Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Lens Test : 500mm

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 14-500mm f/2.8-5.6E ED VR Lens

Ok, so the headline is a joke, but it would be nice to own such a lens :)  I recently got the Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6 lens and was in Squamish looking for Bald Eagles.  With me I also had my Nikkor 14-24 f/2.8 and Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8 lenses.  The 14-24 and 200-500 represent the two extremes of the focal lengths I'm able to shoot.  I thought it may be fun to do a test to see just how much difference there is between 14mm and 500mm.  I threw in a few intermediate focal lengths as well.  The scene is in Squamish, BC, Canada beside the BC SPCA and looking northwest to Mount Garibaldi.  All photos taken with the Nikon D810.


Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED Lens Test : 14mm
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED Lens Test : 14mm


24mm (I noticed a slight difference at 24mm between the 14-24 and 24-70, discussed below.)

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED Lens Test : 24mm
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED Lens Test : 24mm


70mm (Sorry for the typo on the image text, obviously not the 14-24.)

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED Lens Test : 70mm
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED Lens Test : 70mm



Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Lens Test : 200mm
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Lens Test : 200mm



Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Lens Test : 300mm
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Lens Test : 300mm



Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Lens Test : 400mm
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Lens Test : 400mm



Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Lens Test : 500mm
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Lens Test : 500mm


Now an overlay between 14mm and 500mm, move mouse left/right to see both images.
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When does 24mm not mean 24mm?
Finally, when reviewing images taken during the testing I saw a difference between the 24mm images shot with the 14-24mm and 24-70mm.  Here are the two images side by side.
[before_after border="true" border_width="2" border_color="#FFFFFF" direction="vertical" start=".50" angle="5" slide="hover" return_on_idle_interval="5000" return_on_idle_duration="1000" arrow_color="#FFFFFF" arrow_gap="5" arrow_offset="0" scrollbar_pos="top" scrollbar_color="#FFFFFF" scrollbar_thickness="8" scrollbar_button_color="#FFFFFF" scrollbar_button_thickness="30" before_image_id="5466" after_image_id="5465" arrows="true"]


I then applied Lightroom's lens correction to both 24mm images, to see if that would close the difference.  A greater change was made to the 24-70, but there is still a substantial difference between the two.  Here are the two corrected images.

[before_after border="true" border_width="2" border_color="#FFFFFF" direction="vertical" start=".50" angle="5" slide="hover" return_on_idle_interval="5000" return_on_idle_duration="1000" arrow_color="#FFFFFF" arrow_gap="5" arrow_offset="0" scrollbar_pos="top" scrollbar_color="#FFFFFF" scrollbar_thickness="8" scrollbar_button_color="#FFFFFF" scrollbar_button_thickness="30" before_image_id="5468" after_image_id="5469" arrows="true"]


If anyone is curious on how the 200-500mm performed when shooting eagles, I have yet to process most photos but here are a couple initial images.

Brackendale Bald Eagle in Flight : Nikkor 200-500 f/5.6 VR Lens
Brackendale Bald Eagle in Flight : Nikkor 200-500 f/5.6 VR Lens


Brackendale Bald Eagle in Tree : Nikkor 200-500 f/5.6 VR Lens (500mm)
Brackendale Bald Eagle in Tree : Nikkor 200-500 f/5.6 VR Lens (500mm)

Nikon D810 Front

Nikon D810 Setup and Configuration

Nikon D810 Front

The Nikon D800/D800 Setup and Configuration post I made a few years ago has been one of my most popular.  Now that I have the Nikon D810, I decided to create a new list of my settings (and a new setup file for download).  If you want more info on why I upgraded to the D810, you can read about that here.

The menu banks are not great because they don't save all of the settings you need to change, but they are better than nothing.  The U1/U2 settings of the D750, D610, and D7100 are superior to the menu banks both in terms of features and ease of use.  I have no idea why Nikon has decided to leave out such a fantastic function on their high-end cameras.  Neither the D800/D810 nor the D4/D4s have the U1/U2 settings.  Nice work Nikon.

