Nikon 16-35mm f/4 vs. Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4: The Ultimate Wide-Angle Lens Showdown – An In-Depth Comparison

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Capturing the world through a wide-angle lens is an exhilarating experience, as it allows photographers to encompass vast landscapes, stunning architecture, and immersive street scenes in a single frame. With so many options available in the market, it can be a challenge to find the perfect lens for your wide-angle photography endeavors.

In this article, we’ll be diving deep into a detailed comparison of two popular wide-angle lenses: the Nikon 16-35mm f/4 and the Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4. Each lens has its unique strengths and weaknesses, catering to different photography genres and budgets.

Join us as we explore the ins and outs of these remarkable lenses, and discover which one could be the perfect addition to your camera bag!


Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 16-35mm F4G ED VRTamron 17-35mm F2.8-4 Di OSD Nikon F (FX)
Max ApertureF4.0F2.8-4
Aperture TypeFixedVariable
Focal Range (mm)16-3517-35
Mount TypeNikon F (FX)Nikon F (FX)
Zoom Ratio (X)2.22.1

Comparing the Nikon 16-35mm f/4 and Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4 wide angle camera lenses, we can see several differences and similarities that may influence your choice depending on your specific requirements and intended use.

The Nikon lens has a maximum aperture of f/4.0, while the Tamron lens has a variable aperture of f/2.8-4. The Nikon lens features a fixed aperture, while the Tamron lens has a variable aperture. Both lenses have a focal range that is quite similar, with the Nikon lens covering 16-35mm and the Tamron lens covering 17-35mm. They both use the Nikon F (FX) mount type, and their zoom ratios are also close, with the Nikon lens having a 2.2x zoom ratio and the Tamron lens having a 2.1x zoom ratio.

When comparing their apertures, the Nikon lens has a constant f/4.0 aperture, offering consistent performance throughout the zoom range. This is useful in providing a predictable depth of field and low light performance.

However, the Tamron lens features a variable aperture that starts at f/2.8 and goes up to f/4.0, which could provide better low light performance and a shallower depth of field at the wider end of the focal range.

Given their focal ranges, both lenses are suitable for landscape, architecture, and interior photography, but the Nikon lens starts at a slightly wider focal length, which may be beneficial for capturing broader scenes. Both lenses are compatible with the Nikon F (FX) mount type, making them suitable for Nikon full-frame DSLRs and mirrorless cameras.

In conclusion, the choice between the Nikon and Tamron wide angle lenses depends on your specific needs and priorities. If you value a constant aperture, slightly wider focal length, the Nikon lens may be the better choice. However, if you prefer a wider maximum aperture for better low light performance and subject isolation at the expense of a variable aperture, the Tamron lens could be the superior option.

Design and Ease of Use

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 16-35mm F4G ED VRTamron 17-35mm F2.8-4 Di OSD Nikon F (FX)
Diameter x Length (mm)⌀82.5×125mm⌀84×93mm
Weight (gr)680460
Filter Thread (mm)7777
Weather SealingYesYes
Zoom MethodRotary (internal)Rotary (extending)
Distance ScaleYesNo
DoF ScaleNoNo
Hood SuppliedYesYes

The Nikon 16-35mm f/4 measures ⌀82.5×125mm in diameter and length, while the Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4 is slightly larger in diameter but shorter, measuring ⌀84×93mm.

The Nikon lens weighs 680 grams, making it heavier than the Tamron lens, which weighs 460 grams.

This difference in weight and dimensions can affect portability, balance, storage, and ease of lens swapping. A lighter and more compact lens, like the Tamron, may be more comfortable to carry and handle during extended periods of shooting, making it a more convenient choice for many photographers.

In terms of zoom method, the Nikon lens features an internal rotary zoom, while the Tamron lens has an extending rotary zoom.

Internal rotary zooms maintain the lens’s size while zooming, providing consistent balance and typically better weather sealing. However, they can be more complex and heavier due to additional mechanics. On the other hand, extending rotary zooms, like the Tamron lens, are often simpler and lighter, but their size changes when zooming, which can affect balance and make weather sealing more challenging.

Considering the above factors, the Tamron lens may be a better choice for photographers who prioritize a lighter and more compact setup, while the Nikon lens offers the advantage of consistent balance and potentially better weather sealing.

