Shooting Hummingbirds with Nikon D500 + Nikon 200-500mm f5.6E ED VR

  • Aperture: ƒ/5.6
  • Camera: NIKON D500
  • Focal length: 500mm
  • ISO: 500
  • Shutter speed: 1/1600s

I recently took out a Nikon D500 body and Nikon 200-500mm f5.6E ED VR lens to try my hand at photographing Anna’s Hummingbirds. As you may know, the Anna’s Hummingbird is the official city bird of Vancouver. They can be year round residents of the city, as many residents are nice enough to maintain feeders all year. The Anna’s Hummingbird will start their nesting season in late February, and into mid-March, when they will build their nests and rear their young.

During this time, the hummingbirds will go out looking for the materials necessary to build their nests with.  A marvel of engineering, the birds will use spider webs, animal fur, bird feathers, lichen and cattail seeds as materials to build their nests.  Cattail seeds have large tufts of fluff attached to them, which are a favourite of hummingbirds.

I went to a park in Vancouver where cattails grow and waited for the hummingbirds to arrive.  I did not have to wait long, as within a few minutes of setting up, the first female Anna’s Hummingbird showed up to gather the cattail seeds.  They are such fast fliers, and only stick around for 3 ~ 5 seconds so you have to be fast! 

I have my camera set up so that the shutter speeds are at least 1/1600 sec in order to stop the motion of the rapidly flapping wings.  I chose the Nikon D500 body due to its excellent image quality, speed (10 fps) and buffer size (up to 200 RAW).  I chose the Nikon 200-500mm f5.6E VR lens due to its light weight and relatively small size (compared to my 600mm f4).  The body & lens combo did not disappoint, as the focusing was accurate and the D500 was able keep shooting long after other cameras would stop or slow down due to a full buffer.  One disadvantage of the 200-500mm lens is the relatively slow focusing speed (again, compared to my 600mm f4) but the performance of this camera and lens combination would have been unthinkable at this price point even just a few years ago! 

Another reason I love the Nikon D500 + Nikon 200-500mm f5.6 combination is the incredible efficiency of the stabilization system.  The photo below was handheld at 1/160 sec with the lens zoomed out to 500mm. 

  • Aperture: ƒ/5.6
  • Camera: NIKON D500
  • Focal length: 500mm
  • ISO: 500
  • Shutter speed: 1/160s

Here at Beau Photo, we sell and also rent the Nikon D500 DSLR & Nikon 200-500mm f5.6E ED VR lens.  The Nikon D500 rents for $175 per day or weekend and the Nikon 200-500mm f5.6 lens rents for $40 per day or weekend.  If you decide to purchase what you rented, we will also credit you back the rental towards a purchase for up to 30 days after the rental, and up to two days rental.

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