Brief review for Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR: A fast, affordable wide-angle zoom

Tuesday May 31 2011

Lens Review

Launched in spring 2010, the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR was a very good surprise for Nikon enthusiasts who previously had only a choice between the very good but expensive (and heavy) AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8D IF-ED and the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED.

This lens is the first Nikon wide-angle that features optical stabilization.
The Nikon 16-35mm was primarily designed for full-frame cameras; however, it is also usable with APS-C sensor cameras such as the Nikon D7000 or Nikon D5100, with a 25-50mm equivalent range, which makes it a short trans-standard of sorts.

The questions that have risen since its launch are:

DxOMark will try to answer these questions from an image quality point of view in this brief review.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR on a full-frame camera

With a Nikon D3x

To view the full results click here:
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR on a Nikon D3x

The DxOMark Score
This lens mounted on the Nikon D3x obtains a very good 20 points on the DxOMark Score. However the gauge is a bit large which indicates that the IQ delivered will not be the same on the whole focal range.
Looking at the DxOMark score map, we can see that the global quality will slightly decrease at 35mm.

What it means
 You will be able to use this lens / camera combination even in difficult conditions and be able to produce very nice large prints.
 
What we like
Resolution remains high for the whole focal range (maximum at 16mm, the minimum is obtained for 35 mm).
The homogeneity in the field is really impressive (see the comparison with the 17-35mm 2.8 below).
Chromatic aberration remains very well controlled on the whole focal range. For a wide-angle this is once again a very good result.

What could be better
Vignetting and distortion, the classic weakness for wide-angles, are pretty well controlled, but vignetting at f/4 remains a bit strong (> 1 EV in the corner).
Distortion at 16mm could become slightly frustrating, but it can be corrected with post-processing.

With a Nikon D3 and a Nikon D700

To view the full results click here:
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR mounted on a Nikon D3
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR mounted on a Nikon D700

To view the full comparison for this lens mounted on the 3 cameras click here:
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR mounted on a Nikon D3x vs D3 vs D700

The DxOMark Score
With a score of 19 for the D3 and D700, the performance is very close to that for the Nikon D3X.

What it means
To put it succinctly, the performance of this lens is very good on the 12 Mpix Nikon D3 and Nikon D700 sensor. The score comes close to that of the Nikon D3x in a low-light condition. The reason is that in this condition this lens is not fast enough, to compensate, the photographer will have to increase the ISO thus increasing noise. The Nikon D3x will be more affected than the Nikon D3 and Nikon D700, both having larger pixels.

For reference have a look at the DxOMark sensor results for the 3 cameras available here Nikon D3X, Nikon D3, Nikon D700.

In summation: in a low-light condition, the higher resolved Nikon D3x gives the same IQ with this lens as the Nikon D3 and the Nikon D700.

How different light conditions can affect the comparison

  • In a correctly-lit living room: this are the lighting conditions used for the DxOMark score and they are described here.
  • In a photo studio: here, lighting normally isn’t a problem, a photographer can use the ISO and the aperture he or she wishes. For those interested in a comparison under good lighting conditions take a look at the Mid-Light Score.
  • In conditions worse than those of a correctly-lit living room: here, the Nikon D3 and the Nikon D700 would be able to provide better results than with a Nikon D3x.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR on Nikon D7000

 To view the full results click here:
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR with Nikon D7000

The DxOMark score
 The score is 11 and for an APS-C camera this score is pretty good.
Of course, the low-lighting conditions are more challenging when the sensor size decreases.

What we like
 The homogeneity of the DxOMark score gauge: On an APS-C sensor, the global IQ will be very close on the whole focal range, contrary to the results on full-frame sensors.
Resolution at the center is high: even on this selective small pixel sensor, this lens provides very sharp pictures at the center. Vignetting and distortion remain pretty low.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR vs Nikon AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8D IF-ED

The full comparison is available here:
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR vs Nikon AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8D IF-ED On Nikon D3x

On a Nikon D3x, resolution, and chromatic aberration are better on the new lens (16-35mm f4)
 But distortion remains better controlled on the older 17-35mm f2.8.
 The two lenses have high lens shading at the larger aperture for their minimum focal (ie 16mm and 17 mm respectively).

 Looking at the results, we wonder if we will ever have a new version of the famous Nikon AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8D IF-ED with the 16-35mm improvements.

See other interesting comparisons:

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR vs Nikon AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8D IF-ED mounted on a Nikon D300
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR mounted on Nikon D3x vs Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM Mounted on a Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR mounted on Nikon D700 vs Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM Mounted on a Canon EOS 5D
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR vs Carl Zeiss Distagon T 28mm f/2 ZF2 Nikon mounted on a Nikon D3s