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Nikon 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR AF-S DX Nikkor Lens Review

Nikon 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR AF-S DX Nikkor Lens Review - Gary Wolstenholme reviews the Nikon 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 lens, an all purpose zoom for Nikon DX format SLR cameras.

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Category : Interchangeable Lenses
Product : Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR
Price : £363
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Handling and features
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR

This all purpose zoom for Nikon DX format SLR cameras provides an angle of view equivalent to a 24-127mm lens on a 35mm camera and costs around £450. It also sports Nikon's latest vibration reduction system and a silent wave focusing motor.

The closest equivalent for third party lens manufacturers is Sigma's 17-70mm f/2.8-4 DC OS Macro.

Nikon 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR AF-S DX Nikkor Handling and features

Weighing 485g and being 85mm long, this lens is a typical size for Nikon's mid-range lenses with a larger zoom range and it balances well on the Nikon D300 used for testing. The lens barrel is constructed from high quality plastics with a wide rubberised zoom ring at the far end of the lens and a distance scale window, with no hyper-focal markings just behind.

Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR
With hood Rear

Focusing is performed internally, so the front filter does not rotate, which makes this lens ideal for use with graduated and polarising filters. Auto focus speeds aren't as fast as some of Nikon's other lenses covering this range and although a silent wave motor has been used, an audible squeak can occasionally be heard during focusing on this sample of the lens.

1/160 sec | f/11.0 | 35.0 mm | ISO 100
Side switches
Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR
Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR
Lens cap on Zoom extended

The minimum focus distance of 38cm is useful for the occasional close-up image and also means that you're unlikely to be hitting the close focus stop when shooting in tight spaces.

The Vibration Reduction II system fitted to this lens promises to allow hand held sharp shots to be taken at shutter speeds up to four stops slower than would normally be recommended by the usual rule of thumb. In practice, with a little care sharp hand held images are possible about half of the time with a shutter speed of 1/15sec, with the lens set to 85mm. This is roughly three stops slower than the rule of thumb would recommend for this focal length on a DX format camera.

Nikon 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR AF-S DX Nikkor Performance

At 16mm sharpness in the centre of the frame is already outstanding at maximum aperture, and the clarity towards the edges of the frame is very good. Stopping the lens down a little results in increased sharpness towards the edges of the frame and peak quality across the frame is achieved at f/5.6 for this focal length.

As is often the case with many high ratio zoom lenses, sharpness drops off a little as the lens is zoomed in. At 35mm the lens still performs well, with excellent sharpness in the centre and good clarity towards the edges at maximum aperture. Peak performance across the frame is achieved at f/8 for this focal length where sharpness across the frame is excellent.

Finally at 85mm, there is another slight drop in overall clarity, but the lens still performs well. The lens produces good sharpness across the frame at f/5.6 and very good sharpness at f/8.

Resolution @ 16mm
Resolution @ 16mm
  Resolution @ 35mm
Resolution @ 35mm
     
Resolution @ 85mm
Resolution @ 85mm
 

How to read our charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges. Averaging them out gives the red weighted column.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution. The taller the column, the better the lens performance. Simple.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Nikon D300 using Imatest.

Chromatic aberrations are well controlled, staying well below one pixel width throughout the zoom range. Fringing is at its strongest at 85mm towards the edges of the frame at f/5.6. Here Imatest recorded chromatic aberrations covering 0.95 pixel widths, which should be hard to spot, even in large prints or harsh crops from the edges of the frame.

Chromatic aberrations @ 16mm
Chromatic aberrations @ 16mm
  Chromatic aberrations @ 35mm
Chromatic aberrations @ 35mm
     
Chromatic aberrations @ 85mm
Chromatic aberrations @ 85mm
 

How to read our charts

Chromatic aberration is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Nikon D300 using Imatest.

Falloff of illumination towards the corners of the frame is well enough controlled throughout the zoom range. At 16mm the corners are 1.5 stops darker than the image centre at maximum aperture and visually uniform illumination is achieved at f/5.6. At 85mm the corners are only 1 stop darker at f/5.6 and visually uniform illumination is achieved at f/8 for this focal length.

Distortion is often an issue with high ratio zooms and although the 3.56% level of barrel distortion at 16mm is quite pronounced, this level is quite low when compared with other similar zoom lenses. Imatest detected 0.993% pincushion distortion at 85mm, which may be noticeable in some circumstances. At either end of the zoom range the distortion pattern is uniform across the frame, which should make corrections in image editing software relatively straightforward.

A reasonably deep petal-shaped lens hood comes supplied with the lens, which does a reasonable job of keeping extraneous light from causing flare and loss of contrast in images. In use the lens is fairly resistant to flare with only very strong light sources in the frame causing any issues.

Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Sample Photos


Nikon 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR AF-S DX Nikkor Verdict

As an all-round lens for day to day shooting, this 16-85mm optic from Nikon offers a very good solution. The 16mm focal length provides a useful wide field of view, equivalent to a 24mm lens on a 35mm camera, which adds to the appeal of this lens.

As far as optical quality is concerned, this lens delivers, sharp contrasty images, especially at the 16mm end of the range. The added bonus of Vibration reduction and a silent wave focusing motor add to the value this lens offers.

 
  The Nikon 16-85mm f/3.5 ED VR lens delivers, sharp contrasty images, especially at the 16mm end of the range, with the added bonus of vibration reduction.

Nikon 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR AF-S DX Nikkor Pros

Very useful zoom range for general purpose photography
Vibration reduction
Very sharp at 16mm
Internal focusing

Nikon 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR AF-S DX Nikkor Cons

Drop off in resolution as the lens is zoomed (although the performance is still good)
Occasional squeaking from the focusing motor on the tested sample

FEATURES
HANDLING
PERFORMANCE
VALUE FOR MONEY
OVERALL

Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Specifications

ManufacturerNikon
General
Lens Mounts
  • Nikon AF-S DX G
Lens
Focal Length16mm - 85mm
Angle of View19 - 83
Max Aperturef/3.5 - f/5.6
Min Aperturef/22 - f/36
Filter Size67mm
35mm equivalent24mm - 127mm
Internal focusingYes
Focusing
Min Focus38cm
StabilisedYes
Construction
Blades7
Elements17
Groups11
Box Contents
Box ContentsLens hood, Lens caps, Soft lens case
Dimensions
Weight485g
Height85mm

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Comments


23 Sep 2011 10:30AM
I use this zoom with my D300s, and for general photography it's almost a permanent fixture - sharp and contrasty with an admirable resistance to flare, it seems to deliver attractive, punchy images. No squeaks are audible with mine though ... Grin

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16 May 2012 12:23AM
I too use it on my D300s as my standard lens. It has proved itself more times than room here allows me to describe. If you are looking for a medium priced all-purpose lens then I can thoroughly recommend this one.

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