Nikon 16-35mm f/4 vs. Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8: The Ultimate In-Depth Showdown for Photography Pros

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Are you on the quest for the perfect lens to elevate your photography game, but torn between two popular choices – the wide-angle specialist Nikon 16-35mm f/4 and the versatile Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8?

Worry not, as we’ve delved into the depths of these two remarkable lenses, exploring their unique features, performance, and capabilities.

In this article, we’ll be comparing these two giants, highlighting their strengths and weaknesses in various aspects of photography. So, whether you’re a landscape enthusiast, a portrait aficionado, or a jack-of-all-trades, let us guide you through this comprehensive comparison to help you make an informed decision and unleash your creative potential.

Let the battle of the lenses begin!


Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 16-35mm F4G ED VRNikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm F2.8E ED VR
Max ApertureF4.0F2.8
Aperture TypeFixedFixed
Focal Range (mm)16-3524-70
Max Format35mm FF35mm FF
Zoom Ratio (X)2.22.9

The Nikon 16-35mm f/4 has a maximum aperture of f/4.0, which is relatively smaller compared to the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8. This means it will allow less light to enter, potentially affecting low-light performance and depth of field control.

In contrast, the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 has a maximum aperture of f/2.8, which is larger than the Nikon 16-35mm f/4. This allows more light to enter, improving low-light performance and providing a shallower depth of field for better subject isolation.

Both lenses have a fixed aperture, meaning they maintain the same maximum aperture throughout the entire zoom range. In terms of focal range, the 16-35mm f/4 has a 16-35mm focal range, making it a wide-angle zoom lens, ideal for landscape, architecture, and interior photography.

On the other hand, the 24-70mm f/2.8 has a 24-70mm focal range, making it a standard zoom lens, suitable for various types of photography, such as street, portrait, event, and general-purpose photography.

The 16-35mm lens has a 2.2x zoom ratio, which is less than the 24-70mm lens, while the 24-70mm lens has a 2.9x zoom ratio, offering slightly more flexibility in zooming compared to the 16-35mm.

In conclusion, there isn’t a definitive answer as to which lens is superior, as it depends on the specific requirements and intended use. The 16-35mm lens is ideal for wide-angle photography, while the Nikon 24-70mm lens is more versatile for various types of photography.

The 24-70mm lens has better low-light performance and depth of field control, but the 16-35mm lens can excel in landscape and architectural photography. Your choice should be based on your primary photography interests and preferences.

Design and Ease of Use

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 16-35mm F4G ED VRNikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm F2.8E ED VR
Diameter x Length (mm)⌀82.5×125mm⌀88×154.5mm
Weight (gr)6801070
Filter Thread (mm)7782
Weather SealingYesYes
Zoom MethodRotary (internal)Rotary (internal)
Distance ScaleYesYes
DoF ScaleNoNo
Hood CodeHB-23HB-74

The Nikon 16-35mm f/4 has a diameter of 82.5mm and a length of 125mm, while the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 is larger, with a diameter of 88mm and a length of 154.5mm.

In terms of weight, the 16-35mm lens is considerably lighter at 680 grams, compared to the 24-70mm lens, which weighs 1070 grams. Both lenses employ an internal rotary zoom method.

Dimensions and weight play a significant role in photography, affecting portability, balance, discreetness, storage, and lens swapping. The smaller size and lighter weight of the 16-35mm lens make it more portable, better balanced, more discreet, and easier to store and swap than the larger and heavier 24-70mm lens.

The internal rotary zoom method offers some advantages, such as consistent size, better weather sealing, and stable balance while zooming. However, it can also be more complex and heavier than extending rotary zoom designs. Both lenses in this comparison use the internal rotary zoom method, so there is no significant difference between them in this regard.

Lens Mount and Barrel

The Nikon 16-35mm f/4 features a dull-chromed brass lens mount with a rubber gasket for weather sealing, and a magnesium alloy chassis that contributes to its overall toughness. Its lens barrel is made of plastic, providing a lightweight and weather-resistant design. However, the exterior markings may wear off over time due to its plastic construction.

In contrast, the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 has a metal lens mount that is weather-sealed with an O-ring, preventing dust and water from entering the camera. Its lens barrel is a blend of high-quality plastic and metal materials, offering a rubberized texture finish for an enhanced grip and a professional feel.

