24 Hours with Nikon's AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm/4G ED VR

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I've long been a big fan of wide-angle lenses, so I was really pleased when David Edelstein (our intrepid Nikon sales muckety-muck) dropped off one of the 1st production samples of Nikon's latest ultra-wide zoom lens, the AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm/4G ED VR.

The first thing you notice about Nikon's new AF-S 16-35/4G ED VR is its size. Though in no way heavy, and if anything, quite well balanced, the lens looks more like a moderate zoom lens, say a 28-105, as compared to the shorter physical sizes of 'typical' wide zooms. Looks aside, Nikon's latest ultra-wide addition to its growing optical line-up is a true wide-zoom workhorse.


Designed for high-res capture on full-frame DSLRs, the new lens is equally at home on an APS-C format compact DSLR, with which it features the field-of-view of a 24 - 55.2mm lens. While not quite as dramatic as a 16mm lens on the short side of the zoom range, it's still plenty wide for many applications. In the techie department, the Nikon's latest wide-zoom lens features 2 Extra-low Dispersion (ED) elements, and 3 aspherical surfaces for sharper, clean images, internal focusing (IF), a Silent Wave Motor for quick and quiet AF operation, and Nano Crystal lens coatings, which perform as advertised in putting the kibosh on lens flare and ghosting even when shooting directly into the sun.

 Other features include 9 curved aperture blades for natural-looking out-of-focus highlights (i.e., good bokeh) and separate focus and zoom controls, which perform smoothly and positively. And an M/A focus mode switch makes easy work of switching between AF and MF mode on the fly. For low-light shooting, the lens features Nikon VR II vibration reduction control, which enables shooting up to 4 shutter speeds slower than normally possible without need of a tripod. You can also focus down to 1' (0.28 m) for capturing dramatic close-ups of even the most mundane of subject matter. 

Along with  sweeping land and cityscapes, Nikon's 16-35/4G ED VR is also well suited for architectural photography. Interiors - even the tightest of arrangements - can be captured dramatically and  architecturally correct thanks to the lens's rectilinear design. Photographing distortion-free exteriors of mid-size buildings is also quite easy with Nikon's 16-35. By leveling the camera and focusing dead-ahead at the building, it's possible to capture a distortion-less image of the structure, which after cropping off the lower half of the image field, results in an architecturally corrected image of the building.

 After tooling around for a day with the new lens (mounted on a Nikon D700) I've once again fallen in love with a new lens.

I know, I know, I've said this before... but this time it's different... really.

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How would it compare in sharpness with my Nikon 14-24 mm f/2.8 lens?

not a realy comprehensive test. more like a commercial. what's the point?

How is this an improvement over my Nikon 17-35mm 2.8 ?

how much is it suppose to sell for??

it is not an improvement over the 17-35...  bigger and not 2.8...

We are starting to tread on areas of very relative terminology guys (price aside).......

Bill S:- this lens is currently available for sale, check B&H's price listing for the most accurate figures. I bought mine 2ish months ago. I think I paid around $1,200.......

Now regarding improvement, this lens is an improvement over my 17-35 for me. I do not miss the one stop while on the tripod. The quality is very good so I do not feel as though I have really lost anything there either. When looking at D3x image previews in Lightroom, I usually have to look at the metadata if I want to know if I used my 24-70 2.8 or this lens, so I again feel no sense of loss.

The improvements for me are in how I work in the field. Most of my work, probably 90%+, is on the tripod but I do have a project that I have been working on that requires me to hand hold while shooting in dark, confined spaces. Flash almost always creates too harsh of an effect. I can dial my D3 or D700 up to 3200ish but sometimes that is still not enough. This lens gives me an additional 2-4 stops, depending on how stable I am, to work with in these situations. This lens is also an improvement for me in my camera bag while in the field as it is nearly identical in size to the 24-70 2.8. Last month I was shooting in the rain out in the Olympics. If I needed to swich lenses, I could put the 24-70 2.8 (which is usually attached to the camera body) in the spot where the 16-35 had been and then put the body back in the bag with this lens, with no adjustments in my bag required. No need to do another lens change in the rain.

