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The Nikon 16-35mm f/4 lens is the one I use the most – here’s why!
As a full-time photographer, you quickly notice that your camera bag is constantly getting heavier and heavier as you find new equipment or gadgets that you
need want. I’m not nearly as “bad” as many other photographers when it comes to purchasing gadgets and gear but I do have two camera systems and several lenses and extra equipment that I use on a regular basis. My main reason for having two systems is to have a lighter camera (the Fujifilm X-T2) for hikes but it’s also comforting to have a backup system in case something happens.
I frequently get asked about the equipment I use, but the one question that sticks out the most is, “What is your most used or favorite lens?” This question is slightly difficult to answer as I have more than one favorite and it really depends on the situation. For example, if I’m photographing abstract shots I often use a telephoto zoom, while during the night I heavily rely on my ultra-wide angle Nikon 14-24mm. However, by looking at which lens I use the most and have relied upon more than the others, the question isn’t that hard to answer – it’s my beloved Nikon 16-35mm f/4.
Admittingly, when purchasing a Nikon D800 a few years back (which was my first full-frame camera), the Nikon 16-35mm was my lens of choice. For more than half a year it was the only lens I owned for this system. The lens is by far one of the most popular for those who use a full-frame Nikon camera but trust me, it’s not without a reason.
Landscape photography is my main genre of photography. While I’m often attracted to smaller scenes and more intimate shots, the majority of my images are captured with a wide-angle lens as I love photographing grand landscapes. The 16-35mm isn’t the widest lens I own (you’d be surprised how big the difference between 14mm and 16mm actually is) but it’s more than wide enough for most types of landscape photography.
Since it is a wide-angle zoom and not a prime lens, it’s a good option if you’re only able to bring one lens. I often use this lens at 35mm, especially when I’m in the woods and I want to remove unwanted parts from the image. Such was the case with the image below where I zoomed in to remove the blown out sky and tops of the trees.
Distortion is also fairly low with the 16-35mm and even enlarged the image is more or less sharp even in the outer corners. This is something that’s been a common challenge amongst other ultra wide-angle lenses. Vignetting is also close to non-existent even at the widest aperture, which is great for the few times I actually need to use f/4 (quite rare with this lens).
If you regularly follow my articles and photography you’ll know that I’m not the most technical person and I rarely spend too much time focusing on the technical aspects of the gear. I’m more focused on the images I can produce with the specific lens and image quality. Anyways, I know many of you are curious about some of these technical aspects so let’s quickly look at the specs:
With a 77mm filter size, this lens is compatible with standard sized square filter systems such as the NiSi V5 Pro Holder (100mm square filters). That means that you don’t need a new filter system in order to use them on this lens. That’s something which is valuable for me personally as carrying more equipment than is actually needed can be exhausting on longer hikes.
I really love that you can focus almost directly in front of the lens, making it possible to place foreground elements extremely close in order to add extra depth in the images. As a landscape photographer I mostly use manual focus but whenever I’m without my tripod and I use the autofocus on this lens, I’m very satisfied. The lens easily focuses and the image looks sharp even when using a semi-slow shutter speed handheld.
Did I mention that it’s sharp? It’s incredibly sharp. In fact, it’s probably the sharpest Nikon lens I have ever tried. Still, several years after purchasing it I’m blown away at times by how sharp the images are when viewing large (zoomed in or 1:1).
I’ve been sitting here for a while trying to think of things I dislike about the Nikon 16-35mm f/4 but there’s honestly not much bad I can say. It’s by far one of the best lenses I’ve ever used and despite it being released in 2010, it’s still considered to be one of Nikon’s flagship lenses.
My only negative comment is that f/4 isn’t always enough. For night photography, you want to use the largest aperture possible to capture as many details in the sky as you can. In that case, the Nikon 16-35mm is not the ideal lens. However, we can’t expect everything in one lens, right?
Even though it was the first lens I purchased for my first full-frame camera and is a relatively old lens, it still remains my most used. Unless Nikon comes with a mindblowing update to it, I can’t see myself replacing this lens anytime soon.
The Nikon 16-35mm f/4 will continue to be my most used lens in the time to comes. It’s a lens I highly recommend to anyone wanting to get started with wide-angle photography.