This is Nikon's first ultra wide-angle lens with image stabilisation (or vibration reduction) built in. As with all Nikon F-mount lenses, this one is compatible with all of the company's dSLR range, from the D3000 right through to the top of the line D3S.
Design and features
Being an internal focus lens, all the lens elements move inside the unit, rather than extending out from the body itself. Maintaining a constant f/4 aperture throughout the focal length range, it contains 17 elements in 12 groups.
Weighing 680g, the lens protrudes 12.5cm from the camera body. The lens is surrounded in sturdy plastic with rubberised focusing and zooming rings that operate very smoothly. Focal length measures are provided just behind the zoom ring, including 16, 20, 24, 28 and 35mm markings.
At the front, the 16-35mm uses a 77mm filter thread. Also on the exterior are two physical switches, one to choose between focusing mode (the typical M/A and M selections) and the VR switch that turns the feature on or off.
The lens is coated in Nikon's Nano Crystal Coat that assists in the reduction of flaring and ghosting. Autofocusing is incredibly quiet thanks to the SWM (silent wave motor) and the lens itself is sealed to some extent against dust and moisture.
There is little to no evidence of lens flare caused by this tricky lighting situation. (Credit: CBSi)
The closest the 16-35mm can focus is at 28cm which makes it mostly unsuitable for macro and close-up work. However, given the enormous 107-degree field of view, it's unlikely that photographers will attempt to use it for this purpose. In the box, the lens comes with a bayonet lens hood, a front and rear lens cap, and a lens pouch.
Our tests were conducted on the Nikon D3S, which provides a comfortable counter-balance to the weight of the 16-35mm. Anything smaller than a D300S we'd wager as being too light for the 16-35mm, for handheld shooting.
Light falloff is prominent in studio conditions as the lens is wide open at the extreme 16mm focal length but evens out considerably as the aperture is stopped down. However, in real-world applications this falloff is not very noticeable unless shooting a completely uniform subject. Naturally for such a wide lens, there is considerable barrel distortion at 16mm, which can be compensated for in post-processing.
The 16mm focal length exhibits prominent barrel distortion. (Credit: CBSi)
Bokeh is pleasing, though at f/4 it's not all that visible, and overall this lens is as sharp as a tack. Nikon claims that the vibration reduction offers compensation for camera shake up to four stops; in our tests we were able to reach a handheld exposure of 1/8s at 35mm without discernible motion blur.
The 16-35mm is a fantastic wide-angle zoom lens from Nikon that exhibits amazing sharpness. Coupled with the D3S it makes for a great shooting experience for photographers looking for a lens suited to architectural or landscape photography.