Nikon AF-S DX 16-85mm F/3.5-5.6 G ED VR review

Zoom Lens Upgrades

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Our Verdict

If you can live without a fast, constant aperture, this lens is great.


  • Excellent 5.3x zoom range
  • Great handling
  • Four-stop vibration reduction


  • Inconsistent sharpness samples

With an effective zoom range of 24-127.5mm on Nikon APS-C cameras, this lens is generous at both the wide-angle and telephoto ends of the scale. Despite this, it's surprisingly compact and sturdily built. Extras include a petal-shaped lens hood and soft pouch.

Similarities between the Nikon and Canon lenses include fast, near-silent autofocus, but in our tests, the Canon was a little speedier and marginally quieter.

Both lenses give the luxury of full-time manual override. Optical stabilisation is provided by Nikon's new-generation Vibration Reduction II, which proved true to its four-stop claim in our tests. Another neat touch is that the dual-mode VR has Normal and Active options


Nikon makes one of the best superzoom lenses on the market – the Nikon AF-S DX VR 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED – so the 16-85mm has its work cut out to match it, given that it's only about £100 cheaper.

Sure enough, there are none of the nasty, moustache-shaped distortions for which the 18-200mm is notorious, although the 16-85mm still has some barrel distortion at the wide-angle end. Unlike the bigger 18-200mm, there's no zoom creep so tripod-mounted use is much easier.

We've seen razor-sharp images from several samples of this lens, but the review sample for this test was underwhelming. However, chromatic aberration was almost non-existent.

Tech Focus…

For shooting from an idling car, or if you're feeling adventurous, a helicopter, the VR II system's Active mode works a treat, delivering sharp handheld shots time after time.

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Tech Specs

Product TypeLens
Maximum Focal Length85 mm
Minimum Focal Length16 mm
Maximum Aperture Wide3.5
Maximum Aperture Tele5.6
Brand NameNikon
Filter Attachment Diameter67 mm
Lens TypeZoom
Depth85 mm
CompatibilityNikon DX Format digital SLRs
ManufacturerNikon Corporation
Product ModelJAA800DA
Product Name16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR AF-S DX Nikkor Zoom Lens
Product LineNikkor
Manufacturer Part NumberJAA800DA
Manufacturer Website Address
Marketing Information

Highly portable, powerful zoom lens with high-quality optics designed for use with Nikon DX Format digital SLRs. With a 5.3X zoom and 16-85mm focal range, this lens delivers superb versatility for a wide variety of shooting situations.

Package Contents
  • 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR AF-S DX Nikkor Zoom Lens
  • Lens Cap LF-1
Weight (Approximate)485 g