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

Zoom Lens Upgrades

NIKON AF-S DX 16-85MM F/3.5-5.6 G ED VR
Big zoom range, compact build

TechRadar 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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