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.

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

Studio resolution: Nikkor DX 16-85mm VR using Nikon D90

Studio resolution: Nikkor DX 16-85mm VR using Nikon D90

To measure and compare the Nikkor DX 16-85mm VR’s resolving power, we photographed the Enhanced Digital Camera Resolution Chart with it and the DX 18-105mm VR, each set to 35mm f8 using a Nikon D90 in Aperture Priority mode. Magnified assistance in Live View was used to confirm the focusing and VR was disabled.

The D90 was set to RAW to maximise quality and avoid in-camera corrections, and the images converted using Nikon Capture NX2 with its default settings other than having lens corrections disabled.

The crops are taken from the converted RAW images, saved as High Quality JPEGs in Photoshop CS4 and presented here at 100%. Each number represents 100 lines per picture height (lpph), so a figure of 20 means a resolution of 2000 lpph.

Mounted on a Nikon D90 body in RAW mode and set to 35mm f8, the Nikkor DX 16-85mm VR delivered 2400 and 2450 lpph of horizontal and vertical resolution respectively. This is slightly higher than the results measured for the Nikkor DX 18-105mm VR kit lens, although one glance at the crops below reveals a more significant difference in terms of overall sharpness and contrast. The DX 16-85mm VR image is crisper and much better defined, and while there’s not a significant difference in actual resolution when mounted on the D90, it’s still a preferable result.

Resolution and detail across the frame are just some of the lens tests we perform at Cameralabs. Keep reading to find out how the lenses compare when it comes to geometry and light fall-off. We’ll start with the former on our Nikkor DX 16-85mm VR Geometric distortion results page.

Horizontal resolution using Nikon D90 in RAW

Nikkor DX 16-85mm VR with Nikon D90
Nikkor DX 18-105mm VR with Nikon D90
2400 lpph, DX 16-85mm VR at 35mm, f8, 100 ISO
2300 lpph, DX 18-105mm VR at 35mm, f8, 100 ISO

Vertical resolution using Nikon D90 in RAW

Nikkor DX 16-85mm VR with Nikon D90
Nikkor DX 18-105mm VR with Nikon D90
2450 lpph, DX 16-85mm VR at 35mm, f8, 100 ISO
2400 lpph, DX 18-105mm VR at 35mm, f8, 100 ISO

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