Nikon 500mm f/5.6 PF: Report from the Field

Tis a well know fact that this blog does not do equipment reports. It’s not as though there aren’t enough opinionated sites to trash the best of hardware. However I’ve had a few enquiries regarding this lens, and rather than rehash what Uncle Google can find in a minute, I thought I’d rather share a few paras and pictures on my use with the lens so far.

If you own Canon gear, don’t proceed any further, you have the wonderful DO 400mm f/4.  Be happy!

I hummed and hahed when the lens was first released.  The big bikkies involved was probably the first stumbling block. And I was working with the Sigma Sport 150-600mm f/6.3 and it was working well for me.(more to follow below)

But the low weight and small size were an attraction, and in the end, I placed an order with Ross at Camera Exchange in Box Hill, in October 2018. I also planned to trade the Sigma at that time.
Eventually, got a note from Ross. “It’s here!”. March 29 2019. The wait-time worldwide has been astounding. So I motored over to collect the lens. Thanks Ross.

What follows is where it fits with my current work.

Time for the Pixelpeepers to click away now, as there are no charts, no ranking scores, no graphs and definitely no lens test charts to pour over. No dudes riding bicycles, or shots of the building over the road, or some obscure mountain in the distance.
Just how does it work for me.
Also please remember that these are all JPEG images made out of Lightroom to 1600pixels at 90% Qaulity. A few are crops, some almost full frame. Shot on both D810 and D500.  I’ll note the data with each shot.

All the ratings are against My Expectations of the lens, coupled with use of previous lenses in the field. 100 % is just that. I’m completely happy with that aspect.

  1. Price: No % Score, but I’d have no hesitation in buying it.
    Gotta get that out of the way.
    It’s a pro piece of kit, Nikon are asking big bucks. If that doesn’t fit with your bankbalance, then click away now. For those who want to save some money, the Nikon 200-500, Sigma Sport 150-600, and the Sigma Contemporary are all good value for money, and sharp. Canon users have the DO 400mm or a pretty nice 100-400 f/5.6 Zoom and a neat 400mm f/5.6 without image stabilisation. Any one of those lenses would be a reason for me to change to the Canon System.
    My reasoning was to amortize the investment over the next 10 years or so, and a couple of bucks a week is a reasonable.
  2. Size: 100% Meets my expectations.
    It is about the same size as a 70-200 f/2.8. Which makes it imminently handhold-able.
  3. Weight: 100% Meets my expectations.
    Having been using the 300mm f/4 PF from its introduction, I had a definite idea about how the weight would be. I’m confident I could carry it all day in normal use without needing a porter.
  4. Handleability: 100% Meets my expectations.
    I’ve thrown around some big lenses in my time, but this one just feels right. The balance on the camera and handholding is very comfortable. Mr An Onymous will tell you I once fell in love with a 10-30mm zoom for the Nikon 1 system, just from picking it up off the benchtop. I ordered one the next day. If it feels right, the chi is working, and it is pointless to fight nature.
  5. Focus AF: Exceeds my expectations. This is such a fast lens to focus, especially on the D500. Sometimes I think it finds the subject before I get it sorted out in the frame. Big plus. And it locks and follows. If I compare it to the 300mm f/2.8 or the 70-200mm f/2.8, which are my go to ‘speedsters’ for action, then it’s right up there as good as, if not better.  I can’t compare it to the 400mm f/2.8 as I’ve never owned one, but that is the gold standard in fast focus.  I reckon this lens would give it a pretty good run.
    The other feature is like all pro lenses, its sharp all the way from the closest point to infinity. Unlike most consumer zooms that lose interest in focusing after about 30m. I’m looking at you 18-200mm and 80-400mm.
  6. Sharpness: 100% of my expectations.
    Just have a look at the photos below.  I don’t do comparisons, but looks equal to the 300mm f/2.8, and has more contrast than the 300mm PF.(My copy.  EE’s copy is a little better than mine I think).
  7. Unsharp fuzzy bits.
    My photos don’t have bokeh, (never pronounced so a Japanese would know what these people are talking about), mine have fuzzy out of focus bits.
    So against a smooth backdrop 100% of expectation. Milky smooth as it should be.
    Against busy high contrast backgrounds, 75% of expectation. But then my expectation wasn’t that high. Digital sensors are the real problem here. Most lenses struggle with those clunky blobby bits of branch and bush and the like.
  8. That Removable Foot. 100% meets my expectation.
    I’ve seen some remarkable nonsense written about the foot. It’s like “OH wow, something to complain about”.  If the only reason not to buy this lens is the foot, then my advice would be trade in the camera gear and buy a set of golf-clubs. It is the same foot used on the 70-200 f/2.8 zoom.  I’ve owned three of them over the years, and not once has it worked itself loose, and those lenses travelled lots photographing car events.  If the user is so clumsy as to loosen it off then forget to tighten it, I don’t see that as a feature fault, I see that as incompetence!
    For my hand the end of the foot rests nicely on the edge of palm of my hand, and my fingers sit well just before the lenshood, near the programmable buttons (coming up soon). A good fit for me. I’ve used it without, and my preference is with the foot.  I’ve also had no intention of buying third party Arca mount foots.  I simply don’t intend to ever put it on a tripod again. (Coming up soon).{Update Aug 2019}  I’ve since taken the foot off and popped a BlackRapid “Fastener Fr-5″, in the 1/4” hole.  Not a fan of BR, but I can attach an OP/Tech fastener and that works for me.
    I found not much difference with and without the foot, and its just one less thing to get caught  up when I’m cradling the lens while sitting down (think driving around the Treatment Plant)

