Studio Tests - DX format

The AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm F4G VR acquits itself well on the DX format, with impressive image quality across the frame at almost all settings. As usual for a full-frame lens on DX, distortion and light falloff are low. The only real blot on the landscape is wide open at 35mm, where our test sample showed pronounced asymmetry, with the top left in particular extremely soft.

Sharpness Sharpness is generally high and very consistent across the frame even wide open, with relatively little to be gained by stopping down. The exception is at 35mm, where our review sample showed clear asymmetry resulting in wide-open softness, and required stopping down to F8 to get really good results. Overall, best results tend to be obtained at F5.6-F8.
Chromatic Aberration Chromatic aberration is very low indeed, with just a tiny amount of green/magenta fringing visible at the corners of the frame at wideangle. Overall this is unlikely to be visible in normal use.
Falloff We consider falloff to become perceptible when the corner illumination falls to more than 1 stop less than the center. As might be expected for a full frame lens used on DX, falloff is negligible at all focal lengths and apertures.
Distortion Distortion levels are slightly higher than we'd expect to see from an FX lens used on DX, but still in the grand scheme of things relatively low. They range from moderate barrel at 16mm (1.3%) to mild pincushion at 35mm (-0.6%) - which on the whole is unlikely to be very visible in real-world-shooting.

Macro Focus

The 16-35mm isn't the best lens in the world for close-ups, then again we wouldn't expect it to be. Our measured maximum magnification is 0.28x, at a minimum focus distance of 26cm, which equates to a working distance of about 9cm from the front of the lens to the subject.

Image quality is OK but not wonderful, with our review sample again affected by the asymmetry mentioned above. Sharpness in the center of the frame is perfectly acceptable at F4 but the corners are distinctly soft, and don't fully sharpen up in our test chart shot until about F16. On the plus side there's almost no distortion and minimal chromatic aberration.
Macro - 83 x 55 mm coverage
Distortion: Negligible
Corner softness: moderate
Focal length: 35mm (52 mm equiv)

Specific image quality issues

As always, our studio tests are backed up by taking hundreds of photographs with the lens across a range of subjects, and examining them in detail. This allows us to confirm our studio observations, and identify any other issues which don't show up in the tests.

Flash shadowing

The 16-35mm is far more of a general-purpose zoom on DX than on FX, and is therefore more likely to be considered for on-camera flash use. However the size of the lens makes it somewhat inappropriate for this, with substantial shadowing at the bottom of the frame. The examples below (of a white wall shot at a distance of about 2m) illustrate this; shadowing is pronounced at both 16mm and 20mm, and only fully disappears on zooming past 24mm. So for flash work with this lens you'll need to use an external unit (and with the built-in flash, even an 18-55mm kit lens is overall a better choice).

16mm F4, Nikon D300 20mm F4, Nikon D300