Here are the four menu banks I created:

  • Landscape & HDR - sets up the camera for landscape or high dynamic range shooting.  I usually use a tripod and have time for manual focus, etc.
  • Action - I usually use this setting when chasing my young kids, but also for my dogs or any other moving subject.
  • Portrait - useful not just for portraits but for any stationary or slow moving targets.
  • Point & Shoot - Since I use the "AF-ON" focusing technique (*1), it makes it difficult for my wife or friend to use my camera.  Rather than try to explain the technique, I just change the settings and let them shoot.  Since my wife often just wants a couple of quick photos to post online, this is the only bank where I also shoot JPEG.

The settings for all four modes are outlined below.  Note that the settings just make the starting point for configuration easier.  It doesn't mean these are always the settings I use when shooting.  I may not use ISO64 for all situations nor the same AF settings.  If you want to use them as a starting point for your own custom settings it is easiest to just download my config file here.  Choose the right file for your firmware (check your firmware SETUP MENU -> Firmware version).

C: 1.02, L:2.005 : Download Nikon D810 custom settings file 1.02.

C: 1.11, L: 2.013 : Download Nikon D810 custom settings file 1.11.

To use the custom settings file, copy it to the root folder of your media card using your computer, insert the media card into your camera and navigate to SETUP MENU -> Save/load settings -> Load settings. This will copy the settings over to your camera.  You may want to save your own settings before you copy mine to your camera in case you need to revert back.

Note the [change this] in the settings below, these are things you will want to change in your own camera before you start shooting.  At the bottom of this post, you can also see what I put in "MY MENU" to access some controls I often change on the fly.

To switch between the various menu banks, you have several options:

  • The slow way:
    • Shooting menu bank: go to menu -> shooting menu -> shooting menu bank -> select your bank.
    • Custom settings menu: go to custom setting menu -> custom settings bank -> select your bank.
  • The fast way:
    • Press the "i" button on the back of the camera (no idea why Nikon gave us yet another button, sigh). "SHOOT" should be selected, press the center button in the multi-selector, pick your setting.  Do the same for custom settings bank ("CUSTOM").

If you have questions, or a suggestion feel free to leave them in the comments at the bottom of the page.  If you want more detail on the settings below download Nikon's D810 manual (free).

Landscape & HDRActionPortraitPoint & Shoot
Exposure ModeA (Aperture Priority)A (Aperture Priority)A (Aperture Priority)P (Program)
Metering Mode3D Matrix Metering3D Matrix MeteringCenter Weighted Metering3D Matrix Metering
BracketingAs needed (usually 3 frames +/-2 EV)OffOffOff
Shooting ModeSingle, Timer, or MUPCH (continuous high)CH (continuous high)CH (continuous high)
Autofocus Mode *1Manual or AF-C, single pointAF-C, groupAF-C, single point or groupAF-S, Auto

Playback folderND810 (default)
Hide imageDefault
Playback display optionsHighlights, RGB histogram, Overview
Copy image(s)N/A
Image reviewOff
After deleteShow next
Rotate tallOff
Slide showN/A
DPOF print orderN/A

