Nikon 16-85mm f/3.5 - 5.6 VR. enlarge
I ordered one from Adorama at about $650 in March 2008. I'd also get it from Amazon. These links go directly to their product pages, and it helps me keep adding to this site when you get yours from these links, too. Thanks!
The 16-85mm is also very expensive: about $650. For $650 you're buying great optical performance, but mostly paying for convenience. Honestly, Nikon's 18-55mm kit lens ($120) has the same quality optics, but without most of the convenience features of the 16-85mm. I'm not kidding: I've compared them directly against each other.
The advantage of this 16-85mm VR over the similarly priced 18-200mm VR is that this 16-85mm VR has a slightly wider wide end, has less distortion, has somewhat more effective VR and can be sharper at the wide end. Other than that, I'd still buy the 18-200mm VR if I was doing it again. See also my explicit shoot-out against the 18-200mm VR.
I have a huge page comparing the 16-85mm directly against the 18-200mm.
Name: Nikon calls this the AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR.
Optics: 17 elements in 11 groups. Two of these are of ED glass, and three of these are aspherical. Nikon's SIC super integrated multi coating.
Vibration Reduction? Yes, VR II, for which Nikon claims a four-stop potential improvement.
Diaphragm: 7 blades, rounded. Stops down to f/22-36.
Instant Manual Focus Override? YES, just turn the ring.
Close Focus: 1.3 feet (0.38m).
Maximum Reproduction Ratio: 1:4.6.
Distance Scale? YES.
Depth-of Field Scale? no.
Infra-Red Focus Index? no.
Filter Thread: 67mm, plastic. No rotation during zooming or focus.
Size: 3.368" (85.53mm) extension from flange by 2.847" (72.32mm), when set to 16mm. Set to 85mm, it extends 5.055" (128.40mm) from the flange, all as measured by me. Nikon specifies 3.35" long by 2.83" diameter (85 x 72mm).
Weight: 17.165 oz (486.6g), measured. (Nikon specifies 17.1 oz. (485 g).)
Hood: HB-39 plastic bayonet.
Nikon Product Number: 2178, in catalog as of spring 2008.
Announced: 28 January 2008.
Available: Since March 2008 in the USA.
Price: $650 (USA), March 2008. The 18-200mm VR sells about for the same price.
Performance is excellent. It's sharp, zooms and handles well, and VR works great. It never gets in the way of a great photo. My only reservation about this lens is what I could buy instead with the same money.
Nikon 16-85mm set to 35mm.
Speed is the same as my 18-200mm VR. No big deal; fast enough for anything I shot.
Seems AOK, no errors.
Excellent: just grab the ring at any time for instant override.
You can see barrel distortion at the wide end, and pincushion distortion almost everywhere else.
Distortion is about half of the 18-200mm VR. If you're troubled by the distortion of the 18-200mm, then this could be a good reason to get this 16-85mm, however this 16-85mm still has enough distortion to require correction for critical shots.
Plug these figures into Photoshop CS2's lens distortion filter to correct the distortion. These aren't facts or specifications, they are the results of my research that requires hours of photography and calculations on the resulting data.
© 2008 KenRockwell.com
Nikon 16-85mm set to 85mm.
I've never seen any falloff with real pictures.
I've made it far more obvious by shooting a gray field and then placing these on the same gray background.
The front 67mm thread doesn't rotate with either focus or zooming. It does move forward and back with zooming, and the hood rides along with it.
There is no need for expensive thin0-mount filters. Even with a double-stack of filters 11mm thick (excluding rear threads) I have no vignetting. 11mm is the limit; any more than that and you'll get vignetting at 16mm.
Any old rotating polarizer or grad will work fine; they are usually no more than 8mm thick.
Forget it. It doesn't cover the full film or FX frame at any zoom setting.
© 2008 KenRockwell.com
Outer Body, zoom and focus rings, filter and bayonet mounts: All very good plastic.
Markings: Paint. ID plate seems like raised and planed metal.
Lens Mount: Looks like Nikon standard dull chromed brass.
Ass Gasket (rear dust barrier): Yes.
Made in: Thailand.
Serial Number: Sticker on bottom of barrel.
USA Version shown by: "US" prefix to serial number.
Sharpness is great. It can be a little better than my 2-year-old 18-200mm VR at the wide end, and can be a little worse at 85mm.
I only see these differences by 1.) shooting special test subjects (flat at infinity), 2.) at full aperture, and then 3.) blowing up the images to the equivalent of 40" (1m) wide, and looking at them too closely.
Used under normal conditions and/or printed small, like only 12 x 18" (30 x 45cm), I can't see any meaningful differences.
Sharpness is even across the frame.
Here are Nikon's rated MTF curves:
By "sharp shots" I mean perfect tripod-equivalent sharpness when viewed at 100%, as shot on a D300 by me. For most uses, one can use much slower speeds. See Why VR Matters for more.
Nikon 16-85mm zoom and focus rings.
Zooming, on the prototype I used, is firm. There's no creep as some people see with their 18-200mm lenses.
Zooming is also wonderfully well spaced, making precise framing easy at every focal length.
EXIF Focal Length Coding Accuracy
The focal lengths agree exactly, except for reading 68mm at 70mm, which is no big deal.
Usage Tips top
Nikon 16-85mm focus and VR switches.
Focus: M/A - M
"M/A M" really should be labeled "AF - M."
"M/A" means autofocus, but when you grab the ring, you instantly are in manual focus until you tap the shutter button again.
In "M" you are always in manual focus. Just move the ring.
I always leave VR ON, unless I'm on a tripod.
I always set the VR to NORMAL. ACTIVE is for shooting from a moving vehicle.
Nikon 16-85mm underside - quite a lot to read!
The price is the same as the very similar 18-200mm VR. For most people, the 18-200mm is more flexible.
I wouldn't buy this lens: I prefer the higher zoom ratio of the 18-200mm VR, which for the same price, replaces two lenses, not just one.
I think there are better ways to spend $650 on mid-range lenses, but we all have different needs.
For instance, if on a budget, I'd get the 18-55mm non-VR for $120 and the 55-200mm VR for about $220, and for half the price of this lens, have a more functional pair of lenses. The optics of these less expensive lenses are as good, but they aren't built as tough.
I suspect the price of this 16-85mm lens will drop by the fall of 2008.
I love wides, so I use the dedicated 12-24mm DX for wide angles. 16mm doesn't do anything significantly different for me than the 18mm of the 18-200mm, however running all the way to 200mm save me from carrying and changing lenses, which 85mm does not.
More Information: Nikon, Japan.
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