Nikon 200-500mm AF-S F5.6 V 300mm F4/D AF-S Prime

Started 2 months ago | Discussions thread
ARClark Veteran Member • Posts: 4,107
Re: Nikon 200-500mm AF-S F5.6 V 300mm F4/D AF-S Prime

Have owned and shot a lot with both. Both are excellent lenses in their own right but offer very different features and shooting experiences while covering similar focal lengths with TCs for the 300.

The 300D was my first birding lens, moving up from a 70-200. I found it large, heavy and not very fast, but it offered excellent IQ and took both the TC-14E and 17E very well, extending its reach to 500mm. It was good for stationary birds but not so much for BIF. In addition to birding, I learned that its short minimum focus distance, combined with TCs, made it excellent for closeups of flowers, insects hummingbirds, etc. Its main shortcoming for me was lack of VR, so it was frequently tethered to a tripod. I eventually replaced it with the 300E for the VR and weight savings, and I got longer lenses for birding. But I found it to be a really solid and reliable lens with excellent IQ.

The 200-500, like the 300E, is a general purpose niche lens for me that I sometimes use on nature walks when I want to shoot both closeups and birds. I have longer faster primes for birds, but their minimum focus distances start at 10’ while the 200-500’s is about 7’. Also, it’s VR is outstanding - I’ve never used it with a tripod. I’ve found it to have excellent center sharpness wide open, and while AF is a little slow, I can still shoot BIF. Edge sharpness is not great and it’s large and heavy, though still hand-holdable for me. Finally, it can take a TC14E ii or iii and still autofocus with a D500 or D850, adding to its reach for stationary birds and its effectiveness for closeups.

So the 300D is smaller and lighter, and greater reach can be effectively gained through TCs. Of course it lacks VR, but I found IQ to be excellent. It’s a very versatile lens owing to it’s short minimum focus distance and ability to add TCs, though TC changes are less convenient than zooming.

The 200-500 offers better reach, easy zoom flexibility and outstanding VR. Center sharpness is also excellent but softer in the edges. It’s just relatively big and heavy.

IMO, IQ between the two, other than edge sharpness, is not the major deciding factor with size, weight, cost, handling, VR and zoom being of greater import.


 ARClark's gear list:ARClark's gear list
Nikon 500mm F5.6E PF Nikon D850 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Nikon AF-S Micro-Nikkor 105mm F2.8G IF-ED VR +14 more
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