For the past few weeks I have been shooting a lot with the Nikon 16-35mm f4 VR lens. I wanted to revisit its range 16-35mm appeal as a super wide angle zoom for landscapes. At over a grand, it is not an inexpensive piece of glass..but has some impressive features, like VR, focus to 1ft, F22, Two Ed glass and Nano Crystal. The lens has a Field of view of 107 -63 degrees, and had 9 blades within it’s 7mm lens diameter body
It is a real sweet lens, but it has some special needs. For starters, you can’t just slap the lens on and fire away, ..The first time I tried that, the blinkies went into overload. It has taken me a while to figure how to tame the lens….What I have discovered is that the best way to get the exposure metering correct when you are in a 7-10 stop range of light, is to go out of matrix exposure mode and do you own average metering, then lock the exposure and continue. This is particularly true in backlite situations.
I know, I know the in-camera D3s exposure matrix metering is supposed to go into its bank of 30,000 images and select the correct exposure, but this lens is not in the bank. I also find that you need to get out of auto white balance mode, and preselect cloudy, sunny, ect… with most of my other lenses when I’ve shot in cloudy with AWB on auto there was no impact to the Image….However i was surprised t find that with this thoroughbred lens, bang the images are blown out… It’s okay, the gear’s okay, it’s just that this lens is just that sensitive and it has a character ….
My routine is that when I’m in a situation with strong range of light difference, I select my AWB and I meter exposure average and lock exposure…then all is well,,,
The lens seems to really overwhelm the Nikon D3s matrix meter exposure sensor with light when you’re facing into the light….Next, at 16mm, you don’t get that fish eye effect, but a super expanse of very clean pixels. The lens length is unusual, it is almost like the 24-70, and yet the throw is only 20mm. In summery, a very long lens, with a persnickety metering overload, which produces superb images. An odd lens to be sure, but I am pleased it’s in my bag….
I have been waiting for a comprehensive technical review of the new 16-35 mm, and was very excited to see that Lloyd Chambers has decided to take the entire current Nikon ultra wide zooms head on.
For the uninitiated Lloyd is one of those 21st Renaissance men, who moves between photography, software, hardware, programing, MACs, Ziess lens…whew..and a young family ! Llyod has a primary daily Blog site, and to get to his really fine technical content he has some pay for content sites. My plug here is that I’ve saved myself so much time, effort and money by enrolling on his content sites, that it has been a safer and more profitable investment for me that BOFA.
In a nutshell:
- Diglloyd’s Advanced Photography (DAP) is a growing collection of high quality, timely, impartial research and reports on topics of interest to professional and amateur photographers.
- A subscription enables access to all the DAP content below and any future content for the duration of the subscription (one year). Even without updates, the breadth and depth of existing content in DAP would fill several books—a tremendous value.
- Coverage focuses on Canon EOS and Nikon, but a variety of other brands are also included; Sony, Mamiya, Hartblei, Voigtlander, Sigma, Leica and Tamron for example.
After I read his recent content on the new Nikon 16-35mm f/4, I contacted Lloyd and asked if I could share some of his technical results with you…His work is currently in progress, but he has managed to get thru some parts of the ranges that he is testing.
His posted results are excerpted below:
Nikon 16-35mm f/4G
‘This brand-new lens (March 2010) I have little field experience with it as yet, but I knew right away it would not be a favorite: it’s f/4 and has strong distortion at the wide end, yet it’s still a big brute of a lens. It doesn’t solve any new problem for me.’
‘In film and early DSLR days, I used to shoot the 17-35 at f/2.8 indoors and in dim conditions. With excellent high ISO performance in today’s DSLRs, the requirement of f/2.8 for that purpose is now totally overcome, but ergonomics are the same as they’ve ever been: the 16-35 feels clumsy compared to the 17-35.’
‘Yet a lot of shooters are going to love the 16-35, because it offers biting sharpness across much of the frame at f/5.6, and edges and corners are also very high quality. Specific conclusions depend on focal length and focus distance, but in general it’s an excellent lens’
Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G ED
‘This lens is top-notch, with outstanding image quality. Few primes can match its performance, which is even more astounding given its remarkable ultra-wide zoom range. Color, contrast, sharpness are all terrific, albeit with some field curvature and corner weakness, especially at wider focal lengths.’
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G ED
‘Like the 14-24mm, the 24-70 lens offers top notch image quality, distortion does fade quickly as 28mm is approached, and some field curvature is present in various ways at various focal lengths. The pronounced distortion is the killer, I consider it unusable at the 24mm end— it’s just too barrellized for me, even for landscape shooting; images are not credible there.’
