When you need to go wide, you need to go wide! While I managed to photograph over 47 weddings with only 3 prime lenses (the 28, 50 and 85) I decided that I want to add a couple lenses to our collection that would add versatility to our clients’ wedding photos.

In addition to adding to our wedding kit – I was also getting ready for a trip to Paris and Italy in which the Nikon 16-35 f/4 seemed like a perfect addition for some travel photography as well.

By the end of this lens review, you will know all of the ins and outs of the Nikon 16-35 f/4.  You’ll know its strengths as well as its weaknesses, its performance in the field, similar lens options and most important – if this lens is a perfect lens for you and your needs.

Nikon 16-35 f/4 Strengths

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Vibration Reduction II – The VR II works extremely well, so well that I am able to take numerous photos without a tripod that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.  I’ve been able to shoot hand-held at ¼ of a second without having any blur!  That is awesome.

Focal Length Versatility – The 16-35mm range is extremely versatile for event photography, travel or landscape photography.  Whether you are a full frame or crop sensor Nikon user, this range is very helpful.

Color & Contrast – As with all of my Nikon “G” series lenses the color and contrast is awesome.

Nikon 16-35 f/4 Weaknesses

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Distortion – This lens’ biggest issue is its vertical lens distortion at the wide end of its focal range.  The distortion is more pronounced when you are shooting at an “up-angle” from lower and at 16mm it has the most problems.  By 19 or 20mm it’s significantly less distorted.  Luckily, it’s quite easy to fix vertical distortion in Lightroom, but at the expense of cropping away some of the photo in post processing.

Max Aperture of f/4 – This is the one thing that held me back more than anything else before purchasing.  I really, really, really wish this lens was a f/2.8 max aperture, but the truth is, I haven’t been that limited by aperture on this lens.  If it’s a deal breaker for you, you can look at the Nikon 14-24 f/2.8, but it’ll cost ya 😉

Who is this lens for?

  • Nikon photographers looking for a versatile walk-around lens
  • Photographers who want to travel light and not have to carry a tripod all the time (the lens VR really helps a ton!)
  • Wedding photographers who want to be able to provide a different perspective to the wedding day and get close to the action.

Who is this lens not for?

  • Photographers who need to be able to shoot at f/2.8
  • Photographers who have no tolerance for vertical distortion.
  • Budget conscious consumers

Nikon 16-35 f/4 Price/Value & Similar Lenses

The Nikon 16-35 f/4 isn’t the cheapest lens you’ll find but unfortunately most wide angle zooms aren’t.  If you aren’t opposed to getting a non-Nikon brand lens you will have a couple more options available to you, at lower price points.

Price comparison to other similar lens alternatives (Prices shown taken from Amazon website)

As you can see from above, there are a handful of similar wide angle zooms that all have their own strengths and weaknesses.  Some have fast constant 2.8 apertures which is a really good thing and some have variable apertures which for most photographers, isn’t as ideal.  If you are looking for the absolute widest possible lens, get the Nikon 14-24 and if you are looking for the cheapest lens, the Tokina is your best bet.

Nikon 16-35 f/4 Detailed Technical Performance

I purposely try to keep my lens reviews very top level and big picture without going into the super details of technical analysis, however, if you are looking for that detailed technical analysis check out this article right here, they do an amazing job with lens reviews with a focus on the technical details.

Overall Assessment and Recommendation

Just as started off this article…when you need a wide angle, you NEED a wide angle.  It might be a large bridal party, it might be to take a gorgeous shot of the inside of a church, it might be a tiny hotel room for “getting ready” shots or it might be the majestic Grand Canyon or Tuscan hillside.  So the question then becomes, which, wide angle to get.  Given that I knew I wouldn’t be using this lens too much of the time on a wedding day, I considered getting the Tokina – but the lack of VR was a concern for me knowing “how” I like to shoot and what I wanted to be able to shoot.  So if you are like me and being able to on the fly shoot really great nightscapes, without a tripod – this lens will let you do that, within reason of course.  I would have loved the Nikon 14-24, but couldn’t justify the $2,000 price point for how much I’d use the lens.  I considered the Nikon 17-35 for the f/2.8 aperture, but really like the “G” lenses and that older lens doesn’t have VR either.

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My overall recommendation of this lens is it is a buy!  On the wedding day, it has enabled me to capture moments in a way that has far more impact than I otherwise could and while traveling, it is the perfect focal range and when paired with VR II, it really lets you capture photos hand-held that you otherwise would need a tripod.  Don’t take it from me, take a look at some of my favorite photos with this lens!

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