Nikon has a new compact 500mm f/5.6 lens in the works

It's been a pretty quiet year for Nikon so far, with no new camera announcements and just one lens launched. Now, though, the company has announced the development of a new AF-S 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR telephoto prime lens.

While Nikon already has the fast AF-S 500mm f/4E FLED VR, the new lens, which will sit alongside that one, should be significantly smaller and lighter thanks to the inclusion of a Phase Fresnel (PF) element. 

We first saw this type of Phase Fresnel (PF) lens element in the AF-S 300mm f/4E PF ED VR lens back in 2015. Weighing in at 755g, that optic was incredibly small and lightweight considering its focal length, and the AF-S 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR optic should be similarly compact. 

The Phase Fresnel (PF) lens element

What's so special about the Phase Fresnel (PF) element? Developed by Nikon, it effectively compensates for chromatic aberration utilizing the photo diffraction phenomenon. Compared to typical lenses, which employ an optical system using the photorefractive phenomenon, this allows lens designers to create remarkably compact and lightweight lens bodies with fewer elements.

photo diffraction phenomenon

Light has characteristics as a waveform. When a waveform faces an obstacle, it attempts to go around and behind it, and this characteristic is referred to as diffraction. Diffraction causes chromatic dispersion in the reverse order of refraction.

If you've ever tried to shoot with a 500mm telephoto prime lens you'll appreciate how tricky they can be too shoot with handheld – a monopod is often an essential piece of kit. However, Nikon claims the new lens will be small and light enough to use handheld in a wide variety of situations. 

Apart from the name of the lens and the fact that it'll include a PF lens design, we don't know a great deal more about the AF-S 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR lens at this stage. Nikon says more information, including the final specifications, pricing and what the lens actually looks like, will be announced later this year. 

Phil Hall

Phil Hall is an experienced writer and editor having worked on some of the largest photography magazines in the UK, and now edit the photography channel of TechRadar, the UK's biggest tech website and one of the largest in the world. He has also worked on numerous commercial projects, including working with manufacturers like Nikon and Fujifilm on bespoke printed and online camera guides, as well as writing technique blogs and copy for the John Lewis Technology guide.