Nikon Z9 plus 500mm f5.6 PF lens

nikon z9 with 500mm pf
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On a recent trip to the Caprivi strip, Northern Namibia I had a few hours with the Nikon Z9 and a 500mm f5.6 PF Lens attached.

Here are my observations and images.

How well does the 500 mm PF lens work with the Z9?

The Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR lens was released in 2018 as a lighter and cheaper alternative to the 500mm f4.

As this is an F mount lens, an FTZ adapter is required to enable its use on the Nikon Z series mirrorless cameras.

I found the lens to work perfectly on the Z9 and was very happy with the shots that I came away with.

Take a look at the image of a fish eagle in flight below. I very much doubt that I could have done much better with a native Z mount lens.

nikon z9 with 500mm pf
1/4000 sec, f/7,1, Mode: Manual, Exp comp: +2/3, ISO: 1100

Will the FTZ adapter work on the Nikon Z9?

I was using the second generation of the FTZ adapter – the FTZ II.

There was no impact on focusing speed as far as I could tell. As the adapter does not have any glass elements in it I would have been surprised if using it had any adverse effects.

These images are all of fast moving subjects and I had no problem locking on to them and maintaining focus.

nikon z9 with 500mm pf fish eagle
1/4000 sec, f/7,1, Mode: Manual, Exp comp: +2/3, ISO: 1250

What are the best settings when using the 500mm f5.6 PF with the Z9?

My time with the 500mm PF was exclusively spent photographing birds on the Zambezi River.

Because of this I had the camera set up for birds in flight and the default settings I used were:


Mode: Manual

Aperture: f7.1

Shutter speed: 1/4000 sec

ISO: Auto


Focus mode: Wide tracking switching to 3D tracking when possible

VR: Off

nikon z9 with 500 mm pf african jacana
1/4000 sec, f/7,1, Mode: Manual, Exp comp: +2/3, ISO: 1250
nikon z9 with 500 mm pf juvenile jacana
1/4000 sec, f/7,1, Mode: Manual, Exp comp: +2/3, ISO: 1100

Image quality, depth of field and focus accuracy

I was really impressed with the 500mm PF/Z9 combination. The 500mm PF is easy to shoot hand held and this was very important for this particular outing as we were in a small boat. 

No possibility of setting up gimbals and fancy panning systems.

I had some challenges with focus tracking but that is a Z9 issue (now nearly rectified by firmware update 3.0) and nothing to do with the lens.

You can see from the images above how good the rendering of the out of focus background is – even at f7.1.


nikon z9 with 500mm pf goliath heron
1/3200 sec, f/6,3, Mode: Manual,Exp comp: +2/3, ISO: 400

Is sharpness impacted by putting an F mount lens on a Z mount body?

Definitely not. The image quality and sharpness are all excellent.

I have not had much use of this combination in low light situations but I have no reason to believe that the smaller f5.6 aperture of the 500mm PF lens is a major disadvantage.

Whatever small sacrifice there may be when compared to the 500mm f4 is not enough to warrant spending so much additional cash.


nikon z9 with 500mm pf african darter
1/4000 sec, f/7,1, Mode: Manual, Exp comp: +2/3, ISO: 1250

Final Thoughts

Using the 500mm PF was an absolute pleasure.

I had already decided NOT to buy the Nikon Z 600mm f/4 TC VR S lens due to the extortionate price tag of USD 15 500. You can read my thoughts on this by reading my article on it – link below.

The f mount 500mm f5.6 PF lens is now selling heavily discounted new, and some second hand deals are starting to appear.

I was going to wait for the 200- 600 mm and sell a body part when that eventually gets released – perhaps I should stick with the 500mm PF? 

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