Nov 1, 2014 - by Robert Rhead
26

The bane of all landscape shooting Nikon 14-24 f2.8 owners is the inability to use creative filters on the front due to the lack of filter thread, permanent hood and rather bulbous lens glass. Finding myself as a 14-24 f2.8 owner in that same position I admit this dilemma caused many months of head scratching and soul searching before I found my solution.

For all those who don't like reading here is the lens solution I chose...the Nikkor 16-35 f4.
Anyone else who would like to hear what I based my decision on should read on.

Nikon FX cameras leave us with really only three wide angle lenses to choose from.
Those being:

Nikon 14-24 f2.8
Nikon 16-35 f4
Nikon 17-35 f2.8

The dilemma isn't made easy with the fact that the 14-24 2.8 is one seriously awesome lens. It's super wide...I mean extreeeme wide, unbelievably sharp and handles distortion very well for the level of wideness it achieves. Personally I love this lens even with it?s filter issue and weight similar to that of a large brick, but feeling creatively restricted when out in the field I decided a solution was needed for wide angles shots with filters. I mostly found myself resorting to using my Nikon Nikkor 24-70 f2.8 for landscape photography, which is a fantastic lens for general photography and specifically portraits, but I found the 24mm frequently too long for many of the shots I was taking. Trying to get nice foreground interest into a picture was difficult in many situations as they were mostly out of the frame.

My first thought was the special system from Lee specifically designed for the 14-24 but there are many reasons stacked against buying into this extra system. The first is that it is just that... an extra system, meaning that I would then need to carry two separate filter systems with me in the field, my standard 100mm Lee system and identical filters in the 150mm format, which makes for plenty more weight to carry around in my back-pack. The second is that the price tag, as with most Lee products is really, really hefty and they are virtually never in stock....anywhere. I just couldn't see that this system would be a solution and I believe Lee don't make a Big Stopper in the 150mm format which is a filter I love to use.

This reduced my choice to two alternative lenses, the Nikkor 16-35 f4 and the 17-35 f2.8.
Anyone in a similar position will probably have searched the net and found a myriad of conflicting opinions between these two lenses...making the choice really quite hard. Not having the luxury of being able to thoroughly test drive both lenses my decision had to be built upon research and then the plunge, a tried and tested system of mine but so many conflicting opinions on the net made this hard. The main thing for me is both of these lenses have a 77mm filter thread meaning I could attach my complete current Lee filter system.

Nikon 17-35 f2.8 vs Nikon 16-35 f4

The Nikon 17-35 f2.8
I admit my finger hovered over the Ebay 'Place bid' button on more than one occasion, but I felt an inhibition to finally click. Whilst being a professional lens with proven track record there were some things which concerned me. The first is that I have never used my 14-24 f2.8 outside wide open at f2.8. It's an unbelievable lens for indoor work, such as photographing cathedrals, but for landscapes I'm usually at f8 and above.
The 17-35 is also not the newest of lenses, is widely unavailable in many stores and is quite expensive ranging from around the £900 to £1400 mark. That felt like a lot of money for what felt like a slightly dated lens with a f2.8 aperture I probably wouldn't use.
Image quality was obviously a concern and I had found content on the web about how soft this lens is around the edges at around 17mm which was probably the biggest factor for me against this lens.


The Nikon 16-35 f4
Being a newer model and not having the f2.8 max aperture I felt like this could be a better alternative to the 17-35. I'd read Ken Rockwell's review claiming it to be even better than the 14-24 but in comparison found articles claiming it to be a lot softer.
I also like that extra millimetre against the 17mm which admittedly isn't much, but when your back is up against a wall then every mm counts.
Probably the biggest thing stacked against this lens is the apparently huge distortion at 16mm and the use of plastics for the body parts instead of the metal of the 'professional' range of Nikkor lenses I was used to.

Eventually after many moons of research and deliberation I opted for the 16-35 f4.

The purchase and first impressions.

I decided the f2.8 aperture for landscape photography was unnecessary and that I could manage the distortion at around 16mm in post-production quite easily. The 16-35 comes in a little cheaper too at around £830 which was nice but at the time of purchase was hard to track down in the shops. As with most Nikon lens products, once out of stock a fairly long delivery time can be expected, but after ringing around I found a shop with one in stock.

First impression out of the box was how light it was on comparison the the 14-24 2.8, due to the fact that it has considerably less glass and the plastic body components. Whilst I didn't really mind lugging the 14-24 brick with me, this reduction will certainly please my knees on longer walks.
After the first test shots I can confirm that the image quality is every bit as good as the 14-24, in fact I can't fault the images at all. The distortion at 16mm is there but isn't as bad as I expected and can be easily addressed using Lightrooms Lens Correction tool.

All in all I feel I made the right choice and I hope this insight into my thoughts helps others with the same dilemma.

There is an update to this blog post which you can read here

Comments

Profile picture for user Vivienne Noonan

Phil Oliver

Oct 9, 2016 - 10:58

Thanx for your review of the Nikon 16-35. It has made my mind up to buy one. I am a fan of wide angle. despite its long physical length.

