Nikon Reflex-NIKKOR 500mm 1:8 Ai N (New) Macro Lens (f/8)

Review of the Nikon Reflex-NIKKOR 500mm 1:8 Ai N (New) Macro Lens (f/8).

Overall Rating:


This catadioptric lens was introduced in 1983 and discontinued in 2005 — a long run. It replaced the multicoated "C" variant of 1974. About 32,000 units were produced.

There were three versions of this lens produced starting with the 50cm Reflex-Nikkor of 1961. Of all versions, this Ai/N version is the best because of its macro/close focusing distance (to 1:2.5 or 0.4×) and its superior optics. It comes with a tripod mount that is not truly needed but is nice because it has detents every 90°.

The copy of this review was enhanced with the addition of a dandelion chip which gives autofocus confirmation on the Nikon Z mirrorless cameras. All images on this page were taken with the silent/electronic shutter. This is required due to the shake from the mechanical shutter.

moon (detail)
pequin peppers (detail)
small flower (detail)

Its all-metal design is a joy to use. It takes 82mm filters/hoods on the front and takes 39mm screw-in filters. It has a whopping 500° focus throw and weighs just 840g.

Sharpness is very high but contrast is very low making the lens appear less sharp than it actually is. Rest assured, this lens is sharp. The moon shot above had a lot of clarity added and blacks brought down to eliminate a glow.

sharpness is great, contrast less so (detail)

Chromatic aberration is non-existant which is inherent in this design of lens.

The bokeh from this lens is either loved or hated.

foreground and background bokeh (detail)

This lens is good for infrared photography because mirror lenses do not suffer from focus shift in the infrared spectrum. There is no IR hot spot with this design.

Distortion and vignetting are well controlled, something most mirror lenses cannot claim.


This is an excellent lightweight, all-metal lens with a fixed aperture of f/8. It absolutely requires a tripod and electronic shutter for maximum sharpness. A dandelion chip is a great addition to make focusing easier on Nikon Z cameras thanks to electronic focus confirmation.

If using for landspace photography, the bokeh really does not often get in the way, but it can present a problem for some.

For action photography, it is a difficult lens to use especially without a Nikon Z camera which can be programmed to shoot only when the subject is in focus.

Overall, considering its reach, lightweight, compactness and sharpness, it is a must buy.

Nikon Nikon Nikon Nikon Nikon
pink elements are mirrors

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