The Perfect D500 Lens Kit

Okay, short answer: there isn’t one. None. Nada. Zilch. (buzz buzz ;~)

Let’s deal with the obvious first. At 200mm and above, you’re fine. You can even just downsize in Nikon’s own line to get "DX equivalents" that are exceptional:

  • 200mm f/2 to sub for 300mm f/2.8
  • 300mm f/2.8 to sub for 500mm f/4 (okay you’re shy a few mm)
  • 400mm f/2.8 to sub for the 600mm f/4

Done. Plus you can go longer if you want (e.g. 500mm, 600mm, 800mm).

So at the serious telephoto end there is no problem at all. 

Let’s step down to the short telephoto. Okay, here we can’t make up for the FX one stop advantage, and we get focal lengths that aren’t exactly historic so our perspectives and shooting positions get screwed up. Sure, we can put the 70-200mm f/2.8 on the camera, but we really want a 50-135mm f/2. 

In particular, if you’re shooting sports with a D500 in the short telephoto range, you’re a little long, so you’re going to be backing up with a lot of indoor sports, or trying to find another solution. 

In the mid-range we have two choices from Nikon: the old 17-55mm f/2.8 and the new 16-80mm f/2.8-4. Neither is quite perfect for the job. The older lens just doesn’t get wide enough to sub for the 24-70mm f/2.8 we normally use in the mid-range with our FX Nikons. The newer lens gives up some aperture, and in a range where we probably don’t want to give that up. 

Note that I’m not going by optical qualities here. The 70-200mm f/2.8, the 17-55mm f/2.8, and the 16-80mm f/2.8-4 are all good lenses optically. It’s in focal length, perspective, depth of field isolation, and grabbing back some of the disadvantage of the smaller crop sensor that these Nikkors are failing us. We really want a 16-50mm f/2 and 50-135mm f/2 DX pair, minimum. 

But then we get to more dramatic wide angle and Nikon’s offerings suddenly become a big problem. The 12-24mm f/4 needs a complete redesign if it’s going to live on in the lineup. The 10-24mm f/3.5-5.6 isn’t the right lens for a D500, either. Plus we have no 20mm, 24mm, 28mm, or 35mm equivalent fast prime. 

So Nikon is arbitrarily making the D500 a D5 twin that’s mostly good for distant subjects that move fast: outdoor sports, wildlife. If they think they’re going to sell as many D500’s as they did D300’s, they’re going to need to rethink the DX lens lineup.

Lest you think that you can fill in some gaps with third party lenses, we have situations like this: the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 appears to not be able to focus well with autofocus sensors outside the central region; the Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 will hold the camera’s meter active an extra minute above your setting. I’m still working my way through the rest of the field. 

Minimum lens set to make the D500 really a mini-D5 and sell like hotcakes (what I want is listed, what I’d accept is in parens):

  • 14mm f/2.8 (f/4)
  • 16mm f/2 (f/2.8)
  • 18mm f/2 (f/2.8)
  • 24mm f/2 (f/2.8)
  • 12-24mm f/2.8 (f/4) re-do
  • 16-50mm f/2 (f/2.8)
  • 50-135mm f/2 (f/2.8)
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