Profile picture for user Vivienne Noonan

Karel Newman

Oct 9, 2016 - 10:59

I appreciate your disclosure of the thinking process going into your purchase. I admit having had the same dilemma when choosing for my D800, and the fussy sensor it affords. Corner "softness" proved less an issue with the specimen of 17-35mm I eventually bought at half-off clearance.

Profile picture for user Vivienne Noonan

Ollie Taylor

Oct 9, 2016 - 10:59

I take lots of long exposures with this lens and have not experienced any issues with light leak or any red discolouration....in fact I wasn't even aware that people have had issues with that. Thanks for sharing.

I take lots of long exposures with this lens and have not experienced any issues with light leak or any red discolouration....in fact I wasn't even aware that people have had issues with that. Thanks for sharing.

Profile picture for user Vivienne Noonan

Tashi Hishey

Oct 9, 2016 - 10:59

I was contemplating on the 14 -24. Read a lot, pros and cons v 16 - 35, now its clear as crystal. Its the 16 - 35. Thanks. Awesome article!

Profile picture for user Vivienne Noonan

David Ironbar

Oct 9, 2016 - 10:59

I've found myself with the same dilemma, and thanks to your review, I'm going to opt for the 16-35. Thanks!

Profile picture for user Vivienne Noonan

chad barton

Oct 9, 2016 - 10:59

Wanting to try doing some milky way shots,but 99% of my shots will be landscape. Just bought a d750 and wondering if you would recommend the 17-35 f2.8 over the 16-35 f4 for this purpose.

If you've already discounted the 14-24, I'd get the 16-35 f4 for landscape and a 14 Rokinon for astro. If the 17-35 weren't so old, I'd suggest that but it IS getting a little long in the tooth. as for that 1-stop difference, more often than not it's not going from ISO 100 to 200 but more like 1600 to 3200 or more which is why I would add the Rokinon 14mm.

Because of the extra stop of light from the 2.8 aperture? ..probably not. I'd still go with the 16-35 f4. At night you can compensate for the one stop of light by upping your ISO one stop ...say from 100 to 200.

Profile picture for user Vivienne Noonan

Josh Levinson

Oct 9, 2016 - 11:00

I went through this exact same dilemma recently. I initially opted for the 16-35. However, as soon as I got home and started trying it out, it became clear to me that I wasn't going to be able to live with the softness of the extreme corners. It's different for everyone, I imagine, but they just bothered me too much, knowing that with my new Nikon system I was striving for maximum landscape image quality. I exchanged it for the 14-24, and I can attest to the fact that the corners are significantly better. To be fair, they aren't perfect (at least in extreme conditions, i.e. foreground elements very close to the camera, but also needing to include distant background elements in sharp focus); but they are noticeably better, even at smaller sizes. Having said that, I'd say the sharpness across the rest of the frame is very comparable to the 16-35 at landscape apertures (f8 and above). It also didn't hurt that with the 16-35, my plan was to also get the Rokinon 14mm for starry sky photography, which would have brought the weight and cost of my system more in line with the 14-24 anyways.

In terms of filter options, while they are relatively heavy and expensive, there are also the Fotodiox and Lucroit filter systems, as alternatives to the Lee one. Apparently people are happy with both (although the Lucroit system still does not have a polarizer, I believe). I haven't gotten it yet, but I'm probably going to get the Fotodiox one (polarizer is my most important filter). Yes, the whole system will be heavy, but for me, the fact that I can maximize image quality is worth it to me (I think).

And finally, although I've shot at 16mm for many years, I can't believe how cool it is to shoot at 14mm. Those extra 2mm really do make a significant difference!

Profile picture for user Vivienne Noonan

Shane Arrold

Oct 9, 2016 - 11:00

A vote for the 14-24mm and the Fotodiox system. I've been using this system for 18months now and it does a comparable job to my Lee system which I use for my 24?70mm & 70?200mm. Fotodiox even has a 10stop ND now. Colour cast is less than the Lee big stopper and easily removed. The Fotodiox system is slightly more clunky in functionality than the Lee but certainly does the job. Only downside is additional cost and more gear to carry - but to me this was worth it given the 14-24mm's superior corner sharpness and 2.8 capacity.

Profile picture for user Vivienne Noonan

Foto By Freas

Oct 9, 2016 - 11:00

I am having the exact dilemma as well.I'm needing the lens for my interior real estate photography. how would you feel the 16 would hold up for interior shots? Is there enough correction in Lightroom for the distortion so that it comes out looking professional? I've been using the 10 to 24 and have to shoot it at about 16. But I've stepped up to the full format, so now I need a lens to match. I'm wondering how sharp the 16 will handle flash from speedlights

Profile picture for user Vivienne Noonan

Pranav Desai

Oct 9, 2016 - 11:00

I am also mulling about the alternative to 14-24. But all reviews say the 16-35 has too much distortion at 16 mm . that is what is stopping me. Not able to decide.
Meanwhile i have bought a rokinon 14 mm for astro

Profile picture for user Vivienne Noonan

Leub Dier

Oct 9, 2016 - 11:01

Great discussion. The 14mm f/2.8 Rokinon will be delivered today. My next purchase considerations are:
Tokina or Tamron 24mm f/1.4
Nikkor 50mm 1.4
Nikkor 16-24 f/4

All this before I get into longer range zooms:
70-200 or 80-200 f/2.8

Fun stuff to go with my new D750!!!