So, is it an improvement? Well yes, provided you have a need to shoot hand-held in low light conditions and provided you are also a 24-70 2.8 user when in the field. In a studio environment? Well, probably not. It is all about what you need..........

I hope it helps- Bill G.

Sounds like a nice lens, but its price seems a little high.  I picked up a used 17-35 for $1000 seven years ago, and it's a champ.  Even new, the 17-35 isn't that much more.

 the building is not really made up of straight lines, clearly there's distortion

Nowhere  in the review or in the description is an f stop mentioned.  It is nice to know that we do not need them anymore;  they were such a bother.

It's quite a sizeable hunk of glass.  I have the superb and certainly more compact, 17-55mm f2.8 Nikkor zoom, and would never consider buying the new and much too large (long) 16-35mm f4.  I don't get Nikon's thinking on this one!?

I use a Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-85mm 1:3.5-5.6G ED VR as my "regular" lens. I consult on mushroom growin in third world countries for USAID FtF and often I want photos in realtively close places and often that means I think 16mm covers only a minimum angle. However, I don't want distortion, and so as far as I know there is nothing shorter than a 16mm lens, that will do. My lens has no noticible architectual distortion over its entire zoom range. Undoubtedly the new 16-35mm has some advantage over the 16-85mm, but it has the disadvantage of being less flexible. That is, for me 16mm is a necessity, but 85mm is often handy. I have not compared the two lenses, but I would be interested to know what Nikkon or an experienced photographer thinks is better about the 16-35mm.

What's with the complaint about no f-stop anymore? All of the new digital cameras have the f-stop displayed inside the camera. All of the professional cameras I have used have depth of field preview buttons on them too. I find it very convenient to not have to adjust the aperture on the outside of the camer anymore. Thank God for the gelded lenses.

This pocket sized review does read like the copy of an advertismentthe trdponses are, however, catty.

What is the aperture range of the lens, and is it constant regardless of focal length setting?

Would love to have such a lens, but since you cannot ship and guanrtnee delivery as per my last order form you, I will have to look elsewhere. Too bad. 

I don't know about the rest of you, but it is so nice to hear about  a test drive from a users point of view.  We all do different things with imaging but real user data is very valuable to me.

Thanks

David

24 hours with this lens seems a little short. But I just returned from spending 33 days with this lens all over West Africa.

The lens doesn't seem to have quite the heft and build quality of some of the pro f2.8 lenses...but it sure held up well. The heat, humidity, rain,dust, sweat, and ocean salt water was just brutal, and the lens never faltered.

Yeah, I hesitated on an f.4 lens; I love my f1.4 stuff, and consider the f2.8 glass to be a necessity. But running this VR lens on a D3s, the f.4 wasn't a problem. On the full frame camera, DOF is so pronounced that in most situations f.2.8 would be too shallow to be usable anyway.  Given the choice; I would have preferred an extra stop (or two or three), but in my real world experience; it just wasn't a drawback. Much of what I shot on this trip was inside dimly lit structures where a flash couldn't have been used. One night I shot hand held under a full moon. Oh, and there's always a tripod.

And yes; going even longer, say to 45mm or more would have been nice, but at the end of the day, the way I shoot, probably 80-90% of what I shoot falls within the zoom range of this lens.

Until somebody comes out with a 12 to 400mm, f. 1.4, lens that I can afford, this lens is a good compromise.

D.H.

www.douglashenderson.com

A fine review, thank you Allan.

I have this lens and think it's a real beauty. I used it on my recent trip to Europe and found it an invaluable tool for use in those dark churches, cathedrals and other historic buildings of interest on offer there. I found that I could shoot at 1/3rd second (and sometimes less if I found something to lean against) @ f11 and ISO1600 thanks to the combination of the 16-35's VR and the D700 excellent high ISO capability. VR was one reason I went for this lens over the 17-35 f2.8.

Yes, there is distortion but this can easily be fixed (to my satisfaction) in post processing. As you say in your review, the bokeh is good, but also, the sharpness is excellent and extends right across the frame when stopped down. Colour is rich and micro contrast also excellent, probably partly due to the Nano coating and this means that it also excels for landscape photography.

For it's intended purpose, ie a top quality general purpose UWA zoom, it is a real winner, IMO.