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I have the AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G ED II that came with the camera. However, I've been looking at getting the AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR lens, which has the same range of aperture settings, but has a much greater range that fully includes the lens that I have now.

Perhaps something similar applies to the AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor 55-200mm f/4-5.6G IF-ED and AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR lenses.

In both cases, the only apparent difference in terms of features is that the 16-85 and 55-200 have IF, while the 18-55 and 55-300 don't. However, will I notice anything in terms of image quality or performance when I'm using the 16-85 with a focal length set to between 18-55 when I compare it to my current 18-55? The same goes for the 55-300.

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For differences, you specifically ask about image quality and performance. However, two other things that are different (and perhaps important): the physical size and weight. –  Dan Wolfgang Nov 23 '12 at 18:37
    
@DanWolfgang Those are clearly specified on the specs tabs on the pages I linked to. Yes, those are considerations, but I'm more interested in what isn't documented. –  Thomas Owens Nov 23 '12 at 19:09

5 Answers 5

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Usually design compromises have to be made when making a lens with a larger zoom range, so all else being equal you could expect poorer performance. However, in this case all isn't equal, the 16-85 is a higher grade lens than the 18-55 kit lens. Testing by photozone.de indicates the 16-85 gives a sharper at 16mm and 50mm than the 18-55 does at 18mm and 55mm respectively. See:

Therefore optically the 18-55 is redundant, the only arguments for keeping it are

  • It's smaller/lighter.
  • Being a kit lens you'll get very little for selling it.
  • It's always good to have a spare available.

Photozone don't have a test of the 55-300 so I can't say for sure if the 55-200 has an advantage in resolution, but as it costs half as much I can't imagine it significantly outperforming the 55-300.

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The quality of your new lens is better than your old one. It shows improved sharpness that is also more consistent across the frame. There is a more vignetting at wide-angle on the 16-85mm though, but zoomed-in things even out quickly.

This means that you should be using the 16-85mm as much as you can over the 18-55mm range. There is only one reason I can imagine for keeping the 18-55mm, and that is as a backup in case the 16-85mm breaks.

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Other then keeping it as a spare there isn't really any reason to keep the 18-55 if you buy the 16-85.

The 16-85 is better then the 18-55 in pretty much all respects, but only by a little. Little bit better range (though not so much so that you couldn't get the exact same shots with the 18-55 by standing just a little closer or little farther away), little bit sharper (but only to the point that it is noticeable in a lab with testing, probably won't make a real world difference). Same aperture, little bit heavier. So an improvement, but a small one.

That being said, the 16-85 is what, $700? Dropping that kind of cash for a very marginal improvement doesn't seem like a good investment. There are a lot of nice lenses out there for that price that would make a great addition to your kit.

So to answer your question, no, if you buy the 16-85 then you don't need to keep the 18-55. Now as to whether I think you should even buy the 16-85 at all...

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If you will think to purchase the NIKKOR 16-85 F/3.5-5.6G ED VR to replace your standard lens I think it isn't a good idea because you could improve a little bit in image quality but you will not improve the lens aperture. If you wish improve your tools I think the better idea could be the NIKKOR 17-55mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S DX, it costs a lot but if you will purchase it you will own it for life. Another idea is to look to Tokina, Tamron and Sigma lens catalog.

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This really doesn't answer my question. I know I won't improve the aperture. I'm interested in having a lens with a wider range of focal lengths without impacting image quality. –  Thomas Owens Nov 23 '12 at 17:21
1  
I give you another idea to get 85 to take great portraits: Nikkor 85mm F1.8D –  Giuseppe iPichy Nov 23 '12 at 17:54
    
That's a fixed-focal length lens. Not comparable. –  Thomas Owens Nov 23 '12 at 19:09
2  
Ok, you are right,you must buy the 16-85. –  Giuseppe iPichy Nov 23 '12 at 19:15

The 16-85mm is a better lens in all respects compared to the 18-55mm, except for size and weight and should be sharper and better at all focal lengths. Though you won't get much for it, you could sell the 18-55mm and get a 50mm f/1.8D for around the same price (or a wee bit more). Although the 50mm f/1.8D won't auto-focus on your D5100, its still a very good lens and you can use it in manual focus mode. It is certainly better than having the 18-55mm lying unused most of the time in your camera bag.

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