Although it was introduced during January 2008, the Nikon 16–85mm f/3.5–5.6 DX lens is still an outstanding piece of glass for hobbyists and enthusiasts shooting in the APS-C format. When it entered the marketplace, this lens was actually the first in its focal length range that provided amateurs better performance than lower-priced entry-level models and avoided the cost of higher-priced zooms with faster speeds. With an equivalent field-of-view of 24–128mm in the full-frame format (FX in Nikonspeak), the 16–85mm allows amateurs to cover most shooting situations and photography types: from wide angle for landscapes and street images to portraits to enough focal length to bring subjects closer.
Of course, as a DX lens, Nikon doesn’t quite give it as much rugged, robust construction as pro-level full-frame lenses; nonetheless, the plastic outer body is good quality and metal has been used for the inner tubes as well as the sealed mount. Aperture is selected on the camera, since this is a G-type lens, but it does have internal focusing, so a polarizer can be attached to the front because it doesn’t move.
A major feature that does make the Nikon 16–85mm f/3.5–5.6 DX lens a winner for amateurs is Nikon’s VR II, or second-generation vibration reduction technology. Handheld shots at slow shutter speeds are easier for hobbyists and enthusiasts with less experience shooting in this manner. Nikon claims 4 f-stops of help, but 3 f-stops are probably more realistic. Plus, there is a choice of two VR settings. Think of “normal” as the default setting for static as well as moving objects, or when a monopod is being used. “Active” is selected when the photographer and camera are in motion, e.g., shooting from a car.
Nikon is known for making excellent autofocus motors, and the ultrasonic motor on the 16–85mm is quick and produces little or no noise. There is little to complain about AF accuracy, although at 16mm, it falters the most.
All the optical performance parameters are rather good to above average on the Nikon 16–85mm f/3.5–5.6 DX lens. The pronounced distortion, which is common on zoom lenses of such a focal length, is generally absent from this lens. Barrel distortion is more noticeable at 16mm, but throughout the zoom range, it is moderate and highly acceptable. Resolution tests show this lens to deliver quite sharp imaging in the center (as expected), but the edges and corners perform remarkably well for a lens at this price point. Chromatic aberration are what one would expect on this kind of lens: good in the middle range and more evident at 16mm and 85mm.
No amateur should mistake the Nikon DX lens as an excellent choice to create shallow depth-of-field, as the slow maximum aperture is a challenge. The lens does produce relatively good bokeh – not spectacular, but, again, acceptable at this price point.
Nikon 16–85mm f/3.5–5.6 DX Lens Specifications
Equivalent focal length: 24–127.5mm (full frame)
Equivalent aperture: f/5.3–f/8.4
Optical construction: 17 elements in 11 groups, with 3 aspherical and 2 ED elements
Number of aperture blades: 7 (rounded)
Minimum focus distance: approximately 15 inches (0.38m)
Maximum magnification ratio: 1:4:6
Dimensions: 2.8” x 3.3” (72 x 85mm)
Weight: 17.1 oz. (485g)
Filter size: 67mm
Hood: Nikon HB-39, snap-on type, petal-shaped
The conclusions about the Nikon 16–85mm f/3.5–5.6 DX lens haven’t changed since it was introduced more than 6 years ago. It is still an excellent choice after the “kit,” or entry-level, model. Finding a well refurbished, used lens means a first-time DSLR photographers can afford to skip the limits of an entry-level lens and have more shooting capabilities and image quality from the very first day.
There is only one place where you’ll find this Nikon lens fully refurbished and, more importantly, backed with a 14-day, no-questions-asked return policy and a 6-month, non-transferable warranty – and that’s KEH, the world’s largest dealer of used cameras and photographic equipment. A world of photo gear awaits you at KEH.com.
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