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Customer Review

535 of 549 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A review of the Nikkor 16-35mm by an owner of the Nikkor 17-35mm and 14-24mm., April 21, 2010
By 
This review is from: Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 16-35mm f/4G ED Vibration Reduction Zoom Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras (Electronics)
I am making this review of the Nikkor 16-35mm from the perspective of someone who also owns a Nikkor 17-35mm and a Nikkor 14-24mm. This review of this lens is made primarily with this lens mounted on a 12mp Nikon FX body, the Nikon D700.

I just got my copy of the Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G VR AF-S and did some back to back testing of this lens against the Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8 AF-S. In almost all instances except when one needs to shoot at f/2.8 (but of course!), the Nikkor 16-35mm outperforms the 17-35mm handily. The improvements in acuity (sharpness), color and contrast are easily noticed. The improvement in corner-to-corner sharpness against the Nikkor 17-35mm is considerable.

How useful is the VR on this lens? This is best answered in the tests I made.

I conducted a back to back test of the 16-35mm vs the 17-35mm at night and observed that I can easily take good shots with this lens at 1/2 second at 35mm. My shots taken at the same shutter speed and focal length with the 17-35mm were not as sharp or were easily blurred. I needed to increase my shutter speed to 1/15 before I could get better results with the 17-35mm. Yet even then, the images taken with the 16-35mm were still sharper.

To raise the bar even higher, I installed the 16-35mm on my D300 where it has the equivalent field of view of 24-52mm. I shot the 16-35mm with the D300 at 35mm for an equivalent 52mm. I installed the 17-35mm on my D700 and shot at 17mm. Shooting the same scene at the same shutter speed and at the same aperture setting, I was able to get sharper images with the D300/16-35mm than I could with the D700/17-35mm despite the longer 52mm equivalent field of view vs. the 17mm of the D700/17-35mm. The images of the D700 were of course cleaner but not as sharp. The VR very clearly helped.

This result was most convincing and showed how well Nikon understood the importance of installing VR II even on an ultra-wide angle (UWA) lens such as this. As far as I am concerned, this settles for me any lingering doubt I had as to the usefulness of installing a VR on a UWA zoom or even a semi-wide to moderate telephoto zoom such as the Nikkor 24-70mm. If a VR II can do this much good with a 16-35mm zoom, it would do wonders if installed on the next iteration of the Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 zoom.

The usefulness and the effectiveness of the VR will not change my inclination for using a tripod whenever I can. But in those instances where setting up a tripod is difficult, not allowed or simply not possible, the VR on this lens will be very useful and appreciated.

I observed that there is indeed considerable distortion on this lens when shooting at 16mm. This improves somewhat at 17mm and becomes pretty good by 19mm. I noticed however that with careful placement, the distortion is nowhere as objectionable as I had feared. I also tried correcting the distortion during post-processing and it is fairly easy to do so. The 1mm wider coverage of the 16-35mm vs the 17-35mm is not a solid gain as one would need to be careful when shooting at 16mm but it is quite usable in certain conditions. My initial reluctance and anxiety about ever using this lens at 16mm has been calmed.

Compared to the Nikkor 14-24mm, a quick back-to-back test against of this lens against the 14-24mm shooting at 19mm f/4 showed that the 16-35mm is still no match to the Nikkor 14-24mm in corner to corner acuity. The 14-24mm is an exemplary wide-angle lens and remains unmatched till this day. The 14-24mm is also 2mm wider and faster. But the 16-35mm can accept filters and has VR. The 16-35mm is also lighter, less vulnerable as its front glass element can be filter-protected (when necessary in some instances), less expensive and is more useful for general use with its longer reach. Rather than consider one as a substitute for the other, I would consider the 16-35mm as a good complementary lens to the 14-24mm.

This UWA zoom is long and the lens itself without the hood is pretty close to the length of the 24-70mm. The box of the Nikkor 16-35mm is actually longer than the box of the Nikkor 24-70mm. This lens is considerably longer than the 17-35mm but is lighter. The 16-35mm uses the same hood as the 17-35mm. The 16-35mm is a bit more austere as it does not come with a padded case which is standard with the Nikkor 14-24-70-200mm f/2.8 lenses. But this helps to keep the cost low.

This lens uses a 77mm filter and thus interchangeable with the CPL and ND filters used with the Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 and the Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 VR/VR II.

I will provide more feedback as I use this lens for a longer time.

Edit: May 7, 2010

I cannot helped but be impressed by how good this lens is. It is a very sharp lens and when properly matched with the right subjects, produces very impressive results. Previously, most of the tests were made using VR where I consistently saw how useful VR is for travel and landscape photography. Since then, I have had more time to use this lens. My recent testing of this lens was with the VR shut off. Instead of VR, I used this lens with the Nikon D700, mounted on a tripod, shooting mirror lock and using a Nikon remote cable release. Using this setup, I would be able to test how good the optics of this lens really is.

