Looking for the ideal lens to capture those awe-inspiring moments as a sports or wildlife photographer? You’ve come to the right place. In this article, we will conduct a thorough analysis of two exceptional lenses: the adaptable Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 and the robust Nikon 500mm f/5.6 prime.
These lenses cater to different styles and preferences, making them top contenders in the world of sports and wildlife photography. This piece will delve into the distinctive characteristics and capabilities of both lenses, taking into consideration factors such as image quality, build, design, weather sealing, focusing performance, optical stabilization, aberration control, sharpness, bokeh quality, flare/ghosting resistance, and distortion control. By understanding these aspects, you’ll be able to make an informed decision that best suits your photography needs, elevating your skills to new heights. So, whether you’re a seasoned professional or an enthusiastic hobbyist, join us as we unravel the mysteries of these two exceptional lenses, helping you capture those unforgettable shots with precision and artistic flair. Let’s embark on this photographic journey and unlock the full potential of your sports and wildlife photography!
|Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm F5.6E ED VR||Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 500mm F5.6E PF ED VR|
|Focal Range (mm)||200-500||500|
|Max Format||35mm FF||35mm FF|
|Zoom Ratio (X)||2.5||1|
The Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 is a versatile telephoto lens with a fixed aperture of f/5.6 and a focal range of 200-500mm, making it ideal for sports and wildlife photography. Its zoom capabilities provide flexibility in composing shots at various distances, while its fixed aperture ensures consistent low light performance and depth of field control throughout the zoom range. However, its larger size and weight compared to prime lenses may be a disadvantage for some photographers. On the other hand, the Nikon 500mm f/5.6 is a prime telephoto lens, also with a fixed aperture of f/5.6. Its single focal length of 500mm allows for better optimization in terms of image quality, such as sharpness, contrast, and reduced chromatic aberration. It is generally smaller and lighter compared to zoom lenses, making it easier to handle and carry. However, the lack of zoom capabilities may limit its versatility in certain situations. When comparing these two lenses for sports and wildlife photography, the 200-500mm lens offers greater flexibility with its zoom range, enabling photographers to adapt to different shooting scenarios more easily. On the other hand, the 500mm lens may provide slightly better image quality and portability.
Design and Ease of Use
|Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm F5.6E ED VR||Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 500mm F5.6E PF ED VR|
|Diameter x Length (mm)||⌀108×267.5mm||⌀106×237mm|
|Filter Thread (mm)||95||95|
|Zoom Method||Rotary (extending)||No Zoom|
The Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 has a diameter of 108mm and a length of 267.5mm, with a weight of 2300 grams. Its larger size and weight could make it more challenging to carry and handle, particularly during extended shooting sessions. The increased size and weight may also affect the balance of the camera setup, potentially causing discomfort or difficulty in handling the camera. However, the zoom capabilities of this lens make it highly versatile for sports and wildlife photography, allowing photographers to adapt to various shooting scenarios. On the other hand, the Nikon 500mm f/5.6 is smaller and lighter, with a diameter of 106mm, a length of 237mm, and a weight of 1460 grams. This more compact and lightweight design offers better portability, making it easier to carry and handle. It is also more likely to provide a better balance when mounted on a camera, leading to a more comfortable shooting experience. However, the lack of zoom capabilities limits its versatility, making it more suitable for specific scenarios where the 500mm focal length is ideal. In conclusion, the 200-500mm lens is the superior choice for sports and wildlife photography due to its versatility, allowing photographers to adapt to different shooting scenarios. However, its larger size and weight may be a drawback for some photographers. The 500mm lens offers better portability and balance but is limited by its single focal length.
