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

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This is a so-called “normal” zoom, which means that it covers the zoom range you are most likely to use. If you are like most photographers, a “normal” zoom is the lens you will be using most of time, so you need to weight your options carefully.

This lens is probably Nikon's best consumer grade “normal” zoom for the DX-format (The Nikon 17-55 mm f/2.8 G is of course better, but is also in a different league price-wise.)

At its longest setting, the maximum aperture of this lens is f/5.6, which means that you will have a dim viewfinder image. However, this lens features Nikon's second generation Vibration Reduction system (VR II) that (according to Nikon) provides up to 4 stops improvement, making it the equivalent of an f/2.8 lens for stationary subjects. There are two VR modes: A normal mode for most situations including object tracking, and active mode for shooting from a moving vehicle. The VR should be switched off when the camera is on a tripod.

Sharpness, colour and contrast are very good over the entire zoom range, even wide open. The 5.3x zoom range predictably results in pronounced barrel distortion (about 2.5%) turning into distinct pincussion at the tele end. Its weakest point is pretty hefty vignetting (1.2EV) at the wide end. At 16 mm, the vignetting persist to around f/8. However, the vignetting goes away as soon as you zoom in a bit. It must also be said that the bokeh is downright ugly, with the distinct contours that characterises lenses overcorrected for sharpness and contrast. Peak performance is from f/5.6 to f/11 at the wide end, and f/8 to f/11 at the long end.

The front ring does not rotate during focusing.

Build quality is fair. Outer body is plastic, but the inner tubes and the mount are metal. It even has a rear rubber gasket to prevents intrusion of dirt and moisture. The focus ring is small, but handles smoohly. The zoom is somewhat stiff.

For infrared work, this lens is excellent, with no hot-spots in sight.

Comes with HB-39 plastic bayonet.

Rating: Ed: -, User: - (normalized, 0=useless, 50=average, 100=excellent).

Mount: Nikon F.
Format: DX/APS-C.
Aperture range: f/3.5-5.6 to f/36.
Optical zoom: 5.3x.
Close focus distance (CFD): 40 cm / 1.31 ft (from sensor plane).
CFD magnification: 1:4.5 / 0.22X.
Focus: AF (built-in, ring-type).
Groups/elements: 11/17.
Filter diameter: 67 mm.
L x D, W: 86 x 71 mm, 485 g.
IR: No hotspot reports.
Approximate street price: USD 630 (new, w/o tax).
Production: 2008-today.

Company Profile

Key info

Established: 1917
HQ: Tokyo, Japan
Web: Global, EU, US, man

Nikon is a multinational corporation headquartered in Tokyo, Japan specializing in optics and imaging. Its products include cameras, lenses, flash units, scanners, binoculars, microscopes, measurement instruments, and steppers (used in semiconductor fabrication). The company was founded in 1917 as Nippon Kōgaku Kōgyō Kabushikigaisha (Japan Optical Industries Corporation), and renamed Nikon Corporation, after its cameras, in 1988. Nikon Corporation is one of the companies of the Mitsubishi Group.

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