Profile picture for user Vivienne Noonan

Warren

Oct 9, 2016 - 11:01

I have a 16-35mm, I have not used the 14-24. All distortion is correctable (almost all). You may have issues, as with most UWA lenses if you shoot horizontal lines very close to the top or bottom of the frame e.g. a landscape / seascape where the land / water horizontal line is extremely close to the top/bottom of the frame. unlikely to spot this on normal skylone broken with hilss / trees etc

The 16mm is fine for interior shots but the nature of the lens, same for 14, 16, 17, 18 20mm starting lenses etc is that you are fitting a lot of detail into the frame. On the plus side it will make all spaces look bigger so great for estate agency images.

With regard to the comment about 16mm and flashlights I do not see the relevance of the question. The lens will capture whatever light you throw into the scene, the key will be how you use the flashlights to do it

The other element to consider with ALL UWA lenses is keeping your feet, body and equipment shadows out of the image so be aware of where the light is coming from and its impact on you in the scene.

The 14-24mm lens is sharper across the full frame, the 16-35mm is also sharper but not as sharp at F/4 as the 14-24mm will be. Ultimately you need to consider if this really makes that much difference or if you are blowing up images to the size required for the massive advertising spaces at say rail stations etc. In that case you'd also need to consider your camera.

The 14-24 is prone to flare, the 16-35mm is not. The other thing to consider is which lens would you get the most use of, which will you lug round. There are some great milk-way shots taken with the 16-35mm, no doubt the 14-24mm could result in them being ever so slightly sharper. If you can afford both then buy both but if you can only afford one then which will get the most use? The sharpest lens in the world is no good if its kept gather dust at home rather than on your camera or in your camera bag.

I also have a 15mm f/2.8 sigma fish eye which is super sharp and easily flattened in photoshop but the whole/full image is captured on the sensor. The lens is small and very light.

How many people buying these lenses are professionals and have pixel peeping clients. Buy what you will use and enjoy the most making images with

Profile picture for user Vivienne Noonan

Gilly

Oct 9, 2016 - 11:01

Your post made interesting reading, many thanks. I already own and use the 14-24mm mostly for real estate, architecture and landscapes that don't require ND filters/polarisers. However, I have some pro shoots coming up that involve industrial equipment & I need a wide angle lens that can specifically take a polariser. I'm fairly new at this 'pro gig' but even if I owned the Lee filter system, I cant imagine lugging it around on a 14-24mm, changing the filters quickly during shooting. Other pro's must have a simpler solution, but I'm not sure. I figured the 17-35 or 16-35 might be my answer. I'd be most grateful for any advice.

Hi Gilly and thanks for your comment. That's a tough call... buying a 16-35 plus a new Lee filter system including polariser and adapter ring would cost quite a lot. If you already have the 14-24 I think I'd get the Lee SW150 filter holder and polariser for that. It's heavy, but if you're photographing industrial equipment I'd guess your camera will be on a tripod most of the time anyway.

Profile picture for user Vivienne Noonan

Thomas

Oct 9, 2016 - 11:01

Did you consider only zooms? I'm thinking I would use any of these zooms most at their widest.

Yes, I only considered zooms. Whilst out doing landscape photography you frequently don't have much choice as to where you can stand due to obstructions like cliff edges etc. Some zoom capability is essential to overcome these difficulties and to fine tune the composition.

Profile picture for user Vivienne Noonan

Robert

Oct 9, 2016 - 11:01

I've been using the Nikkor 18-35 F3.5-4.5 AF-D for about 4 years now and whilst I would like a bit more wide angle for interiors sometimes, I still need a 35mm reach. Swapping lenses on site is a big no. The extra weight of a 17-35mm or 14-28mm is a big consideration. You have to buy one of these 17-35s new or allow ???/$$$ for a service repair as almost every example second hand has been hammered and has AF-S focus whistle.

So what if the 18-35 is only a semi-pro lens. 4 years and 30,000 clicks on 400 odd sites and it is still in better shape than every 17-35 I have seen.

Yes, the 2.8 gives a much brighter view finder (even than the 3.5 of the 18-35 wide open) and it is better in the corners. But is it worth ????/$$$$ and physiotherapy for my neck after lugging it around all day? Hmmm!

Hi Robert and thanks for commenting. It sounds like you already have your ideal setup. The 14-24 2.8 is indeed very heavy and the Lee filter set that fits it is huge and bulky.... no way would I want to lug it around all day.