Nikon’s latest standard zoom could be the lens DX-format users have been waiting for. Phil Hall puts it to the test to see if the wait has been worth it
So if you’re in the market for a high-quality standard zoom lens for your DX-format DSLR, what are your choices? The AF-S DX Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8G IF-ED was a pro-spec workhorse lens back in the days of the D1 and D2-series DSLRs, but it was designed in an era way before 24 million pixels, while the AF-S DX Nikkor 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR doesn’t deliver the faster maximum aperture often desired. However, with the arrival of the AF-S DX Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR, it appears the wait for a high-quality standard zoom lens for DX-format DSLR users is over.
Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR – Features
Packed inside the relatively compact AF-S DX Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR zoom lens are 17 elements in 13 groups. These include four with extra-low dispersion (ED) glass elements to minimise chromatic aberration and three aspherical lens elements. The aspherical lens elements not only control coma and other types of lens aberration, but also correct the distortion in wideangle lenses.
Then there’s the fluorine coating that helps repel water and dirt, and makes it easier to clean the glass without damaging the front element (if you’re not using a UV or skylight filter on the front, that is).
As we’ve also seen with other recently launched Nikon lenses, the Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-4 features an electromagnetic diaphragm (denoted by the ‘E’ designation). This technology has been found on some of Nikon’s lenses for a while, and is designed to provide highly accurate control of the rounded diaphragm blades to ensure more consistent exposures during continuous shooting. It’s worth noting, though, that there are some compatibility issues if you’re thinking of pairing this lens with an older DSLR, including popular models like the D200 and D90.
Speaking of diaphragm blades, it’s perhaps a little disappointing to see only seven on this lens. Nine blades would have been better, as they tend to generate more pleasing bokeh thanks to the smoother circular shape they create.
Nikon’s Silent Wave Motor (AF-S) ensures that focusing noise is kept as quiet as possible, while the company’s Vibration Reduction (VR) anti-shake system is also on board, allowing up to 4 stops of compensation. There are also two modes to choose from – Normal and Active, with Active more suited to situations when you’re shooting from a moving vehicle, as the type of movement is different from that on a stable platform.
The 16-80mm focal length translates to a 35mm equivalent of 24-120mm on a DX-format DSLR, providing a broad focal range from decent wideangle coverage to moderate telephoto, making it versatile enough for a range of subjects. The maximum aperture may be variable, but it’s still a welcome f/2.8-4, which, when paired with the VR system, should deliver plenty of flexibility under varied lighting.
The lens requires a reasonably large 72mm filter thread, but the inclusion of internal focusing means your polarising or ND grad filter won’t spin round when you focus and the front element remains in a fixed position.