Amazed by the Nikon D500
Adding to my surprise at the quality of the images above is the fact that they were made not with the D500 and my 500mm f/4 prime lens, but with the 200-500mm f/5.6. Tony has also been raving about this new item in his kit bag, and of course I was skeptical for the predictable reasons. Zoom lenses, especially telephoto zoom lenses, are usually a trade off of convenience for image quality. This is why I lug around a prime 500mm lens and zoom with my feet and a 1.4x teleconverter.
But the quality of images I got with the 200-500mm f/5.6 lens was perhaps even more surprising than that of the D500. 200-500mm is a fantastically useful range for racing, and this new Nikon lens costs only $1,400. Yes, a lot of money, but again, compared to the Nikon 200-400mm f/4 at $7,000, $1,400 is pretty affordable especially when you get an additional 100mm of focal length at the long end.
Well, you’re saying, for $1,400 the quality isn’t going to be very good. But that’s just it – the quality is great – and for the cost of this lens, the quality is astounding. To make sure I was comparing apples to apples, I borrowed a 200-500mm from NPS and used it during the Sunday warm ups, then the Moto3 and Moto2 races, with my usual bodies, the D4 and D3X. Below are some examples, all with the 200-500mm f/5.6:
Now, before you get too excited and think Woo hoo! I’ll get this kit and my photos at the track will be perfect! – keep in mind that any camera gear is only as good as the photographer who is using it at the moment. Technique and experience are still as important as they ever were when it it comes to getting your photos to turn out the way you want. Using telephoto lenses to photograph little motorcycles going fast remains very challenging.
However, a D500 with Nikon’s 200-500mm lens will provide what you need your gear to do at the track. They offer fast accurate autofocus and excellent image quality. So if your photos come out blurry, it ain;t the gear’s fault – which is really what you want with camera gear. It’s lousy to come away with unsatisfying photos and think that you could have done better if you’d had better equipment. It’s actually really good to know that your gear is up to scratch and that any mistakes are yours alone – this provides the feedback needed to improve your technique and get better images via thoughtful practice.
So while I have not yet been able to provide a tidy answer to the Patreon supporter who has $1,000 to spend on track photo gear, this D500 200-500mm f/5.6 combo provides excellent performance and quality at $3,400. I don’t know what Canon has in this price range, but I believe this is the best balance of price and performance I’ve ever seen.
After some time goes by, you’ll be able to pick up a used D500 and a used 200-500mm f/5.6 for significantly less than $3,400. Perhaps $2,500 will get you this deadly combo within a few months if you happen upon the right sellers at the right time.
So if you’ve been wondering how to spend your money on camera gear for track shots, here is my best advice at this moment. These two items are fantastic combination at a relatively affordable price.
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