Lens Mount and Barrel

The Nikon 16-35mm f/4 showcases a dull-chromed brass lens mount, accompanied by a rubber gasket for weather sealing and a magnesium alloy chassis that enhances its overall toughness. Its lens barrel is constructed from plastic, providing a lightweight and weather-resistant design, though the exterior markings might wear off over time due to the plastic material.

On the other hand, the Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4 features a metal lens mount with a rubber gasket to resist moisture and dust. Its lens barrel is made of quality plastic, offering a smooth shape and comfortable grip. The bevel is well-designed, with a rubber basket joined with a metal ring that remains stationary. The lens changes its physical size slightly when zooming, extending out a few millimeters, but not enough to affect its balance.

In conclusion, the choice between the Nikon 16-35mm and Tamron 17-35mm lens mount and barrel depends on your specific needs and preferences as a photographer. If you prioritize weather sealing, lightweight design, and overall toughness, the Nikon 16-35mm lens with its plastic lens barrel and weather-sealed lens mount might be more suitable. However, if you value a moisture and dust-resistant construction and a comfortable grip, the Tamron 17-35mm lens with its metal lens mount and quality plastic lens barrel could be the better option.

Weather Sealing

The Nikon 16-35mm f/4 features a rubber gasket at the lens mount, providing some degree of weather sealing. Its solid plastic construction is combined with a weather-sealed metal lens mount, giving the impression of a durable build.

On the other hand, the Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4 offers more comprehensive weather sealing with seals located at the lens mount and other critical locations, preventing moisture and raindrops from infiltrating. The rear lens cap has a rubber gasket to keep dust and dirt away, and the front element boasts a fluorine coating for excellent water and oil repellency, as well as protection against dust, dirt, and fingerprints.

Weather sealing is essential for maintaining lens durability and performance in various conditions. While the Nikon lens has some weather sealing, the Tamron lens offers superior protection with its more comprehensive sealing, rear lens cap gasket, and fluorine coating on the front element.

If you often shoot outdoors or in unpredictable conditions, the Tamron lens’s weather sealing would be the better choice for ensuring the longevity and optimal performance of your equipment.


The Nikon 16-35mm f/4 features 2 rings: a zoom ring and a focus ring.

The zoom ring, located near the camera body, moves smoothly through a quarter turn between 16mm and 35mm focal lengths. The focus ring, positioned toward the front of the lens, rotates through a quarter turn as well. Both rings are coated with ridged rubber for a secure grip and are well damped.

The zoom ring has wider ridges with notches for extra grip security. However, some lens copies have reported play between the focus ring and internal gears. The focus ring rotates only 50 degrees, which is short but sufficient for accurate focus at the long end. A recessed distance scale is present, but there are no depth-of-field markings.

The Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4 has a rubber-rib-covered zoom ring and a manual focus ring, both well-positioned and designed with good bevels. The zoom ring, near the camera body, is 24mm wide and has focal length markings from 17mm to 35mm. It turns smoothly with good resistance. The focus ring, at the front, has a comfortable rotation amount but light resistance, making manual focusing challenging. There is no distance scale or depth-of-field indicator on this lens.

In conclusion, the Nikon lens offers a more secure grip with wider ridges and notches on the zoom ring, while the Tamron lens has a smoother zoom ring with more focal length markings.

However, the Nikon lens has a distance scale, which the Tamron lens lacks. Although the Nikon focus ring has a shorter rotation, it might provide better control compared to the Tamron’s light resistance.

Based on these factors, the Nikon lens’s rings seem to offer a more ergonomic and precise experience, making it the superior choice for photographers who prioritize control and accuracy.


Positioned on the lens barrel behind the focusing ring, the Nikon 16-35mm f/4 boasts two slider switches. One switch, located at the top, lets users toggle between autofocus and manual focus, thus controlling the focus mode. The lower switch activates and deactivates the VR II (Vibration Reduction) stabilization system, a crucial feature for capturing steady images.

In contrast, the Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4 has a single switch that controls the AF/MF (Autofocus/Manual Focus) mode. This switch is located on a low-profile switch bank, raised just enough for comfortable use, and clicks into position with assurance.

In conclusion, the Nikon lens offers 2 separate switches for focus mode and stabilization, potentially allowing for more precise control over these features. On the other hand, the Tamron lens provides a more streamlined design with a single switch for focus mode.

Filter Thread

The Nikon 16-35mm f/4 boasts a 77mm filter thread, which is relatively large and well-suited for landscape photography.