    {Update Nov. 2022}  I ended up buyng a Henjar Foot.  It has ARCA rail  and also has a QD (Quick Detach) a standard used for all sorts of weaponry.  I added it to a Blackrapid clip with an ebay QD swivel bracket (cheeeep on fleabay)
    I am not a Blackrapid fanboy, but in the end, I tolerate it for the convenience of the QD set up.  Means I don’t have to pull the confounded strap on an off my shoulder each time I want to put the camera/lens down seperately.  Put it down to crabby old person dysfunction.

  9. Programmable Buttons. 95% meet expectations. I use these a lot. Just wish they were a little bigger so my finger doesn’t need to hunt for them.  They can be set for a specific distance and the lens will return to that spot. About 30% of my use. Or programmed out of the D810 and D500 menus to do a range of activities. Mine is usually an AF function about 70% of the time.{Update August 2019}  I’ve since taken a big black ‘Sharpie’ marker and put a big “X” on the Lens Coat camo, just above each of the buttons.  Easy peasy to find now.
  10. Tripod use. Balances well with the D500 on a Wimberley.  If you can’t get it to balance on a Wimberley, then read the instructions. On the Markins Q20 that I use a lot, it’s a treat. But now, the problem is you have to take a lightweight lens, and sally forth into the field with a whacking great tripod. Don’t see the point.  End of discussion
  11. VR 100% of my expectations.  Image stabilisation is so much better implemented than on the 300mm f/4 PF. I found myself handholding at much slower speeds than I anticipated. See below.
    {edit Aug 2019} For Inflight, I usually turn VR off.
    I have a paranoia that the VR interferes with focus acquisition, and while it might only be a microsecond as the VR settles down, it just might be enough to move the focus from the eye, to a wingtip. Besides for inflight, (regardless of the lens I’m using), I want the fastest shutter speed I can get. Give me 1/8000 please.  No need for VR there.
  12. Lens Hood. Guess what!  100% meets expectations. It fits, it locks, it’s lightweight. And in my world. It goes on the lens, and is never removed. (except to clean the lens). I use a bag that fits the lens with the hood attached. (and its taped in position so doesn’t go wandering off on its own in the field.) That is the way all my lenses are fitted.
  13. What about Teleconverters. Met my expectations 100%, and perhaps exceeded them.
    The results with the TC 1.7, were what I expected. And I won’t be using it again with this lens any time soon, or later.
    Haven’t had a need to try the TC 2.0, but I know it will be slow to focus and that won’t work for me too well.
    {edit Aug 2019}  The TC 2.0 is really not workable. Hunts, even in good light. One, two, three strikes. You’re Out!
    The TC 1.7 is quite sharp, no problems, but again needs a bit of patience for focus. Won’t see me trying inflights that way any time soon. Or Later!
    With the TC 1.4 I found it needed some focus Fine Tune Adjustment.  Using the D500 in camera, it gave a result of -6.   When I tried it I found the focus position was just not right.  So I played around, and hit on +6. Can’t fault that.
    I often get asked about Teleconverters as if they will help get a pin-sharp shot of a duck on the far side of the lake.
    Here are 3 helpful points for that sort of shot. 1/ Learn to Swim, 2/ Buy a kayak, 3/ Develop better bush craft.
    TCs are best for giving a little bit of extra magnification closer up, say in the 15-30m range. After that for the birds I work with, both heat haze and tiny size make it impractical.
    Acquisition can be a bit ‘iffy’ in lower light.  And the tendency to hunt is always likely.  But it’s a solid performer once the focus is there. Side by side I doubt I could pick sharp, with and without the TC 1.4

