The Nikon AF-S DX 16–80 mm f/2.8–4E ED VR has a chance of becoming a classic among the Nikon DX lenses. In the past years, various camera manufacturers have devoted enormous effort to making new lenses for cameras with a full-frame sensor. It thus appeared that cameras with a smaller sensor were getting less attention, as far as lenses are concerned. Of course you can use a lens that is designed for a camera with an FX sensor on a DX camera. That results in exemplary image quality because you only use the center of the image. The flip side of an FX lens on a DX camera is that an FX lens with the same specs as a DX lens is heavier, bigger and more expensive.
Nikon DX 16–80 mm f/2.8–4E ED VR list price: €1199.-.
The list price of the Nikon 16-80 mm is more than 1000 euros. That reveals the target audience: (semi-) professionals and prosumers. The Nikon 16-80 mm DX is also equipped with several of Nikon’s most recent “professional” technologies, such as an electromagnetic aperture and a protective fluorine coating on the front lens element. The 5x focal range of 16-80 mm is suitable for most shooting situations, from outstretched landscapes to portraits from nearby. The high brightness of f/2.8-4 offers a notable advantage in low light, as well as a beautiful bokeh. Nikon’s impressive vibration reduction of four stops keeps images sharp even at long shutter times. Perfect for travelling, since it is also compact and even light at 480 grams.
Build and auto focus
The advanced optical design of this lens consists of 17 elements in 13 groups. The lens elements have Nano Crystal Coating, and the front glass element has fluorine coating, which actively repels water, dust and dirt, without compromising the image quality. Further, the lens includes three aspherical lens elements and four elements of ED glass (extra-low dispersion). The plastic housing is solid. With the M/A switch you can switch to priority for manual focusing. A rubber ring around the metal mount holds back dust and moisture. Both the zoom and the focus ring are nicely dampened. The Silent Wave Motor (SWM) provides fast, silent and accurate auto focus within the whole zoom range.
An electromagnetic aperture—Nikon held onto mechanical aperture control for a long time, for the sake of backward compatibility—offers precise exposure, in particular at high shooting speeds.
The lens comes with the HB-75 lens hood.
At full aperture without correction of vignetting, dark edges are visible. At f/5.6, that is gone completeley. Vignetting is simple to correct with software, for example with lens correction profiles in Lightroom or Photoshop.
Nikon DX 16–80 mm f/2.8–4E ED VR @ 16mm
Universally applicable: the field of view of the Nikon 16-80 mm f/2.8-4 ED VR corresponds with the field of view of a 24-120 mm zoom lens on a camera with an FX sensor. A bright zoom lens with image stabilization with this zoom range—from wide angle to small telephoto lens—is universally applicable, for (urban) landscape, wedding, holiday or documentary. Compare this shot with the shot a bit later in the article to get an impression of the zoom range.
Little flare: Nikon’s first DX lens with Nano Crystal Coating
The Nikon DX 16–80 mm f/2.8–4E ED VR is the first DX lens with Nikon’s Nano Crystal Coat. With this coating, ghosts/image shadows and flare are suppressed. During the practical test, we took shots with direct backlighting, and simultaneous took shots with a Nikkor 24 mm f/2.8 from the analogue age. The modern zoom lens beat the lens from the analogue era (with film you had less trouble with internal reflections and lenses were therefore not yet so well coated) hands down.
Since we started using the new test set-up, which is also suitable for cameras with 50 megapixels, we report MTF 50 results of RAW files without image editing (sharpening, corrections for vignetting, chromatic aberration and distortion). We therefore show pictures of MTF 50 results from jpg files, including all possible in-camera corrections. For many amateur photographers, these jpg scores offer “What you see is what you get,” but the camera has more influence on the final result than it does on the measurements of unedited RAW files (read: outside Photoshop and Lightroom), which give more information about the lens design.
The Imatest results (MTF50) for un-sharpened RAW files without corrections for chromatic aberration and distortion. If you open your RAW files in Lightroom or Photoshop, then chromatic aberration is corrected and the sharpness in the corners is therefore higher. In particular the high center sharpness is striking. The highest center sharpness is already reached after stopping down 1 stop. For optimal sharpness in the corners, it can’t hurt to stop down 2 stops.
