Nikon D500 and 200-500mm f/5.6 ED VR: The ultimate beginner wildlife photography rig?

Wildlife photographers often shoot with a crop camera. These cameras have a smaller sensor with a crop factor of 1.5x or 1.6x. This crop factor ensures that the lens comes with an effective focal length that’s longer than the actual focal length of the lens. This discussion will discuss one such camera and lens that forms an excellent combo for wildlife photographers. This is the Nikon D500 and the 200-500mm f/5.6 E ED VR lens.

The D500 is a mid-range crop camera powered by a 20.9-MP DX-format APS-C CMOS sensor. It’s paired with the EXPEED 5 image processor. The camera can fire ten fps continuous frames for a maximum of 200 frames.

When the 200-500mm f/5.6 lens is mounted on the D500, the effective focal length becomes 300-750mm. That means the lens’ effective focal length becomes super telephoto. It allows you to reach and get closer to the action without harming yourself.

The D500 has many features borrowed directly from the higher-end Nikon cameras. Such as, the presence of an XQD card slot allows faster write speed and quicker clearance of buffer. It needs to be because the D500 shoots at a brisk ten fps. The rear LCD screen tilts, allowing you to shoot from your waist level, assisting with framing and composition.

The D500 has been designed keeping the needs of wildlife and sports photographers in mind. The fast continuous autofocusing and superb tracking, thanks to the 153-point AF module, are a joy to work with. I was saying that the D500 owes many of its features to the higher-end models. The twin subject tracking feature, one quick and the other delayed, has been used to tackle different subjects, one slow-moving and the other erratically. This allows you to tweak your AF performance according to your shooting subject.

Coming down to the lens. The 200-500mm f/5.6 is a fantastic focal length and matches the D500. This lens has a constant aperture of f/5.6 across the focal length, meaning there is no visual jerk, no matter what focal length you use.

At 2.3 kilos, that’s a hefty lens to boot and hand-hold for a long duration. But it’s significantly lighter than the Nikon 400mm f/2.8 Fl ED VR. The NIKKOR 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR is significantly lighter than this lens. and so is the Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2. For a more extended duration shoot, a monopod is advisable. And so, it’s mainly when the light drops and the f/5.6 aperture starts to struggle.

The 200-500mm may sound like a shorter focal length range when compared with the Tamron lens mentioned above or the comparative Sigma contemporary lens, but it is a sharp lens, and at the end of the day, that matters. Also, because the 200-500mm is an OEM lens, it has its advantages.

The 200-500 comes with a rubber gasket around the lens mount which suggests that the lens comes with some degree of weatherproofing. However, the lens isn’t wholly weatherproof. If you use this in inclement weather, you might want to use waterproof material to cover up your rig.

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