Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Speculative 'Reviews': Nikon Nikkor AF-S VR 16-50mm f/2.8 DX

July 2015 Update:
Bumping up an article only a few weeks after it was posted is quite peculiar, but there is a pressing reason. That a lens very close to what I was describing in this article was announced! Nikon revealed a 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR lens. It's basically exactly the lens I speculated below, only a bit longer in focal length (which also explains the variable aperture).

What becomes interesting now, is:
a) Is the 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR a replacement for the 16-85 f/3.5-f/5.6 lens or for the 17-55 f/2.8 lens? The answer is, both, to a certain extent. The suggested price tag (a bit below $1000) also points to the middle ground between these lenses. The thing is that (at the very least psychologically), a variable aperture lens does not really pass as a "pro" lens. On the other hand, Nikon has thrown a lot of cutting-edge technologies on it, and I expect the image quality to be superb (probably better than the already splendid 16-85mm f/3.5-f/5.6). Which brings us to...
b) Is there a pro body coming? Very tricky to answer. A non-variable aperture lens would very strongly suggest that; now, it's a bit more murky. But, hard-pressed, I would tentatively say: "Yes, I think Nikon might have something up their DX sleeves"


This is the first article in a series of Speculative 'Reviews' articles that might appear from time to time. To state the obvious: This lens does not exist as I'm writing this (May 2015), and it may never appear, either. I have no sources in Nikon (or elsewhere). This article is a product of my knowledge and experience, so, in other words, it is an educated guess. The purpose of these articles is to make us all think, what would this lens mean for Nikon photographers, how would it affect our shooting, and in which way would it affect the market.


A DX-only Nikon Nikkor AF-S VR 16-50mm f/2.8 DX would send a very powerful message: Nikon has not abandoned the DX advanced amateurs (or semi-pro even). In terms of 35mm equiv. focal length, we would be talking about something like a 24-70mm f/2.8 VR lens. Think of the pro-caliber Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8, but with VR (and in DX size/weight). The only similar lens in Nikon's lineup would be the 17-55 f/2.8. Great optics, but no VR, expensive, and oversized. A comparable lens could also be the Sigma ART 18-35 f/1.8 - great optics, no VR, a tiny bit faster, but pretty limited in terms of focal length (especially considering the presence of the small, cheap, and awesome Nikkor 35mm f/1.8).


Obviously, this would be a DX midrange dream come true for a significant number of DX photographers - provided, of course, that the optical formula contained some seriously capable glass. A lens like this, paired with a fast 70-200 tele could be the only two lenses you ever need.


It's very hard to speculate on prices. The 17-55 f/2.8 goes for about $1400 (new). I don't see how a Nikkor AF-S VR 16-50mm f/2.8 DX could go for under $1500 taking this fact into consideration. The problem is, the 17-55 is seriously ovepriced (although not so much, if you realize how well it is built - way, way better than some third-party options out there). Nikon might try to take the price down a bit if they compromise on construction quality. Bit more plastic here and there, and perhaps, just perhaps, the price could climb down to, maybe, about $1200. This is still a lot of money for a DX lens, some people would argue. And I can't blame them. This is a problem related to format strategies. In other words, when Nikon's flagship was the (DX) D2x, it was far easier to sell a 17-55 f/2.8 lens, no matter how much it cost. That crowd has gone to FX a long time ago. 


Will there be a Nikon Nikkor AF-S VR 16-50mm f/2.8 DX lens? I don't know. Heck, for all I know, maybe Nikon D7300 won't even have a focus motor (ponder on that for a moment!). Sometimes Nikon seems to be a bit difficult to 'read', not the least so because they appear to be making decisions that are counterproductive. Why is there no D400? [Update: Yay, the D500 is here!] Why are there no DX wide-angle primes - a thin and small AF-S 16mm f/2.8 DX, for instance? Maybe there will not be a 16-50 f/2.8 lens either. But, maybe it ought to.

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