For several nights, I shot mostly cityscapes at ISO 200 from f/6.3 to f/10 from 1/10th second, 1-30 seconds exposure (without filters), and as long as 5 minutes (with filters and Nikon MC-36). I compared it against the Nikkor 17-35mm and the Nikkor 14-24mm. Viewing the JPGs at 100% magnification on my notebook, I am amazed at the level of details and the rich colors that I normally could only get from RAW files after post-processing. The details, colors and contrast were top notch and the lens resisted flaring very well. Needless to say, the images I derived from RAW files were a notch even better than the already excellent JPGs.

In terms of optics, the Nikkor 14-24mm is still tops, the Nikkor 16-35mm a close second, and the Nikkor 17-35mm a far third. Shooting nightscapes where the corners are not as critical, the Nikkor 16-35mm is almost as good as the Nikkor 14-24mm. Using ND filters, the Nikkor 16-35mm can deliver images I could not get with the Nikkor 14-24mm. The Nikkor 16-35mm is now my first choice in ultra-wide angle zoom for Nikon's FX body when I need to shoot with filters. This lens, together with my Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G VR2, are now my favorite and most used lenses.

Using the Nikkor 16-35mm, I miss the ability of chucking the D700 in a small bag, something I could easily do with the Nikkor 17-35mm. Most often, I find myself reaching for a bigger bag when bringing the Nikkor 16-35mm. The Nikkor 14-24mm was never a small lens. In terms of length, the Nikkor 16-35mm is the longest of the three when the hood is installed. The longer length of the Nikkor 16-35mm gets in the way of packing it in a bag but its longer length makes for a better balance when handholding. The Nikkor 16-35mm also has the advantage of being lighter than both the 17-35mm and the 14-24mm.

Edit: May 13, 2010

Today, I sold my Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8 and will use my Nikkor 16-35mm f/4 VR as my primary ultra-wide angle FX zoom lens when I need to use filters. I will keep and retain my Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8.

I should add that one reason why I sold my Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8 is that I mainly use my Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G and not the Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8 for shooting people and events (as this keeps the distortion of people to a minimum). If one needs an f/2.8 and filter-capabilities for FX, the Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8 remains an excellent choice ... and really, the only choice if you want a Nikon made ultra-wide angle f/2.8 FX zoom lens that is filter-compatible.

My final verdict on the Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G VR? Highly recommended!

Edit: May 15, 2010

I am currently testing the Nikkor 16-35mm on DX and my initial impressions are as follows:

1. The 16-35mm on a DX effectively translates to a field of view of 24-52.5mm, Here, the lack
of an f/2.8 aperture is sorely felt since this focal length is very useful for taking photos
of people indoors.

2. The hood of the Nikkor 16-35mm is not as effective in shading this lens on a DX boy. This is
most apparent when used at its maximum focal length at 35mm outdoors in harsh sunlit conditions.
I believe that a longer hood for using this lens with DX bodies will provide better shading than
the current hood which has been designed primarily for FX. I tried installing the hood of the
Nikkor 24-70mm and it fits perfectly well on the 16-35mm lens. But this hood causes vignetting
from 16-24mm (effectively 24-36mm on DX) when the 24-70mm hood is used. It disappears after
24mm and is very effective in shading the 26-35mm focal range of this lens.

As a side note, the Nikkor 16-35mm and 24-70mm are almost of the same length. One can easily
pass off the 16-35mm as a 24-70mm by installing the 24-70mm hood on the 16-35mm. Just
what purpose this will serve however is another question.

The 16-35mm is considerably lighter than the 24-70mm. I noticed that the Nikkor 24-70mm at 35mm
is better than the Nikkor 16-35mm at 35mm.

3. The 16-35mm f/4 is incredibly sharp on a DX shooting wide-open pretty much from center all the way to
the corners except at 35mm where shooting at f/4.0 can get a bit soft at the corners. Stepping down
to f/5.6 onwards however corrects this. As also noted earlier, the colors and contrast are top-notch
though the colors on FX seems to be a bit more pleasing.

A DX owner planning to upgrade or add an FX body sometime in the near future should seriously consider
this lens. It would seem that under this circumstance, this Nikkor 16-35mm becomes a no-brainer choice
and purchase.

Comment: Why f/4.0 and not f/2.8?

I have read a lot of comments as to why this wide-angle lens has VR and why the aperture is only f/4.0 and not f/2.8. It would have been better, some have commented, for this lens to be f/2.8 and just dispense with the VR.

While it is easy for Nikon to design a Nikkor wide-angle zoom lens with f/2.8 as seen in the Nikkor 14-24mm and 17-35mm, the Nikkor 16-35mm is not really intended to follow in the footsteps of these 2 other Nikkor lenses. Nikkor already has the 14-24mm and 17-35mm for those who really need an f/2.8 aperture. Making this lens f/2.8 would have made it even bigger, much heavier and also more expensive.