Landscape & HDRActionPortraitPoint & Shoot
Shooting menu bankABCD
Extended menu banksONONONON
Storage folderDefaultDefaultDefaultDefault
File NamingMKH [change this]MKH [change this]MKH [change this]MKH [change this]
Primary slot selectionCF card slotCF card slotCF card slotCF card slot
Secondary slot functionBackupBackupBackupRAW primary - JPEG secondary
Image qualityRAWRAWRAWRAW + JPEG fine
JPEG/TIFF recording
- Image sizeN/AN/AN/ASmall
- JPEG compressionN/AN/AN/AOptimal quality
NEF (RAW) recording
- Image sizeLargeLargeLargeLarge
- NEF (RAW) compressionLossless compressedLossless compressedLossless compressedLossless compressed
- NEF (RAW) bit depth14-bit14-bit14-bit14-bit
Image area
- Choose image areaFX1.2xFXFX
- Auto DX cropOnOnOnOn
White BalanceAuto1Auto1Auto1Auto1 (change as needed)
Set Picture ControlSD (Standard)SD (Standard)PT (Portrait)SD (Standard)
Manage Picture ControlDefaultDefaultDefaultDefault
Color SpaceAdobeRGBAdobeRGBAdobeRGBsRGB
Active D-LightingOffOffOffH (High)
HDR (high dyn. range)N/A (disabled when shooting RAW)N/A (disabled when shooting RAW)N/A (disabled when shooting RAW)Off
Vignette controlNormalNormalNormalHigh
Auto distortion controlOnOnOnOn
Long Exposure NROffOffOffOff
High ISO NROffOffOffNormal
ISO Sensitivity Settings
ISO sensitivity6464 (adjust as needed)64 (adjust as needed)100 (adjust as needed)
Auto ISO sensitivity controlOffOn (Max ISO: 6400,Min shutter: auto, auto, max fasteraster)OffOn (Max ISO: 6400,Min shutter: auto, auto, max faster)
Multiple exposureOffOffOffOff
Interval timer shootingOffOffOffOff
Time-lapse photographyOffOffOffOff
Movie settings
Frame size/rate1920x1080; 60fps1920x1080; 60fps1920x1080; 60fps1920x1080; 60fps
Movie qualityHighHighHighHigh
Microphone sensitivityAuto sensitivityAuto sensitivityAuto sensitivityAuto sensitivity
Frequency responseWideWideWideWide
Wind noise reductionOffOffOffOff
Movie ISO sensitivity settings
- ISO sensitivity (mode M)100100100100
- Auto ISO control (mode M)OnOnOnOn
- Maximum sensitivity6400640064006400

