Nikon Announces new 500mm and 600mm Nikkor Lenses

The new 500mm f/4E FL VR Nikkor weighs in at under 7 lbs.
The new 500mm f/4E FL VR Nikkor weighs in at under 7 lbs.

Nikon has announced updates to its 500mm and 600mm f/4 VR Nikkor lenses. The new lenses replace the original VR versions, which were announced in 2007. These new big Nikkors use fluorite glass elements to significantly reduce their weight. The 500mm f/4 E FL Nikkor weighs in at 6.8 lbs, and the 600mm f/4 E FL Nikkor is 8.4 lbs. That makes them currently the lightest 500/4 and 600/4 lenses on the market for 35mm format cameras.

Nikon has also updated the VR system in these lenses to add 4-stops of effective shutter speed, and introduced a “sport” VR mode, which should theoretically improve AF tracking of moving subjects. The lenses also gain electronic aperture control, which is intended to improve exposure accuracy during high-speed shooting, such as with the D4s DSLR.

Feature Comparisons

I’ve put together a simple table comparing each of these new lenses to its predecessor. Major differences are highlighted in green.

The new 500mm and 600mm f/4E Nikkors compared to their predecessors.
The new 500mm and 600mm f/4E Nikkors compared to their predecessors.

MTF Charts

The new Nikkor telephotos should prove to be sharper wide-open than the previous versions, with the 500mm f/4E FL holding a slight edge over the 600mm. (MTF charts from Nikon Japan)

MTF Chart for the 500mm f/4 AFS VR
MTF Chart for the 500mm f/4 AFS VR (2007)
MTF Chart for the 500mm f4E FL VR
MTF Chart for the 500mm f4E FL VR (2015)
MTF Chart for the 600mm f4 AFS VR Nikkor (2007)
MTF Chart for the 600mm f4 AFS VR Nikkor (2007)
MTF chart for the 600mm f/4E FL VR Nikkor (2015)
MTF chart for the 600mm f/4E FL VR Nikkor (2015)
My Thoughts on the new Nikon Super Teles

As a wildlife photographer, the new 500mm and 600mm Nikkors look to be significantly improved, especially when you factor in size and weight. As some of my long-time readers know, I traded in my 600mm f/4 VR last year for the 500mm VR, partially because of size and weight. The new 600mm weighs about the same as the previous generation 500mm lens, but it’s physical dimensions remain mostly unchanged. The new 500mm lens is now under 7 lbs., which can make a huge difference in transport and overall handling in the field. The reduced minimum focus distance on the 600mm lens is also a bonus, especially if you’re a bird or wildlife photographer. Many times I found myself in a blind in Texas unable to photograph a bird that had come inside the 14-foot range of my 600mm Nikkor. The MFD of the 500mm has been reduced to just over 11 feet; also an improvement.

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You should be able to easily use these lenses with a 3-series Gitzo tripod; in the past, I used my 600mm lens (which was over 11 lbs) with a 5-series Gitzo. The reduced weight can be a major factor if your photography has you traveling through airports. I usually carry my big lenses in the Think Tank Photo Airport Security Roller to save my back.

Of course, all these improvements cannot be discussed without factoring in price. The 500mm lens lists at B&H for just over $10,000. That’s more than what the previous generation 600mm lens cost. The 600mm f/4E FL is over $12,000. For most of us, that puts these lenses squarely into the “dream about it” category. Of course, the previous generation lenses are still damn good. I’m incredibly impressed with my now “obsolete” 500mm f/4 VR; I found that it absolutely shined, even when shot wide-open with the TC-14EIII teleconverter. If your photographic needs call for frequent use of a super-telephoto lens for wildlife or sports, these new Nikkors will deliver the goods. If you only shoot occasionally, you might consider picking up one of the earlier models at a lower price, or even renting.

Pre-order these new Nikkor lenses here:

5 thoughts on “Nikon Announces new 500mm and 600mm Nikkor Lenses”

  1. I have the current version 600 VR f4 and find its “damn” good. As a hobbyist that photographs wildlife and birds during the migration and on a couple of trips a year, I do not plan to upgrade to the new glass. Its tempting with the weight reduction of the new 600 and the MFD. Will keep what I have considering it took me 2 years to justify the purchase of this lens. Maybe in the distant future.

  2. Jason , now that these new FL lens are out , what about compared to getting the new 400mm FL 2.8 with all 3 teleconverters? That in my eyes gives you more options including effective 800mm. The MTF on the 400 is tops period!

  3. I have the Nikon 800 mm lens. Big, heavy. BUT, when the animals are far away, as Yellowstone, Denali etc, this is a great lens. I am tempted to lower weight by getting the 600 and using a teleconverter, but I have had problems with autofocus with teleconverters.

  4. Hi Jason,

    Karl in previous post mentioned the new 400mm MTF is tops

    period! Unless I missed something, The 500mm is the super

    Champ Period! Do you agree/disagree?

    Thanks,

    Bob

  5. That 800 is a beast, but I’m sure it is really awesome!
    I’ve had very little issues focusing the 500/4 VR with TC-14EIII on a Nikon D810 body.

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