Nikon 18-70mm or the 16-85mm VR

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by kenneth_cortland, Oct 2, 2009.

  1. Hello all,
    I use a D90 and just purchased the 70-200mm f/2.8 VR. I already have an 18-200mmVR, but I've found the images to be a little soft (even compared to the 18-55mm VR and 55-200mm VR kit lenses I had with the D60 I sold some time ago). The 18-200mm also has zoom creep between 35mm and 135mm, which really isn't so bothersome now, but when I bought the lens the cams were tight and the lens had no creep. I feel the creep will eventually get out to the 18mm end, which would be a pain. So I'm thinking about ditching it and going with a higher IQ mid-range lens.
    Some people have suggested that the 16-85mm VR is the best variable f-stop DX lens made by Nikon, period. But I've heard the 18-70mm is just a hair behind in terms image and build quality. Something like a 17-55mm f/2.8 is out of the question...I'm against dropping $1300 on a DX lens especially since I just bought the day I may want to move to FX. The 17-55mm is also kind of big, heavy, and intimidating as a "walk-around" lens.
    I shoot a variety of things (portraits, sports, nature landscapes, candid photos). My other lenses are the 35mm f/1.8 (for a general low-light and night-time walk-around lens) and the 85mm f/1.8 (a remarkable piece of glass that I use for portraits and concerts). With the 70-200, a really good quality mid-range that's also a good walk-around lens would make my lens family complete (for now at least!).
    Any suggestions out there? The 18-70mm is half the price of the 16-85mm, but the latter has VR and has a bit more range.
  2. The 18-70mm is also a little faster at the long end (f/4.5 versus f/5.6), but I don't know what the 16-85mm VR max aperture is at 70mm.
  3. Kenneth.... The 16-85VR is f/5.6 at 70mm.
  4. Hello Joe...thanks! How do you like the 16-85mm?
  5. The 16-85 is a very good lens, and the 16mm at the short end is more useful for me than 18mm. It's slow, yes, but the VR is very effective which makes up a bit for the slowness. The IQ is great - I have noticed a very slight amount of barrel distortion but only if you have a strong horizon line somewhere in the photo. I've never used the 18-70 but most reports say it is very good. So is the 16-85 worth twice the price of the 18-70? It really depends on how much you value VR and the extra 2mm on the wide end. The difference on the long end between 70 and 85 is negligible.
  6. I had and liked the 18-70mm a few years back. I have not used the 16-85mm but the range is nice but its a slow lens. I would make the decision based on your needs of range and speed. Size and weight are very important for me but I think the best compromise is a 17-5xmm f2.8 zoom. Tamron makes one that gets a good read and I have a 28-75mm f2.8 Tamron that works very well on a D700. I know its a different lens but I find the range and speed good for my use.
  7. When I shot film, I explored progressivly wider from 35, 28, 24 and 20mm. When I finally had my choice of primes, my favorite was the 24.
    The 18-70 is a really good lens. It can be had for an attractive price in the used market. However, at 18mm, I still wanted to go wider.
    I recently purchased the 16-85 from a fellow member. (Thanks Brosh.) IQ is as good or better than the 18-70. The biggest factor is the slow f/5.6 at the long end. With VR, I have managed to get good stuff at 1/15, hand held and the FOV of a 24 allows me to leave the ultrawide at home.
    There is a lot of discussion here about the 16-85. What it really comes down to is the type of photography that you enjoy concerning the slower aperture of the lens.
    I hope this helps.
  8. I too owned an 18-70, and I always liked the lens. Still would, if I'd still have it. It's a very versatile range, and it just works well.
    But I sold the 18-70 (more to enable the sales of a body- I was not anxious to get rid of the lens!), after which I settled on an 16-85VR as replacement. I expected it to be a solid replacement for the 18-70, but I find it to be more than that. It is better in all respects, and exceeds my expectations regularly.
    1. The build of my 16-85 is better than the 18-70. The 18-70 had some play in the front tube, which caused no issues but "it felt bad". Zooming on the 16-85 is more precise and more "torqued", and the focusring has stops at the ends (close/infinity), which the 18-70 didn't have.
    2. The 16-85 is sharper. The 18-70 was not great wide open, and I regarded it more a "constant f/5.6" lens to get the best out of it. The 16-85 can be used wide open already. So while it's commonplace to call the 16-85 slow (which it is), the 18-70 is not faster if you want to get results on par with the 16-85.
    3. The VR is a bonus, it enables me to do more night photography. But for normal daytime photos, it's not really needed.
    4. Last but not least, the range of the 16-85 is better. The 2mm at the wide end do make a serious difference. The 70-85 difference is neglible, though. 16-70VR would also have been OK.
