Released lens data shows that this could be a very good lens.
But being a cynic, I'll wait for a true independent review before buying one. If it is up to latest Nikon standards at that price it is sure it is going to be really great value for money.
I have seen and handled the latest Nikon 80-400mm lens which sells at around £1800 and is a very good lens. Indeed it is that lens that has helped me move away from my prejudice against zoom lenses, much preferring prime lenses. My Nikon 300mm f4 having done me proud over the last 4 years: taken over 50,000 photos of Short-eared Owls with that!
Re the 200-500mm lens. It is said to work with the Nikon TCs, and with the 1.4 TC that will give a 700mm F8 lens which will focus on such as the D7200 which I am about to upgrade to from my D7000. I've got both the 1.4 and 1.7TCs and with virtually no exceptions I have found it better to stick to the 300mm f4 and then crop harder as that that produces better results than using the TCs. Just two exceptions I can think of where I have got great results with a TC on. Both will be in my book. One was from 04.00 on a June morning where I spent 3 hours watching a family of 5 Shorties getting ready to roost after a night hunting. Managed to get out of the car the other side to them and slowly stand up, (not easy for a large Yeti to do that very slowly!), so as to not disturb then. Mainly used the 300mm f4 lens but, rather belatedly as it turned out, did put the 1,7TC on and got a cracker of three together on 1/50 sec at f9. Just resting the camera on the car roof like you do. Maybe the only time I can get close to a small roost of Shorties, so even though the light was never good I got a lot of "once off" shots. And it was quite clear my passive approach caused no disturbance at all as they all gently slipped down into their final roost location.
No, not up to full speed. So your post is very helpful.
Glance read it and picked up the words, "slower focus than .........(Tamron or Sigma)"
The Tamron 150-600mm gives superb images but from standing next to someone photographing distant Barn Owls in flight, he can lose an entire evenings photographs because of focus issues. Whilst the lady next him with a Canon 1Dx and a Canon 500mm f4 plus converter gets all in focus.
You get what you pay for!
But, I may get it for the more distant almost static shots of such as wandering Shortie Juveniles being fed etc. If I can be convinced it is a fair bit better than my Nikon 300mm f4 plus 1.7 TC. Which combination has given me just two publication quality photographs of the many when I was using it. Far better to use the 300mm f4 and crop harder.
I'll read the whole thread including links when I get a half day spare. My impression is that the Forum they are on is full of real world photographers: not reviewers who post that they think you want to read!
I don't know if any of the Talk Photography forum members are also reviewers, I haven't seen any evidence but it probably something that would not be spread about. Some are professional photographers in various areas eg, wedding, portraits, sport but most are amateurs.
The speed of focus is a difficult one, even inthe example you gave the lady with the 1Dx and 500mm might just have better technique. I wonder know how long it will be before the 200 - 500mm will be available for hire.
Taken me ages, a couple of years in fact, to work out a strategy for my photography gear.
I have to retain the facility to grab a camera from the passenger seat in the car and either shoot immediately from inside the car through any of the four open windows, or to jump out and shoot with a clearer view. All virtually handheld, but with some leaning on windows and car roof. Plus a lot of standing/walking around taking shots very quickly in any direction. All of Short-eared Owls, and that policy with my Nikon D7000 with the Nikon 300mm f4, (no VR), has proved fine. Got a lot of shots I really need for my Shortie book such as adults taking food to mobile juveniles!
Issues that I needed to resolve were a longer reach some times and better low light capability. Although I have got some great silhouette shots of Shorties with my D7000/300mm f4.
I looked at all options and the only single lens that met all my needs looked like the new Canon 400mm f4 along with a crop format Canon, (for the longer reach), and a full frame Canon for better low light.
But I really didn't want to move to Canon: I am very slow at learning new hardware and I already had a lot of Nikon gear.
Then came the Nikon 200 - 500mm f5.6 with Vibration Reduction. I've waited for real world use to get onto the Internet and then decided to give it a try. Got mine today. First impressions are good, got some very acceptable photos in bad light though the closed kitchen window! But it's the long distance shots where it will be really tested. It's at the top end of weight for my use, and I'm not sure I will want to do a day out away from the car carrying it round my neck. So I'll use a rucksac.