Beginning to sound like a ‘fan boy’, so let’s see if some of this makes sense from my field experience.

This is the first image I made with the lens.
1/320 f5.6 ISO 400
Tai Chi Pigeon
Spotted Dove
Early morning overcast.
1/640 @ f/5/6 ISO 400
Superb Fairywren
Morning Sunshine, near full frame.
1/800 @ f/5.6 ISO 400
Black Swan
1/500 @ f/5.6 Just a hint of sunshine coming through the trees.
Eastern Osprey
1/200 @ f/6.3 ISO 400
Eastern Yellow Robin
Late Evening Sunshine
1/2000 @ f/5.6 ISO 800
White-bellied Sea-eagle
1/200 @ f/5.6 ISO 400
Tawny Frogmouth
1/400 @ f5.6 ISO 800
Hazy indirect light through overhanging trees
Eastern Spinebill

What about the soft out of focus bits

Late evening. 1/640 @f/5.6.
Creamy out of focus bits.
Juvenile Whiskered Tern
1/1600 @ f/5.6 ISO 400
Very late afternoon rich light.
Brown Falcon.
Messy out of focus bits because of messy background
Brown Falcon, messy out of focus bits. This is mostly the result of sesor issues rather than the lens design.

How good is VR. I don’t shoot many in low light but here’s one from the back fence.

Checking VR or Image Stabilisation
1/50 @f/5.6 ISO 400. Handheld.
The sun had set, but there was still light in the sky.

Then of course the always asked question.

Oh, but what about Teleconverters. I’ve got to see it with Teleconverters.  See my point 13 above.

TC 1.4 700mm
1/3200 @f/9.0
Handheld. Bird worked its way toward me on the water line.
Red-kneed Dotterel
TC 1.4 700mm 1/500 @f/5.6 ISO 400
Soft out of focus bits and plenty of detail on WIllies beak whiskers.
TC 1.4 700mm 1/1250 @f/9.0
Handheld, overcast day. Lightened up 1/2 Stop in Lr.
TC 1.4 700mm 1/2500 @f/9.0
Full sun. It is no macro lens, but the detail is certainly there.

I was going to really annoy myself and write ‘accessorising’, but restrained. 🙂
I added a B+W UV filter. Not a great believer in UVs as the Sensor already has a UV component, but let’s face it, this an expensive piece of glass.  My first B+W UV was with the Sigma Sport, at first I was hesitant, now, I’m a convert. The B+W shows no visible image degredation, I wish I’d come across them years ago.
Added some Lenscoat to protect the lens, I really like the Kevin Kealty ones from the Wildlife Watching Supplies in the UK, they are a bit thicker and don’t seem to shrink like the US based mob.
Also work with a LensWrap, that I had for the 70-200mm, fits like a glove and gives added security for travelling. Simply velcros off when I’m ready to go in the field.
Everybody has opinions on Carry Straps.
The lens does NOT have special strap attachment points, like the bigger pro lenses and the Sigma. Pity, as it would only have been a few dollars more.
I started using a BlackRapid Strap, but find them uncomfortable.
I changed to an OP/TECH Sling Strap  Which we’ve used for years on other long lenses, and it does the job well. And doesn’t take over the camera bag when travelling. I’ve snuck on a BlackRapid attachment since, and have one OP/Tech connector on the Lens, and one on an ARCA “L” bracket on the camera. Two attachment points makes me feel more secure.

