A New Wide Angle Challenger Has Arrived!

Categories: News & Announcements Tech Talk Reviews Reviews - Lenses

Fast lenses have always been the apple in every photographer's eye. They let in the most light, focus faster, and have the best overall image quality in terms of sharpness, color rendition, and contrast.  One example is the Nikon AF-S 14-24G f/2.8 which has become the industry standard for ultra-wide zooms. There are even some Canon shooters who buy adapter rings so they can use it on their cameras.  It really is worth every penny of its $1,799.99 price tag.  This may seem like a high price for people who like to take photographs as a hobby, but for professionals, it's a bargain.
Nikon has yet again set a new standard for wide angle lenses by introducing the Nikkor 16-35mm f/4 VR (Pictured on the left in a very Nikonesque press shot that I took!) which is the first ultra-wide lens to feature vibration reduction.  Additionally, it sports a much more wallet friendly price of $1,259.95.  Naturally, it is less expensive because of the maximum aperture opening of f/4 as opposed to f/2.8, which is an entire stop of light being lost.  I could stop right here and tell you this is a good lens for anyone who doesn't want to spend an extra $600 for one stop of light and an extra 2mm on the wider end.  However, I'd like to propose something which goes against the grain quite a bit.  Despite the "slow" aperture of f/4, the 16-35G f/4 VR has many advantages over more expensive ultra-wide lenses.
Here is a little table I put together that compares some specs on the 16-35 and 14-24.  I threw in the older 17-35 f/2.8 for good measure because it has a similar focal range and is considered a professional lens.

The 16-35 f/4 has a filter thread, vibration reduction, is slightly shorter, weighs less, and costs significantly less than the 14-24 f/2.8.  On a spec sheet it looks like a great buy, but what about the sharpness, color rendition, and contrast that all lenses are judged by? I don't shoot test charts, but I've used both lenses and I can vouch for the 16-35.  It is just as sharp, if not sharper (*gasp* blasphemy!) than the 14-24. If you want test charts, I am sure there will be some up soon on the popular review sites, but I think the best reviews happen when a tool is tested in a real scenario.
So what would I possibly do to show the advantages of the 16-35?  Well, just like any other normal person, I decided to ask one of my friends if I could photograph his car while hanging out of the side/back of mine!  In the past, I have assisted on automotive shoots, so I knew it wouldn't be an easy task.
The 16-35 f/4 VR worked like a charm on my D700.  It focused fast and being able to shoot at lower shutter speeds such as 1/40 allowed me to keep the car I was photographing sharp, while allowing other parts of the image to blur to create a sensation of speed and excitement.  Additionally, the lens handled well and felt just like a "professional" lens.  To compare, I also shot with a Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 on a D300.  The 24-70 is a fabulously sharp lens, but my keeper rate with the 16-35 was much higher.

Here are some of the photographs I took:

Nikon D700 + 16-35mm  f/4 VR @ 28mm f/8 1/40s ISO 200

Nikon D700 + 16-35mm  f/4 VR @ 22mm f/14 1/40s ISO 400

Nikon D700 + 16-35mm f/4 VR @ 27mm f/16 1/40s ISO 500

Nikon D700 + 16-35mm f/4 VR @ 28mm f/11 1/40s ISO 400

Nikon D700 + 16-35mm f/4 VR @ 35mm f/22 1/30s ISO 400

Nikon D300 + 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm f/7.1 1/40s ISO 200


Granted, there are indeed other applications such as very low light action (think concerts, shows, news coverage) where the extra stop of light that the 14-24 f/2.8 provides will be invaluable.  However, if you shoot with a Nikon FX camera (it has a less attractive 24-53 effective focal length on a DX sensor, but still not a bad option), I would highly recommend this lens.  In almost all situations, the unmatched ISO performance of the D700, D3, or D3s will help compensate for the slower f/4 aperture. As you can tell, I was very pleased with the lens and I am sure all other Nikon shooters will be as well.