    When I bought it, I did find the 16-85 a bit overpriced (and prices gone up since), and yes, it is expensive. But it is also seriously good for what it is. The 18-70 still is a very good offer, price/performance it delivers plenty. But, for even less money than the 18-70, to me the 18-105VR is as good as the 18-70, except for the mount (plastic versus metal), although in normal use that should not make a big difference either.
    So, money no objection: 16-85VR. On a tighter budget: 18-105VR. That would be my shortlist.
  9. Hi Kenneth,
    I have both, first the 18-70 that came with the D70 and more recently the 16-85 to use on a D300. Without question the 16-85 is a better choice ... it is sharper, has better contrast/colour rendition and as a daytime multi use lens walks all over the older 18-70.
    In it's time the 18-70 was a great lens ... for the money, and it's still good now but the 16- is simply more useful and gives better results. Sure, the aperture is slightly slower than the 18- but VR MORE than makes up for it. If you really have a light problem then neither is the one you should be using and you still have the auto-iso in your armoury.
    Forget the money - nobody ever said "I wish I had bought the lower quality lens" :)
    You can spread the extra $300 over 5 year's warrantied lifespan and not be sorry you got the better lens.
    Hope you find this encouraging - signed The Devil's Advocate
  10. I bought a used 16-85 and still have the 18-105 from my D90 kit. Pixel peeping, the 16-85 at 85mm has more resolution
    than the 18-105 at 105. With the 16-85, zooming-by-cropping (or is it "digital zoom"?) works for me.

    I also have a Sigma 10-20 which I don't find useful for people pictures. It seems 16mm is the widest you can go before people's faces get distorted. That makes the 16-85 a great walkabout lens.
  11. I have the 16-85 for my D300 and had it and the 24mm f/2.8 as my only lenses in Barcelona for 11 days this summer. The zoom is great and the VR helps keep things steady. Probably 2/3 of the images came from the zoom lens and I don't find it tiring at all to use. I don't think you can go wrong with it.
  12. I got to spend some quality time with a 16-85 this weekend and found it to be a good lens, but not a $630 lens. Compared to my 18-105, it's got more metal but still a lot of plastic, it feels stiffer (but to me it wasn't necessarily in a good way) and my shots are a bit sharper but not by much - I've really got to look for it when pixel peeping. It's still a slow consumer grade lens.
  13. i love my 18-70mm. i have compared it with the 16-85mm when i planned on buying it. maybe i just don't have the money but to it wasn't worth the price.
    these two will be short zooms but way better than the 16-85mm ---- tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 and sigma 18-50mm f/2.8. they are both fast and bright, but short in range. both excellent street lens. you can mount either one of them with the 35mm f/1.8 in your pocket..... nothing beats a fast and bright lens for street.
    if you don't really need wide and planning on going full frame very soon, look at the sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 or its little brother the 24-60mm f/2.8, the latter getting better reviews than its big brother.
  14. I have the 18-70mm & this is my second copy. I traded my first copy in when I got the 70-200VR. I've been using it for my IR (InfraRed) photography, but soon realized I felt very limited by the 18-70mm range. I finally decided to buy the 10-24 & I love having that lens. Works so well for me for IR photography.
    If I had it to do over, I would probably have bought the 16-85 for the IR camera & I'm still contemplating doing so. To me the 18-70mm has always been an awkward fit for my photography.
  15. I have used the 18-70 for a while now and find it very good. Most of the time I use very small apertures for landscapes and I think that this helps regarding quality. The 18 end is not so good and I tend to switch to a prime of 20 or 24mm. As a general purpose lens the 18-70 is a good choice.
  16. The 18-70mm is a decent kit lens, but the 16-85mm VR is an outstanding zoom lens. The differences are clear when you hold them up against each other in a test. I have owned three copies of the 18-70mm and am on my second 16-85mm and would never switch back to the 18-70mm. But for the price, a second hand 18-70mm can be had regularly for less than $200, it's a steal.
  17. I use the 18-70 on the d300. Its fast and sharp, without the weight of the more expensive models. Really happy with it.
  18. Hi Kenneth-I also have the D90and recently replaced my 18-70 with the 16-85. I liked my old lens but the 16-85 is,at least for me, better in all respects. I really like having 24mm back at the wide end and the VR is quite useful. The lens is a tad expensive but I'm glad I got it! regards, cb :)
  19. The 16-85VR is a tad expensive imo (Australian$900.00 here) but for me it has been a very worthwhile purchase. It covers 95% of the range I generally shoot in, the extra width (from 18mm) comes in very handy and the extra length (from 55mm) means much less lens changing. I wish it was a bit faster for the same $ but I guess we can't have everything on limited budgets.