{Edit Aug 2019} Like camera bags, carry straps will continue to keep me searching.  🙂

{Edit Nov 2022}  For full disclosure, I’m now using a Blackrapid Classic Strap and a QD (Quick Detach) on a Henjar bracket  See above

I think the price is well justified for the work I am doing. It is indeed my go to lens at the moment.

The Sigma 150-600 Sport worked well for me. In the end just too heavy for carry around field work. {edit} And, while it was very sharp, the focus was often a little to slow for me for inflight. Once acquired it stayed locked. Even using the Dock to set a faster focus acquire rate, it still left me wishing for a bit more speed.
The Nikon 200-500 Zoom. Is a sharp, well-balanced lens. I would have purchased it if the Sigma had not been on the showroom floor. I do find it a bit bulky to carry as the barrel is nearly twice the diameter of the 500m PF.
The 300mm f/4 PF and a TC 1.4 420mm @/f5.6  EE’s go to lens. Solid performer, I find mine with the TC has a little chromatic aberration in highlights, easy to fix in Lr, but detracts sharpness a little.  It is a lovely walk about for hours lens. Sharpness side by side with the 500mm PF would be hard to pick, and as I’ve used it for over three years, it’s a lens I have a high regard for.

Yes, there are a couple.
I tend to take a lot more pictures as it gives me a chance for good framing for inflight birds.
The lens makes my 300mm f/2.8 look a bit redundant. Not sure what I will do with that.

{Update Nov 2022}  I traded the lens at Camera Exchange  Haven’t really missed it.

The 300mm f/4 PF is also going to take a back seat.  It sits in the lens cupboard and like a dog waiting to go “Walkies”, sort of quivers at me when I open the door.  Perhaps a D7200 or D7500 and use it for wider shots from the vehicle. Certainly can’t take both to the field.

And here are two more from a shot this morning.  The White-winged Terns are still around, and I spent the best part of 2 1/2 hours with them, one long session of about 90 minutes.

1/8000@/f5/6 ISO 800
Grab Shot. Got out of vehicle, lens grabbed focus, I framed next. Swamp Harriers do not give second chances.
1/2500 @f/5.6 ISO 400
I was working with these terns for about an hour and half, took several hundred frames. Lens didn’t feel tiring to hold. Had I not run out of time, and the birds out of patience, I could have easily done another hour or so, the lens is unbelievably easy to handhold.

So there you go. Thanks for taking the time to read to the end.
It is a keeper for me, and I’ll probably extend myself to get the best from it in the coming weeks.

Keep takin’ pictures we do.

(I’m hoping EE does not read this as I’d hate to have to wait another 5 months for the next lens.:-) )

34 thoughts on “Nikon 500mm f/5.6 PF: Report from the Field

  1. Thanks for sharing all those stunning photographs too, David. Reckon i’d sum up the lens same as you. I’d add one more positive: there’s not even a hint of purple fringing when shooting against a harsh white sky… not in my experience so far. And that alone puts it head and shoulders above everything else i’ve ever used to photograph birds. Only negative i’ve found so far is that it occasionally takes longer to engage the VR than the 200-500mm. I think the 200-500mm had the best VR I have ever used. This isn’t far behind though. And then it’s better in all other respects except it can’t zoom 🙂 BTW I love your Swamp Harrier shot there. Wow!


  2. G,day Derek,
    Thanks for the input, There is so much more to writing a decent report, and in the end, I opted to leave out as much as I put in. 🙂
    When I do work with inflight, invariably I turn off the VR. I think there is a little hesitation sometimes as the VR fiddles with the image and the focus gets a tad confused, and will go infront or behind. Interestingly I have had no reason to change AF Fine Tune using it at 500mm. I intend to shoot it wide open as much as possible.
    All in all worth the wait, and it is singing such a good song for me at this early stage.
    Agree with the blue fringing, I can’t see it in anything I made so far.

    All good.
    Talk more.