Nikon DX 16–80mm f/2.8–4E ED VR @ 80mm
Chromatic aberration and distortion Nikon DX 16–80 mm f/2.8–4E ED VR
Nikon cameras do a perfect correction of any lateral chromatic aberration (read: colored edges at extreme contrast transitions in the corners of the image) for all lenses. Even for non-Nikon lenses. I find that admirable with Nikon, since that is not the case with all camera brands. With Canon, you can only apply in-camera corrections with Canon lenses.
In the design, Nikon has chosen not to entirely eliminate chromatic aberration, probably because this would further increase the price, while you can simply and automatically correct both RAW and jpg files for chromatic aberration without a loss of quality.
During our test, there was not yet any lens correction profile available in Lightroom, Photoshop or DxO Optics. That will be different in a couple of weeks. Then you can also automatically correct in RAW files for all chromatic aberration. As soon as you do that, the scores for chromatic aberration for RAW files will be the same as the scores for CA for the jpg files.
VR test: Outstanding performance
Nikon 16-80 mm offered perfect vibration reduction in our test: 5 stops profit
The Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 16–80 mm f/2.8–4E ED VR is equipped with the newest generation of Nikon’s impressive vibration reduction technology. Effective image stabilization—or vibration reduction, as Nikon calls it—is a plus point that should not be underestimated for anyone who works without a tripod. With VR, you can photograph with shutter times that are up to four times longer, without the blur caused by vibrations of the camera affecting photo quality. The VR system operates silently and offers two modes (Normal for general photography by hand and Active to correct the mechanical vibration frequencies) plus automatic tripod detection. We subsequently measure the sharpness of the shots with Imatest. If the sharpness of a shot is just as high as that of a shot made from a tripod, then the sharpness is scored as 100%.
The series of shots made without image stabilization at a shutter time of 1/200 sec appear to be just as sharp as the series of shots with image stabilization and a shutter time of 1/6 sec. These are exceptionally good results.
The shortest focal distance to the subject is just 35 cm.
The Nikon 16-80 mm is a lens that rivals many FX lenses when it comes to bokeh.
With less expensive zoom lenses for DX cameras, the background blur tends to come across a bit noisy, so that you cannot isolate a subject from the background as well. For some photographers, that is a reason to switch to a camera with an FX sensor. Another solution is to choose brighter lenses—with a bit longer focal length if needed—to use on a camera with a DX sensor. It is not only the size of the sensor that determines the quality of the bokeh. I was, for example, pleasantly surprised by the bokeh quality of the Nikon 18-140mm. The Nikon 16-80 mm carries on the tradition and offers a beautiful bokeh.
Conclusion Nikon DX 16–80 mm f/2.8–4E ED VR review with D7200
- High brightness
- Perfect vibration reduction: 5 stops’ profit
- Beautiful bokeh
- Good build quality and not too heavy
- Visible vignetting at full aperture
- Less sharp in the corners in comparison with the center
In our test, the Nikon 16-80 vibration reduction realized 1 stop more profit than the—already not too shabby—4 stops that Nikon claims.
In the race for the favor of the photographer with an FX camera, new high-end lenses were quickly released for cameras with a full-frame sensor. Those can of course also be used on a camera with a DX sensor, but they are really too big and too expensive for that. I was thus pleasantly surprised when Nikon announced the 16-80 mm, which is specially designed for a camera with a DX sensor and is the successor to the less bright Nikon 16-85 mm.
A bright, f/2.8-f/4 zoom lens that weighs just 480 grams, with a zoom range that is widely applicable, is a bonus in the broad lens palette of Nikon. The lens fits outstandingly on the camera body, and the cylinder has a rubber ring that offers protection from the weather. Thanks to the advanced technology and the compact dimensions, this lens meets the needs of critical amateur photographers and professional photographers who want to travel light with a DX-format camera. Nano Crystal Coat, a powerful vibration reduction system and a protective fluorine coating on the front lens element are important plus points for this group of photographers. Both the absence of ghosts and a profit of 5 stops in our vibration reduction test are exceptionally good.