  20. Used both on my d200
    The 16-85 is much better in IQ. It is more expensive but worth it.
    Is the AF zoom-nikkor 24-85 f/2.8-4D IF the equivalent lens--to the 16-85-- for the Fx format?
  21. Thanks looks like the 16-85mm VR is the way to go! Once I unload this 18-200mm VR on eBay or something, I'm going to take the proceeds and get the new lens. I think that will round out my lens arsenal quite well until I move to FX.
    Someone told me he shot a wedding with that 16-85mm (along with an 85mm f/1.4 and a 70-200mm VR on a couple of D300 bodies)...I didn't believe him for a second until I saw his pictures...WOW! I think I'd buy an f/2.8 if I want/need to shoot a wedding, but just to know I can get that quality from this lens is reassuring...especially after seeing what I've been getting from the 18-200mm. That lens is a bit of a disappointment (in terms of IQ) versus that old 18-55mm kit lens I had.
    Thanks again!
  22. Kenneth --
    If you have not found it, I strongly recommend Bjørn Rørslett's site at Links are in the left hand panel; click on the link to lenses. Many folks have come to view Bjørn's work as the reference work on Nikon lenses. I certainly have relied on his evaluations in my purchase of Nikon glass.
    A second source that I find valuable is with quite useful test data of many of Nikon's lenses and some third party lenses. Good luck with your choice.


    Edge Light Images: Light, Land and Ocean of Northern California,
  23. i dont think there's any question as to whether the 16-85 is a better lens. as to how much better than the 18-70, that's quite subjective. i personally did not like the 18-70 and have rarely used it since getting the tamron 28-75. for me, i just need 2.8. i like the range, reviews, and features of the 16-85, but i dont think i'd consider a variable-aperture lens at that price. i'm happy with the tammy 17-50 for walkarounds/events and the 28-75 for concerts/portraits. personally, the ability to have sharp focus at 2.8 or f/4 with narrow DoF is better than an extra 1mm of reach, VR, and an extra 30mm on the long end. YMMV.
  24. Like Ramon, I would consider the Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 and Sigma 18-50 f/2.8 Macro. They are sharp, fast, and affordable. I have the Tamron and it is a very good lens. Tamron just announced a 17-50 f/2.8 VC (VC is their VR). Adorama has it for $649.
    I would hold on to the 18-200 VR unless you really need the money for the new lens. I have the 18-200 VR and I use it a lot. I have sharper zooms, but I use the 18-200 VR when I want to travel light and/or want to be able to go from w/a to fairly long tele w/o having to take the time to change lenses. It's also a great travel lens and a great street lens.
  25. I wonder why you don't even consider AFS 18-105 DX VR. To me, this is the best mid range zoom kit Nikon ever made. The only thing I complain is the built quality. Other than's the best walk-around zoom.
  26. Hi Mark,
    I was thinking about keeping the 18-200mm VR for vacation, coupling that with the 35mm f/1.8 and my SB-600 to keep things simple. The last time I went on vacation (earlier this year) I had a D60 with the 18-55 VR and the 55-200 VR and was completely frustrated with the prospect of changing lenses. When I got home and looked at my photos, I was more impressed with the composition of the shots taken with the short lens. Photos from both lens were really sharp...the only problem was the distortion of the 18-55mm at the wide end. I thought I would get similar sharpness from the 18-200mm VR, but after several occasions of walking around here in the DC area, the photos were just not as good.
    If I go on vacation again, I want photos at least as good as those I took on that vacation, which has drawn me to the 16-85mm VR and the 18-70mm based on research. Since I kind of "made do" with the 18-55mm most of the time, I'm figuring I don't need the long end. But I was backpacking in Brazil and often didn't need it. If I'm in Paris or Prague and want shots of the architecture, then I might want something a little longer. I never thought about an f/2.8 Tamron or Sigma. I'm going to head out to the photo store today and give these a spin.
    Edward's suggestion of the 18-105mm VR is great and I might consider that since it gives me a little more on the longer end, but my concern is the build quality. In the second-hand market, this lens is about $225 just like the 18-70mm.
  27. Hi Eric,
    Thanks for posting the example!
  28. Kenneth, I would not have too much concerns about the 18-105's build quality. It is better made than the 18-55, and that seems to hold up nicely for you.
    Edward is right that the 18-105VR is one of Nikon's best bargains. Nice allrounder, sweet pricetag.
