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  • Fast, furious & flexible: Testing the new Nikkor 200-500mm at the Belgian Grand Prix

  • Following up on our first blog post where he tested the newly launched 500mm at the British Grand Prix, experienced F1 photographer, Mark Sutton’s next stop was the Belgian Grand Prix and this time, he was equipped with the new AF-S 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR. Did it perform to his liking? We asked him five questions to find out!

     

    What did you think of the 200-500mm’s zoom performance?

    Great new zoom lens! Sometimes I need flexibility and it delivers on that. In F1, we have to shoot into garages, the subject can be 5m close or 25m away! This Zoom is just stunning at capturing close-in subjects. Normally, I would use a fixed 500mm but this gives me much more flexibility, it’s light and zooms from 200-500 with total ease.

    Max Verstappen (NDL) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR10 at Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice, Spa Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday 21 August 2015.
    Overview shot at 200mm setting of the cars leaving the garage (D4S with the new AF-S 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR). Max Verstappen (NDL) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR10 at Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice, Spa Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday 21 August 2015.

     

    You’ve commented before that an F1 photographer would need a fixed aperture of 5.6 over the entire range, why is that?

    Having that fixed aperture over the whole zoom means that you can easily choose a fast shutter speed if required and you don’t lose a stop by zooming to 500mm, which means the brightness of the lens remains the same over the entire zoom range. This is very important when shooting in low-light conditions, or while capturing fast moving subjects like F1 race cars.

    Sebastian Vettel (GER) Ferrari SF15-T at Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice, Spa Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday 21 August 2015.
    Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel waiting in his car in the garage, before re-entering Free Practice 1 (D4S with the new AF-S 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR). Sebastian Vettel (GER) Ferrari SF15-T at Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice, Spa Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday 21 August 2015.

     

    You’ve commented before that an F1 photographer would need a fixed aperture of 5.6 over the entire range, why is that?

    I’ve used Nikon products for a long time and the quality has always been spot on and this is no less true for the 200-500m. Of course using a Nikon D4S body helps, but I was really surprised at the sharpness and clarity of the images, and colour balance of images taken in and out of the garage during a session in the Pits, like this close-up helmet shot of Max Verstappen, which I shot during Free Practice 1. The drivers tend to spend time sat in their cars during the session whilst adjustments are made between runs. This presents a great opportunity to document a driver’s concentration and you don’t want poor lighting conditions to hold you back – so your gear has to deliver at all times.

    Max Verstappen (NDL) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR10 at Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice, Spa Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday 21 August 2015.
    Max Verstappen awaiting final car adjustments in the garage. (D4S with the new AF-S 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR) Max Verstappen (NDL) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR10 at Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice, Spa Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday 21 August 2015.

    How did the 200-500mm perform when shooting from the hand with 4.5 stops VR and Sports-VR mode for tracking?

    I didn’t get the chance to shoot on track, but captured the cars leaving the garage in FP1
    (first Free Practice) on Friday morning as they headed out on track. The tracking for autofocus was amazing, even shooting handheld at 500mm setting. Continuous focus is very accurate and fast: tracking subjects the same way as the much more expensive 500mm lens does, and still delivering images that are vibrant and sharp.

    Will Stevens (GBR) Manor GP at Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice, Spa Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday 21 August 2015.
    The cars leaving the garage shot at 500mm setting (D4S with the new AF-S 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR). Will Stevens (GBR) Manor GP at Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice, Spa Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday 21 August 2015.

     

    The 200-500mm is said to offer surprising value for money (lens retails for GBP1179/€1599 only), would you agree?

    I feel it is amazing value for money. This lens is truly a giant in the terms of its zoom capabilities with sharpness and auto focus tracking, but it’s the variety and flexibility that really appeals to me. I would recommend this as a great sports lens for all forms of sports, and perfect for the safari too!

    Mark Sutton (GBR) F1 Photographer and the new Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Lens at Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice, Spa Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday 21 August 2015.
    Mark Sutton shooting his D4S with the new AF-S 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR handheld, using Sports VR mode. Mark Sutton (GBR) F1 Photographer and the new Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Lens at Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice, Spa Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday 21 August 2015.

     

    Follow Mark Sutton on Twitter to get tweets and shots covering all the F1 action, as they happen.

    Next, we ask travel, wildlife and adventure photographer, Chris Lennan, how the much anticipated lens: the AF-S NIKKOR 24–70mm f/2.8E ED VR performed when shooting the official unedited sample images in Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, & London. Stay tuned!