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

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THE OVERVIEW

Website : Nikon 16-35mm f/4G ED VR
Get from eBay : Click here
Disclaimer : Fat affiliate link above, read my disclosure message here
Price : About USD 1050 for new, about USD 850 for used (as of Feb 2017)

Build
One solid lens, weather sealed.
Optics
An eye candy producer. Sharp. Very sharp.
Mechanics
Accurate, smooth and quiet.
Value
Expensive gold ring lens, but worth the price
Usefulness
Good for landscape, street, and maybe some portrait.
Overall
A great lens for landscape photographers.

THE BIRTH OF ANOTHER KING?

In 2007, Nikon released a beast called 14-24mm f/2.8 into the wild. It is sharp, crisp, solid, and has little distortion at 14mm. It is an excellent all round lens, and people had no qualms crowning it the king of ultra wide lens.

A few years later in 2010, Nikon released another ultra wide, the 16-35mm f/4 lens. However, it is not meant to replace the king, but to be the successor of 17-35mm f/2.8. Still, this lens is commonly compared against the king, how will it fare, and will it be another king?

THE SPECS AND WORTHY CONTENDERS

There are quite a few other ultra wide lens in the Nikon family, and I don’t think it will make much sense if I did a comparison with Canon lens here. So I will pit the 16-35mm against big brother 14-24mm, and ancestor 17-35mm.

16-35mm14-24mm17-35mm
Price (USD)About 1050About 1450About 1250
Filter Size (mm)77mmNA77mm
Weight (grams)6801000745
Elements17 elements in 12 groups14 elements in 11 groups13 elements in 10 groups
Vibration ReductionYesNoNo
Close Focus29 cm28 cm28 cm
Angle of View107°114°104°
Max/Min Aperture4 / 222.8 / 222.8 / 22

I know, there are many 3rd party wide angle lens as well. But this is not a comparison article, so I am just going to leave a short list of the 3rd party lens here for your consideration.

  • Sigma 12-24mm f/4
  • Tokina 16-28mm f/2.8
  • Tokina 17-35mm f/4
  • Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8
  • Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-f/4.5

Now let’s move on with the review. But before that, I will do a honorable mention that I am leaning towards the Sigma 12-24mm f/4 as a good alternative wide angle lens.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

When I first got the 16-35mm, the first thing that stood out was the gold ring. Yes, this is the second gold ring in my collection, and this lens sure does not look like a cheap toy. With 17 elements packed inside, you might think that it is going to be massively heavy with a lot of glass and metal.

The mighty gold ring

Turns out, it is rather light for a lens with a lot of glass. Guess that is because Nikon used more plastic than metal. I am going to be honest. It does feel a bit flimsy when I first handled this lens. But after a few years of using this lens, I say this with confidence – this lens is built solid.

The next thing that stood out, was f/4… even though I already knew before the purchase. Some people might think that f/4 is slow, but that is sufficient for me. This lens will be mounted on a tripod most of the time anyway, and it has VR. Plus, if Nikon made this a f/2.8 lens, it will probably become 82mm and the price will increase by another $500.

CONSTRUCT

The 16-35mm is a rather light lens for a gold ring, and it does not feel very solid. But it is still alive and kicking after a few years of shooting in the rain and snow. That goes to show a solid build and good weather sealing.

It also comes with a detachable lens hood, which I do not often use (I stack rectangular filters on it). Apart from the focus and zoom ring, nothing else on the outside moves. But it will be good to note that the lens sinks and rises as you turn the zoom ring. That may be a weak point for water droplets to fall in, so remember to use a clear or UV filter to protect the front.

The rise and fall of the front element

Nothing too fanciful for the rest, but there is a manual focus override and VR switch on the side of the lens.

Switches by the side

AUTO-FOCUS

The auto focus is fast, quiet and accurate. I will say that it is spot on 99% of the time, and the only time where it struggled was during poor lighting conditions.

OPTICS

Nikon 16-35mm @ 16mm-f4
At 16mm f/4

At 16mm f/4, the center is sharp but the corners suffer a little. Distortion and vignette clearly visible at 16mm.

Nikon 16-35mm @16mm f8
At 16mm f/8

It seems to hit the sweet spot at between f/8 to f/14, giving it all round sharpness.

Nikon 16-35mm @16mm-f22
At 16mm f/22

Even at f/22, things are still sharp!

Nikon 16-35mm @ 35mm-f22
At 35mm f/22

The distortion and vignetting seems to go away at around 22mm, and is minimal at 35mm. As for ghosting, flaring and chromatic aberration – they are almost non-existent on this lens. This beast simply spits out stunning image quality.

GALLERY

I have been using the 16-35mm for a few years now, and here are a few sample shots.

Toa Payoh 5 Finger Mountain

Sunset at Upper Seletar Reservoir

Tanjung Rhu Bridge
You can click on any of the images to visit my Flickr account. Show the images in full size, or browse through more of my photos taken with the 16-35mm if you like.

WHY DID I GET THE NIKON 16-35MM?

While this is not a comparison article, I am still going to share a little bit of my own choosing process and thoughts. When I first wanted a good wide angle lens, two lens immediately came to mind – The Nikon 14-24mm and 16-35mm. But in the end, I decided for the 16-35mm because of the following reasons.

  • The 16-35mm had a slightly bigger zoom range.
  • F/4 did not bother me. This lens will mostly be mounted on a tripod. Plus the VR comes in VERY handy in places where you cannot deploy a tripod.
  • I don’t think the 16-35mm is losing in terms of optical quality.
  • You can attach filters to the 16-35mm.
  • The 16-35mm is cheaper and has better value for money.

I am not advising against the 14-24mm. This is ultimately my own thought process, and I could have easily gotten both lens, if I had the money…

CONCLUSION

This lens may be a little bit on the expensive side, but to me, that price is justified by the gold ring. It may not be perfect, but a solid build, smooth mechanics, and excellent optics? I can easily call this one of the best ultra wide lens.

While I am not too sure about the rest of the world, but this lens has been a staple in my backpack for years. I have brought it with me on my travels, and this workhorse has never failed to impress me. Definitely worth every single cent I paid for it, and it is not going to leave my backpack anytime soon.

THE GOOD

  • Solid build and weather sealed… at least it is weather resistant.
  • Smooth mechanics, auto focus and zoom.
  • Sharp. Very sharp and amazing optical quality.
  • VR is useful in low light conditions, and when you cannot deploy the tripod.

THE BAD

  • The distortion at 16mm is annoying, but it can be fixed in Photoshop.
  • Slightly soft corners at wide open.
  • Personally, I don’t like the moving front element.
  • That’s it. Nothing much to complain about.


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