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 wide-angle sharpness at 16mm - Nikkor DX 16-85mm VR

Real-life wide-angle sharpness at 16mm – Nikkor DX 16-85mm VR

 

To compare real-life corner sharpness when zoomed-out, we shot this scene with the Nikkor DX 16-85mm VR on the Nikon D90 body. The DX 16-85mm VR was zoomed-out to its shortest 16mm focal length and tested at all aperture settings with VR disabled. 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 16mm f8, and the D90 set to 200 ISO. The crops are taken from the lower right corner and the centre, and presented here at 100%.

The crops from the bottom right corner of the frame show some softness, and inevitably some geometric distortion too, but we’ve seen worse from other lenses, even on crops taken further from the corner. If you scroll down to the bottom of the page you’ll see results taken from the corner of a wide angle frame using the DX 18-105mm VR kit lens, and while it’s not bad for its class, the DX 16-85mm VR is visibly superior.

Closing the aperture doesn’t make much difference to the corner sharpness of the DX 16-85mm VR when zoomed-out, but it can certainly benefit areas closer to the middle. The centre crop from the f5.6 sample is noticeably sharper than those taken at f4 or the maximum f3.5 aperture. The crop at f8 looks pretty much the same as the f5.6 sample, but you may wish to perform additional tests to see if one represents a better sweet-spot at this focal length.

To see how the DX 18-105mm VR compared when zoomed-out, scroll down, or if you’ve seen enough, head over to our Nikkor DX 16-85mm VR Real life corner results at telephoto.

Nikkor DX 16-85mm VR with Nikon D90
Wide (16mm) corner
Nikkor DX 16-85mm VR with Nikon D90
Wide (16mm) centre
f3.5, 200 ISO
f3.5, 200 ISO
f4, 200 ISO
f4, 200 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f8, 200 ISO
f8, 200 ISO

Real-life wide-angle sharpness at 18mm – Nikkor DX 18-105mm VR

To compare real-life corner sharpness when zoomed-out, we shot this scene with the Nikkor DX 18-105mm VR on the Nikon D90 body. The DX 18-105mm VR was zoomed-out to its shortest 18mm focal length and tested at all aperture settings with VR disabled. 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 18-105mm VR mounted on the Nikon D90 body. The lens was set to 18mm f8, and the D90 set to 200 ISO. The crops are taken from the lower left corner and the centre, and presented here at 100%.

Like most lenses, the DX 18-105mm VR suffers from some softening in the corners, and here it’s a little worse than that seen above with the DX 16-85mm VR – although it should be said it’s not bad considering it’s a kit lens. Stopping down to f8 slightly improves the situation in the corners, but not hugely.

Interestingly while the DX 16-85mm VR benefitted from stopping down to improve the sharpness of crops taken from the centre of its images, the DX 18-105mm VR performs remarkably well across its aperture range. Even when wide open at f3.5, the centre crop from the DX 18-105mm VR looks pretty respectable here, so a good result for the kit lens.

As always, the results here just represent one part of the story though, so to see how the lenses compare when zoomed-in, head-on over to our Nikkor DX 16-85mm VR Real life corner results at telephoto.

Nikkor DX 18-105mm VR with Nikon D90
Wide (18mm) corner
Nikkor DX 18-105mm VR with Nikon D90
Wide (18mm) centre
f3.5, 200 ISO
f3.5, 200 ISO
f4, 200 ISO
f4, 200 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 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