In conclusion, the choice between the 16-35mm and 24-70mm lenses depends on your specific needs and preferences as a photographer. If you prioritize portability and affordability, the 16-35mm lens with its plastic lens barrel could be a more suitable option. However, if you value durability, a professional feel, and weather sealing, the 24-70mm lens with its metal lens mount and a mix of plastic and metal in the lens barrel may be the superior choice.

Weather Sealing

Comparing the weather sealing of the Nikon 16-35mm f/4 and the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8, we can observe some differences in their protection levels. The 16-35mm lens features a rubber gasket at the lens mount, providing some degree of weather sealing along with a solid plastic construction and a weather-sealed metal lens mount. In contrast, the 24-70mm lens is designed to resist water, dust, and smudges more comprehensively. It has a rubber grommet seal at the lens mount, as well as internal seals at the rings, switches, and front of the barrel, which help protect the lens from harsh weather conditions.

While both lenses offer some degree of weather sealing, the 24-70mm lens appears to provide superior protection due to its more extensive sealing measures. This makes it a more suitable option for photographers who frequently shoot in challenging environments or unpredictable weather conditions. However, it is essential to note that even fully weather-sealed lenses should not be exposed to extreme temperature changes or harsh conditions, as this can lead to condensation and potential moisture build-up inside the lens.


The Nikon 16-35mm f/4 features a zoom ring near the camera body and a focus ring towards the front, both with ridged rubber coatings for a secure grip. The ridges on the zoom ring are wider with two notches cut into each ridge, providing added grip security. Regrettably, some instances of the lens have been reported to exhibit looseness between the focus ring and the internal gears.

The focus ring has a turning radius of only 50 degrees, which may seem brief, but it is adequate for precise focus at the long end. A recessed distance scale with four settings is located in front of the focusing ring, but it lacks depth-of-field markings.

The Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 has a rubberized zoom ring at the rear and a manual focus ring towards the front. The zoom ring has a wide grip with raised ribs, offering a great tactile feel and smooth rotation with slight resistance. It turns about 90 degrees, zooming from wide to telephoto in a quarter turn.

The focus ring is narrower with thinner rubber ribs but remains equally grippy and smooth in operation. It features soft stops at the minimum focus distance and infinity and rotates with a little more resistance beyond the focus limit. The lens has a windowed distance scale with marks in both feet and meters, but no IR or DOF markings on the focus indicator.

In terms of rings design and functionality, the 24-70mm lens appears to be superior, offering a better balance of ergonomics, control, and tactile feedback. The smooth rotation and resistance of both the zoom and focus rings provide precise adjustments, while the soft stops at the minimum focus distance and infinity make it easier to achieve accurate focus. Additionally, the 24-70mm lens has a more comprehensive distance scale, although it also lacks depth-of-field markings.

In conclusion, the 24-70mm lens provides a more refined and user-friendly ring design, giving photographers improved control and precision in focus and zoom adjustments. While the 16-35mm lens offers decent ring design and functionality, the 24-70mm lens edges it out in terms of overall performance and usability.


The Nikon 16-35mm f/4 features 2 slider switches located behind the focusing ring on the lens barrel. The top switch serves as the focus mode selector, allowing users to switch between autofocus and manual focus. The lower switch toggles the VR II (Vibration Reduction) stabilization on and off, enhancing image stability and reducing camera shake during handheld shooting.

On the other hand, the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 has 2 switches on the side of the barrel: the AF/MF switch and the VR switch. The AF/MF switch enables users to quickly override autofocus and switch to manual operation with virtually no time lag. The VR switch offers settings for Off, Normal, or Active VR modes, providing additional flexibility and customization in controlling image stabilization. One drawback of these switches is that they feel identical to the touch, which may lead to confusion when making quick adjustments without looking at the labels.

In conclusion, both lenses offer essential switches for focus mode selection and VR control. However, the 24-70mm lens appears to be superior in terms of switch functionality, providing a more versatile VR switch with Normal and Active modes.

Filter Thread

The Nikon 16-35mm f/4 lens has a 77mm filter thread, which is large and well-suited for landscape photography. Its plastic construction offers a lightweight advantage and resilience against potential damage from drops.

This lens is easy to use with various filters, such as ND, IR, and CPL filters, and is especially appealing to photographers who regularly use filters due to its front filter thread design. Using top-notch filters can help safeguard the lens and improve the clarity of the images.

