Nikon 600mm f/4 E FL with the Nikon D500 (and extenders!)

You will not often find these two toys together in the hands of the same (consumer/’prosumer’) photographer.  The 600mm is Nikon’s flagship super telephoto lens, a bit more ‘common’ than the 800mm, with a price to match (i.e. relatively expensive). The D500 is a crop frame (1.5x) camera and (relatively) less expensive than Nikon’s full frame DSLRs, yet still a professional model. The 1.5x crop factor is nice when you cannot afford the pricy long telephoto lenses, and so you get an affordable alternative when you use a crop frame camera with a relatively cheaper lens and lower focal length.

However… if you do have both you can actually carry out some nice experiments! For example, a 600mm on a D500 gives you effectively 900mm to play with. 900mm is a LOT of focal length. But then there are also the extenders. The ones in my bag are the 1.4x and the 2x, so on a D500 this gives you 1260mm and 1800mm respectively. That’s 1800mm! That’s basically INSANE!

Anyway, on a sunny day not so long ago, I decided to do a little test and see how the images and resolution compare. Could I even manage to capture sharp images at this ridiculous focal length? Well, the 1.5x crop factor doesn’t mean the number of sharp images are reduced by 1.5; however the 2x extender does make things a bit harder. I was also wondering if I would ever use these combinations in the field, or if I would simply stick to using the 600mm on my Nikon 4DS and D500. …Only one way to find out.

First, my favourite little electric box at around 100 meters distance. The angle of view of this object is pretty close to my real ‘eye’ view; i.e. around 45-50mm.

First, the D4S + 600mm f/4E combo, 100% crop:

Nikon 600mm f/4E FL on Nikon D4S, f/4, 1/800 s., ISO 100

Tack sharp. Now for the D500 + 600mm f/4E, also 100% crop. What does 900mm look like?

Nikon 600mm f/4E FL on Nikon D500, f/4, 1/1000 s., ISO 100

Wow, the D500 makes a serious difference! Not only do you get the 1.5 crop factor out of the box (or rather sensor) but you get an extra 6 megapixels to play with. That’s 6MP more on a surface which is 1.5 times smaller. Let’s push things more and add the 1.4x extender:

Nikon 600mm f/4E FL on Nikon D500 + TC-14E III (1260mm), f/5.6, 1/500 s., ISO 100

I shot this combo wide open, at f/5.6 so it is allowed to be a little soft, but it’s too soft for my liking. I did test the differences between the new TC-14E III and its predecessor before and I found the older model to outperform the newer one, believe it or not. I guess I’ll be testing the differences between these two again soon and if the results stay the same I may be tempted to return my new TC-14E III.

Now let’s get maximum crazy: 600mm + D500 + 2x extender = 1800mm.

Nikon 600mm f/4E FL on Nikon D500 + TC-20E III (1800mm), f/8, 1/400 s., ISO 100

So that’s what 1800mm gives you compared to around 45-50mm (see top image) at 100% crop. The image is still a little soft as it’s shot wide open (f/8 with the 2 stop loss of the 2x extender) but I actually like it better than with the 1.4x extender; it seems a bit less soft. Also note the shutter speed: 1/400 sec.! Now, I did not get a very high keeper rate at this focal length and shutter speed; perhaps 10-20%. However, this does show you can get relatively sharp images at 1800mm! Would you crop to 100% in reality? Off course you wouldn’t. So I took the image and instead I cropped it to something like 50-60% instead. Would it be sharp?

Nikon 600mm f/4E FL on Nikon D500 + TC-20E III (1800mm), f/8, 1/500 s., ISO 100

That isn’t too bad at all! So you can take sharp shots at an insane 1800mm (effectively) with a 1/500 s. shutter speed using the 600mm f/4E FL, the D500 and the 2x extender. Let’s check the differences one more time. First, the view with your own eyes:

And then at 1800mm effective focal length with the combo:

This tells me the TC-20E III performs very well on the D500/600mm f/4 E FL combo and results in an incredible 1800mm which can result in very usable images!

The image below wasn’t actually shot with this exotic combo but rather the ‘normal’ 600mm/D4S combo, hand held. Just thought it was a nice way to end this article :)

Please note that these images are protected by copyright and are not allowed to be used in any commercial way. If you’re interested in personal use only (like using as personal desktop/tablet/mobile background) then that’s fine; however any other use is prohibited by law.

And as usual, for any questions, comments or feedback, simple add comments below (preferred) or otherwise drop me a note at:

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