Nikon 16-35mm f4G VR review - Verdict
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Verdict

The Nikon 16-35/4.0G VR is a mixed bag: with a constant f4.0 aperture and image stabilization it offers very nice features plus starts at 16mm which is very wide on a full-frame camera.

But performance is a bit behind what I’d expected from a gold-ringed Nikkor zoom and at this price-point: High performance in the center and the DX image-circle is accompanied by abysmal performance in the FX-corners at the wide end which not even stopping down can cure.

On the other hand the lens shows quite some good flare resistance and auto-focus performs fast and reliable. This all comes in an optical design that is pretty large and produces some hefty distortions at the short end.

Nikkor AF-S 16-35mm f4G ED VR

 

But how does it compare to some other options from Nikon’s wide-angle zoom catalog?

Three wide-angle full-frame zooms from Nikon
Three AF-S Nikkors from left to right: 18-35/3.5-4.5G, 16-35/4.0G VR, 14-24/2.8G

Compared to Nikon AF-S 18-35mm f3.5-4.5G ED

Looking for a cheaper wide-angle full-frame zoom from Nikon? 600 EUR (including 19% VAT) gets you a lens that has no constant aperture at f3.5-4.5, is not stabilized, goes only down to 18mm at wide end, and has no gold ring. Does this look like a bad deal?

Well, no! I’ve tested this lens (see my Nikon 18-35mm review) and it performs on a similar level: at 35mm it lags in the FX-corners but is a bit in the lead in the DX-corners. At 24mm there’s not much of a difference. At 18mm it lags in the DX image-circle but performance in the FX-corners is better. Distortions at the short end are less severe than with the 16-35/4.0G VR zoom but resistance against flare is worse. And what about the missing 2mm on the wide end and the f3.5-4.5 maximum aperture? Unless you’re a wide-angle fanatic, this difference in my opinion is too small to base a decision upon.

The 18-35 also has the advantage of being substantially lighter and smaller than the 16-35 – and did I mention the 30% lower price? So if you don’t need the aid of image stabilization which gives you a two stop advantage I’d prefer the 18-35/3.5-4.5G over the 16-35/4.0 G VR.

See my Nikon 18-35mm review for more details.

Compared to Nikon AF-S 14-24mm f2.8G ED

Need a lens that goes even shorter and offers a constant f2.8 aperture and a professional build-quality? Be prepared to invest around 1500 EUR (incl. VAT).

The performance of the 14-24mm is top notch and it has the least distortions of the trio (see my Nikon 14-24mm review). But it does not allow for filters, suffers from flares and ghosts pretty easily, and is larger and heavier. And it also stops at 24mm which is 31% shorter than the 35mm focal length that the other lenses offer.

The 14-24/2.8G is a unique lens that no other manufacturer offers: if you want or need an ultra-wide-angle zoom for your FX-body that delivers the highest performance with a professional build and a constant f2.8 aperture there’s only one choice: The Nikon AF-S 14-24mm f2.8G! This lens thus clearly earned a Highly Recommended rating in my review. But if your budget is limited or you need a zoom that goes longer than 24mm have a look at the alternatives.

See my Nikon 14-24mm f2.8 review for more details.

Nikon AF-S 16-35mm f4.0G ED VR final verdict

“Stuck in the middle” comes to my mind: The Nikon 16-35/4.0G VR has a lot going for it: the zoom range is very practical for a wide-angle zoom, and starting at 16mm, not 18mm as other alternatives do, is also a slight plus. Plus a constant aperture and image stabilization make it a proposition that would be pretty attractive had it not been for the somewhat disappointing performance especially considering the price.

For a lens costing close to 1000 EUR I’d have expected a better image quality – simple as that. It’s also not the lightest and smallest zoom in this range. Still, valued on its own it is a worthy compact wide-angle-zoom for those who start into FX-land or want to keep their options open for a future upgrade to an FX-body. It has a similar optical performance as the cheaper 18-35/3.5-4.5 plus offers image stabilization, a shorter 16mm plus constant f4 aperture for its higher price. So a Recommended rating is well earned.

Summary

Good points
Good image quality in the DX image-circle.
Weather sealing at the lens-mount.
Quiet and fast AF operation.
Image stabilization.
Very wide 16mm focal length plus constant f4.0 aperture.

Bad points
Needs stopping down to produce good FX-corners.
Strong barrel-distortions at 16mm
Relatively large and heavy package.
Relatively high price.
If you have any question, comment or suggestion regarding the review head over to our forum here. A selection of my shots with this lens in full resolution can be found here
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Nikon 16-35mm f4G

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