For my part, I have the three lenses listed above plus the 18-35mm, and a D3s with a sensor that thrives in low light. My photography can adapt with the correct lense, once I know the performace limitations which I can now understand by reading the article that Lloyd is writing….Long over due and it can all be found in one location….
Original Post 2/28/10
I have a soft spot for this range of zoom wide angle lens, and for comparison purposes, I’ll discuss both the Nikon 18-35mm and the new 16-35mm
Nikon 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5D IF-ED
Let me explain I purchased my older Nikon 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5D IF-ED based on (A) wanting to get my photography into this photojournalist range (B) reading an excellant review and recommendation by Thom Hogan on the 18-35mm (5 star value).
After some research, I found the lens at a good price ($420) from KEH in early September 2009. I was tempted to get the pro grade version made thru 2001 (20-35mm f/2.8) @$700+ or the current, 17-35mm f/2.8 ($1,764), but held off, wanting to get comfortable and see if I was going to get acclimated to the range. I was also thinking that in the future that I’d upgrade if Nikon released the lens with the latest technology.
I was able to use the lens on only a limited basis, until I headed into NYC to attend a Adorama sponsored event with Moose Peterson. It was in NYC that I found the nimbleness and the quality of Images from this lens, a joy to work with on my D3. As luck would have it, Moose selected one of my photos taken with this lens as the best shot of the day, and the incentive was full paid tuition to one of his DLWS events. Crossing the Bridget with Moose
My only real beef with this lens is that with my D3 and D3s you are required to lock the aperture at its minimum setting. This has cause a few mishaps in the field, and currently my D3 does not even recognize the lock being engaged, so the lens was only seeing use on my D3s.
The Nikon 16-35 F/4G AFS ED VRII SN 2034XX
I pre-ordered this lens on 2/9/10 just after the Nikon PMA announcement was posted over at Nikon Rumors from Adorama. Adorama is my vendor of choice, having worked with and shot with inside sales guy Jeff Synder, I’ve come to enjoy his shooting abilities and dedication to the profession. I was traveling in the Sonoma region just yesterday (Monday 2/23), when my email delivered a shipping notification message that the lens was being shipped with an ETA on 2/24. My time in Sonama was just fantastic but I was looking forward to getting home to the new glass…
My experience with pre-orders and NIkon is that they are unpredictable and wrought with delay. (ie new Tc-20), so even with a March release date, I wasn’t expecting much to happen until late April.
- AF-S :Autofocus is quick, silent and accurate
- VRII :Love it, this new technology on board with the D3s is going to provide so low light sharp images.
- 77mm :Great, I can configure this len and reuse my B&W XS-Pro Clear MRC filter from my 18-35
- Dseries:focus distance used in flash metering
- ED :Nikon extra-low dispersion
- M/A,M: two focus modes, no need to hunt for side switches to go into manual mode, and with the M/A you can override if need be. This is an underated feature in my opinion, it is very useful in the field and these new FX series lens’s are all coming out with the placement of the slider as the top bottom
- This lens is not a light kit lens of (370 g) or 13 ounces like the 18-35. It weights in almost double or 1.5lb
- The length of the 18-35 is 76mm (3 in) and there is a noticeable difference with the 16-35 at 125mm (5 inches)
- This new lens seems just right for the D3s, the balance and feel and hand placement of the lens seems optimum
- This lens design fits into the FX series of the holy trinity (14-24,24-70, new 70-200) and new 50 f/14 which all now have an integrated look, feel, and similar standard imbedded technology. (except the 24-70 is missing VR2)
- This is a pro series lens, I just got back in from an hour in a raging NY snowfall and besides the cold, the snow was caked on the topside of the lens without any problems. Something I’d expect from a NIkon lens.
I took both lens outside during this NY whiteout that has been going on for hours, everything is a white as can be, and the snow is still falling. I set the D3s to f/4 @ 1/125 -.7ev. I cropped a zoom here at 300% of a few tree branches, and you can see that the C/A is better controlled in the new lens…, additionally the only way to get the 18-35mm at F/4.5, 1/125 sec was to drive up the ISO to 500. (WB:Auto,Focal:30mm, PictCntrl: Standard, Mode;Aperture,AF Area:51)
Nikon 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5D IF-ED
Nikon 16-35 F/4G AFS ED VRII
Granted that the comparison should be much broader in scope and I’m sure a lot will be published shortley, but for the moment, I very satisfied with getting this lense quickly and now having another fine piece of glass in my bag.