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16-85 VR and 18-55 VR

Shuo Zhao , Jun 28, 2008; 08:07 p.m.

Hi everyone, I recently got a 16-85 VR for my D300 (mainly for to its 16mm wideangle and VR). So far, it has performed very well optically; and the VR has made it very useful in challenging situations. But after doing some research online, I started to realize that the new 18-55 VR could possibly do the 16-85 VR's job almost just as well at a much cheaper price. Since I paid quite a hefty price for the 16-85 ($590 at B&H), I start to think that although I got a good lens, it's probably not worth its price.

Obviously if the 18-55 VR is "excellent as many (including KR) claim", I will probably be better off returning the 16-85 VR. I'm thinking about returning it, because the amount of money saved is quite significant.

Please let me know what you think about these two lenses, and what should I do.



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Gene Paull , Jun 28, 2008; 08:32 p.m.

I don't know anything about the 18-55, except that it has a plastic mount and barrels. About a month ago, my D80/16-85 combo, somehow, after an hr. on the tripod, separated from the quick release plate on onto the rocks! Lens hood and filter were shattered, plus the on/off switch and shutter release of the D80 destroyed. Back to Nikon. The 16-85, with its metal barrels, and mount, was intact. The only thing Nikon Service had to do was to calibrate and run some tests on the lens. I'm thinking plastic barrels/lens mount would have been a total loss.

Mauricio Orozco , Jun 28, 2008; 10:18 p.m.

Hi Shuo, I have had both lenses and there is not comparison. As Gene pointed out, the 18-55 VR is plastic and the mount also is plastic. Sooner or later, dust and light will start getting right between the contact of the lens and the camera because it did happen to me. On the other hand, the 16-85 VR is a metal mount, more robustic, better built and more angle and range. Both lenses are sharp, and according to some pros, both have the same optical quality, but I will always prefer the 16-85 VR. With this lens, you can shoot wide and go upto 85 mm for portrait, something that you can not do with the other lens. I do believe you are better off with the 16-85, but again, it is a matter of choice. I did buy this lens because it is perfect for a walk-around and do-it-all lens for me and stay in my camera all the time. Considering that there is the Tokina 11-16 mm f/2.8 available now and also the Nikon 70-300 VR II, choosing the Nikon 16-85 VR is the right decision to cover all distances from 11 to 300. Probably this coming Monday, I will get my Tokina and I will be done buying lenses for a while because I already have the 70-300 VR. Also I do have the Nikon 50 mm f/1.8 which is my lens for portrait and special low light ocassions. Very inexpensive, very fast and sharp as a knife. Good luck and happy shooting !!

JDM von Weinberg , Jun 28, 2008; 10:19 p.m.

You'll have to check the reviews for the specifics on these two lenses, but I can say that the 16-85mm range is FAR more useful than a lens that tops out at 55mm. On the shorter zoom you will always have to tote along a longer lens for many purposes, while the longer zoom range covers the entire traditional focal lengths from an equivalent of 24mm to almost a 135mm (well, 128mm). Until well into the 60s, the majority of 35mm photographers had only this range covered in their lens bag, and even today it still can do most things that you would want while you're walking around Old Town in San Juan, or whereever.

Craig Gillette , Jun 28, 2008; 10:32 p.m.

You will take the chance and likely lose money on the sale of the 16-85 vr and lose 2mm at the wide end. which is not inconsiderable, probably almost as useful as the 30mm at the long end.

The 16-85 vr is $590 at B&H, the 18-55 is $200. So maybe by the time you get through sales, taxes, shipping, etc., you've got perhaps $300 or a little more to deal with. I don't think I'd do it.

Of course, it kind of depends on what other lenses you have that approach or overlap that range and what your interests are.

Shuo Zhao , Jun 28, 2008; 11:11 p.m.

JDM, I already realize that this lens is a very nice vacation/travel lens. It essentially does everything I want it to do. I just feel that at $590, the lens is a bit too expensive for a f/3.5-5.6 lens DX lens.

Mauricio, The 16-85 VR is obviously a much better lens than the 18-55 VR. But once we factor in the price of the 18-55 VR along with the things I could've got with the money saved, the situation become much trickier. The "money saved" is enough to get a SB-800, or a 70-300 VR, or a 85 1.8. So it's really a matter of "price-performance ratio" instead of a matter of "relative measure of performance".