Lens Mount and Barrel
Equipped with a metal lens mount, the Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 lens also features a rubber gasket that provides protection against dust and moisture. Its lens barrel comprises a metal outer barrel with a high-grade plastic shell, while the inner barrel is made of plastic. When zooming, the barrel of the lens extends, and there’s a locking mechanism that keeps it in place at its minimum 200mm length. Although the lens changes its physical size when zooming in, it remains well-balanced with the camera. In contrast, the Nikon 500mm f/5.6 has a metal lens mount that also includes a rubber gasket to seal out dust and moisture between the lens and camera body. The lens barrel is a blend of metal and tough composite material, sealed to prevent dust and water from entering. The barrel’s diameter gradually broadens from the mount to the end, and it does not change its physical size when zooming in or out. A fixed rubber grip covers the front third of the lens barrel. While plastic lens barrels are generally lighter and more affordable, they may be more prone to wear and tear compared to metal barrels. Metal lens barrels are typically stronger and sturdier but heavier. When it comes to lens mounts, metals like brass, aluminum, and stainless steel are commonly used for their durability, whereas plastic mounts tend to be less durable but more cost-effective. In conclusion, the 200-500mm lens offers a versatile zoom range and a well-balanced design. The 500mm lens provides a sturdy build, a fixed physical size, and enhanced durability. As a photographer, selecting the optimal lens mount and barrel depends on your individual preferences and requirements. If you prioritize portability and affordability, the 200-500mm lens may be the better option. However, if durability and a more professional feel are important to you, the 500mm lens might be the ideal choice.
While the Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 comes with a rubber gasket at the lens mount to help prevent water ingress, it only offers partial weather sealing. It doesn’t have internal seals at the rings, switches, or front of the barrel, and there’s no fluorine coating on the front element. While this lens can withstand some cold, dust, and moisture, it’s worth mentioning that this lens isn’t explicitly engineered to endure intense abuse or harsh weather conditions, as is the case with professional-grade lenses. In contrast, the Nikon 500mm f/5.6 comes with full weather sealing that includes a rubber gasket at the lens mount and internal seals at the rings, switches, and front of the barrel. These features provide robust protection in various environmental conditions. The front element also has a fluorine coating, which prevents debris, droplets, grease, and moisture from adhering to the surface, making it easier to clean and maintain. Weather sealing protects lenses from dust, moisture, and light water splashes, ensuring durability and performance in different weather conditions. Fully weather-sealed lenses offer superior protection, durability, and performance in adverse conditions, while non-sealed lenses may require additional protection. To sum up, the 500mm lens surpasses the 200-500mm lens in terms of weather sealing capabilities, making it an excellent choice for photographers who often shoot in harsh conditions or need the added assurance of a fully weather-sealed lens. The 200-500mm lens provides some protection against the elements but may require extra care in more challenging environments.
The Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 lens boasts two rings – a ribbed zoom ring and a focus ring that’s covered in textured rubber. Both rings are designed to rotate smoothly with a high-quality feel. The zoom ring, situated towards the front of the lens, takes almost 180 degrees of rotation to zoom from 200mm to 500mm. The focus ring, closer to the camera body than the zoom ring, enables easy change of focal length while maintaining good balance and grip technique. The lens has a zoom lock switch at its shortest 200mm length to prevent zoom creep. The focus ring comes with a focus limiter function and allows for full-time manual focus override when set to the M/A position, along with a windowed distance scale. In contrast, the Nikon 500mm f/5.6 features a wide focus ring with a ridged rubberized surface, offering a comfortable and tactile experience. Located near the front of the lens, the lens offers precise control with a smooth rotation that covers a throw of 138 degrees in terms of manual focusing. The focus ring’s ergonomic design allows for easy and accurate adjustments. The lens includes a windowed distance scale but lacks a depth-of-field indicator. Manual focusing distance ranges from the minimum focus distance of 3 meters to infinity. Evaluating the rings on both lenses, the 200-500mm lens has a more versatile design, offering both zoom and focus rings, as well as a zoom lock switch and focus limiter function. The 500mm lens, however, has a wider focus ring with a smooth, precise rotation, providing a better manual focusing experience.
The Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 features a total of 4 switches on the side of the lens, including an AF/MF switch, a focus limiter switch, an IS switch, and a VR mode switch. The AF/MF switch enables full-time manual focus override, while the focus limiter switch restricts autofocus distance to a specified range. Handling the lens is a breeze with easily locatable switches for the vibration reduction system (VR) and VR mode, which turns the VR system on or off and toggles between normal and sport mode. The focus and zoom rings are well-designed and covered in textured rubber for comfortable handling, making the lens a pleasure to use. In contrast, the Nikon 500mm f/5.6 has a total of five selector switches, all positioned on the front third of the lens barrel, including a focus mode switch at the top for switching between M/A, A/M, and full manual focus modes, a focus limit switch for toggling between the full focus range and infinity to 8m, a VR settings switch for turning VR off, setting it to normal mode, or activating Sport mode, a Focus Function Selector, and a beep on/off switch. The focus function buttons can control three functions: AF-L activates focus lock during autofocus, Memory Recall stores a pre-set focus distance, and AF-ON enables simple focusing without using the camera body controls. The focus limiter switch allows users to restrict the lens to 8m to infinity, which can be helpful for shooting distant subjects. Additionally, there are 4 focus function buttons between the rubber grip and focus ring. Generally, the buttons and switches are strategically placed, but some users may experience difficulty in locating specific switches without taking their eyes off the camera, particularly when the switches are located in a line-up next to other switches. This can be especially challenging if the switches have a similar appearance or are in close proximity to each other. The VR switch is slightly off-center, making it less instinctive to locate, and some users may find that the Focus Function buttons are positioned too far out on the barrel to access comfortably while handholding the camera. Despite these minor issues, the lens offers a comprehensive set of controls that can be customized to suit individual preferences and shooting styles. In conclusion, the 200-500mm lens offers a straightforward and user-friendly set of switches/buttons, making it easy to operate and adjust settings. Meanwhile, the 500mm lens provides a more comprehensive and customizable set of controls, allowing for greater flexibility and control over various shooting situations. While the 500mm lens may require a bit more time to familiarize oneself with the switch/button layout, its superior range of options makes it the better choice for photographers seeking advanced control and customization options.
The filter thread material of Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 is metal, which ensures durability and a secure fit for filters. Moreover, during focusing, the front element and filter thread do not rotate, making it easy to use the lens with filters such as polarizers and graduated neutral density filters.
While the 95mm filter size may be less common, there are high-quality filters available from reputable brands like B+W and Hoya that are compatible with this lens. These filters provide excellent protection and performance, lasting for many years.
In contrast, the Nikon 500mm f/5.6 has a soft plastic filter thread with a size of 95mm. One convenient feature is that the front element and filter thread do not rotate during focus, making it easy to use with filters such as polarizers and graduated neutral density filters.
To avoid cross-threading, place the filter flat against the front of the lens, turn it counterclockwise until you feel a slight click, and then slowly screw it in clockwise. If it doesn’t turn smoothly, back it out and try again to prevent damaging the thread on your lens.
In conclusion, both lenses have the same filter thread size of 95mm, making them equal in terms of compatibility and filter options. However, the 200-500mm lens has a metal filter thread, offering increased durability compared to the soft plastic filter thread of the 500mm lens. Nonetheless, both lenses provide the convenience of non-rotating front elements, making them suitable for use with various filters.
A one-piece plastic bayonet design lens hood comes with the Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 lens, which is included in the box/package. It can be reversed and placed back on the lens when transporting. With a 5″ diameter and 4″ length, the lens hood is quite large and effectively protects the lens from unwanted light and potential damage. The material is plastic and the finish is smooth, allowing the lens hood to be rotated smoothly. On the other hand, the Nikon 500mm f/5.6 comes with an HB-84 bayonet-mount lens hood as standard, which is made of plastic and features a metal locking latch. However, it does not have a cutout window for polarizer adjustment, so you may want to remove the hood when using a circular polarizing filter. The generously sized hood fits via a bayonet mount to the front of the lens. It is not made of carbon fiber or alloy, and one area, in particular, is prone to getting cracked, making it vulnerable to damage. Despite this, the hood is sufficient to protect the front element if used carefully. In conclusion, both lenses come with bayonet-mount lens hoods, but the 200-500mm lens hood appears to be more practical due to its reversible design and smooth rotation. The 500mm lens hood’s lack of a polarizer adjustment cutout and vulnerability to cracking make it less versatile and durable compared to the 200-500mm lens hood.
The Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 lens comes with a tripod collar that’s specifically designed to support the weight of the lens and provide a stable platform when mounted on a tripod. While the collar is a useful addition, it’s worth noting that it only has a single point of connection that’s located far back on the lens barrel. This could be improved upon by having a two-point stabilization system for added stability, similar to Kirk and RRS replacement lens collars. While the tripod collar is not directly compatible with Arca-Swiss, some photographers choose to replace the stock collar with an aftermarket one that provides better support and compatibility for their particular needs, allowing for more comfortable handheld use. In contrast, the Nikon 500mm f/5.6 comes with a rotating and removable tripod foot, which is well-designed and allows for smooth switching between horizontal and vertical orientation. The collar itself isn’t removable, but the small foot with the tripod socket is, so you can take it off if you don’t plan on using the feature. The collar is a standard 20 tripod thread and is easy to tighten with force to prevent it from loosening. The collar is not Arca-Swiss compatible, but it works well for general day-to-day use and allows for intermittent checking.
Focusing and Optical Stabilization
|Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm F5.6E ED VR||Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 500mm F5.6E PF ED VR|
|AF Motor||Silent Wave Motor||Silent Wave Motor|
|Rotating Front Element||Does not rotate on focusing||Does not rotate on focusing|
|Min Focus Distance||2.2m||3m|
|Max Magnification (X)||0.22||0.18|
|Full-Time Manual Focus||Yes||Yes|
With its built-in Silent Wave Motor (SWM), the Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 lens ensures a noiseless autofocus experience and permits full-time manual focus override in the M/A position. The lens boasts impressive autofocus speed, surpassing that of many Nikon f/1.8 primes in terms of initial focus acquisition. At 500mm, it takes approximately 1 second to focus from close to infinity, while at 300mm, it takes around 0.8 seconds. Low-light performance is generally decent but may slow down slightly at 500mm. Focusing accurately and consistently is a strong point of this lens, with excellent repeatability. The manual focus action is smooth, and the wide focus ring allows for precise focus adjustment. An internally focusing design is employed by the lens, which means that its length remains unchanged and the front element doesn’t rotate during focusing. This feature makes it a breeze to use with polarizing filters. On the other hand, the Nikon 500mm f/5.6 autofocus performance is impressive, delivering fast and quiet operation, thanks to Nikon’s Silent Wave Motor AF system. Focusing speed is quite fast, taking about 0.45 seconds to focus from close to infinity. In good light conditions, the lens can focus accurately and track moving subjects effectively. In low-light situations, there might be occasional hunting, but it’s still a fast lens. Initial autofocus acquisition speed is excellent, and the lens offers manual focus override for greater control. Smooth manual focus action is a notable feature of the lens, and it also employs an internally focusing design that maintains the length of the lens regardless of the zoom and focus settings. However, the lens does exhibit some focus breathing, which might be a concern for cinematographers. In conclusion, both lenses exhibit strong focusing performance, but the 500mm lens edges out the 200-500mm lens with its faster autofocus speed and excellent tracking capabilities, making it more suitable for capturing fast-moving subjects. The 200-500mm lens still offers great focusing accuracy and consistency, making it a solid choice for a variety of situations. Overall, the 500mm lens takes the lead in focusing performance, providing a superior experience for photographers who require rapid and precise autofocus.
Equipped with a highly effective Vibration Reduction (VR) system, the Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 lens provides stabilization of up to 4.5 stops, which enables sharp images even when shooting at slower shutter speeds. It operates silently, making it ideal for both photography and video recording. Two modes of stabilization, namely Normal and Sport, are available with the latter optimized for tracking fast-moving subjects. When shooting at a 500mm focal length with VR on, shots can be usable at shutter speeds as slow as 1/60 seconds and even down to 1/25 seconds in some cases, demonstrating the impressive performance of the stabilization system. On the other hand, the Nikon 500mm f/5.6 features an optical stabilization system, known as Vibration Reduction (VR), claimed to provide a 4-stop advantage, particularly useful for long lenses. The VR system is quiet and offers three settings: Off, Normal, and Sport. Normal mode is ideal for still subjects and general use, while Sport mode is designed for moving subjects and panning shots. At 1/100 sec (3 stops), there are no outliers in sharpness compared to 1/800 sec with VR off. At 1/50 sec (4 stops), there are 4 outliers in 20 shots, and at 1/25 sec (5 stops), the results become erratic with 7 outliers in 20 shots. Finally, at 1/13 sec (6 stops), the average image quality drops significantly with only 50% of the shots producing usable sharpness. In conclusion, both lenses offer effective optical stabilization systems, with the 200-500mm lens providing slightly better performance, delivering up to 4.5 stops of stabilization compared to the 4-stop advantage of the 500mm lens. This makes the 200-500mm lens superior in terms of optical stabilization, providing photographers with greater flexibility when shooting handheld or in low-light situations.
|Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm F5.6E ED VR||Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 500mm F5.6E PF ED VR|
|Special Elements||3 ED elements||1 PF + 3 ED elements, Nano Crystal and fluorine coatings|
The Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 exhibits minimal chromatic aberration, even on extremely contrasted edges, making it difficult to find areas with color fringing at a 200% crop. At 200mm and 300mm focal lengths, chromatic aberration levels are minimal, but they slightly increase towards 400mm and 500mm focal lengths. The lens shows some obvious cat’s-eye effect towards the borders/corners of the sensor. Additionally, moving towards the corners, some noticeable coma is present, and the bokeh exhibits an “onion-ring” effect. Nevertheless, the extra-low dispersion lens elements significantly reduce spherical aberration, enhancing the sharpness and contrast of the lens. In comparison, the Nikon 500mm f/5.6 effectively controls chromatic aberration and coma, thanks to the Phase Fresnel element and other special lens elements employed. This results in little to no purple or blue fringing along contrasty edges, and no haloing or color artifacts around bright point-light sources. Spherical aberration is well-controlled, producing good diffraction spikes up to f/8.0 and good bokeh with smooth transition zones in the background. However, the foreground may exhibit a slight tendency towards double contours. In conclusion, both lenses display a commendable performance in controlling aberrations, but the 500mm lens has a slight edge over the 200-500mm lens. The 500mm lens effectively manages chromatic aberration, coma, and spherical aberration, resulting in higher overall image quality.
Across the zoom range, the Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 delivers exceptional center sharpness, albeit with some corner softness at longer focal lengths and wide open apertures. However, corner sharpness improves significantly when the lens is stopped down, often reaching its peak around f/11. When set at f/5.6, the Nikon 200-500mm lens delivers very good center sharpness at 200mm, which reaches excellent levels at f/8. However, sharpness tends to decrease as you zoom in, and there is a noticeable drop at 500mm, although it remains usable. Using a teleconverter may affect autofocus accuracy and further reduce sharpness. In contrast, the Nikon 500mm f/5.6 exhibits impressive sharpness across various shooting scenarios. Center sharpness is exceptional, even when shooting wide open at f/5.6, and remains high up to and including f/16. Corner sharpness is also superb for distant shots where the whole frame is in focus, with the edges of the frame being sharpest at f/8. When stopping down a notch, the sharpness improves further, and good results can be obtained at f/11 and f/16 settings, although diffraction limits the optical performance from f/22 onwards. The lens maintains its excellent sharpness even when used with teleconverters, although there may be a slight drop in performance when using the AF-S TC-17E II. However, the lens still performs very well with the AF-S TC-14E III attached. In terms of the sharpest aperture, it’s safe to say that f/8 delivers optimal results for edge-to-edge sharpness. In conclusion, both lenses demonstrate commendable sharpness, but the 500mm lens outperforms the 200-500mm lens in terms of consistent sharpness across various shooting scenarios and apertures. The 500mm lens delivers exceptional center and corner sharpness, even when used with teleconverters. Therefore, if sharpness is a top priority, the 500mm lens is the superior choice.
Rendering pleasing bokeh quality is one of the strengths of the Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 lens, producing smooth and beautiful out-of-focus areas. Contributing to this effect is the iris diaphragm with 9 rounded aperture blades, which creates an attractive rendition of the bokeh. The lens is effective in handling specular highlights and providing background isolation, resulting in attractive bokeh without any onion-shaped highlights or distracting patterns. The bokeh balls exhibit minimal longitudinal chromatic aberration, and while the cat’s-eye effect is present, it is not overly intrusive. On the other hand, the Nikon 500mm f/5.6 produces a generally pleasing bokeh, with smooth out-of-focus areas in many situations, especially when the background is far away from the subject. The 9-bladed rounded diaphragm contributes to the softness of the bokeh. While it is not as creamy as an f/4 lens, it still offers good subject separation and depth. However, when there are highlighted objects or contrasting patterns in the background closer to the subject, the bokeh may appear harsher, with marbling patterns and darker edges in the highlights. Despite these occasional drawbacks, the lens provides a good balance of lightweight design, fast autofocus, and nice out-of-focus rendering at f/5.6. In conclusion, both lenses offer pleasing bokeh quality, but the 200-500mm lens appears to have a slight edge in terms of consistency and handling specular highlights and background isolation. While the 500mm lens provides a good balance of features, the 200-500mm lens stands out in producing a more appealing bokeh, making it the superior choice for bokeh quality.
The Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 lens exhibits good resistance to flare, but ghosting and flare may still occur if a strong light source is located directly in the frame or near the edge of the image. However, as long as the light is clearly outside the image frame, there are no artifacts produced. Additionally, the flare patterns produced by this lens are simple and without extra coloration. While it is important to be mindful of strong light sources located directly outside the frame, the overall flare and ghosting performance is good. In contrast, the Nikon 500mm f/5.6 exhibits a high level of resistance to flare and ghosting, thanks to the incorporation of the Phase Fresnel element and other advanced coating technologies like the Nano Crystal Coat. However, in certain situations involving strong light sources within or just outside the frame, you may encounter ring-shaped colored flare. This can be minimized using Nikon’s Capture NX-D software, which includes a PF Flare Control feature. In real-world shooting scenarios, most users have not experienced significant issues with flare or ghosting, and the lens continues to deliver sharp and detailed images. In conclusion, both lenses exhibit resistance to flare and ghosting, but the 500mm lens has a slight advantage due to the incorporation of advanced technologies and coatings. While the 200-500mm lens performs well, the 500mm lens offers superior flare and ghosting resistance, making it the better choice in this aspect.
Impressive control over vignetting is exhibited by the Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 lens, with only minor darkening of the edges noticeable at focal lengths beyond 300mm when focused at infinity. Vignetting is practically non-existent at shorter focal lengths. While some vignetting is present, it can be easily corrected in post-processing and may even add a charming quality to the images. On the other hand, the Nikon 500mm f/5.6 exhibits minimal vignetting when shooting wide open on a full-frame camera, and any vignetting present is easily corrected. When in-camera corrections are disabled or when shooting in Raw format, there is a -1.2EV drop at the corners at f/5.6, which reduces to less than -0.4EV drop at f/8 and smaller settings. In real-world images, this level of vignetting is hardly noticeable. Nikon’s standard vignette control for JPG shooters reduces the corner deficit at f/5.6 to an insignificant -0.7EV.
Across various settings and distances, the Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 lens displays minimal pincushion distortion, which is typically not noticeable in real-world scenarios. Most Nikon DSLRs have an automatic distortion correction feature, and for those that don’t, the distortion can be removed using Photoshop’s Lens Distortion tool. Despite these minor imperfections, the lens is capable of producing sharp images with minimal linear distortion. In summary, distortion is generally manageable and can be easily corrected in post-processing. On the other hand, the Nikon 500mm f/5.6 exhibits slight pincushion distortion, which is effectively corrected by the lens profile when auto distortion control is enabled. In real-world usage, this distortion is not prominent and shouldn’t pose any significant issues for most photographers. Additionally, there’s no perceptible barrel or pincushion distortion in images when measured. Overall, the distortion is well-controlled and shouldn’t negatively impact image quality. In conclusion, both lenses showcase effective control over distortion, with the 500mm lens slightly outperforming the 200-500mm lens due to its minimal presence of distortion.
The Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 offers greater flexibility with its zoom range and slightly better optical stabilization, making it an excellent choice for adapting to different shooting scenarios. The lens also provides a more appealing bokeh and good focusing performance. However, its larger size and weight might be a drawback for some photographers.
The Nikon 500mm f/5.6 stands out with its superior image quality, faster autofocus speed, better weather sealing, and enhanced durability. It also excels in controlling aberrations, flare/ghosting, and distortion. However, its fixed focal length may limit its versatility in certain situations.
In conclusion, both lenses have their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to sports and wildlife photography.
If versatility, optical stabilization, and bokeh quality are your top priorities, the 200-500mm lens may be the better option.
However, if image quality, focusing performance, weather sealing, and durability are more important to you, the 500mm lens would be the ideal choice.