I got it from Park Cameras at Burgess Hill where I buy a lot of my gear. I tried it on my D7000 first and it felt OK as above. Then on a Nikon D750, a full frame camera. If my tests on the D7000 come out OK I'll get as D750 to cover the low light situations much better than my D7000. The D750 becoming my main camera with the D7000 still being by my side when in the car, mainly with the 300mm f4 on it, but the 200-500mm when long distance is needed.
Fingers crossed the 200-500mm will get me OK results. I'm not expecting many that will be fine at full page size for the book which the 300mm f4 can do, but those I still need, or have and would like to improve upon, are in the 1/4 to 1/2 page size at most.
Interestlngly it seems to auto focus with the 1.4 TC on the D7000, (Nikon says it won't do that). Making it a 700mm f8 lens. But I am not a great fan of the TCs, even the two Nikon ones I have. OK for a close up shot, but for distant shots the definition is worse than sticking to just the 300mm f4 and cropping harder when editing.
I'll update here as I progress in case there are others going through the same process.
It's at the top end of weight for my use, and I'm not sure I will want to do a day out away from the car carrying it round my neck. So I'll use a rucksac.
If you carry a scope as well, I would recommend a double strap, scope on one side and camera on the other. In fact it would even be worth taking a scope just to balance the weight. If you really don't want to carry a scope I'd still use a shoulder strap (over the head - not just perched on the shoulder).
a) it's not round your neck b) it's always ready
I sometimes carry my scope and Canon 100-400 exactly like that and it does make a difference, summertime, when I'm chasing dragons I don't need the scope but my 180mm macro lens is almost as heavy as the 1-400 and it goes on a single shoulder strap, I often don't bother to unship it, I can take pics while it's still over my shoulder.
I don't use a scope. I've got the heavy weight Docter Nobilem 8 x 56 binoculars. From a clearly independent review indicated to be just about the best low light binos you can get, but damned heavy. They are superb in virtually any light, down to almost night. Incredibly large and clear image.
Did some tests yesterday on a Kestrel that posed for me, and on the first "daylight" active Short-eared Owl I've seen for some time.
Daylight? It was a very dull and overcast early January afternoon so hardly counted as day.
So far so good. Looks to be closer to the sharpness of my 300mm f4 than I expected. Focus looks fast and accurate. Very well balanced to hold. Could probably use a fairly slow shutter speed without VR.
It does autofocus on my D7000 with the 1.4TC II attached, making it a 700mm f8 lens. Not a full test, but on the obliging Kestrel perched almost 40m away, where I was able to use the lens with/without the TC, there was only very slight degradation of the image with the TC on. Less than I expected. But the real test will come with a much more distant Shortie doing such as taking food into a nest or to a wandering juvenile in average or worse light.
I'll stick up the Kestrel photos shortly for comment.
Both images cropped the same amount, from original width of 4928 to 1883. So quite a sharp crop. Some sharpening done by PSE9 not a vast amount and the same for each.
Kestrel was high up so despite the dull light I had to adjust exposure by almost +2 for the "backlight".
Not a shot I'd ever use due to the lack of so much in such dull light. But if it was a Shortie doing something unusual I think that, with a bit more PSE9 work, I would get a useable 1/4 page photo OK for publication in my book.
Not a full test. I'd like to test the lens with/without the TC 1.4 II in the same light but with the subject a Shortie and a lot further away.
Click the photo then click the + thingy in the bottom right hand corner to get it up to full for a true comparison.
One final point. OK for weight and carrying it. Had it round my neck for a couple of hours yesterday. Length just makes it OK in the car for my "4 window" shooting technique. That will need to be done without the lens hood on it most of the time.
Not sure if this helps anyone, but I'll post my test thoughts here as I progress until the thread doesn't get looked at anymore!
Autofocuses on my D7000 with both the TC 1.4II and TC-1.7II. Initial view of the quality of the image using the 1.7TC is not good!