Landscape & HDRActionPortraitPoint & Shoot
Custom settings bankABCD
a1 AF-C priority selectionReleaseReleaseReleaseFocus
a2 AF-S priority selectionFocusFocusFocusFocus
a3 Focus tracking with lock-onLongOffNormalOff
a4 AF activationOff (AF-ON focus technique)Off (AF-ON focus technique)Off (AF-ON focus technique)On
a5 Focus point display
- Manual focus modeOffOffOffOff
- Dynamic-area AF displayOnOnOnOn
- Group-area AF illuminationBoxesBoxesBoxesBoxes
a6 AF point illuminationAutoAutoAutoAuto
a7 Focus point wrap-aroundOn - WrapOn - WrapOn - WrapOn - Wrap
a8 Number of focus pointsAF 51 (51 points)AF11 (11 points)AF 51 (51 points)AF11 (11 points)
a9 Store by orientationOffOffOffOff
a10 Built-in AF-assist illuminatorOffOffOffOff
a11 Limit AF-area mode selectionAll checkedAll checkedAll checkedAll checked
a12 Autofocus mode restrictionsOffOffOffOff
b1 ISO sensitivity step value1/31/31/31/3
b2 EV steps for exposure cntrl1/31/31/31/3
b3 Exp./flash comp step value1/31/31/31/3
b4 Easy exposure compensationOffOffOffOff
b5 Matrix meteringOffOnOnOn
b6 Center-weighted area12mm12mm8mm12mm
b7 Fine-tune optimal exposure0 (for all)0 (for all)0 (for all)0 (for all)
c1 Shutter-release AE-LOffOffOffOff
c2 Standby timer10s10s10s10s
c3 Self-timer
- Self-timer delay2s10s10s10s
- Number of shots2 (N/A if bracket enabled)111
- Interval between shots0.5s0.5s0.5s0.5s
c4 Monitor off delay
- Playback10s10s10s10s
- Menus1m1m1m1m
- Information display10s10s10s10s
- Image review10s10s10s10s
- Live view10m10m10m10m
d1 BeepOffOffOffOff
d2 CL mode shoot speed2fps2fps2fps2fps
d3 Max continuous release100100100100
d4 Exposure delay mode3sOffOffOff
d5 Electronic front-curtain shutterOnOffOffOff
d6 File number sequenceOnOnOnOn
d7 Viewfinder grid displayOnOnOffOff
d8 ISO display adjustmentOffOffOffOff
d9 Screen tipsOnOnOnOn
d10 Information displayAutoAutoAutoAuto
d11 LCD illuminationOnOnOnOn
d12 MB-D12 battery typeLR6LR6LR6LR6
d13 Battery orderMB-D12MB-D12MB-D12MB-D12
e1 Flash Sync Speed1/2501/2501/2501/250
e2 Flash shutter speed1/601/601/601/60
e3 Flash cntrl for built-in flashTTLTTLTTLTTL
e4 Exposure comp. for flashEntire frameEntire frameEntire frameEntire frame
e5 Modeling flashOnOnOnOn
e6 Auto bracketing setAEAEAEAE
e7 Auto bracket (Mode M)Flash/speedFlash/speedFlash/speedFlash/speed
e8 Bracketing orderUnder > MTR > overUnder > MTR > overUnder > MTR > overUnder > MTR > over
f1 switchLCD Backlight and info displayLCD Backlight and info displayLCD Backlight and info displayLCD Backlight and info display
f2 Multiselect center button
- Shooting modeResetResetResetReset
- Playback modeZoom, 1:1 (100%)cZoom, 1:1 (100%)Zoom, 1:1 (100%)Zoom, 1:1 (100%)
- Live viewZoom, 1:1 (100%)Zoom, 1:1 (100%)Zoom, 1:1 (100%)Zoom, 1:1 (100%)
f3 Multi selectorOffOffOffOff
f4 Assign Fn button
- Fn button pressViewfinder virtual horizonViewfinder virtual horizonViewfinder virtual horizonViewfinder virtual horizon
- Fn button + command dialsOffOffOffOff
f5 Assign preview button
- Preview button pressPreviewPreviewPreviewPreview
- Preview button + command dialsOffOffOffOff
f6 Assign AE-L/AF-L button
- AE-L/AF-L button pressAE/AF lockAE/AF lockAE/AF lockAE/AF lock
- AE-L/AF-L + command dialsOffOffOffOff
f7 Shutter spd & aperture lockOffOffOffOff
f9 Customize command dialsDefault (Off, on, off)Default (Off, on, off)Default (Off, on, off)Default (Off, on, off)
f10 Release button to use  dialOffOffOffOff
f11 Slot empty release lockLockLockLockLock
f12 Reverse indicators- 0 +- 0 +- 0 +- 0 +
f13 Assign movie record buttonChoose image areaChoose image areaChoose image areaChoose image area
f14 Live view button optionsOnOnOnOn
f16 Assign remote (WR) Fn buttonOffOffOffOff
f17 Lens focus function buttonsAF lock onlyAF lock onlyAF lock onlyAF lock only
g1 Assign Fn buttonPower aperture (open)Power aperture (open)Power aperture (open)Power aperture (open)
g2 Assign preview buttonPower aperture (close)Power aperture (close)Power aperture (close)Power aperture (close)
g3 Assign AE-L/AF-LAE LockAE LockAE LockAE Lock
g4 Assign shutter buttonRecord moviesRecord moviesRecord moviesRecord movies

Format memory cardAs needed
Monitor brightnessManual (0)
Monitor color balanceDefault
Clean image sensorClean at shutdown (no sense delaying startup)
Lock mirror up cleaningAs needed
Image Dust Off ref photoAs needed
Flicker reductionAuto
Time zone and dateSet to local time
Auto image rotationOn
Battery infoN/A
Image comment *2None
Copyright InformationOn [change this]
Save/load settingsAs needed
Virtual horizonN/A
Non-CPU lens dataN/A
AF fine tuneSet for your lenses if needed
Location dataN/A
Firmware versionN/A

