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.

  • 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

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.

| improve this answer | |

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.

| improve this answer | |

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...

| improve this answer | |

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.

| improve this answer | |
  • 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.

| improve this answer | |

Since you can't get much for the 18-55, I would get the 16-85 for the feeling of improved image quality but keep the 18-55, when you just want to take a lighter kit with you for the causal outing.

I did just that, and I really appreciate being able to travel lighter, when I need to, and I also appreciate the better image quality of the 16-85. That extra 2mm at the wide end do make a difference, somehow too :-)

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.