Its plastic construction offers a lightweight advantage and the ability to bounce back when dropped. This lens readily accommodates filters, such as ND, IR, and CPL filters, making it particularly appealing to photographers who frequently use filters. To protect the lens and improve image quality, it is advised to use a high-quality filter, like the Hoya multicoated HD3 UV or the B+W 77mm 010.

On the other hand, the Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4 also features a 77mm filter thread, a standard size shared with Nikon. Unlike the Tamron 15-30mm lens, this lens allows for the use of traditional filters. The slightly convex front element is surrounded by a non-rotating filter thread, simplifying alignment with a camera. While filters can be easily used with this lens, a standard thickness circular polarizer filter might increase peripheral shading, so it’s recommended to use a slim model.

In conclusion, both lenses offer a 77mm filter thread size, which is an ideal balance of compatibility, availability, and cost. However, the Nikon lens has a plastic filter thread, making it more lightweight and resilient, while the Tamron lens features a slightly convex front element.

Lens Hood

The Nikon 16-35mm f/4 comes with a lens hood that is reversible for easy storage and is compatible with polarizer filters. This lens hood is relatively short due to the wide angle of view, and shares the same HB-23 lens hood design as the Nikon 17-35mm lens.

On the other hand, the Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4 includes a bayonet-style lens hood, which is made of high-quality, rigid, molded plastic. It has a petal shape with a ribbed interior to reduce reflections from reaching the front lens element. The lens hood is compact, smoothly rotatable, and features an ergonomic bevel designed to fit the lens perfectly.

In conclusion, both lens hoods offer unique advantages: the Nikon lens hood is reversible and compatible with polarizer filters, while the Tamron lens hood has a ribbed interior for better light reflection prevention and an ergonomic design.

Focusing and Optical Stabilization

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 16-35mm F4G ED VRTamron 17-35mm F2.8-4 Di OSD Nikon F (FX)
AF MotorSilent Wave MotorOptimized Silent Drive
Rotating Front ElementDoes not rotate on focusingDoes not rotate on focusing
Min Focus Distance0.28m0.28m
Max Magnification (X)0.250.2
Full-Time Manual FocusYesYes
Focus MethodInternalInternal

Focusing Performance

The Nikon 16-35mm f/4 boasts a fast, accurate, and very quiet autofocus system, thanks to its Silent Wave Motor (SWM). It performs well in low-light situations and offers manual focus override for more control. The lens achieves excellent focusing speed, taking only 0.5 seconds to go from close to infinity.

The manual focus action is smooth and well-damped, although some copies may have play between the focus ring and internal gears. It records audible clacks and snaring sounds when focusing, but the VR-operation remains quiet.

In contrast, the Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4 has varying autofocus performance depending on the camera body it is mounted on. Overall, it can focus accurately and consistently, with a relatively quiet autofocus motor. However, some noise is noticeable when focusing.

The focusing speed is generally adequate, but it can be slow in certain situations, particularly in low-light conditions. The initial autofocus acquisition speed is reasonably fast, especially at a 35mm focal length.

The lens lacks full-time manual override, and the manual focus action is not as smooth due to light rotational resistance. The lens design does not feature internal focusing, so the lens length changes slightly when zooming and focusing. The front element does not rotate during focusing. Some users have noted focus breathing when focusing at close distances, and the lens has modest close-focusing capabilities.

In conclusion, the Nikon lens has a superior focusing performance compared to the Tamron lens, thanks to its SWM, faster focusing speed, and smooth manual focus action. The Tamron lens performs reasonably well, but it falls short in low-light situations and does not offer full-time manual focus override. For photographers who prioritize fast and accurate focusing performance, the Nikon lens would be the better choice.

Optical Stabilization

The Nikon 16-35mm f/4 features a Vibration Reduction (VR) II system, which Nikon claims can provide an advantage of up to 4 stops. The actual results may vary, but field tests have shown up to 3 stops longer shutter times at the long end and up to 2 stops at the short end of the focal range with a steady subject. Although VR increases shutter delay in daylight, it allows for hand-holding at least 1.5 stops slower than the focal length would permit. The VR operation is quiet, and there is a switch to turn it on or off. The lens offers only one mode of stabilization and makes no noise during VR operation.

On the other hand, the Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4 does not have optical stabilization. This might not be a significant drawback for wide-angle lenses, as they are generally less prone to camera shake due to their shorter focal lengths and wider fields of view. However, optical stabilization can be beneficial in low-light conditions, when shooting handheld at slower shutter speeds, or when recording video.

