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Lens review

Nikon Nikkor AF-S DX 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR

2 October 2009
Szymon Starczewski

3. Build quality and image stabilization

Everyone who has ever seen or held a Nikkor 18-70 mm in their hand can easily imagine how the Nikkor 16-85 VR looks like and what its build quality is. In fact, the latter is only a bit longer externally than its older brother. In the picture below it is situated next to a stabilized Nikkor 18-55 VR “kit lens” and a Nikkor 1.8/50 prime.

Nikon Nikkor AF-S DX 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR - Build quality and image stabilization

The build quality is typical for this class Nikon lenses. The barrel is made of solid composites and the mount- of metal. With the increase of the focal length the front elements is extended on a solid, duo-cam, telescopic metal tube. That way the physical length of the lens increases by over 4 centimeters.

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Nikon Nikkor AF-S DX 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR - Build quality and image stabilization

Right after the front elements system, surrounded by a 67 mm non-rotating filter thread, we find a comfortable, wide zoom ring. It is smooth and well-damped.

Below, we find a clear distance scale window with the range from 0.38 meter to infinity. Even lower is situated a manual focus ring. Here we encounter the first flaw. The ring is a tad too narrow, moves quite easily but with too much slack. Sometimes even significant rotation doesn’t move the distance scale in the lens.

Under the manual focus ring, on the left, we find focus mode switches (Manual or Manual/Automatic), a stabilization switch (VR On/Off) and a stabilization mode switch (Normal/Active).

When it comes to the inner optical construction, the manufacturers didn’t stint anything. In total we have as many as 17 elements in 11 groups. Two elements were made of low-dispersion glass ED, three have an aspherical shape. The picture is complemented by a circular aperture with seven diaphragm blades, which, depending on the focal length, can be closed down to f/22 or f/36.

Nikon Nikkor AF-S DX 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR - Build quality and image stabilization

The buyer gets both caps , a petal-type lens hood and a flexible lens pouch included in box.

Nikon Nikkor AF-S DX 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR - Build quality and image stabilization

Stabilization

The lens is equipped with a 2nd generation vibration reduction system (VRII), manufactured by Nikon, which, according to the producer, is supposed to guarantee high efficiency of work at the level of 4 EV. We decided to check that claims using our new method, which consists of taking 20-30 shots for every exposure time from a given range with the stabilization on and off and counting the number of blurry photos. A graph, showing a connection between blurry pictures and the exposure time (here in EV; the zero point corresponds to 1/100 s. exposure time) for the tested Nikkor 16-85 mm is presented below ( the 50 mm focal length was used).

Nikon Nikkor AF-S DX 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR - Build quality and image stabilization

As you see the distance between both curves amounts to nearly 3 EV and such a value at the most represents the efficiency of the Nikkor’s stabilization mechanism. It is not exactly the promised 4 EV as for no combination of exposure times the curves are distanced by such a value.