The Best Landscape Lens For Your Money – Nikon 16-35mm f/4G ED VR II AF-S Nikkor Review With Sample Images

Best In Class

9 Size
10 Image Quality
8 Cost
10 Build Quality
9.3

Those of you familiar with Nikon lenses may have noticed that the infinity mark on the lens is never quite exact, this lens is no different.  When focusing to infinity you’ll most likely have to adjust the focus a hair in front of the infinity mark on the lens.

The Nano Crystal coat that Nikon uses to treat the lens in order to reduce ghosting and flare seems to work really well.  It’s fairly easy to shoot towards the sun and capture an image with little to no lens flare or ghosting (below).

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If you are a fan of sunbursts (there are entire Flickr groups devoted to them) then you’ll be happy with this lens as it handles the direct light very well.

The Nikon 16-35mm f/4 has 3 aspherical elements that are used to greatly reduce coma and other aberrations you’d find with lenses that don’t have such elements.  This is particularly important if you plan on using this lens for any type of landscape astrophotography.  Coma is the weird tail you see on bright stars, it makes them look a little like asteroids instead of stars…  This lens all but eliminates them (I still notice slight coma in the corners but you’ve got to really look for it).

Manual focus can be quickly engaged by moving the focus ring in either direction, you can easily fine tune your focus on the fly without having to worry about first switching to manual focus mode.  Alternatively, the manual switch is directly above the vibration reduction switch and is easily implemented.

Why this and not that?

Probably the closest comparable lens would be the Nikon 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5 which costs significantly less money than the 16-35mm f/4 lens.  Anyone who owns the lens will tell you it is “sharp enough” for them and it probably is.  For the discerning photographer that demands the most bang for the buck the 16-35mm, even at it’s higher price, is the better value.  Sixteen millimeters is considerably wider than 18mm, if you shoot a lot of landscape photography you’ll appreciate the wider angle of view.

The next comparable lens would be the venerable Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens which is just as sharp as the 16-35mm but, as of writing this, almost twice as expensive.  The 14-24mm is an incredible lens and if I hated my money I’d own one…  With that being said, it’s not a practical lens, it would probably spend more time in your camera bag than it’s more versatile counterpart, the 16-35mm lens.  A huge drawback to the 14-24mm lens is that the lens itself bulges out at the end, eliminated the ability to easily use filters and increasing the chances it’ll break if you’re even the slightest bit clumsy (landscape photographers pay careful attention to that last sentence, ND, grad ND, and circular polarized filters will not fit on the end of the 14-24mm lens without purchasing a special adapter.  The filters are roughly 6″x8″ and are not fun to carry around).

The Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8 lens is heavier, does not have VR, more expensive, and the image quality is less impressive.  Enough said?

There are third-party lenses from the likes of Tokina and Sigma that cover similar focal lengths but their optics are not as good.  Their quality has been improving dramatically in recent years so I would not be surprised if they push Nikon and Canon to produce better, less expensive lenses in the future or dethrone them altogether.  Competition is always a good thing.

Should you buy this lens?

If you enjoy using wide-angle lenses, taking landscape photos, and Pina Coladas, then this lens is perfect for you.  It is a perfect balance of price, size, and quality.  It is a professional lens but it’s not overly large and heavy like a professional lens (though it is not tiny by any stretch).  If you’re looking for a superb lens for landscape photography (or other wide-angle photography) you’d be hard pressed to find a better all around lens.

I’ve really only focused on the abilities of this lens in regards to landscape photography but that does not do justice to its abilities as an all around type of lens.  On the far end the lens reaches 35mm, which makes it a great walk around lens.  For portrait photography it can work really well if you’d like to include some of the surrounding environment with your subject.  Street photographers swear by 35mm lenses for their ability to capture enough of the environment without large amounts of distortion.

Fun Fact:  The 35mm lens is considered the closest to the focal composition of the human eye.

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11 Comments

  • I also own the lens ( on Nikon Df ) – and I like the neearest focus distance of 28cm too . it’s like a wide angle macro. I am impressed about your excellent website; Karl

  • Like Karl.R, I also own this lens and use it on Nikon Df. Prima lens for landscape and the only zoom I own.

  • I purchased this lens recently along with a Nikon D750, and I am looking forward to using the two together when it arrives but I am concerned about whether the 16-35 will be a good or bad copy, considering user reviews on the internet.

    • Two things to remember; you’ll often find more negative comments about products in forums and comment sections because the bad experience motivated them to take the time to write something and any lens/camera/product has the potential to be a Lemmon. I always try to purchase my gear from dealers that allow 30 days for me to return something and get a full refund… 30 days is generally enough for me to work out any issues if there are any. I’ve received a lens before that was scratched at the factory and exchanged it for a perfect copy that I ended up using for years. All I can vouch for is my copy of the Nikon lens and I’ve not had any issues, hopefully you will not either. But if you do, hopefully the dealer you purchased from would allow you to exchange it. I always buy from Amazon when I can, they have a great return policy and bend over backwards to make sure you’re happy. Hope that makes you feel better. Enjoy your new gear!

  • Thank you for this review. Just bought the lens to use w my 750. I also want to do night photog and the 14-24 is just too expensive..almost $700 more. So having this review helped me buy this camera without remorse.

    • Great, I’m glad it helped. Years later and this lens is still my absolute favorite landscape lens.

  • HI John I love this lens. Was using it on a D7100 and it works beautiful during day. However used it for astro photography, got lots of noise (purple, green) Then used it Nikon 12-24 mm it was perfect. There was noise but manageable that I took care in post processing.
    Not sure if I was doing anything wrong with 16-35 mm ?
    Thanks

    • Hey, I’m glad you like the lens. It’s still my go to for landscape photography. I’ll take a stab at your issue but there are a number of variables that could be causing the noise… None of which would be the lens in a direct way. Lenses do not cause digital noise, that is a byproduct of the cameras sensor and can happen because of high ISO, excessive heat, and/or long exposure without noise reduction. Why you’re seeing a difference could be because the wider angle of the 12mm will allow more light which in turn keeps ISO slightly lower and/or time slightly shorter. Are you using auto noise reduction? If you’ve turned it off you’ll certainly have some color noise but if you take a shot with the same exposure with your lens cap on you can use this “blank” shot as a reference in Photoshop to remove unwanted noise. If I were you I’d take some time to run a few tests and iron out the issue, at the very least you’ll become more familiar with your camera/lens. Hope that helps! Have a great day.

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