  3. Always good to read a ‘real person’s’ review of gear. Sometimes the pro reviews get too bogged down in technical minutiae, relevant information but I want to know how it performs in the field. And whilst I am not using Nikon I know many who do and I would not hesitate to refer them to this blog! Fine images to demonstrate the text too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. G,day David,
      Me too, I’m not all that interested in two paras on the colour of the box, and the packing material, nor how shiny it is on the outside. Tech Specs, help. Particularly on the longer ‘super teles and zooms’.
      But I mostly want to know what the thing feels like when I’ve been lugging it about the past two hours and how quickly it then gets on to the bird that has just broken from the srub.
      You’ll note there is NOT a report from the field on the Nikon 80-400, as it didn’t last too long at our house. But that’s another story.


  4. Wow David! I can understand why you always have such crisp and detailed shots after reading your journey with lenses. I guess I am not as techno as you are in this field, and like EE my wife would consider it overly indulgent if I were to upgrade, so I make do and OO AH at your amazing captures, which are always inspiring. Your tips and sharing are helpful, as I am hoping one day when I fully retire I may get to live your dream, ie. my own version thereof. Thanks for sharing it is always appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi AB, EE is more likely to want the lens than not 🙂 She does have a weight carrying issue, so the 300mmPF and TC are a really good option.
    Thanks for the comments. I rarely, if ever do the gear thing on the blog, too much info on the net and one more piece only adds to the clutter. I am a photographer, by background and training, and a former TAFE photo teacher, so its inevitable that the gear gets in there somewhere!
    It is true to say that most of the images shared on this page could have been achieved with quite less expensive equipement. Its more about being there, then the amount of money sitting in the hand.
    I read so many ‘reviews’ that never really get to show photos from the field. And as it turns out I’ve had a nice run of light the past couple of weeks, some easily accessible birds and the time to spend getting it together.

    I spent the morning yesterday with the White-winged Terns. A blog is forthcoming.

    Thanks again


  6. Despite having Canon gear, I read through to the end, and of course loved the images, especially that Swamp Harrier! I did laugh out loud at the bit about the ducks on the far side of the lake and your suggestions for dealing with that problem.

    I always enjoy reading your blogs, so thanks again for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Eleanor, Yep, a bit of a ramble for those in the Canon camp. But never fear, I won’t be doing it again anytime soon
      I think the Swamp Harrier few minutes were among the most enjoyable behind camera I can remember for a long time.


  7. Well, David, i must admit that i was intentionally deferring reading this review until I could not hold off anymore after seeing your new posts on Flickr. Until now I have expected my 300/2.8 to be my last extravaganza in the topic of photography and my ultimate lens forever. Now there is a new goal to aspire to. It may be tough but I’m patient. For now I’ll keep on admiring your work.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi Adam, I didn’t really put this together to help people bend their mastercard or stretch out the budget. It is not a cheap lens, and like the 300 f/2.8, is a long term investment for me.
    The two things that make it so appealing is the small size, lightweight and the professional features— Fast focus, very impressive VR and the programmable controls. (I use them on the 300 f/2.8, 70-200 and formerly 500 f/4 to do a lot of the focus setting and AF settings. (One less thing to think about).

    My advice, Hang in with the 300mm f/2.8 With at TC 1.4 it is a very solid performer, and mine with the TC 2.0 is a ripper. Second best 600mm f/5.6 lens I’ve ever owned (Hint: I’ve only ever owned one other 🙂 )

    I also genuinely believe that most of the images that I’ve shown above, I have pretty much equivilant from both the 300mm f/2.8 and the 300mm f/4 PF +TC 1.4 combo. Point I think I was making is the new lens is no slacker in the sharp department.

    My biggest challenge gear wise now is what to do with the 300mm f/2.8 as it is pretty much a shelf sitter.

    Good luck, and keep working the light.


  9. Hi Neil,
    Thanks for dropping by. Not so much throw cameras away, but perhaps inspired to go out and make more images. If you’d been sitting with me for many of these shots, you could have nailed as many keepers.
    OK, maybe not Tai Chi Pigeon, but that bird will sit while I walk past. When I tai chi on the patio, it walks up and down along the fence checking my form. 🙂


  10. Great report on your thoughts using this lens out & about David, I picked my 500mm PF up today only had to wait 3 weeks I could hardly believe it when the dealer phoned with the good news, I will be out first thing in the morning (weather permitting) to my favourite place for birds, can’t wait, you have some beautiful images, cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello John, thanks for the kind comments. I wish you the best with the lens, mine is now over twelve months old, an it has performed flawlessly.
      You’ll love the lighter weight and the freedom it gives you in the field.
      Love to hear how it goes.