Never use it

c3 Self-timer
d4 Exposure delay mode
d5 Electronic front-curtain shutter
Time zone and date
Long exposure NR
Active D-Lighting


*1 - Autofocus : I use the "AF-ON" technique (for lack of a better term) to focus my camera. You can read more about the technique here. You will see that in my settings, I primarily use AF-C as the default focus mode when I use the camera. With the AF-ON technique, you decouple the focusing of the camera from the shutter press. The nice thing is that you can have both continuous and static autofocus at the same time. Focus and recompose is also easier as you don't have to keep the shutter half-pressed, just release the AF-ON button and the camera stops focusing. It works very well, but takes a bit of getting used to. This technique works on both Nikon and Canon cameras (likely other brands as well but I haven't checked into it).

*2 - Image comment : There are two spots to put your personal info into the file EXIF data: "Image comment" and "Copyright information". Some people use both, but there isn't really a reason to do so. I have found one reason not to use the 'image comment' field, and that is because the comment shows up in the description field when you post images online (facebook for example). At times, I post images to facebook and I don't want the description for each one to say "copyright Mike Heller Photography", blah, blah, blah. My friends want to see something about the image, not a copyright notice. For me, it just makes the upload process more time consuming and it doesn't add any value. You may want to use it, so feel free to use the field if that fits into your workflow.

Nikon D800 to D810 Logo

Why I upgraded my Nikon D800 to a D810

  Nikon D800 to D810 Logo

Why I Upgraded

In this section I list the main reasons I upgraded my Nikon D800 to a Nikon D810.  There wasn't anything wrong with the D800, it was an amazing camera capable of fantastic results.  There were a few things that made the difference though.  In general, Nikon took an already great camera and made it better.

  1. No anti-alias filter.  Also known as Optical Low Pass Filter, Blur Filter, and probably a few other names.  When the D800 and D800E were released, it created a lot of speculation about the potential moire and false color problems that the D800E would face.  I had actually planned to get a D800E but my local shop had the D800 first and said I'm facing a 4+ month wait for an E model.  I decided to get the D800 and start shooting.  In the end, the fears around no AA filter in the D800E were unfounded, the vast majority of shooters have never had a problem.   Given the lack of issues, Nikon didn't even bother with a filtered version of the D810.  In fact, it improved on the D800E even further.  Where the D800E had an AA filter that cancelled itself out, the D810 has no AA filter at all in the stack.  The sharpness benefits are not drastic, but there are there and I'm happy to have the best possible starting image.
  2. Frame rate.  5fps in full frame mode (36 megapixels) with full AF and metering.  Drop it down to 1.2X crop and you get 6fps and 24 megapixels.  Plenty of resolution, plenty of speed, and no battery grip needed.  I really don't need more than 6fps, when I shoot bursts it's often chasing my kids so the 1.2x crop suits me just fine.  The rest of the time I'm shooting landscapes or architecture. The D810 feels like both an action cam and a landscape cam in one body.  Perfect.
  3. Improved autofocus. I had plenty of problems with my D800 autofocus.  It was plagued with the 'left focus problem' and went to Nikon three times before it finally came back fixed.  The D810 seems to work great out of the box and now has group AF mode and better face detection.
  4. Improved bracketing.  The D800 was limited to +/- 1 EV between exposures, the D810 extends that to +/- 3 EV (it can also do 1 and 2 EV).   To get a standard -2/0/+2 exposure for HDR I had to take 5 shots with the D800 and then throw away two of them.  With the D810, I can take the 3 I need and call it a day.  More flexibility, more options, and solved something that always bugged me about the D800.  Worse still that this would have been a simple firmware fix for Nikon.
  5. Electronic front curtain shutter.  The D800 had mirror up (MUP) and exposure delay modes to reduce the vibration effects of the mirror.  The D810 takes it a step further by also eliminating the vibration effects of the shutter.  Well done Nikon.
  6. ISO 64.  Base ISO is now 64 (instead of 100 in the D800).  Gives me options for long exposures and bright light with fast lenses.
  7. ISO 12,800.  I'm unlikely to shoot at the upper end of the ISO range often, but noise performance has been improved at 3200 and 6400 as well, which is a bonus.
  8. Live View improved.  Nikon made great improvements in Live View over the D800.  Not only is the LCD a higher resolution screen, but the nasty artifacts that plagued the D800 are now gone.  I use LV frequently, especially at 100% zoom, for critical focus work so the D810 is a joy to use.
  9. Hand grip improved.  I have large hands, and the D800 never felt that comfortable in my hands.  The D810 brings some much welcome changes here, the grip is noticeably improved and the camera feels much more secure in my hand.