On the other hand, the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 has a larger 82mm filter thread size. While this necessitates larger filters, its internal focusing mechanism ensures that the filter position remains fixed while focusing. This feature simplifies the use of certain filters, such as circular polarizers or graduated neutral density filters.

In conclusion, the choice between the 16-35mm and 24-70mm lenses in terms of filter thread superiority depends on your specific needs and preferences.

The 16-35mm lens with its 77mm filter thread and plastic construction may be more suited to landscape photographers who frequently use filters, while the 24-70mm lens with its 82mm filter thread and internal focusing mechanism is better for photographers who require a fixed filter position during focusing.

Both lenses have their advantages, but the 16-35mm lens offers a slightly more versatile filter thread experience for those who use various filters regularly.

Lens Hood

The Nikon 16-35mm f/4 lens hood is reversible, which allows for convenient storage, and it’s compatible with polarizer filters. However, the lens hood is short due to the lens’s wide angle of view, and it comes with the same HB-23 lens hood as the Nikon 17-35mm lens.

In contrast, the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens hood is a plastic petal-style hood with the model number HB-74. It features a lock mechanism that holds it tightly and securely on the lens, unlike other hoods that might easily come off when rotated. The hood is reversible for storage and has a deep design that effectively deals with lens flare while protecting the front element. The lens hood coverage at 24mm may be scant, but thanks to the inner barrel design, it does not require readjustment while zooming.

In conclusion, while both lens hoods offer unique advantages, the 24-70mm lens hood is superior due to its secure locking mechanism, deep design, and effective flare prevention without the need for readjustment during zooming. The well-designed accessory is a valuable addition to the lens, providing a balance of functionality and protection.

Focusing and Optical Stabilization

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 16-35mm F4G ED VRNikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm F2.8E ED VR
AF MotorSilent Wave MotorSilent Wave Motor
Rotating Front ElementDoes not rotate on focusingDoes not rotate on focusing
Min Focus Distance0.28m0.41m(24,28,70mm);0.38m(35-50mm)
Max Magnification (X)0.250.27
Full-Time Manual FocusYesYes
Focus MethodInternalInternal

Focusing Performance

The Nikon 16-35mm f/4 has a fast, accurate, and quiet autofocus system, thanks to the Silent Wave Motor (SWM). It can focus in low-light situations without any issues, and its autofocus acquisition speed is quick. The lens also provides manual focus override for greater control. However, there may be some play between the focus ring and internal gears on certain copies of the lens, and it records audible clacks and snaring sounds when focusing.

On the other hand, the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 has a very snappy and quick autofocus performance, making it easy to acquire subjects and shift focus rapidly. Its virtually silent AF-S drive makes it suitable for video recording. The lens boasts excellent autofocus accuracy in both daylight and low-light conditions. The focus ring has no slack or play, which makes manual focus override easy, and the manual focus action is smooth. This lens also features an internally focusing design, which keeps the lens length constant regardless of focus and zoom settings.

In conclusion, while both lenses have commendable focusing performance, the 24-70mm lens stands out with its snappy autofocus, silent AF-S drive. These features make it suitable for a wide range of photography applications, including those that require silent operation, such as video recording.

Optical Stabilization

In the realm of optical stabilization, the Nikon 16-35mm f/4 features a Vibration Reduction II system that Nikon claims can provide up to a 4-stop advantage. During practical trials, photographers were able to attain as much as a 3-stop increase in shutter speeds at the telephoto end and up to a 2-stop increase at the wide-angle end of the focal range.

While shooting in daylight, the Vibration Reduction system may lead to a slight delay in the shutter, but it permits handheld photography at a minimum of 1.5 stops slower than the focal length’s usual requirement. The lens offers a quiet VR operation, with a switch to turn it on or off, and only one mode of stabilization.

The Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 also boasts optical stabilization (VR) with up to 4 stops longer exposure times, resulting in effective image stabilization even at slower shutter speeds. This lens offers both Normal and Active modes of stabilization, and its VR system operates silently. The lens captures crisp handheld shots at speeds as long as 1/5-second when shooting at 70mm.