In conclusion, the Nikon lens has superior optical stabilization compared to the Tamron lens, thanks to its Vibration Reduction II system. This feature provides an advantage in certain situations, such as low-light conditions or when shooting handheld.

If optical stabilization is important to you, the Nikon lens would be the better choice. However, if you use a camera with in-body image stabilization (IBIS) or typically shoot with a tripod, the lack of optical stabilization in the Tamron lens might not be a significant concern.

Image Quality

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 16-35mm F4G ED VRTamron 17-35mm F2.8-4 Di OSD Nikon F (FX)
Special Elements2 ED glass elements, 3 aspherical lenses and Nano Crystal CoatLD/GM elements, BBAR/fluorine coatings
Diaphragm Blades97
Circular ApertureYesYes


The Nikon 16-35mm f/4 demonstrates outstanding chromatic aberration control, with virtually no signs of lateral chromatic aberrations. Even when shooting raw, the flaw is barely visible, and modern Nikon digital SLR bodies can automatically correct for it when capturing JPEGs. Additionally, the lens produces negligible levels of coma and spherical aberration, resulting in excellent optical performance with minimal aberrations.

In contrast, the Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4 exhibits a relatively low amount of lateral chromatic aberration, with a moderate amount appearing at 17mm and rapidly diminishing as the focal length increases. Longitudinal chromatic aberration is present but not particularly pronounced, and it practically disappears when stopping down the aperture. The lens has low levels of coma, making it ideal for night sky photography. While spherical aberration is present, it is not bothersome, and stopping down 1 to 2 stops generally eliminates this aberration.

In conclusion, both lenses perform well in terms of aberration control, but the Nikon lens has a slight edge due to its impressive chromatic aberration control and negligible levels of coma and spherical aberration. This makes the Nikon lens superior in terms of aberration performance, providing excellent optical quality with minimal flaws.

However, the Tamron lens also delivers a commendable performance in managing aberrations, making it a viable option for photographers who prioritize aberration control but may have different preferences or budget constraints.


When comparing the Nikon 16-35mm f/4 and Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4, both exhibit commendable sharpness performance but with some differences. The Nikon lens provides good to excellent overall sharpness, with some edge softness at wider apertures.

Its center sharpness is generally good, and the sharpest apertures vary depending on the focal length. At 16mm, the center is quite sharp even when wide open, and the sharpest aperture is f/5.6. The corners improve when stopped down. At 35mm, borders and corners show good resolution, with the sharpest apertures being f/8 or f/11.

On the other hand, the Tamron lens boasts impressive sharpness across the focal range, exhibiting excellent central sharpness from wide open apertures to stopped down settings. Corner sharpness varies based on focal length and aperture, but stopping down generally improves it. The sharpest aperture usually falls around f/5.6, while diffraction becomes noticeable around f/8 and f/11.

In conclusion, both lenses demonstrate admirable sharpness characteristics. The Tamron lens appears to have a slight edge in terms of central sharpness and consistency across the focal range. However, the Nikon lens still delivers a strong performance, particularly when stopped down.

Bokeh Quality

The Nikon 16-35mm f/4 and Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4 exhibit distinct bokeh qualities, although it’s worth noting that bokeh is generally less significant in wide-angle lenses.

The Nikon lens features a 9-segment diaphragm with rounded blades, contributing to a pleasing bokeh. While it’s uncommon to have substantially out-of-focus backgrounds with an ultra-wide to wide zoom, the Nikon lens delivers excellent bokeh when the opportunity arises.

In contrast, the Tamron lens produces decent bokeh, with some examples appearing average or normal. Defocused highlights may not be perfectly round in some instances, but the overall appearance of out-of-focus areas is pleasant enough. The Tamron 17-35mm lens offers a relatively smooth interior within its bokeh balls, while competing lenses like the Nikon 18-35mm and Tokina may show more pronounced outlining in the center.

In conclusion, although bokeh quality is not a primary consideration for wide-angle lenses, both the Nikon and Tamron lenses offer unique bokeh characteristics. The Nikon lens seems to have a slight edge in terms of overall bokeh quality, providing pleasing and smooth out-of-focus backgrounds when the opportunity presents itself. However, the Tamron lens still offers a satisfactory bokeh performance for a wide-angle lens, making it a viable option as well.


The Nikon 16-35mm f/4 and Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4 display varying capabilities in controlling flare and ghosting.

