In addition to the high-end 500mm and 600mm super telephoto lenses, Nikon also announced the AF-S DX Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR, a high-quality lens designed specifically for smaller APS-C / DX cameras. I have not had a chance to post this announcement due to my busy travel schedule earlier this week, but thought it would be important to post it at PL, since it is a pretty interesting announcement. The Nikkor 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR has been a pretty popular lens for DX cameras for many years now, but after the release of high-resolution 24 MP cameras, the lens has been showing its age, with fairly average sharpness, particularly in the corners. The new 16-80mm f/2.8-4E has a completely new optical formula, designed to outperform the 16-85mm in every way.
First, the lens has a much faster maximum aperture range of f/2.8-f/4, which is pretty unique for DX lenses. We have previously seen this aperture range on older full-frame lens designs like the Nikkor 24-85mm f/2.8-4D IF, but not on DX lenses – those usually have slower f/3.5-5.6 aperture range. Second, the new 16-80mm f/2.8-4E is the first “E” type DX lens, which means that it comes with an electronic diaphragm and not the usual lever on the back of the lens. Although Nikon has been actively updating its high-end lenses with electronic diaphragms, the lower-end and smaller lenses have all been “G” type so far with a mechanical lever (see differences between “G” and “E” type lenses in our Nikon lens abbreviations article). This essentially means that you will no longer be able to control the aperture of the lens from its back and aperture changes will have to be issued by the camera. I guess it is about time for Nikon to finally do it on all newer lenses, since anything mechanical is prone to accuracy issues – that’s why Nikon has been integrating electronic diaphragm control on all of its updated super telephoto lenses. Third, Nikon integrated its Nano Crystal Coat technology in this lens to handle ghosting and flare, making the 16-80mm f/2.8-4E also the first DX lens to get such a high-end feature. Fourth, the lens gets the new fluorine coating to resist dirt, moisture and smudges on the front element – also new technology so far seen on high-end lenses only. Fifth, the optical design of the lens is up to standards with the best of full-frame lenses, with four Extra-Low Dispersion (ED) elements and three aspherical elements to increase sharpness and reduce various lens aberrations (there are a total of 17 elements in 13 groups). And lastly, the front part of the lens has a gold ring, which indicates that the lens is of professional grade. Measuring 80x86mm and weighing 480 grams, the Nikon 16-80mm f/2.8-4E seems like a killer choice for DX shooters. Sadly, all this does not come cheap – the lens will retail for $1,069.95 when it becomes available later this month.
As you can see, Nikon packed quite a bit of technology and innovation into the Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-4E lens, which is a drastic change from its past standstill with the DX line. To me, this lens serves as an indication of the upcoming Nikon D400 (or whatever it is going to be called), because Nikon wants to let the high-end DX crowd know that there is still hope. Although after a long 6-year wait, many high-end DX Nikon shooters have already switched to FX, especially after superb full-frame cameras like the D750 have been dropped below $2K, if Nikon releases a high-speed DX camera with 10+ fps, pro build, unlimited RAW buffer and a well-balanced sensor, I believe there will still be demand for such a camera among sports and wildlife photographers (let’s hope Nikon does not screw-up the pricing). It has been too long, but I believe that such a release is important to compete against Canon’s excellent 7D Mark II. I anticipate a competitor within the next 6 months – if Nikon waits longer, it might be too late at that point.
At 16mm, the sharpness and contrast do not seem to be improved. At the longest end of 80mm, we can see similar contrast performance, but sharpness seem to be only slightly improved in the center and actually looks worse towards the corners. You might be wondering why it is so, well, keep in mind that you are looking at f/2.8 vs f/3.5 comparison above. At such a wide aperture and short focal length, it would be tough to produce a stellar MTF graph. However, once stopped down to f/3.5 and smaller, the 16-80mm f/2.8-4 should look superb. Unfortunately, Nikon’s emulated MTF graphs are not particularly useful for comparisons like this, as it does not show stopped down performance. In addition, they do not accurately reflect performance on modern sensors. So the only way to see how sharp the new lens really is in comparison to the 16-85mm, is to test it at every aperture on a high-resolution camera, which I am obviously planning to do when I get a hold of this lens. Sadly, in this case, the MTF graphs do not show anything about the 16-80mm lens. If you do not know how to read MTF charts, see my detailed MTF article with illustrations and explanations for different manufacturers, including Nikon.
