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Grant, you won't have any problem mastering the 500VR after a little practice.
As another example, here's a shot of a Great Horned Owl I took yesterday....
Nikon D800 ,Nikkor AF-S 500mm f/4G ED VR ,TC14EII 1/250s f/5.6 at 700.0mm iso400
Now, the shot isn't all that special, but consider this:
- this was shot with the TC14EII at f5.6 wide open, not stopped down, so the 500VR does take the TC14EII quite nicely provided you fine tune it (very important)
- 1/250 second SS hand held(!) so VR does work, and works well!
- 85% linear crop(!) -- still pretty sharp, though it might have been better if I used a tripod.
The 500VR is very capable, and not that hard to use.