  11. Hi David, just an update on my 1st two days with the 500 PF, build quality awesome (you can see where some of the money goes) focus speed awesome, VR excellent, I did notice in ‘normal’ VR mode that the focus point or points jump in the viewfinder just as you hit the focus button, ( all your comments where spot on, until I looked at my images after day 1) I use back button focus on my D500, did you find the same with VR ‘jumping’? so I used ‘sport VR’ (it stayed steady in the viewfinder) most of the time or VR off (when my shutter speeds where appropriate, I hardly ever shoot below 1/250 anyhow). Weight is to good to be true but it is true, beautifully balanced on my D500, now the interesting bit I shot about 100 images using VR in all it’s modes I have set my camera up in Manual mode with auto iso, shooting wide open @ f5.6 & adjusting my shutter speed to suit, most of my images were very ordinary as far as sharpness was concerned, I was very disappointed as you could imagine after all the reports I had read suggested image quality was excellent, ( the lens that i used for birding was the Tamron 150-600 G1 version & it served me well fairly sharp up to about 450mm until it would not auto focus with VC turned off) what am I doing wrong I thought so home I went all down & out, after viewing on my monitor all my images I think I found a half dozen that where sharp so the next morning I started by fine tuning the focus as it appeared on some images that the lens was back focusing I thought it a bit unusual for a Prime looks like the D500 & the lens had a slight mismatch? found that -5 looked the best (did you have any issues focus wise?) so off I went & tried again taking 150 images most were much better, I hate to say it but I think I am becoming a bit of a pixel peeper, do you look at your images at 100% or 200%?, today I looked mostly at 200% for critical sharpness, when I nailed focus they looked good @ 200% when you spend over $ 5000 dollars your expectations are right up there as you would know, feeling a bit better now, more practice required! sorry for the long winded message, cheers David.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi John, thanks for the update, sorry to learn that the lens did not provide the results that you might have expected.

      I would suggest you drop me a note at
      birdsaspoetry AT icloud DOT com
      and we can look at some of the options in more detail than I feel confident to put up here.

      Couple of points.
      Yes, I did need to make a small AF Fine-tune Adjustment
      No I don’t use Back-button Focus. I’d rather use those buttons to pre-program AF behaviour.
      I do program the F2 Button to focus lock if ever I need it.
      I don’t shoot autoISO, but do shoot manual, for most bird shots.
      If the shutter speed drops below 1/500th using 400ISO I go home.
      As you’ve pointed out, I use The Sport Mode rather than the Normal mode. It saves that shudder at the beginning.
      I also have to wait a second or two before blazing away for the VR to settle down. Hence for most inflight, its turned OFF.
      The question of So Why have the expensive VR feature turned OFF? Because at the shutter speeds I use, I simply don’t need it. I have used it at quits slow speeds, down to 1/40th I think, but really that is not my photography area.
      I rarely shoot multi-burst, call me heretical, but I’m happy at one frame at a time, and as you’ll gather from reading on, it makes the focus reaquire each time.
      If I shoot about 2,000 shot a week, the real focus duds (about 20% and counting), are usually down to two things
      Operator Error
      D500 Focus perculiarities. (More to come see below)

      Most of the shots I share here and on Flickr are small frame crops. I don’t shoot birds at long distances, hoping to make a 3pixel image into a masterpiece.
      When I do need a bit more ‘zoom’ I use Topaz AI Sharpener or their Topaz AI GIgapixel, both of them make up detail that isn’t there to fill in the gaps of magnification. Works well, so it can be a life saver.
      I tend to use Lightroom to manage and handle everything, (around 3TB of shots so far), but I also use DxO PhotoLab 3 for shots that need a little extra work. The Shapen feature is built around their database of Lens specs, and includes the D500 and 500PF, and it makes notable improvements I think. I also use their PRIME noise reduction as its the benchmark for noise removal I think.