  29. The build quality on an 18-105 isn't all that different from a 16-85. I know, this is where everybody says something about metal mount rings, but really, people don't break the plastic ones very often, and both lenses have a lot of plastic in them and long extensions when zooming and neither would survive much of a drop anyway. If you can drop the 16-85 6 more inches than the 18-105, is that actually a big deal?
    Yes, the 16-85 is a good lens. It might even be a $630 lens if it weren't for the other options available. But it's silly that it costs twice as much as the 18-105 while being maybe 10% better - if you were going to spend that kind of money you should save up a bit more and get out of the consumer class lenses.
  30. jbm


    16-85 is slow, exceptionally good, and slightly overpriced for its pedigree. At this level of lens, just get what works and focus on taking a lot of photos. For me, the16-85 was great. It provided professional results for some press kits when I lived in NYC and I love the wide end. However, I dropped mine once from 10 feet onto concrete and it and my D300 have never been the same since. Here are ssome pre drop shots that show how great it is, RAW capture, single pass sharpening. It is much better than the 18-70, but different strokes for different folks.
    Good luck!
  31. When I bought the 17-55 I had planned to pass my 18-70 to my wife. However, the lens had become wobbly and it crept, so we sold it and bought her the 16-85. She likes the 16-85’s VR, light weight, solid feel, build quality, and range, and she uses it as her primary lens. Prior to purchase we tested several filters & holders on it and were surprised to discover that the 16-85 was less susceptible to vignetting than the 18-70 had been. Go for the 16-85 over the 18-70.
  32. I traded my zeiss 2.8/25 (or 2.5/28, can't remember) against a 16-85, because the quality is not far behind and it is autofocus (my eyes are no longer what they used to be..). Very happy with the new lens. Will not trade it back..
  33. All...thanks for the additional information on the 18-105mm VR! I'm seriously thinking about going this route after going to a camera store and checking out each of the following:
    Nikon 16-85mm VR - great of the variable f-stop bunch, but the IQ did not seem that much better than the 18-105 to warrant over 2x the cost. What I saw was barely marginal, but it could have been the nasty in-store lighting.
    Nikon 18-105mm VR - seemed to be the best from a price-performance perspective.
    Nikon 18-70mm VR - really good IQ, but I think I need VR for anything above 50mm
    Tamron 17-50mm (VC and non-VC) - IQ for both at least as good (if not better) than the 16-85, but I want/need something a little longer (especially after seeing the other options).
    Nikon 17-55mm - too expensive but checked it out just for blew all of them away in terms of IQ.
    Granted this is in-store comparisons on the D90 LCD taking shots of people under the horrible florescent lighting stores typically have. That said, I couldn't get a strong idea of color contrast for any of them.
    Jay, thanks for the shots with the 16-85mm. The one of the your dog is amazing!
  34. After a lot of jumping back and forth between the 16-85 and the 18-105, I ordered the 16-85 from Adorama (I think I was sold by Jay's photos). I'll let you all know how it goes when I get it.
    Thanks again!
  35. Good choice Kenneth-you'll be happy with it. Happy shooting! cb :)
  36. Kenneth, I think that your observations concerning the five lenses make a lot of sense. Another factor in favor of the 16-85 VR over the 18-105 VR is that since you are not bringing an ultrawide zoom, the 2mm on the wide side is probably more important than the 20mm on the long side. You can always crop out, but you can't "crop in".
    The 18-200 VR is very sharp from 18-100mm and should be comparable to the 18-55 VR at those focal lengths. It will not be as sharp as the 55-200 VR from 100-200mm. If you are not satisfied with it, you might as well sell it. It will go a long way toward paying for the 16-85 VR.
    Enjoy you new lens!
  37. Hey Mark,
    I thought about the wide-angle aspect of it also and this is a great point. I actually had a 10-24mm Nikon but returned it because it just wasn't my thing at the time. That lens is more of a specialty item, but being able to get those 2mm in could give me a little something if I needed it. I know the 16-85mm cannot replace a dedicated ultra-wide angle, but until I increase my appetite for this type of photography then I'll make do with the 16-85. Those ultra-wides are really pricey though!
  38. The difference between 16 and 18mm is like 24 to 28 in 35mm terms. It's not a lot, but it can make a difference. I live in NYC and do a lot of urban photography and my Sigma 10-20 is a necessity. I even use a Nikon 10.5mm FF FE for those times when it's the only lens that gets it all in. You could look for a used Sigma 10-20. With the Sigma 10-20 f/3.5 coming out there may be more used 10-20 f/4-5.6's around. Same with the Tokina 12-24 f/4 now that the f/2.8 came out. Check

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