Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR Review

August 4, 2010 | Zoltan Arva-Toth | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star Half rating star


If you have read the entire review and downloaded some of the full-resolution samples provided, you will probably agree that the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR is a very fine lens. In the optical department, the only serious flaw is the amount of barrel distortion at the 16mm end, which is surprising even for an ultrawide zoom. Putting aside that, however, the lens is a superb performer. Chromatic aberrations are almost non-existent, corner shading is minimal - being restricted to the extreme corners at 16mm f/4, and too subtle to worry about at other focal lengths and f-stops -, while sharpness - if not quite “biting” - is very good throughout, except along the edges at 35mm f/4.

In use, I have found it a tiny bit bigger and heavier than I would have liked (it made the Nikon D700 a little front heavy), but more versatile than I had expected from what is essentially a pretty specialised lens. While you would expect this kind of lens to be useful for interior shots as well as land-, city- and streetscapes, it also proved surprisingly well suited to street photography, which is a small wonder given its sheer size. You could also use it for architecture, provided you are ready to correct its distortion in software. Thankfully this is pretty easy as the distortion, while significant, is fairly simple in nature (it's much more tricky to correct for complicated, wavy or moustache-shaped distortion than for the simple barrelling this lens produces at 16mm).

The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR is a pretty well-featured lens for its class, offering fast and near-silent autofocus with full-time manual focus override, fully internal focusing and zooming, remarkable weather sealing and, of course, Vibration Reduction. While Nikon's claims of a four-stop improvement really only hold true in a few exceptional cases, VR does allow you to use shutter speeds of at least 1.5 stops slower than you could otherwise hand-hold, on a consistent basis. In terms of features, the only thing I could criticise is the as-good-as-useless distance scale, which only has a couple of markings between the close-focus point and infinity; and the related lack of any depth-of-field marks. Those who wish to use this lens on older film bodies - such as the Nikon F4, for example - should be prepared for not being able to use the Vibration Reduction feature, nor A and M exposure modes due to the lack of an aperture ring. This does not apply to DSLR users or owners of the Nikon F5 or F6 film bodies, though.

So who should buy this lens? Those Nikon shooters who often find themselves needing a sharp ultrawide lens for their modern film or FX digital SLR bodies but have so far been put off by the price of the AF-S 17-35mm f/2.8D. Those who love the 14-24mm f/2.8G lens for its sharpness but hate it for its weight, price or its inability to use filters. Those who cannot or do not want to use tripods but still want to take wide-angle shots in low light. And the list goes on. I suspect that the most demanding professional architecture photographers and landscapists might opt for the PC-E Nikkor 24mm f/3.5D ED instead, which can't zoom or autofocus and costs twice as much; but tilts, shifts and revolves for ultimate depth of field and perspective control. Most other wide-angle enthusiasts shooting Nikon will, however, very likely embrace this new lens - and for good reason.

4.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4.5
Features 4.5
Ease-of-use 4.5
Image quality 4.5
Value for money 3.5