Nice To Have Extras

Here are some of the added benefits of the D810 that didn't have a big impact on my decision but I'm happy to have them.

  1. Highlight weighted metering.  An extra metering mode useful in some tricky situations.
  2. Metering and bracketing selection improved.  I'm usually not a fan of buttons getting moved around, but the new layout is actually easier to use.  The ring around the AF-ON wasn't the easiest way to select the metering mode, the button/wheel method is better.
  3. Quiet mirror/shutter.  Not Q (quiet) mode, but the operation of the mirror and shutter are much softer and better dampened than in the D800.  This likely improves sharpness but also makes the camera more pleasant to use.
  4. Split screen live view.  Limited usefulness, but I have used it a couple of times when leveling a horizon.  I think it would be more useful with tilt-shift lenses (which I don't have), to ensure critical focus in multiple areas of the image.
  5. Improved battery life.  1200 shots in the D810, only 900 in the D800.  Battery life was never a big problem for me, but I'll take more.
  6. Double the buffer size.  With the improved frame rates, this is an added bonus.   I don't often hit the limit with the D810.
  7. Timer function improved.  Just set up the number of bracketed shots you want to take, switch the camera into timer mode, and hit the shutter release once.  The D810 will take the full bracket sequence for you.  Easy.

Added To D810, But I Don't Care

Here are a few things added to the D810 that are of no use to me.  I'm not saying they are useless, some of you may put them in your own "this is why I upgraded" list.  For me, they are things I'm unlikely to use or gain any benefit from.

  1. Zebras in movie mode.  Shows you highlight clipping.  I almost never shoot movies with my DSLR so don't care if it shows dancing hippos.
  2. Two info buttons.  "i" and "info", why Nikon?  You had one button that you could click twice.  Now I have two buttons, and I usually press the wrong one.
  3. Flat picture control, clarity adjustment.  This only makes a difference for jpeg shooting, but I shoot 98% of my shots in RAW (NEF).  Which leads me to...
  4. sRAW.  Not real RAW, I don't care.
  5. 1080p 60p (full HD).  Again, I don't shoot video.  Even if it shot 8K... yawn.
  6. There are a few more, but I have forgotten about them already.

What Didn't Make It Into The D810 But Should Have

Nikon had the opportunity to fix some things in the D810 but chose not to.  Here are a few things which I would have liked to see (some could even be implemented with a firmware upgrade I suspect).

  1. EFC in timer mode.  Why only in MUP?  Give me a firmware fix for this please.   I want a 2-second timer, 3 second exposure delay, and EFC.
  2. User preset modes (U1/U2).  The memory banks suck, I use them but I would much prefer the preset modes present on other cameras in Nikon's lineup.
  3. WiFi.  It's 2015 Nikon, get in the game.  Give me wifi and the ability to use my iPhone as a remote trigger.  Even better, give me an app for the Apple Watch!
  4. Exposures longer than 30 seconds.  Why is this still a limitation?  I need my remote trigger with me at all times, and it would need it at all if I could set my exposure to any value.  Another firmware fix please. UPDATE (June 1, 2015): The Nikon D810A camera (targeted at astrophotography) has a new M* mode (Long Exposure Manual Mode) that allows you to set the exposure time between 4 and 900 seconds.  Would be great if Nikon made this available via firmware on the D810.


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