      Hard to say what a 200% view on your monitor really is in comparison to what I see, different monitors, different pixel and pitch settings.
      It also I think depends on what the final output is going to be. All the pictures on the blog are a mere 1600 hundred wide jpegs at around 85%. So its as I did say in the main text, hard to judge much from them. If you are making 30 inch wide prints, I think you’d be pushing the boundaries on the D500 sensor even if the bird was close to full frame.
      Heaps more, but I’d rather do it one on one.

      Nikon D500 Autofocus.
      Is not what it seems to be.
      This is the biggie.
      The focus ‘lock’ does not work the same as it did in the D750, D810 etc. They would acquire subject and then hand the details across the focus grid to follow a moving, or missed during camera movement subject.
      D500 acquires from the Centre Point, and only uses the outside points to a small degree.
      So point centre on bird, move slightly and the lens will focus on the tree behind or the branch in front.
      Despite there being ‘delay’ settings, they are minimal at least.
      It is all pretty well attested, but the best and most balanced and best tested is here.

      Most people don’t like it, and complain. I’ve long ago learned to work with it, and it suits me no end.
      I set the camera to AF-C use focus from the shutter button, use the shortest possible lag time, and learn to keep the point firmly on the bird.
      On Stick. Inflight.
      If I drift off even slightly the focus will change, if I get back on quickly it will reacquire.

      Hope that is enough food for thought, I am sorry that the lens is a challenge, but l think that there is a lot of learning technique to get the best from it. Nearly wrote wring the best. 🙂

      Good luck, hope to hear from you at sometime



  12. Wonderful and entertaining advice here, David. I even read parts of it to Denise (my wife). I went out yesterday with a friend and was using the camera with shots at ISO6000. Worse than a newspaper print. But hey, second time out for over 18 months. Thanks for the great blog and wonderful images.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Hi Neil,
    Still my go to lens.
    Topaz DeNoise is a real bonus for dealing with high ISO, but to be honest, its just spending money for the sake of. If I need such high ISO, then the rest of the light on subject is woeful so I’d sooner go home.
    Glad Denise enjoyed the read, I try to approach test things with a fair degree of built in scepticism.

    Good luck with a speedy recovery.


  14. Thanks for the reply, David. Incidentally, a friend of mine, a seasoned birder, was very excited to see your Terns way out on the bay at the WTP on Thursday last. He had never seen one before in Australia in full breeding colouration. Yours is not fully coloured, or perhaps fading? Great photo by the way – I have posted one on flickr, but it is (as you would say) 3 pixels cropped from a frame of a very distant view that we had. P.S. If yours is indeed the same bird as we saw, its full name is White-winged Black Tern.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Neil, glad to hear the terns are still in the area. We had spent a couple of fruitless days down there looking for the elusive little dudes.
      The shots here were taken right at the end of the season, so they are colouring up for their trip north.

      Ah, what to call them! It gets down to a game of “Whose expert is right” A game I gave up on a long time ago.
      I use the AviBird Taxo. To distinguish them from a Black tern in Northern Europe, they changed the name to White-winged Tern. Not very helpful, but its the one I am stuck with. I still call, “White-winged Black” in the field. 🙂

      Same with “Whiskered Tern”, I’ve always known them as Marsh Terns and still call that in the field. 🙂
      And don’t get me started on the name changes of Black-winged/White-headed/Pied Stilts. 🙂

      Just another abstruse feature of this blog. 🙂

      Hope you’re back in the field soon.


    1. True enough. We always want more reach for birds. It is a never ending story.
      For field work where I’m out and about its a winner. It after nearly 2 years, I can’t find one bad habit that it has.
      For sitting about in a fixed spot of course, a slightly different story and Ross will always have something to dangle in front of my credit card. 🙂


  15. A refreshing approach to “gear reviews.” Well done. I’m awaiting the delivery of my lens today and I’m looking forward to putting it through its paces. Appreciate the additional comments on the D500 as well. Great insights – thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Miguel, Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment.
      I’m glad to hear that the info was helpful. I don’t do lens reviews but rather a report of how the product is working for me.

      Going on to the third year with this lens, and it is still working a treat. I’ve been using it a bit with the TC1.4 of late, getting a handle on how the focus works. Sometimes there is a lag, but once locked its great. I’ve not noted any particular softness occurring. I do stop down to f/9 and generally bump up ISO to 800. In bright light its all good.
      Hope you new lens arrives quickly and you settle in to getting the best from it and adding another element to your vision.


