Image: Weighing 3810g, the new AF-S Nikkor 600mm f/4E FL ED VR is nearly 1.5kg lighter than its predecessor
AF-S Nikkor 600mm f/4E FL ED VR: $12,295.95/ £9,649.99/ €12,999.00
AF-S Nikkor 500mm f/4E FL ED VR: $10,299.95/ £8,149.99/ €10,999.00
Sales Start Date: mid-July, 2015
July 2: Nikon has launched two new professional super-telephoto lenses with the lightest build in their class: the AF-S Nikkor 600mm f/4E FL ED VR, and the AF-S Nikkor 500mm f/4E FL ED VR. With these new updates, Nikon has significantly reduced the weight of two renowned super-telephoto lenses: at 3090g, the 500mm f/4E is 20% (790g) lighter than its predecessor, and the 600mm f/4E an incredible 25% lighter, weighing in at 3810g compared to 5260g of the former model.
These impressive weight reductions are made possible with the use of fluorite optical elements, and a construction that incorporates a magnesium alloy. New technologies feature in both lenses. These include an electromagnetic diaphragm for consistent, more precise exposures during high-speed bursts. Each lens also features the latest incarnation of Nikon’s vibration reduction (VR) technology, which offers a 4-stop advantage and includes Sport mode for tracking fast action.
Other new features include a rotating tripod collar with a Kensington lock slot, and completely new bearings for smooth switching between compositions. Both lenses feature Nikon’s proprietary fluorine coating, which actively repels water, dust, and dirt from the lens surface.
Nikon says the lightweight build of these new lenses comes at no cost to image quality. At 3090 g, the new 500mm lens is not just lighter than its predecessor, but it also weighs less than the current 200-400mm f/4 VR II. The weight reductions mean both lenses are less front-heavy and the use of fluorite elements contribute to an improved optical performance.
As well as the latest generation of Nikon’s VR technology both lenses feature Nikon’s Sports VR mode, as well as automatic tripod detection. Sport VR delivers a stable viewfinder image when shooting high-speed movement. In this mode, Nikon says the continuous shooting frame rate and release time lag is similar to what can be achieved when VR is turned off. The lenses also feature an electromagnetic diaphragm. This specialised mechanism enables Superior AF tracking and stable auto-exposure control, especially when shooting at high frame rates.
Focusing and optical improvements
Nikon’s Silent Wave (SW) motor provides ultra-fast, ultra-quiet autofocus performance with seamless manual override. Two autofocus modes are employed in addition to Manual mode: A/M prioritises autofocus even when the focus ring is in use and M/A allows instant switching from autofocus to manual operation in AF mode. A new focus limit employed on both lenses allows photographers to limit the focus area so the lens can focus even more quickly. The switch offers two positions: FULL and ∞ - 10 m on the 600mm lens, and FULL and ∞ - 8 m on the 500mm lens. In addition, the minimum focus distance is now down to 3.6m on the 500mm lens, and 4.4m on the 600mm lens.
Each lens features completely redesigned optics with 16 elements in 12 groups, including four (600mm) and three (500mm) Extra-Low Dispersion (ED) glass elements respectively. Nano Crystal Coat and two fluorite lens elements are employed in both lenses to minimise chromatic aberrations, flare and ghosting. Additionally, both lenses feature a nine-blade rounded diaphragm to help create natural looking out of focus areas for clear separation between subject and background.
There are a number of ergonomic improvements to improve handling. The new fluorite glass elements don’t just help reduce overall weight: they also make the front end of each lens lighter, shifting the centre of gravity to the rear for more stable operation. Both lenses feature tripod collar rings with new bearings for smoother switching between horizontal and vertical orientation.
To make the lenses easier to carry, the tripod mount has been repositioned closer to the rear, a change that also enables the included one-piece hood to be easily reversed. Monopod collars are supplied with each lens to help increase stability when shooting with a monopod. Both lenses maintain the same slot for 40.5mm drop-in filters.