Even though optical stabilization is not as crucial for wide-angle lenses as it is for telephoto lenses, it can still be advantageous in specific scenarios such as low-light conditions, handheld shooting, and video recording. Considering both lenses, the 24-70mm lens stands out with its dual stabilization modes and excellent performance at slower shutter speeds. While both lenses provide adequate optical stabilization, the 24-70mm lens offers superior performance, making it a more versatile choice for a range of shooting scenarios.

Image Quality

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 16-35mm F4G ED VRNikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm F2.8E ED VR
Special Elements2 ED glass elements, 3 aspherical lenses and Nano Crystal Coat3 aspherical and 2 ED elements + nano crystal and fluorine coatings
Diaphragm Blades99
Circular ApertureYesYes


One notable feature of the Nikon 16-35mm f/4 is its remarkable control over chromatic aberration, displaying almost no signs of lateral chromatic aberrations. Even when capturing images in raw format, this flaw is scarcely detectable, and with modern Nikon DSLR cameras, it can be automatically corrected in JPEG files. The lens also exhibits negligible levels of coma and spherical aberration, delivering excellent optical performance with minimal aberrations.

On the other hand, the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 exhibits varying levels of chromatic aberration. Lateral chromatic aberration is particularly high at 35mm, peaking at over 3 pixels at the image borders. Longitudinal chromatic aberration (LoCA) is present, with a weak magenta coloration in the foreground and greenish hues in the background.

However, chromatic aberration can be easily corrected in post-production. The lens shows some coma in the FX corner at various apertures and focal lengths in night shots, but it is not significant. Additionally, there isn’t any significant spherochromatism, and out-of-focus highlights remain reasonably neutral.

In terms of aberration control, the 16-35mm lens outshines the 24-70mm lens with its superior chromatic aberration control and minimal levels of coma and spherical aberration. While the 24-70mm lens does exhibit some chromatic aberration and coma, these can be addressed in post-production.


The Nikon 16-35mm f/4 produces sharp images that range from good to excellent, though some softness at the edges can be observed when using wider apertures. The center sharpness is generally good, and the sharpest aperture varies depending on the focal length. When shooting at 16mm, the center is already quite sharp even when wide open, and the sharpest aperture is at f/5.6. While the corners may appear softer when wide open, they can recover to a good level when stopped down. At 35mm, both the borders and corners exhibit good resolution, and there is little increase in sharpness when stopping down. The sharpest aperture lies at f/8 or f/11, with some contrast loss at f/22.

In contrast, the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 showcases varying degrees of sharpness, depending on focal length and aperture. Center sharpness is generally very good across the range, with the widest aperture producing slightly softer results. The most significant drop in sharpness occurs at 50mm and above, particularly in the corners. However, stopping down to f/5.6 yields the sharpest results overall. The lens performs well when using a teleconverter, though there may be a slight loss in sharpness. The sharpest aperture depends on the focal length but generally falls between f/5.6 and f/8.

In conclusion, both lenses offer good sharpness, with the 16-35mm lens performing well across the entire focal range, while the 24-70mm lens displays a slight drop in sharpness at longer focal lengths. When considering sharpness alone, the 16-35mm lens appears to be the superior choice due to its consistent performance across its focal range.

Bokeh Quality

The Nikon 16-35mm f/4 features a 9-segment diaphragm with rounded blades, resulting in pleasing bokeh. Given that it’s an ultrawide-to-wide zoom lens, having a substantially out-of-focus background is a rare occurrence. However, when the opportunity arises, the lens delivers excellent bokeh quality.

On the other hand, the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 provides decent bokeh, but it isn’t outstanding. The transition zone and background blur can exhibit some nervousness, with potential outlining and cat’s eye shapes due to mechanical vignetting at large apertures.

Additionally, bokeh fringing might be present at the edges. Despite these minor drawbacks, the lens can still produce three-dimensional images where the sharp subject seems to pop out from the softer backgrounds. For better bokeh quality, using a dedicated portrait lens is recommended.

In conclusion, the 24-70mm lens offers superior bokeh quality compared to the 16-35mm lens, although bokeh isn’t typically a primary concern for wide-angle lenses.

Wide-angle lenses are designed for capturing broader scenes and emphasizing depth of field, making bokeh a secondary consideration.


The Nikon 16-35mm f/4 showcases commendable flare and ghosting control, requiring strong backlight and the sun positioned either inside or just outside the frame to produce visible flare. While not completely immune to flare, this lens outperforms many others in this regard. Stopping down the aperture also helps, and the lens exhibits minimal diffraction effects at f/16 and f/22. In summary, the 16-35mm lens delivers solid performance in controlling flare and ghosting.

The Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8, on the other hand, offers good resistance to flare and ghosting, particularly when the light source is outside the image frame. However, some flare may occur when the light is near the image corner but still outside the frame.

Equipped with a Nano Crystal Coat, this lens effectively reduces flares and ghosting, although shooting against the sun might still generate some artifacts. The amount of ghosting and flare depends on the light source’s position within the frame, and carefully placing it may eliminate these issues. The lens is relatively resistant to flare, but some modest spots with veiling flare might appear when capturing extremely bright lights within the image area.

In conclusion, both lenses perform admirably in controlling flare and ghosting, but the 16-35mm lens demonstrates a slight advantage.


The Nikon 16-35mm f/4 exhibits noticeable vignetting in open-aperture shots at all focal length settings. However, it isn’t very obvious and can be easily resolved by closing down the aperture by one or two stops. At 16mm, the vignetting is pretty strong, but the center performance remains impressive even at maximum aperture.

On the other hand, the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 displays vignetting, which is more pronounced at wider apertures and shorter focal lengths. The amount of vignetting is stronger than its predecessor, but it can be significantly reduced by stopping down the aperture. At f/5.6, the vignetting is still visible, but it becomes mostly ignorable from that point on. Correcting the vignetting in post-processing software is also an option, and it can be easily taken care of with a single click.

In conclusion, both lenses exhibit vignetting. However, it’s important to note that some photographers appreciate a certain level of vignetting for its artistic touch or to draw attention to the center of the image. In any case, vignetting can be corrected using post-processing software or by adjusting the aperture.


At 16mm, the Nikon 16-35mm f/4 exhibits visible barrel distortion of 5.7%, but this can be quickly remedied in post-processing using software like Lightroom and Photoshop. As you zoom in, the distortion gradually reduces, and at 24mm, the lens is entirely devoid of distortion.

As you continue to zoom towards 35mm, the Nikon 16-35mm f/4 lens starts to display pincushion distortion, with approximately 1.4% distortion, which is visible when capturing photos in the field. While shooting in JPG format, Nikon SLRs provide in-camera distortion control, but when shooting in Raw format, more versatile distortion correction can be done while maintaining detail at the edges.

In contrast, the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 shows varying degrees of distortion at different focal lengths, with the most noticeable barrel distortion at 24mm and pincushion distortion at 35-70mm. The distortion can be easily corrected in post-processing software like Lightroom, and Nikon may have allowed for more distortion in order to achieve better sharpness in the corners. While distortion may be a concern for some photographers, it is not a major issue and can be easily corrected.

In conclusion, both lenses exhibit distortion, but the 16-35mm lens offers a slightly better performance by being distortion-free at 24mm. However, both lenses allow for easy distortion correction in post-processing or through in-camera controls. Photographers should consider their specific needs and preferences when choosing between the two lenses, as distortion can be managed effectively in both cases.

Final Verdict

In conclusion, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to which lens is superior, as it heavily depends on the specific requirements and intended use of the photographer.

The Nikon 16-35mm f/4 excels in wide-angle photography, making it ideal for landscape and architectural shots, whereas the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 offers more versatility for various types of photography with better low-light performance and depth of field control.

Both lenses have their advantages and limitations in terms of build quality, weather sealing, ring design, switches, filter thread experience, lens hood, focusing performance, optical stabilization, aberration control, sharpness, bokeh, flare/ghosting, vignetting, and distortion.

However, the 24-70mm lens generally outperforms the 16-35mm lens in several aspects, including build quality, weather sealing, ring design, switch functionality, lens hood, focusing performance, optical stabilization, and bokeh.

Nevertheless, the 16-35mm lens does offer some advantages, such as better aberration control, consistent sharpness across its focal range, and slightly better distortion control.

Ultimately, the choice between these two lenses should be based on your primary photography interests and preferences. Keep in mind that the most significant difference between them is the focal length, making them suitable for different types of photography.

Meet the Author

Wei Mao

Wei was a cruise photographer who worked at Disney Cruise Line. He is a lucky traveler who has been to more than 20 countries with his camera while working on an around-the-world cruise. Photography has changed his view of the world forever. Now he wants more people to benefit from photography through his blog.

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