Niggles so far.
1. Would have liked a stop to hold it fixed at 500mm as well as at 200mm. Has been mentioned in some reviews as many users will use it as a 500mm f5.6 lens.
2. Lens hood needs to be firmly attached to make sure it doesn't fall off! Mine did yesterday and I am watching to make sure it was because I hadn't attached it correctly.
Both the niggles are very minor.
Focus seems fast and accurate. And it focuses in very low light where I do a lot of my Short-eared Owl watching. You just need a fixed object you can see to put the focus point on. I take photos at circa 200mm, ( I have been using my 70-300mm lens for that), in stupid lighting as I check afterwards to see if I've missed any Shorties perching etc when doing roost counts etc. It works sometimes even at the very high ISOs I need to set the camera at to get any sort of image.
Same problem getting a focus on a very distant low hunting Shortie as with my 300 f4. No contrast between Owl and background. Just have to live with that when I do actually need long distance photos of the Owls. Take lots of photos and hope!
Not sure if I will use VR for Shorties in flight. They move all over the place when hunting and I had trouble getting the image after VR to be where I wanted it! Maybe that is because at 500mm hand held I am always going to have problems keeping the focus point on a jinking Owl, more so than with my 300mm.
Not had a perched Shortie to practice on yet, may be a while as the roost I am watching is still nocturnal. Same reason I can't test the lens on a fairly close up flying Shortie. Did take some photos on the beach yesterday. One attached. A grab shot. Quite a heavy crop in a very fast edit. Some sharpening applied as I always do. 1/1000 f10. VR on. 400 ISO.
So far so good. Image quality, albeit on easy subjects, seems very good indeed. On easy subjects as good as my 300mm f4. My plan to get a D750 so I can have a full frame option and improved higher ISO performance is still in place.
Not been able to use the 200mm - 500mm F5.6 lens that much as the Shortie roost I am still watching is nocturnal. But the photos I have taken of other birds and a Shortie that comes down from elsewhere in daylight when I am watching that roost, show it a good lens, indeed some way above my expectations.
So I moved onto the second part of my strategy today and got me a Nikon D750 full frame DSLR. Along with the FX 24 -120mm f4 lens which looks like that could be very useful for nest visits and other real close ups. As well as very low light situations where I want photos of multiple Shorties as in their pre hunt preening etc routines in the evenings. When they perch up on posts etc together to do that!
Did some tests this afternoon with the D750 and the 200-500mm f 5.6. Very dull, and from inside the kitchen with the closed windows in front. Impressed with that combination so far.
I also tried it out with the 1.4TC, making it a 700mm f8 lens. On a very dull afternoon shot through a window I got the photo below. At what for me is a mind blowing 12,800 ISO, 1/500 f10.
OK, the squirrel was close, so not a full test, but hopefully an indication of what that combination of camera, lens and teleconverter can do in poor light.
Nikon D750 and Nikon 200mm - 500mm combination now been in use more than ten weeks. And I have been getting a lot of Short-eared Owl photos with them recently.
It's looking to be a significant step up from using my D7000 and Nikon 300mm f4 Prime lens. So much so I am not sure I will stay with a cropped format camera, (DX), for my back up camera. Thinking about that at present. The loss on reach by using the 200-500 lens on my, (FX), D750, (compared with using it on the cropped frame D7000), is more than made up by the ability to crop much harder.
And I can use a much higher ISO on the D750.
Just one issue to sort out. Getting a quick focus on Shorties that suddenly fly very close and fast. It is a moderately heavy lens to wave around hand held, and I think the problem is getting the focus point right on the Owl quickly enough. Age may be having an impact on that! I'm playing around with how many focus points to use and with VR on and off. Further away in flight it tends to be fast and accurate.
Had a close up session with a perched Shortie just after it came up from it's roost yesterday. At one point it was less than 4m a way: I was in my car. A quite obvious improvement on similar shots taken with my D7000/300mm f4 lens which were themselves pretty good. Will now replace several of my close ups of various bits of the facial detail already in the book draft.