In a previous Q&A, you recommended renting an expensive lens such as the Nikon AF-S 200-400 mm f/4 ED VR II that sells for about $8000. But now, Nikon makes an AF-S 200-500 mm f/5.6 ED VR lens that costs only about $1600 and is smaller and lighter. I could justify buying that lens, but what are the drawbacks compared to the pricier telephoto?
Well, Bogdan, the good news is that the more affordable and lighter (by over a kilogram) AF-S 200-500 mm lens is getting rave reviews. That’s not surprising considering the three extra-low dispersion glass elements and the Super Integrated Coating. Like its larger counterpart, the new lens is equipped with the very fast Silent Wave AF motor, a tripod mounting collar and the latest Vibration Reduction stabilizer. It also extends to a longer focal length, and that can be a huge benefit with distant subjects. While the $8000 lens will produce even better, superlative image quality, the difference won’t likely be an issue except for those who often need 24 x 36-inch prints or for professionals with demanding clients.
The AF-S 200-400 mm f/4 model does have some benefits, however, such as its even more rugged and weather-resistant construction. The most important advantage is the very wide maximum aperture of f/4 versus f/5.6. That allows for shooting at a fast shutter speed on overcast days or during indoor sports games with less need to set a higher ISO level where image quality may not be optimal. Also, with the f/4 lens, the effective maximum aperture is a still acceptably wide f/5.6 when using a 1.4x teleconverter versus f/8 when using the same accessory with the f/5.6 lens.
However, considering the price and size/weight, the AF-S 200-500 mm f/5.6 telephoto is an excellent value without too many compromises—a wise choice for numerous sports- and wildlife-photography enthusiasts.