Nikon 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR AF-S DX

Standard zoom lenses are popular amongst travel photographers because they can get the best scene possible without walking around to get that perfect position. Nikon understands its popularity and in return offers several standard zoom lenses each with different focal length ranges and technologies to suit people with different needs and different budgets. The Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR is a good lens that may be expensive than most of the standard zoom lenses, but still costing under $1,000. It delivers amazing performance and versatility and is compact and durable for all photographers to embrace.


Nikon 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR AF-S DX | [book id='34' /] Opens in new window

Design & Construction

The Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR is a nice compact lens that should fit nicely on any of the small and light entry-level cameras as well as the prosumer models at the midrange. The zoom and focus can be controlled easily using the two separate rubber-ribbed rings. The rubberized rib makes it easy to grip avoiding instances where the fingers would slip. They are also separated to avoid confusion between the two rings and their designated functions making it possible to use while looking through the viewfinder. The lens mount is metallic while the 67 filter threads stay plastic making it a durable lens that balances well on the models that they are intended for.

Actual user review:
“This lens is an absolutely super upgrade to Nikon’s very decent 18-70mm DX lens. Not long after receiving and shooting with it, I sold my Nikon 17-35mm lens – a pro classic for sharpness and build quality. Why? I shoot APS frame on a Nikon D300, so a DX lens works fine. I saved 1/2 pound in weight, gained a little on the wide end (24mm equiv. on 35mm, FX frame), and gained over twice as much zoom range. The quality delivered by this lens is superb, even considering the touted vignetting at the wide end, and some distortion over its range. Contrast and color are great. Sharpness blows me away. Build quality is very good. Nikon is getting better and better at designing these lenses with plastics and (I assume) carbon fiber technologies. The VR (vibration reduction) feature is great… allowing photos in low light with sharpness like they were shot from a tripod. Can’t say enough good about the 16-85mm lens, and I have shot everything from 4×5 to medium format for several years. No lens is perfect. Nitpickers who blow up their shots to the size of a wall to compare lenses will surely find faults. But for real shooting at normal prints sizes (and beyond), this lens fills the bill for most of my everyday needs. Don’t fret, just buy one!” – T.Clutter (WA,USA)


Features & Specifications

One of the best qualities of the Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR is the sharpness quality as it remains sharp as long as the smallest apertures aren’t used because that is where the diffraction limiting takes over. Still, f/22 and 16mm can be used without sacrificing sharpness or reaching 3 blur units. Longer focal lengths and reach up to 5 or 6 blur units, but most users will keep it at the largest apertures. There is still some softness being seen around the corners especially when it is used wide open, but the image quality is still remarkable overall. The f/8, f/11, and f/16 apertures display similarly good results making this a safe and flexible lens to use.

The Vibration Reduction (VRII) feature which was introduced in the 18-200mm f/3.5-3.6 model is present in this lens and it helps improve the sharpness even further. From its name, this technology reduces the effects caused by camera shake granting photographers to shoot handheld at 4 shutter speeds slower or less resulting to sharper visuals.

The Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR also handles chromatic aberration very well where the worst possible instance of CA occurs when telephoto lengths are used (85mm). Once the focal range falls between 24mm and 70mm, chromatic aberration is nearly impossible to recognize on the central region, and barely present in the corners which isn’t really a big deal. This is because the Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR has two Extra-low Dispersion glass elements that contribute to the sharpness and color quality and reducing chromatic aberration at the same time.

To add to the color performance and overall image quality, coma along with other lens aberration types are eliminated with three aspherical lens elements. This applies even when the widest aperture is used. Combined with the Nikon Super Integrated Coating (SIC), color performance reaches its peak and helps reduce flare and ghosting.

The Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR bears the AF-S label which translates to it having an ultrasonic motor that takes care of the auto focus operations at amazing speeds in near-silent operation. Because it uses an ultrasonic motor, the auto focus motor can be overridden at anytime just by turning the focus ring. As a result, there is no need to switch it to manual focus mode. Out-of-focus image elements look more natural too because of the rounded 7-blade diaphragm design.

Bottom Line

The Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR is a very flexible lens that does the job in different ranges without affecting the quality too much. The 5.3x optical zoom literally makes this a wide-angle and medium telephoto lens that can be used in all kinds of situations most specifically landscapes, portraits, and interiors. It is best used with other Nikon DX-format DSLR cameras to take advantage of the other functions to get the best picture possible.

Average User Rating:

  • “I am happy to have purchased this lens and would do so again. I wanted to add a lens to my bag that took me through the wide-angle range without losing the image quality I was used to from my prime lenses. Reviews of this lens that I read before purchasing set my expectations very high. I am happy to report I have not been disappointed. Sharpness is excellent. Color fidelity is excellent. Exposure is excellent. I was worried about distortion and lens flare and neither have been an issue. VR helps out as expected.
    Build quality of the lens is good. The rings for focus and zoom are tight and responsive without being sticky.The buttons for manual/auto focus, VR on/off, and VR active/normal are all nicely placed. The barrell extends pretty far at 85mm and I havent had any creep or wobbling at all. I am very happy with this purchase and I think you will be too. “
    – E.T.Chapman (US)
  • “I’ve now taken well over a 1000 pictures with this lens and a D300 body. I’ve used it in the desert, in snow fields, in Las Vegas at night, in heavy overcast sky and indoors at a wedding without a flash. The results are easily up to professional standards – sharp, no chromatic aberrations, low distortion. The VR makes it easy to hand hold down to 1/5 of a second. This, to some degree, makes up for the lens’ relatively slow speed. The plus side of the trade-offs this lens design makes is that you get a much greater focal length range than the much more expensive, much heavier, faster glass – while retaining great performance. Build quality is great with no lens creep. It feels like the two front extension tubes are metal (I don’t know that for a fact). There is only minimal wobble at the front of the lens when it is fully extended. This movement is about the same as found in any fixed focal length Nikkor lens. It’s a bargain.” – F.M.Bonnet (US)


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