>> "You will take the chance and likely lose money on the sale of the 16-85 vr"

It's still "new enough" to be returned.

Craig, I already have a 55-200 VR, 50 1.8, and a 24-70 2.8. So the 16-85 essentially allows me to extend the coverage down to 16mm (I tried a Sigma 10-20 and returned it). (Of course the lens seems to be almost as sharp as the 24-70 at f/8, and the VR makes it a more suitable lens than the 24-70 2.8 for shooting static scenes in low light with a stepped down aparture).

Yuri Sopko , Jun 28, 2008; 11:28 p.m.


Are you looking to save money or do you want a more functional lens? I bought the 18-55 VR when I had a D50 and I use it a lot on my D300. It's pretty much my main lens due to its light weight, compactness, and versatility. I have not had any issues with the plastic lens mount or any dust issues. Then again, I never had any dust issues on my D50 or any of my lenses for that matter: 18-55VR, AF-D 35/2, 70-300VR, Tokina 11-16, Sigma 150/2.8.

A lot of people don't like that plastic construction but that is what makes it so light. I've never heard of anyone having a worn plastic or metal lens mount. As far as internal dust-proofness goes in terms of construction, I have never taken either apart, but I bought the 18-55VR shortly after it was available and still no dust issues. When it comes to a drop test of your camera and lens that survival rate will be pretty low to begin with. Either the lens or the body will take the brunt of it, or, both. I'd rather see my plastic lens rip off then my D300 get damaged.

The difference on the wide end, 16mm vs 18m, is quite minimal. However, the 30mm difference on the long end can be pretty significant depending on what/how you like to shoot. I can definitely see how the 85mm would be great for portraits. But, how often do you shoot portraits? Some people shoot alot as they have a lot of close family and related children.

If it were me and you want a more multi-functional lens I'd return the 16-85 VR for the 18-200 VR. Only a minor difference in weight and you have even more focal length for when you need it. Or, if it were me and I wanted to maximize my money, I'd return the 16-85 VR and get the 18-55 VR and use the saved money to buy another lens like the Tokina 11-16 or a dedicated macro lens. ;)

Ritz might have one and you can try it there or maybe a local camera store. You could also try a BestBuy or CircuitCity and see if they have a D60 with the 18-55 VR on it and see if you like the zoom range.


Shuo Zhao , Jun 28, 2008; 11:35 p.m.

>> "Are you looking to save money or do you want a more functional lens?"

I'm trying to find a good compromise, balance things out.

>> "If it were me and you want a more multi-functional lens I'd return the 16-85 VR for the 18-200 VR."

I purposely avoided that lens because of its distortion.

Thanks Yuri...I'll think about it.

Eric Arnold , Jun 29, 2008; 12:11 a.m.

not sure i understand your issue, shuo. the 16-85 is the better of the two lenses, optically speaking. it's also more expensive. is it overpriced for what it does? probably.

but you have one now, which is what counts. and you'll still have this lens years after the 18-55 will have needed to be replaced.

if you're upset about the price of the 16-85, you shouldnt have spent it in the first place. and probably you should have got the sb-800 instead of a lens in the first place if you need one so bad.

IMO it doesnt make a whole lot of sense to downsize to a cheaper, plastic, optically inferior model which is just as slow and has less range for a savings of about $300, plus or minus ground shipping.

now if you were asking whether it makes more sense to get an overpriced nikon VR lens with slow variable aperture vs. a more inexpensive but optically stellar constant aperture 3rd party zoom, i would have said go with the 2.8.

Jerry Schuler , Jun 29, 2008; 12:43 a.m.

I do not have the 16-85mm VR lens. But I have the 18-55 vr kit lens. I'm not happy with it. I've purchased a couple of prime lens to cover part of it's range. A 28mm 3.5 AI, 55mm Micro-Nikkor AIS, and I have a 50mm 1.8 on the way. If your 16-85mm VR matches these prime lenses. I'd say that you may want to keep it, because I do not think you'd be happy ether with the 18-55mm VR. KR says alot of medium quality lenses are good. Check out what he says about the 28-80mm 3.3 lens. These go for $30-$50 on ebay.

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