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by Bart Arondson

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Nikon AF-S 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 DX G ED
Nikon AF-S 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6 DX G ED

The second one costs twice as much money as the first one, but what's the benefit of choosing the second one? Same with these:

Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 55-300 f/4.5-5.6G E
Nikon AF-S 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G VR II
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migrated from avp.stackexchange.com Feb 13 '12 at 14:07

This question came from our site for engineers, producers, editors, and enthusiasts spanning the fields of video, and media creation.

    
@Chard I agree it would get more attention there, so I will move it there. –  Friend Of George Feb 13 '12 at 14:07
1  
I would suggest editing this to only include one comparison, as just throwing out multiple lenses and asking for comparisons isn't very useful. This existing question already covers the "why expensive lenses" question: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/2593/… –  dpollitt Feb 13 '12 at 14:37

4 Answers 4

up vote 8 down vote accepted

It is important to note the correct full model names:

AF-S Zoom-Nikkor ED 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G IF DX VR

AF-S Zoom-Nikkor ED 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G IF DX VR

The biggest advantage to the 16-85 is that you get those crucial extra 2mm at the wide end. It doesn't seem like a lot, but that can make the difference between making the lens a true walk around lens and a lens that needs to be paired with an additional wide angle or super wide angle lens for capturing some types of photography.

  • The 16-85 has a metal mount, which the 18-105 does not.
  • The 16-85 has VR II and an active mode, the 18-105 does not.
  • The 16-85 has manual focus override, the 18-105 does not.
  • The 16-85 has rubber sealing for weather and dust, the 18-105 does not.

Overall the 16-85 is just a better built more professionally oriented lens. Neither lens is bad, and neither lens is perfect. But you do pay more for the additional features of the 16-85.

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I've only handled the 18-105 and 16-85 for a matter of minutes so I can't offer much, but I can say that the build quality of the 16-85 is far superior, and the MF and zoom rings are much smoother. The focal range/optical formula difference may speak to price, as well: I don't think you'll find anything that starts below 18mm for cheap.

As to the 55-300 and 70-300, I can speak much more to these after using the 70-300 for a few years and the 55-300 on several occasions. First impressions are immediately similar to the 16-85/18-105. The 70-300 is much better build quality with much smoother MF and zoom rings. The AF-S motor of the 70-300 is quite fast; I haven't used the 55-300 a whole lot, but it's AF feels a little slower. (Not slow, just slower.) Image quality from the 70-300 is pretty clearly superior--certainly better wide open, but it seems a good step forward over the 55-300.

There's also the obvious focal range difference. Personally, I don't find much use of the 55-70 range on DX, so I don't miss it. Also note that the 70-300 is an FX lens -- bigger glass designed to cover a bigger full-frame sensor, and that also makes it more expensive.

I've recommended the 70-300 to anyone who needs that focal length lens without hesitation; I think it's a fair price for a good lens. For those who feel that's too much money, I have no problem suggesting the 55-300 (over the 55-200) because it's a good price for a pretty good lens.

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But is the MF and zoom smooth enough to use in video production? (I do use manual focus.) –  Friend of Kim Feb 13 '12 at 15:28
    
I don't shoot video so I don't know that I'm a good one to answer this. I think the answer is probably "no" because less-smooth lenses can almost feel gritty and are a little difficult to focus precisely. –  Dan Wolfgang Feb 13 '12 at 17:11
    
I use a D7000 which is a DX, should I buy the 16-85 and the 55-300 since the 70-300 is FX? –  Friend of Kim Feb 13 '12 at 17:45
    
The 70-300 will work just fine on a DX camera. It's meant to cover the larger FX sensor area; since DX is smaller than FX it also covers DX just fine, too. –  Dan Wolfgang Feb 13 '12 at 21:09
    
Yes, but most of the money I suppose is spent for getting the FX, and I can't take advantage of that. Right? –  Friend of Kim Feb 13 '12 at 21:19

In terms of build quality, I didn't find much of a difference between the 16-85 and the 18-105. I believe the mount material (metal vs. plastic) is overrated as long as you are using consumer bodies which are so frail that you need to take great care of the package anyway.

On a sturdy pro body, the plastic mount might be the weak link indeed, but again this is not all bad, as in the event of an impact, you might prefer sacrificing your cheap lens when the alternative is damage to the body flange which a) might go unnoticed for some time, affecting focusing and picture quality and b) would be more expensive to fix than a new lens.

Imaging quality doesn't seem to justify the price difference either. My 16-85 had very soft corners at the wide end and was okayish in the rest of the zoom range. The 18-105 is very sharp for a zoom from wide to tele. The 16-85 did have nicer (slightly warmer) colour than the 18-105 though.

The 16-85 does focus faster, but both allow for manual focus override (there are very few AF-S lenses that don't offer that, notably the 18-55, 55-200 and 55-300).

So to me, the only real difference is more range at the wide end - for some, this is a huge difference, for some, less so. You'll have to see for yourself. See here for a first impression: Nikon Lens Simulator.

I'm afraid I cannot offer much in the way of comparing the 55-300 and the 70-300 (I only have the latter, which I am very happy with), even though the differences parallel the first two lenses in many respects: some range difference at the wide end, minor build quality difference, some focusing speed difference and slight imaging quality differences. One big difference: the 55-300 is a DX lens, suitable only for DX (aka APS-C) sensor cameras, while the 70-300 is an FX lens, also suited for FX or full-frame cameras like D700, D600, D800, D3, D4 etc. Also, as mentioned above, the 55-300 doesn't seem to offer manual focus override.

Are you aware of Thom Hogan's quite thorough and still enjoyable lens reviews? He has reviewed all four lenses in question: Thom Hogan's Nikon gear reviews.

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The only one I tried is the 70-300mm and it is a pretty good entry-level zoom lens. There is a previous version called only VR and you can get it pretty cheap on the used market. The VRII doesn't seem to be worth the price difference.

GPCM 2012

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