  16. Thanks for the great and handy info on the 500 David .
    Since owning the 300f4 I can’t be content with my 200-500 anymore. Been look8ng at getting the 500 f5.6 for that extra bit of reach and the light weight. Many thanks…. Chris ( crispiks Flickr)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Chris, glad to be of help.
      I haven’t been on this page for awhile, and re-read it this morning. Not much I’d change, (except the typos),
      It is still my go to kit, Although at the moment with the weather going belly up and the floods on the river flats, ‘go to kit’ is a bit of a grin.

      One of the best things about the lens is the side buttons that are programmable, and I usually have them set to an autofocus like single spot. Just adds flexibility to the kit.

      Mine has given wonderful service and I just checked the Lr database and 23% of the photos in the library, going back to 2006, are from the 500mm PF f/5.6 I think that says a lot.

      Good luck with rationalising the purchase and may the new lens bring exceptional images to your camera


  17. Hi David it’s been just over 2yrs since I reported my thoughts on the D500/500PF combo in particular a few frustrations with image quality but time along with finding the appropriate settings for BIF have me now really impressed with what this camera & lens can achieve, I tend to use Group area A/F or Dynamic 25 or on occasions Single point A/F depending on the situation, these seem to give the best results for me, something that might sound obvious but the combo (I’ve found with single point especially) really requires you to be absolutely spot on with your focus point & when you are the image comes out perfect but just drift a tiny bit & woops no good, overall a super combination.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi John,
      Glad you took the time to drop me a line on the goings with the lens/camera.
      Sounds like you managed to gallop over the initial hurdles.

      Yep, that drift off the focus point is both the worst piece of focus design and the best bit of focus design.
      Get it wrong and its wrong. I usually lift finger off and reaquire (if I remember too!!!)
      I do use Group a lot for shots out in the open field. I have that set to the focus button on the rear. I have to say that I’ve taken to using 153 for normal work. No real reason. I don’t think it makes a lot of difference. I have 25 point set on the lens buttons currently. Gives me a little “target'” Single point on the Joystick for those times when I need to point it accurately between foliage.

      Drift off the subject is the biggie. I’ve spent countless hours now trying to figure it out in the field, in the end, I’ve concluded that the speed and accuracy of acquiring is so fast, it’s not worth looking for a ‘perfect balance”

      I shot some Pied Cormorants in flight, in the rain this morning, and to my surprise out of the 6 images. All were eye sharp. And it’s not even a Canon or Sony. 🙂

      I still think the major success is using a fast shutter speed above 1/1600. I also have become a little more forgiving of using higher ISO, say 3200.
      I do shoot a lot more with the VR turned on, Sport, but its only because of lack of attention to technique and I occassionally regret it with soft shot or two, or three or more..

      Glad to learn its all going well.

      Keep takin’ pictures, We do.


      1. I can relate to all your comments on Focus modes, Sport mode with VR on (what I use most on the time) etc, I find the camera handles high ISO very well for a crop sensor, I actually captured a shot of a pied cormorant at my favorite bird area a couple of days ago it was late in the evening but the bird was displaying a nice pose on top a small pine tree, I would have been 25m away fired off three shots in single focus AF-C then proceeded to make my way home & opened the photo’s in View NX-i, I shoot manual use auto ISO & limit it to 6400 the photo’s where pushing right to that limit, I couldn’t believe how good the images looked after a bit of work in LR, pretty sharp & only lacking a bit of fine detail, impressed!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi John, yeah WordPress is funny I can’t comment on a comment.
      I also use Topaz software with a really excellent noise reduction set, (it uses AI these days and you can mask just to the subject) Makes some of the machinations of yesteryear about noise all redundant.
      You might this shot interesting. Hi John, yeah WordPress is funny I can’t comment on a comment.
      I also use Topaz software with a really excellent noise reduction set, (it uses AI these days and you can mask just to the subject) Makes some of the machinations of yesteryear about noise all redundant.

      You might also find this shot interesting
      Black-shouldered Kite: Peeking Kite




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