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Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED DX VR Review

Gary Wolstenholme puts this 5x standard zoom Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED DX VR lens from Nikon to the test.

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Handling and Features

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED DX VR Review: P7230008

This 5x standard zoom lens, sports a compact design, Vibration Reduction, and silent focusing. As well as this it also includes Nikon’s latest electromagnetic diaphragm, which promises to provide more consistent exposures, especially at high frame rates. Nano-Crystal anti-reflective coatings and a fluorine optical coating which helps to repel moisture and dirt. However, all these extra goodies aren’t free and the lens costs around £870 as a result. In this review, we'll take a look at how it performs.


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Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED DX VR Handling and Features

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED DX VR Review: P7230012

Build quality is typical of Nikon’s mid-range lenses, with high-quality plastics being used for most of the construction, apart from the lens bayonet, which is metal. The light weight of 480g and compact size make this lens the perfect companion for even compact Nikon DSLR bodies, and it balances well with the Nikon D300 used for testing.

Autofocus is powered by a silent wave motor, and autofocus speeds are decent for a mid-range zoom lens. Manual focus adjustments can be applied at any time via the narrow focusing ring closest to the camera body and it is well enough damped to make applying adjustments a pleasure.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED DX VR Review: P7230011

Closest focus distance is 35cm which provides a maximum magnification of 0.22x at 80mm. A rectangular shaped hood is supplied, which attaches via a bayonet fitting on the front of the lens and the 72mm filter thread does not rotate, which should make this lens ideal for use with graduated filters and polarisers.

Nikon's Vibration Reduction system promises to allow hand-held shots to be taken at shutter speeds up to four stops slower than would be possible without the technology. So long as the system is given time to kick in properly and images are shot with care, handheld shots at 1/8sec are quite possible at 80mm, which is around four stops slower than the usual rule of thumb would advise.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED DX VR Review: P7230010

Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED DX VR Performance

At maximum aperture and 16mm, sharpness is excellent in the centre and is good towards the edges of the frame. Stopping down improves performance across the frame, with peak performance being achieved at f/5.6. Here clarity is excellent across the frame.

Zooming to 35mm results in a slight reduction of performance at maximum aperture. Sharpness is still excellent in the centre, and good towards the edges of the frame. Stopped down to between f/5.6 and f/8, performance at this focal length is much improved. Here sharpness is excellent across the frame.

Finally, at 80mm there is a further drop in performance at maximum aperture. Sharpness falls just short of very good levels in the centre of the frame and just shy of good levels towards the edges of the frame. Peak performance for this focal length falls between f/5.6 and f/8 again where clarity is excellent across the frame.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED DX VR Review: MTF@16mm
MTF @16mm
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED DX VR Review: MTF@35mm
MTF @35mm
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED DX VR Review: MTF@80mm
MTF @80mm

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.

Levels of chromatic aberrations are very well controlled for much of the zoom range, barely exceeding half a pixel width at either end of the zoom range. This low level of fringing should be difficult to spot, even in large reproductions or harsh crops from the edges of the frame.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED DX VR Review: CA@16mm
CA @16mm
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED DX VR Review: CA@35mm
CA @35mm
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED DX VR Review: CA@80mm
CA @80mm

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 minimise 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 quite typical for a lens of this range and maximum aperture. At 16mm, the corners are 1.7 stops darker than the centre at maximum aperture and at 80mm the corners are 1.3 stops darker than the image centre. Strangely the falloff is quite harsh in the corners, rather than gradual from the centre, which can make it quite noticeable in certain circumstances. Visually uniform illumination is achieved with the lens stopped down to f/8 or beyond throughout the zoom range.

Distortion is a little severe for a lens of this type with 5.61% barrel distortion present at 16mm, which gives way to 1.49% pincushion distortion at 80mm. A slight wave is present in the distortion at 16mm, which may make corrections a little more difficult to apply.

Thanks to Nikon’s Nano Crystal optical coatings, this lens is very resistant to flare, and contrast holds up well when shooting into the light. A large rectangular hood is supplied with the lens, which does a great job of shading the lens from extraneous light that may cause issues. 

Nikon AF-S DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR Sample Photos

Value For Money

Being priced at around £870 this lens sits at the top end of Nikon’s mid-range consumer lenses. If you can manage without Nano-Crystal coatings, an electromagnetic aperture and with a slightly slower maximum aperture, then Nikon’s 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED DX VR can be picked up for under half the price of this lens at around £400. Such a big difference in price may make it difficult for many to justify the extra expense. To put things into perspective, Nikon’s top-end 17-55mm f/2.8G lens, that sports professional build quality and a constant f/2.8 maximum aperture is actually less expensive, costing around £700.

Likewise, the closest equivalent from third party manufacturers comes from Sigma. Their 17-70mm f/2.8-4 DC OS Macro HSM C lens sports a similar focal range, optical stabilisation and focuses much closer, but only costs £350. For more options have a look at the Top 10 Best Nikon Lenses of 2015

Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED DX VR Verdict

With this lens, Nikon have thrown all their latest technology at a mid-range optic, resulting in a lens that performs well enough, but maybe isn’t spectacular enough to justify the high-end price when compared to similar optics.

Although it’s nice to know that you’ll get consistent exposures when shooting at ten frames per second, and that dirt and moisture would rather find a more comfortable place to stay than on the optics of this lens, these are features that you’d rarely pay more than double for. Maybe, in time, as the price of this lens settles down its value will become better but at the moment, the extra expense seems difficult to justify.

Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED DX VR Pros

Very good sharpness through the zoom range
Silent focusing
Electromagnetic aperture
Resistant to flare
Fluorine coating to repel dirt and moisture
Effective Vibration Reduction system

Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED DX VR Cons

Strong distortion
Harsh falloff of illumination towards corners at faster apertures



Nikon AF-S DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR Specifications

Lens Mounts
  • Nikon AF
Focal Length16mm - 80mm
Angle of View20° - 83°
Max Aperturef/2.8 - f/4
Min Aperturef/22 - f/32
Filter Size72mm
35mm equivalent24mm - 120mm
Internal focusingNo Data
Maximum magnificationNo Data
Min Focus35cm
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data

View Full Product Details

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Steve963 Avatar
20 Aug 2015 5:21PM
Gentlemen. My test of this lens produces higher results at 80mm. I realize that samples differ, but I would be surprised if they differ by that much. I used the Nikon D7200 for my tests. With only half the resolution, you chose to use the very old D300 that has half as many pixels. In addition, your write up does not jibe with even your own MTF performance results! Pretty puzzling.

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