Super tele lens choice

If you would like to post, you'll need to register. Note that if you have a BCG store account, you'll need a new, separate account here (we keep the two sites separate for security purposes).

HRB

Member
I see many on this site are moving to the Nikkor 500 mm f5.6 PF lens. It’s quite attractive due to its reach, light weight and price assuming you can find one. But for about the same price you could buy the Nikkor 300mm f 2.8 vr ii albeit used. On a D500 you would have the same field of view as a full frame at 450mm. With a lot more aperture. So, disregarding the weight factor (weighs the same as the 200-500 f5.6) which lens would most of you prefer and why?
 

Kjellis

Member
I sold my 500mm f5.6 PF and bought a slightly used 500mm f4 E, the extra stop of light and better performance with teleconverters was worth it to me. I do miss the light weight of the PF lens on longer hikes though...
 

Robin

Well-known member
Given the fact that a lot of folks might close down aperture to get a sweet spot or depth, also many use low power converters also bringing down aperture.
I think the 500 f5.6 is a very good manageable telephoto and in a sweet spot all on its own.
 

Don McCracken

New member
The best lens really depends on your shooting situation and your shooting style. In my area, the subjects are shy and relatively rare, so I need reach, mobility and time. I use the 500mm pf on a D500 body. I also use the 1.4 teleconverter frequently.
 

DRwyoming

Well-known member
Supporting Member
which lens would most of you prefer and why?
It really depends on your subject matter, your working conditions (e.g. how much light you normally shoot in) and how you like to work in the field including how close you can get to your subjects.

For instance if you're mostly interested in small to medium sized birds at a distance you'll really want the longest lens you can get a hold of and even a 500mm on a crop sensor camera may feel short most of the time. But for larger mammals or even larger, approachable birds in dark environments (e.g. rain forest) the 300mm f/2.8 with or without teleconverters or a 500mm or 600mm f/4 with all of its associated hassles (e.g. harder to travel with, heavier in the field, need for supports, etc.) can be the best way to go.

So what are your primary wildlife subjects and under what conditions do you expect to be capturing their photos?

For all around use it's hard to go wrong with a 500mm lens but for a lot of smaller subjects or subjects that can't be approached closely you may still want to mount that on a crop sensor body and or use a TC which is one place where the faster f/4 lenses shine. And if you really don't want to work from a tripod or at least a monopod then a 500mm PF or one of the 200-500mm or 150-600mm zooms or similar can be a great choice for their light weight and ability to hand hold in decent light.

That's from a purely wildlife perspective. If you also shoot things like sports where the subjects are reasonably sized and the working distances not too far then a 300mm f/2.8 can be a fantastic choice. When I had one it got some wildlife use when I could fill the frame with it but it got a lot of use for sports use including indoor sports in low light like ice hockey.
 

Steve

Admin
Staff member
Supporting Member
The 300 2.8 is a great lens, but your idea of using it on a DX camera to get similar FOV comes with a few caveats.

First, keep in mind that the D500 is about a stop to 1.5 stops worse for ISO than a full frame camera. So, although there is an ISO advantage over the F/5.6 PF lens, it's not as significant as the F/stops first imply.

Second, the DoF isn't going to be noticeably shallower. From a DoF standpoint, it going to look like it's 1.5 stops deeper than a 300 2.8 would look filling the frame the same way on a FX camera (since you have to step back by a factor of 1.5 for the same framing). In addition, it's also 50mm shorter than the 500mm, so it gives up a little DoF there. At 50 feet, the 500 F/5.6 has a DoF of 1 foot - the 300 2.8 .94 foot - nearly identical.

Where I'm going with all of this is that the biggest advantages of the 300mm 2.8 against the 500 F/5.6 - it's light gathering and subject isolation - are largely (but not wholly) negated by using it on a crop camera. I think the only real advantages I see to the 300 2.8 on a crop camera over a 500 F/5.6 on a full frame is about a half stop, maybe 2/3rds of ISO advantage (depends what body the 500PF is on) and it would take TCs better.

I'd also point out that the 500 PF on your D500 has a 750mm FoV. :)

The big question is, is the 300 2.8 worth the extra size / weight over the 500PF for the gains?
 

