Summary

Highly Recommended awardThe bottom line is if you’re looking for a quality general-purpose DX-format lens which zooms-out to an equivalent of 24mm, then the DX 16-85mm VR is the model to go for and easily comes Recommended. It misses out on our Highly Recommended award though due to a lack of really compelling advantages beyond existing models and the fact you can buy the DX 18-200mm VR for only a little extra. As such our advice is to think very carefully about what you really need from your general-purpose lens and how it might fit into a kit now and in the future.

Support Cameralabs!

Support me when you shop for anything at Amazon.com, B&H or Adorama. Or if you find this review useful, treat me to a coffee!

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

Real-life resolution - Nikkor DX 16-85mmm VR vs DX 18-105mm VR vs 14-24mm f2.8

Real-life resolution – Nikkor DX 16-85mmm VR vs DX 18-105mm VR vs 14-24mm f2.8

To compare real-life performance we shot this scene with the Nikkor DX 16-85mm VR, DX 18-105mm VR and 14-24mm f2.8, all mounted on the same Nikon D90 body within moments of each other. The lenses were adjusted to deliver the same field of view, and set to f8 in Aperture Priority. VR was disabled on lenses with the facility. The D90 was set to its base sensitivity of 200 ISO and into RAW mode to avoid in-camera JPEG corrections; all files were processed in Nikon Capture NX2 with lens corrections disabled.

The image above was taken with the Nikkor DX 16-85mm VR mounted on the Nikon D90 body. The lens was set to 24mm f8, and the D90 set to 200 ISO. The exposures were identical with each lens (1/640 at f8) and the crops are taken from the areas marked with a red square above, and are presented here at 100%.

Nikon’s latest DSLRs feature very effective in-camera reduction of coloured fringing, and if we were comparing in-camera JPEGs, the first row of crops would have looked almost identical. To avoid digital corrections and tell the true story though, our latest lens tests compare images shot in RAW and converted without any lens corrections enabled.

So like most lenses, when faced with a high-contrast subject near the corner of their frames, all three are suffering to some degree from coloured fringing. The DX 18-105mm VR kit lens unsurprisingly shows the worst fringing of the three, followed by the professional 14-24mm, with the DX 16-85mm VR coming in just ahead. It’s not a huge lead for the DX 16-85mm VR though, but worth mentioning it and the 14-24mm are also exhibiting slightly higher contrast than the kit lens in this row. Note: the coloured fringing disappeared when comparing in-camera JPEGs, or RAW files processed in Capture NX2 with corrections enabled.

Moving onto the second row of crops taken from an area near to the centre of the frame, all three lenses are delivering roughly the same amount of real-life detail on the D90, although the 14-24mm is again showing slightly higher contrast.

The third row of crops, taken from an area towards the lower right of the frame, however shows some quite apparent differences in optical quality. The professional grade 14-24mm is comfortably sharper than the crops from the other two lenses, although this is expected considering its price and the fact it’s corrected for a larger full-frame sensor. As for the two DX models, the 18-105mm VR kit lens is a little softer in this region than the DX 16-85mm VR.

Moving onto the fourth and final row of crops, there’s little to choose between any of the three lenses. The 14-24mm again shows slightly greater contrast and avoids the tiny amount of fringing around the white arches on the middle building, but both are minimal issues here and the real-life detail recorded with the D90 is essentially the same.

So as you might expect, the DX 16-85mm VR comes ahead of the DX 18-105mm VR kit lens in this test, but falls behind the professional 14-24mm model. But the DX 18-105mm VR is performing well for a kit lens, and there’s only a minor quality benefit enjoyed by the DX 16-85mm VR over it here.

We have further real-life comparisons though at their shortest and longest focal lengths and at wider apertures, so to see how the lenses measure-up under these conditions, let’s move onto our Real-life Corner sharpness results.

 

 

Nikkor DX 16-85mm VR
with Nikon D90
Nikkor DX 18-105mm VR
with Nikon D90
Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8
with Nikon D90
f8, 200 ISO
f8, 200 ISO
f8, 200 ISO
f8, 200 ISO
f8, 200 ISO
f8, 200 ISO
f8, 200 ISO
f8, 200 ISO
f8, 200 ISO
f8, 200 ISO
f8, 200 ISO
f8, 200 ISO
Buy Gordon a coffee to support cameralabs!

Like my reviews? Buy me a coffee!

Like my reviews? Buy me a coffee!

Follow Gordon Laing

All words, images, videos and layout, copyright 2005-2017 Gordon Laing. May not be used without permission.

Website design by Coolgrey