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

Product Overview

Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR

Product:

Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR review

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Price as reviewed:

£869.00

Best Price from Reevoo

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Over the past few years Nikon’s lens engineers have been a little preoccupied with their full-frame FX-format lenses, with only the odd update to existing (and it would perhaps be fair to say, often unremarkable) lenses in the DX-format line-up. While these lenses have their place, for owners of the higher end DX-format DSLRs like the D7200, this may be a little unsatisfactory. While FX lenses can be just at home on a DX body, they can be a bit of a compromise. Size can be an issue, as can the 1.5x crop factor on DX-format cameras that means wideangle coverage on zoom lenses is often sacrificed.

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

Nikon-AF-S-DX-Nikkor-16-80mm-f2.8-4E-ED-VR-pincushion-distortion

At 80mm, there is a minor pincushion distortion

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.

  1. 1. Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR - Features
  2. 2. Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR - Autofocusing
  3. 3. Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR - Build and handling
  4. 4. Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR - Image quality
  5. 5. Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR - Our verdict
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  • Andy Whiteman

    Sorry I did not make my point clearly. It’s great you bought the lens and love it. It’s just that every time a new lens is launched, whether it gets 10/10 or 5/10 it costs an arm and a leg and folk run out and buy ’em. All I am saying is this – is your £460 lens 8 times better than the tack sharp but basic 18 – 70mm. I use the 18 – 70 on a D300 works great. I also use it on a D7K – works great. It’s not just this lens it’s almost every lens e.g. 50 mm 1.8 cost me about £90 is the 1.4 50 mm that much better? I just think that we have been brainwashed into spending lots of money on stuff that is OK to GREAT but can we really see the difference. On screen or the web it’ll be hard to see – in print possibly but who prints?

  • NCB

    I have the 18-70, came with a D80. More recently I bought a D3100, and as the kit lens wasn’t great invested in the 16-85. It cost me £460 and that was 4 years ago. Why? The 18-70 was OK, but for my purposes, landscape photography, the 16-85 offered a significantly more useful range, and the VR was useful when photographing at the telephoto end and in low light conditions. I also found that the all round performance of the 16-85 lens was better. So if you’re happy with the 18-70 stick with it, but to some the extras of the 16-85 would be worth it; in my case it definitely was. If I didn’t have the 16-85 I’d go for the 16-80 (or a cut-price 16-85).

  • Andy Whiteman

    I really don’t understand Nikon. I have a Nikon18 – 70 mm lens. They can be bought on EBay for £60 – £70. They take good photos. They cost 10 times less than this lens. Sure they don’t have VR. Never found the need for it myself. Maybe I’m in a world of my own but why would I pay even the discounted price of £560 for something that is not 5/5 and getting a totally rave review. Same as why, even if I had the money, would I pay over £12K for a Leica? I thought we are supposed to be living in times of austerity?