Woodpecker

Active member
Supporting Member
I sold my 500mm f5.6 PF and bought a slightly used 500mm f4 E, the extra stop of light and better performance with teleconverters was worth it to me. I do miss the light weight of the PF lens on longer hikes though...
That's why I kept them both :D. My first 500 was the f4G and I got the 500PF just for one reason: Being more agile and mobile.

Going for a hike with a 500mm f4 is - or at least becomes - pain if you are not built like a tank yourself. Doing it with the 500PF hanging off a strap or being hooked in a waist belt is just great. I have even used them both side by side occasionally. Just recently I had the D4S with the 500f4 set up on the big tripod for the primary target that was expected to appear in a dark corner at the border of the forest. The D7200 with 500PF (giving you 750mmm f5.6 equivalent) was laying beside me and the small tripod was prepared for it in case I spot something through one of the other tent windows that I couldn't reach easily with the big gun while waiting for the star to show up :).

Yes, with the 500PF you loose a stop of light, it will make the noise level raise in dimmer conditions and make your backgound a bit less smooth - especially if using a DX body.
But as always the question is what you do and how you are doing it. It all comes down to whether you nail the shot because you are quick enough or you could have got it if ...

I use the 500f4 with or without TC primarily on tripod or monopod, when working more stationary and go for dedicated targets and use dedicated locations, especially if I know light will be an issue. This doesn't mean that the 500 f4 is not walkable though, especially if the lighter and less front-heavy E version (I have "only" the G) is used.

When I am hiking (e.g. "beach combing" or on a mountain trail) I prefer the 500PF because it is a breeze to handle, no matter whether you shoot it handheld or using as a support whatever you find around you. I even managed to combine the 500PF combo with one of the big GorilllaPods to let it hang off a branch or clamp it to a rock. No way doing things like this with the 500 f4 ...
 

Woodpecker

Active member
Supporting Member
I opted for the 300 PF and a TC14iii giving me 420 mm. So slightly less than the 500 PF, same f stop and a much cheaper combo. As well, it's much lighter. I am very happy with this combo.
Yes, I have used this combo as well when needing two focal lenghts while sitting somewhere, e.g. 500f4+TC14+D4S --> 700mm f5.6 on tripod plus 300PF+TC14+D750 --> 420mm f5.6 handheld - or even the 300PF+D7200 --> equivalent to 450mm f5.6. I was fortunate enough to get an almost new D7200 for the price of a new TC-14E III, so "she" is basically used as a TC-15 :giggle: .

I was - and am still - happy with the results of the 300PF +TC - just as you - and if I have to really light and small and I don't need too much reach, the combo is still on the radar because it is great to save space and weight. However, as long as I have the money I prefer to go without TC whereever I can and there are some other aspects as well:
  • As @Steve 's review of the 500PF shows there are differences in IQ, especially outside the centre, which can become an issue if you shoot vertical.
  • The AF of the 500PF on its own is faster and more accurate than the 300PF with a TC attached, especially when light becomes worse. I don't know exactly why that happens, because the 500PF and teh 300PF+TC are technically both f5.6 lenses.
  • The 300PF lacks the buttons on the barrel that I use frequently either or AF memory recall or swapping AF mode - after I learned from @Steve how useful they can be ;).
Where the 300PF shines is its minimum focus distance. I like that a lot.
The other thing is that I like to have two bodies ready to use side by side and if one part of the combo needs to be 300mm there is no lens left to put the TC on to give me the 500-x replacement :D.
 
  • Like
Reactions: BAT

Kjellis

Member
That's why I kept them both :D. My first 500 was the f4G and I got the 500PF just for one reason: Being more agile and mobile.

Going for a hike with a 500mm f4 is - or at least becomes - pain if you are not built like a tank yourself. Doing it with the 500PF hanging off a strap or being hooked in a waist belt is just great. I have even used them both side by side occasionally. Just recently I had the D4S with the 500f4 set up on the big tripod for the primary target that was expected to appear in a dark corner at the border of the forest. The D7200 with 500PF (giving you 750mmm f5.6 equivalent) was laying beside me and the small tripod was prepared for it in case I spot something through one of the other tent windows that I couldn't reach easily with the big gun while waiting for the star to show up :).

