mm is sharp! The other plus is versatility. However 500 PF is lighter and has a faster AF. I love to use it for birds. But sometimes it struggles to focus in backlight or against the light (I think both PFs have some problems with that condition). To be honest I don't see a huge difference in sharpness. Perhaps, I need to check resolution (lines per mm count) on the charts. I see the sharpness rather as rendition or perception term and resolution as a more more technical term. It is always a question of cropping and still have details...
 

James C.

Member
I had been using the Nikon 200-500mm with both a Nikon D5600, and a year later, with a D500. It is/was a good lens. But on the D500, that was 7 pounds of weight in my hand and around my neck! After about a year and a half of use, I developed tendonitis back in March, and when I heard a YouTuber talking about their developing tendonitis, too, with the same kit, I knew I had to save up for the lighter 500mm PF.

I bought the 500mm PF in June andI immediately noticed the faster AF, and when I got home, the sharpness of the images. (Also, with a reduction in 2 pounds of weight, my tendonitis finally went away after 3 or 4 weeks.) The only thing that is sometimes frustrating is not having the zoom function. Since I photograph birds primarily, it is not a great situation when you see a great shot of a bird, and you have to move back several feet to get the compositional frame that you want, and you either can't move back far enough, or your movement scares off the bird! But life is full of trade-offs. 🤔
 

Marcus Slade

Active member
Supporting Member
I think in a couple of years' time I might finally have more frames shot with my 600mm f4 than I do to date with my 200-500mm f5.6. Perhaps, I've been fortunate with my copy but it has served me extremely well for the near six years I have had it. I have also taken some of my very best photographs with it. Funny, I think of it being very light compared to the 600 f4 (G) but I would still love to have a 500mm PF for the many reasons identified here and elsewhere. I still think it is one of the greatest value lenses (if not the foremost) for Nikon wildlife shooters. This image, with only a very minor crop and said lens at 320 mm, f5.6, ISO 320, 1/320 sec and on the D500 (handheld) strikes me as fairly sharp in its centre...and the conversion here on the forum always renders images a bit less sharp than they actually are. On my monitor I feel I could cut paper with the centre sharpness.
Katmai grey wolf-0923-IMG_00001.jpg
 

Calson

Active member
I disliked the 200mm minimum focal length of the 200-500mm and found myself using the 80-400mm lens much more. The 80-400mm and a 500mm or 600mm prime lens were better for me. The 200-500mm is a very good lens and a bargain at its price but it does have its limitations. The lighter weight and smaller size of the 500mm PF is stunning and the specs alone do not convey how incredible this lens is for use in the field and not needing a tripod.
 
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