Overall, the new AF-S Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR looks like a superb lens. I cannot wait to test it out later this year and report my findings in a review!
For more details about the lens, check out our Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR page in the lens database.
Official Press Release
Here is the official press release from Nikon:
MELVILLE, NY (July 2, 2015 at 12:01 A.M. EDT) – Today, Nikon Inc. announced the new AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR lens – an amazingly versatile DX-format lens that is well suited for advanced and enthusiast photographers. The NIKKOR 16-80mm features a combination of the best Nikon lens technologies, some never before seen in a Nikon DX-format lens, including Nikon’s legendary Nano Crystal Coat. The resulting lens gives a wide variety of photographers an all-purpose optic to help take their photography further and tell their story with clarity and precision.
“The NIKKOR 16-80mm f/2.8-4 is a very exciting addition to the NIKKOR DX-format lens lineup, and a new milestone in the NIKKOR legacy – it combines the most advanced optical technologies with an extremely useful focal range to capture photos and HD video,” said Masahiro Horie, Director of Marketing and Planning, Nikon Inc. “This new lens is a great companion for Nikon’s high-performance, lightweight series of DX-format DSLR cameras.”
Make no mistake, the new AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR is premium glass for those who desire a fast and highly capable wide-angle zoom lens. The lens features a popular, wide 24-120mm (FX-format equivalent) focal range, which makes it ideally suited for a variety of shooting disciplines. From wide-angle landscapes, tight portraits or for those looking for an all-in-one tool for travel, this lens does it all. The large f/2.8 – f/4 aperture lets photographers shoot in challenging light with ease, with the creative flexibility afforded by a shallow depth-of-field. Whether photographing friends’ faces or a festive plate full of local flavor, the 16-80mm’s fast aperture lets users blur the background to create that dramatic separation between subject and background that emphasizes and flatters a subject. For creative close-ups of everything from passion-projects to flowers, the lens has a very useful minimum focusing distance of merely 1.2 feet throughout the entire 5x zoom range.
To further enhance its low-light capability, the new NIKKOR 16-80mm f/2.8-4 lens also features Nikon’s Vibration Reduction (VR) image stabilization technology, which provides up to 4 stops of image stabilization*, helping to create sharp images while shooting handheld or in challenging light. As an added benefit to landscape and wildlife photographers, this lens features VR with automatic tripod detection, to counteract vibration when mounted on a tripod.
Latest Optical Technologies
The new AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-80mm F/2.8-4E ED VR boasts some of the best optical innovations from Nikon, and is the first Nikon DX-format lens to wear the gold “N” emblem, to indicate the presence of Nikon’s exclusive Nano Crystal Coat. This advanced optical coating significantly reduces instances of ghosting and flare for the highest quality images. The front and rear elements also integrate a fluorine coating to make it easier to remove dirt, moisture and smudges from the lens surface. This is also the first Nikon DX lens to feature an electromagnetic diaphragm; this innovation electronically adjusts the aperture within the lens, resulting in consistent exposure during high speed shooting.
The new NIKKOR 16-80mm lens features robust construction while retaining a lightweight and compact body. The lens features four Extra-Low Dispersion (ED) elements and three aspheric elements to further combat instances of ghost, flare and chromatic aberration. The lens is constructed of 17 elements in 13 groups, and features a seven-blade diaphragm to create a circular, natural bokeh for a pleasing out of focus area of the image. For fast, accurate and quiet AF performance, the 16-80mm also features Nikon’s Silent Wave Motor (SWM) technology.