Instead, given the f/4 and VR feature of this lens, it is best used not as a fast lens but as a landscape or travel lens by someone who will be shooting this handheld at apertures from f/5.6-11.0 at fairly slow shutter speeds. It is in landscape, cityscape and travel photography that this lens will shine most though it could also conceivably be used in other applications.

Making this lens f/2.8 (and thus bigger, heavier and more expensive) simply does not make sense if the user will be using this lens primarily in the f/5.6-f/11.0 range most of the time. An understanding of the primary use for which this lens is intended thus will minimize a mis-appreciation of this lens. This lens is very good for the use Nikon must have intended it for.
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Showing 1-10 of 42 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 23, 2010 3:56:20 PM PDT
I wanted to thank you for this review--after having a nasty fall on a rock and damaging my kit 18-55 lens and knowing that when I upgraded to a full-frame from my D80 I would need to also upgrade it, I was waffling back and forth between the 17-35 and 16-35. Price wasn't a factor for me, it was more the functionality, sharpness and otherwise user satisfaction that was going to sway my decision. After reading Ken Rockwell's reviews on it and this one, it made me decide to lean finally toward the 16-35. So thank you very much!

Posted on May 24, 2010 7:21:36 AM PDT
tzargregory says:
Thanks for taking the time to write a thorough - and exceedingly helpful review. I appreciate your thoroughness - e.g. how you did your evaluations. Outlining your reasoning process was also helpful. (Small rant: too many reviewers simply post "...this rocks dude..." or "... love this..." but few give adequate explanations as the WHY they feel one way or the other...) I'm a very careful shopper with gear, having made the personal decision that quality will be my #1 determining factor as I build my lens inventory. So far, this by-product of getting older (and please, dear God, wiser) has served me very well. Thank you L. Go for the time you took to write this review.

Posted on May 31, 2010 9:55:38 PM PDT
Manthano says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 23, 2010 1:17:38 PM PDT
AMDG says:
I have just read the recently released review of this lens from dpreview and it mirrors what has been stated in this review. Congratulations!

Posted on Jul 24, 2010 2:30:04 PM PDT
Manthano says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 27, 2010 1:07:08 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 27, 2010 1:13:11 PM PDT
AMDG says:
@ John Brookes

KR does not enjoy credibility among serious photographers. There are those who think he purposely baits and flame certain subjects to be controversial and thus to generate publicity and traffic to his website.

Personally, I think he has some good stuff mixed with some questionable ones. The title to his article on the Nikon 16-35mm is a bit off and exaggerated as the Nikon 14-24mm is still better than the Nikon 16-35mm. But he does bring out the strength of the Nikon 16-35mm pretty well.

The review at dpreview however is well regarded and would be a good starting point for researching any lens you are considering.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 27, 2010 3:12:45 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Jul 28, 2010 6:48:57 AM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 27, 2010 4:04:20 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 27, 2010 4:21:27 PM PDT
tzargregory says:
This is what is disappointing in these discussion threads, and always makes me a little reluctant to even engage. Instead of open dialogue and debating pros and cons, we get responses like the one above. This response does not further the conversation nor debate pros and cons. Instead, because a contrary point of view is expressed, we attack the poster. This does nothing but shut down the exchange and no one benefits.

Why can't it be OK to disagree? To see things from another POV? Why do we need to attack somebody who holds a different opinion? IMO, the best forum exchanges are when people talk about their own experience, and when there are multiple POVs discussed.

I had actually thought about posting my experience of KR. My personal experience mirrors AMDG, and I know many serious photographers who feel the same. I had read much of his material, made a purchase based on his assured commentary, and I was totally disappointed with my purchase (a nikon lens.) I eventually traded that lens in for another. dpreview is an excellent site, fully transparent, and they work hard to report test findings, not just commentary. As for me, I no longer go to KR for serious information, and I caution folks who are new to photography to read multiple credible reviews before making purchase decisions.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 27, 2010 5:07:00 PM PDT
AMDG says:
It's alright. His response speaks for him. We are here to talk about photography and to learn what we can from others.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 27, 2010 8:37:02 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 28, 2010 7:01:20 AM PDT
Manthano says:
Rockwell is quite popular, so in your eyes he is conning a lot of people who are maybe unserious and dont know better? Personally, I find the information valuable. dpreview, which you tout, does not provide advice across a wide range of equipment as Rockwell does. If you want an opinion as to whether you should shoot film as well as digital, and how to do it cheaply, read him. Its very interesting that dpreview and gurus like McNally make money from their advice, but Rockwell does not. I'm not making any accusations, but it makes me wonder if the attack on Rockwell is not disinterested, as he shows low cost alternatives to latst and greatest?
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