Nikon AF-S 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR review

Fancy a 500mm super-telephoto lens that's as portable as a 70-200mm f/2.8?

Digital Camera World Verdict

Nikon's Phase Fresnel lens element transforms what could otherwise be just another unwieldy super-telephoto lens into a genuinely portable option for handheld shooting. The AF-S 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR may not set any sharpness records, but its image quality is otherwise very good. Factor the go-anywhere portability plus the relatively palatable price and the Nikon AF-S 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR easily earns our recommendation.


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    Small and light for its type

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    Relatively well priced

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    Good image quality


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    Sharpness could be better

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    Small maximum aperture

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Nikon's AF-S 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR is designed to be significantly smaller and lighter than other lenses of the same focal length. It tips the scales at just 1460g, making it less than half the weight of Nikon's existing AF-S 500mm f/4E FL ED VR. An equally portable 237mm length and 106mm maximum diameter makes this super telephoto lens as compact as a 70-200mm f/2.8 optic. Consequently Nikon claims the AF-S 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR will be compact enough for easy hand-held use in a variety of shooting scenarios, from capturing fast-moving sports subjects, to unpredictable wildlife.

The secret to this remarkable compactness is down to the inclusion of Nikon’s Phase Fresnel (PF) lens element: something we've already seen in the AF-S 300mm f/4E PF ED VR lens. The PF element works in a similar way to the lens you'd see in a lighthouse. Precisely cut ridges cut in very fine concentric circles on the rear of the PF element bend light rays in a very specific way. Used in conjunction with Nikon's ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass, the PF element reduces chromatic aberrations and replaces multiple, heavier conventional elements.

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Ben Andrews

Ben is the Imaging Labs manager, responsible for all the testing on Digital Camera World and across the entire photography portfolio at Future. Whether he's in the lab testing the sharpness of new lenses, the resolution of the latest image sensors, the zoom range of monster bridge cameras or even the latest camera phones, Ben is our go-to guy for technical insight. He's also the team's man-at-arms when it comes to camera bags, filters, memory cards, and all manner of camera accessories – his lab is a bit like the Batcave of photography! With years of experience trialling and testing kit, he's a human encyclopedia of benchmarks when it comes to recommending the best buys.