Lens review

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 16-35 mm f/4G ED VR

7 January 2014
Arkadiusz Olech

3. Build quality and image stabilization

The Nikkor 16–35 mm f/4.0 cannot be described as a small lens, quite the contrary– compared to its rivals it is physically the biggest and the heaviest. You can assess it comfortably while glancing at the following chart. On the one hand the VR module is certainly responsible for the dimensions and the increased weight because the Nikkor, as the only lens in this group, features an image stabilization system. On the other hand, though, the Sigma and the Tamron are faster than the Nikkor, aperture-wise.

In the photo below the Nikkor 16-35 mm is positioned next to the Nikkor 24-70 mm f/2.8.

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 16-35 mm f/4G ED VR - Build quality and image stabilization

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The tested lens starts with a metal mount, surrounding a rear element, three centimeters in diameter. That element is extended to the full at 16 mm focal length, at that point being also situated exactly on the same level as the mount. After passing to the 35 mm focal length the element hides about three centimeters inside the casing– a quite significant depth.

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 16-35 mm f/4G ED VR - Build quality and image stabilization

Right behind the mount you find an immobile part of the casing and then a zoom ring. The ring is 28 millimeters wide and ribbed; its work is beyond reproach – smooth, and well-damped.

Behind the ring on the left you find two switches. The first is marked with the M/A letters and is used to set the focus; the second one, (VR ON/OFF) controls the optical stabilization. Further on you meet a manual focus ring. It is 22 mm wide, ribbed and, if you ask me, it moves with too much slack. In fact it seems it even has some slack in itself – a delicate movement can shift its position but the distance scale remains in the same place. Such a performance makes precise settings impossible and, in this price segment, is something unacceptable. Running through the whole scale takes a turn through less than 90 degrees.

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 16-35 mm f/4G ED VR - Build quality and image stabilization

When you move toward the front element system you see a distance scale behind a window which is surrounded by inscriptions with the name and the parameters of the lens. On the very edge of the casing there is a petal-type hood mount thread and inside you see a non-rotating filter thread, 77 mm in diameter.

The front element is 47 mm in diameter. It changes its position, being the most extended at 16 mm. With the decrease of the focal length the element hides inside. It is situated the deepest near 24 mm and with the further increase of the focal length the element extends again but stopping at a lower position than that at 16 mm.

The Nikkor 16–35 mm f/4.0 VR has inside 17 elements positioned in 12 groups. Two of these have been made of ED glass and three of them are aspherical; some of them were covered by anti-reflection Nano Crystal coatings. Inside you can also find an aperture with nine blades which can be closed down to f/22.

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 16-35 mm f/4G ED VR - Build quality and image stabilization

The buyers get both caps, a HB-23 hood and a CL-1120 cover.

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 16-35 mm f/4G ED VR - Build quality and image stabilization


The Nikkor AF-S 16–35 mm f/4G ED VR features an image stabilization system which efficiency is stated by the producer as 4 EV. You can of course debate whether an image stabilization in a wide angle lens is useful at all; perhaps it is just a good excuse to raise the price. In a test, though, you have to check its efficiency because efficiency and usefulness are two different things.

We set the lens at 35 mm and took several dozen photos at every exposure time ranging from 1/40 to 0.5 of a second with the stabilization turned on and off. Below you can find the percentage of blurred photos presented as a time exposure graph, expressed in EV (where 0 EV is the equivalent of the 1/30 of a second).

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 16-35 mm f/4G ED VR - Build quality and image stabilization

As you can notice both curves are in the distance of about 2.5 EV so the declared value of 4 EV is not met. The result of 2.5 EV is decent and decent only. You should expect a better performance from a piece of equipment of this class.