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Review by Markus Stamm
When Nikon introduced the AF-S 14-24/2.8 zoom lens in 2007, they set a new benchmark regarding ultra wide lenses, at least regarding sharpness, by outresolving even some of the best primes in this segment. On the other hand, with a significant amount of distortion at the wide end, the tendency to produce flare spots even in the most unexpected situations and most of all the lack of a filter thread, it's not everybodies darling.
At PMA 2010 Nikon surprised with another pro grade ultra wide angle lens, the new AF-S 16-35/4 VR. One stop slower than its sister lens it features optical stabilization instead and a larger focal range. Given the superb sharpness of the 14-24 the expectations are on a very high level for this lens, too, so let's see how the new lens behaves on our high resolution FX test camera.
The lens is primarily targeting the professional market and thus the
build quality is accordingly high. The outer barrel is made
of a magnesium alloy and there are seals for dust and moisture protection. Both the zoom and focus ring work smoothly and are well damped, but at least on our review unit the focus ring showed a little play: not in the focus ring itself, but in the coupling with the actual focus unit. When chaging the focus direction, it takes a few millimeters of movement until the focus unit actually follows the focus ring. This can be annoying when trying to nail critical focus, for example in Live View.
Unlike the 14-24 the lens features an almost flat front lens and a 77mm filter thread. Thanks to an internal focusing system (IF) the inner tube
remains static during focus operations and the front element and filter thread do not rotate.
The physical length of the lens remains constant but the inner lens tube moves
according to the focal length within a rather solid outer tube (see above). At 24 mm the inner tube moves almost 1 cm inwards and returns only half way outwards again until 35 mm.
A petal shaped lens hood (HB-23, already known from other Nikon FX and DX ultra wide lenses) is supplied with the lens.
Given its moderate specifications, the lens is surprisingly long and looks rather familiar to those who know the AF-S 24-70. It's thinner, but not shorter than the 14-24, while on the other hand it's larger than the older AF-S 17-35/2.8.
The Nikkor 16-35 VR is a G-type lens so it does not offer an aperture ring
anymore. Thanks to an AF-S drive (Silent Wave Motor) AF operations are reasonably fast and
basically silent. In direct comparison, the auto focus of the AF-S 14-24 feels a little snappier, though.
The lens features optical stabilization (VR II) which Nikon claims allows for up to 4 stops slower shutter speeds. Actual results will vary depending on the photographer, of course. In our field tests up to three stops longer shutter times were easily possible at the long end and up to two stops at the short end of the focal range (given a steady subject).
|Optical construction||17 elements in 12 groups inc. 2x ED and 3x aspherical elements and 1x element with Nano Crystal Coat|
|Number of aperture blades||9 (rounded)|
|min. focus distance||0,29m (max. magnification ratio 1:4)|
|Filter size||77mm, non-rotating|
|Hood||HB-23, petal-shaped, bayonet mount, included|
|Other features||sealing, silent-wave AF motor, VR II optical stabilization|