Thursday, April 6, 2017

Review of the Nikon Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-f/4

If you just bought a Nikon D500 (or even a D7200) and you're looking for an advanced midrange zoom for it, your options are pretty limited - at least when it comes to Nikkor lenses; you can find plenty of interesting third-party offerings. But for those looking for Nikon products, basically you have two options (maybe three, keep reading): either the pro-specs Nikon Nikkor AF-S 17-55 f/2.8 or the Nikon Nikkor AF-S VR 16-80mm f/2.8-f/4, which is the subject of today's review. I'll outline the basic pros and cons, then we'll talk a bit more about options.

You really can't fault its sharpness, even in low light, but there are other shortcomings

+ very well balanced: focal length range, fast(er) aperture, small and light
+ resolution-wise, it's unbeatable (but keep reading about optical quality)
+ very efficient VR

- resolution might be superb, but bokeh and distortion characteristics aren't.
- It has an electronic diaphragm, which means you can't use it with the first-generation Nikon DX cameras (D1, D2, D100, D200, D70, D50, D80, D90, D40, D60, D3000). Well, you can use it, but you'll be stuck with the largest aperture - f/2.8-f/4, depending on the focal length range
- I find it a bit on the expensive side for what it gives you.

Intended Users
Great for:
  • Great traveling lens
  • If you want only one lens on your camera and you're quality-oriented, the Nikon Nikkor AF-S 16-80mm f/2.8-f/4 should probably be your first choice. (If you're convenience-oriented, pick a super zoom)
  • Low-light urban photography

Using it in tight, dimly lit spaces is an obvious application

Not for:
  • Due to compatibility issues, not recommended for those with an older camera (see list further above)
  • Portraits. 80mm and f/4 isn't optimal, and the bokeh isn't great.
  • In case you're wondering, no, it can't be used on FX - you black corners at all focal lengths. If you're looking for a DX lens that can be used on an FX camera, the humble 18-55 is a decent emergency 24-55mm lens for FX!

Final Verdict

If we just look at what the 16-80mm offers us, it's a great lens. Although not perfect optically, it's definitely in "very good all-around" territory. The problem - just like with the 17-55 f/2.8 - is when you begin to factor in the price. It's somewhat expensive for what it is, at the end of the day: a variable-aperture DX midrange zoom. It's not only that there are much cheaper third-party options out there - such as the Sigma 17-70mm - but there's an alternative even from Nikon's own offerings (this is the third option I hinted at in the introduction):

The Nikon Nikkor AF-S VR 16-85mm f/3.5-f/5.6

It's indeed the lens replaced (partially) by this newer 16-80mm. It's optically very good (we can split hairs about whether the newer is any better here or there), it's very slightly longer, and, most importantly, it's much much cheaper. It's a stop slower at the long end (2/3 of a stop on the short end), but you can find some pretty sweet used deals. I think it's worth a look.

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