Yes, with the 500PF you loose a stop of light, it will make the noise level raise in dimmer conditions and make your backgound a bit less smooth - especially if using a DX body.
But as always the question is what you do and how you are doing it. It all comes down to whether you nail the shot because you are quick enough or you could have got it if ...

I use the 500f4 with or without TC primarily on tripod or monopod, when working more stationary and go for dedicated targets and use dedicated locations, especially if I know light will be an issue. This doesn't mean that the 500 f4 is not walkable though, especially if the lighter and less front-heavy E version (I have "only" the G) is used.

When I am hiking (e.g. "beach combing" or on a mountain trail) I prefer the 500PF because it is a breeze to handle, no matter whether you shoot it handheld or using as a support whatever you find around you. I even managed to combine the 500PF combo with one of the big GorilllaPods to let it hang off a branch or clamp it to a rock. No way doing things like this with the 500 f4 ...
Yeah, I really wish I could afford having both 😊 I’ve shot with the 500 G and I find the E version much more portable and handholdable, though not to the level of the PF lens.
 

dtibbals

Active member
Supporting Member
I sold my 300 f2.8 and bought a 500PF last month. I like the 300 f2.8 however it was never long enough for what I shoot and it isn't as sharp as the 500PF when adding teleconverters to the 300. The 500PF is also a lot lighter!
 

Viathelens

Well-known member
Supporting Member
The 500. I already have a 200-500 if I want something closer. It does seem that animals often get as far away as they can! So, normally, I want the longest lens possible.
 
  • Like
Reactions: BAT

jhallettbc

Member
Supporting Member
That's why I kept them both :D. My first 500 was the f4G and I got the 500PF just for one reason: Being more agile and mobile.

Going for a hike with a 500mm f4 is - or at least becomes - pain if you are not built like a tank yourself. Doing it with the 500PF hanging off a strap or being hooked in a waist belt is just great. I have even used them both side by side occasionally. Just recently I had the D4S with the 500f4 set up on the big tripod for the primary target that was expected to appear in a dark corner at the border of the forest. The D7200 with 500PF (giving you 750mmm f5.6 equivalent) was laying beside me and the small tripod was prepared for it in case I spot something through one of the other tent windows that I couldn't reach easily with the big gun while waiting for the star to show up :).

Yes, with the 500PF you loose a stop of light, it will make the noise level raise in dimmer conditions and make your backgound a bit less smooth - especially if using a DX body.
But as always the question is what you do and how you are doing it. It all comes down to whether you nail the shot because you are quick enough or you could have got it if ...

I use the 500f4 with or without TC primarily on tripod or monopod, when working more stationary and go for dedicated targets and use dedicated locations, especially if I know light will be an issue. This doesn't mean that the 500 f4 is not walkable though, especially if the lighter and less front-heavy E version (I have "only" the G) is used.

When I am hiking (e.g. "beach combing" or on a mountain trail) I prefer the 500PF because it is a breeze to handle, no matter whether you shoot it handheld or using as a support whatever you find around you. I even managed to combine the 500PF combo with one of the big GorilllaPods to let it hang off a branch or clamp it to a rock. No way doing things like this with the 500 f4 ...
If money was no object I would also have the 500 PF. Thanks for sharing your experience.
 

Viseguy

Well-known member
Supporting Member
I Think the better comparison would be between the 300 f2.8 and the 300 f 4 pF. I had the 300 f2.8 VRII for a while, and used it mainly with a d7100. Its probably the sharpest prime on the planet, but its heavy. Sold it and bought a 400 f2.8 FL. I have the 300 PF, and its remarkable, as is the 500 PF which I also have, but they serve a different purpose for me, and that is nice primes for walking around. I don't use them when I'm shooting from a tripod, that's what the big glass is for. So I think it comes down with how you plan to use it. JMO.
 
Last edited:

Calson

Active member
The 500mm f/4 sells for $10,300 or nearly $7K more than the 500mm PF and weighs twices as much even without the weight of the TC. The 300mm f/2.8 sells for nearly $2,000 more than the 500mm PF and it needs $1000 in teleconverrters, and then there is the cost of the teleconverters and even without their weight added to the lens it is still twice the weight of the 500mm PF lens. So other than weighing twice as much and costing twice as much the 300mm f/2.8 could conceivably take the place of the 500mm PF - though never in my backpack.
 
Top