The Nikon lens performs well in this aspect, requiring strong backlight with the sun either inside or just outside the frame to produce visible flare. While it is not entirely free of flare, it outperforms many other lenses in this regard. When stopped down, the lens shows minimal diffraction effects at f/16 and f/22, making it a solid choice for flare and ghosting control.

On the other hand, the Tamron lens boasts an advanced BBAR coating that effectively combats flare and ghosting, resulting in very few flare effects even at narrow apertures across the entire focal length range. This lens demonstrates a high level of backlighting control, which is crucial for wide-angle lenses exposed to strong light sources. When shooting against a strong light source, the Tamron lens remains clear of flare and glare artifacts at the short end and performs commendably at the long end too.

In conclusion, both lenses perform admirably in controlling flare and ghosting, but the Tamron lens appears to have a slight advantage due to its advanced BBAR coating and superior backlighting control. This makes the Tamron lens a more reliable choice for photographers looking to minimize flare and ghosting in their wide-angle shots.


The Nikon 16-35mm f/4 and Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4 exhibit different levels of vignetting performance.

The Nikon lens displays noticeable vignetting in open-aperture shots at all focal length settings, though it is not very obvious and can be easily resolved by closing down the aperture by one or two stops. At 16mm, the vignetting is quite strong, but the center performance is already very good even at maximum aperture.

In contrast, the Tamron lens exhibits noticeable vignetting, particularly at wider apertures and focal lengths. At 20mm, vignetting starts at -2.2 stops at f/2.8 and gradually reduces to around -0.9 stops at f/16. Meanwhile, 35mm shows the least vignetting, with -1.2 stops from f/4 to f/11 and -1.1 stops thereafter. The heavy vignetting somewhat obscures the edge sharpness, but it can be corrected in post-processing. Overall, vignetting is one of the major optical shortcomings of this lens.

In conclusion, the Nikon lens offers superior vignetting performance, with less noticeable vignetting that can be easily managed by adjusting the aperture. The Tamron lens, on the other hand, suffers from heavier vignetting that can affect edge sharpness.


The Nikon 16-35mm f/4 displays noticeable barrel distortion at 16mm (5.7%), which can be easily corrected in post-processing using the Lens Corrections sub-module in Lightroom and Photoshop. As you zoom in, the distortion decreases, and at 24mm, the lens is free of distortion.

However, pincushion distortion starts to appear as you zoom further in towards 35mm, with around 1.3% distortion noticeable in field conditions. Nikon SLRs offer in-camera distortion control for JPGs, but this can cut edges off your composition. Shooting in Raw format allows for one-click distortion correction or adjustments while preserving edge detail.

On the other hand, the Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4 has noticeable barrel distortion at 17mm, transitioning to negligible distortion and then pincushion distortion at the long end. The distortion is correctable in post-processing software, with standard profiles in Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw clearing it up nicely. However, the linear distortion is still moderately strong for this class of lens. At 24mm, the lens is almost rectilinear, which is worth noting. The distortion is most obvious on architectural straight lines but is not unusual for a wide-angle zoom lens.

In conclusion, both lenses have their share of distortion, which is a common characteristic of wide-angle zoom lenses. However, the Nikon lens seems to have a slightly better performance when it comes to distortion control, especially at the 24mm focal length. While both lenses require post-processing for distortion correction, the Nikon lens offers a more refined experience in managing distortion, making it the superior choice in this aspect.

Final Verdict

In conclusion, the choice between the Nikon and Tamron wide-angle lenses depends on your specific needs, priorities, and budget.

The Nikon 16-35mm f/4 generally offers better build quality, superior focusing performance, optical stabilization, and better distortion control. This lens would be suitable for photographers who prioritize control, accuracy, and the ability to shoot in various conditions, including low-light situations.

The Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4, on the other hand, offers a lighter and more compact design, a wider maximum aperture for improved low-light performance and subject isolation, and advanced BBAR coating for superior flare and ghosting control. This lens would be ideal for photographers looking for a more affordable option without compromising too much on performance.

For different photography genres, the Nikon lens would suit landscape, architecture, and event photography due to its consistent balance, weather sealing, and better distortion control. The Tamron lens would be better suited for travel, street, and environmental portraiture, thanks to its compact size, wider maximum aperture, and effective flare and ghosting control.

It is important to consider the price difference between the two lenses. The Tamron lens is much cheaper, making it a more budget-friendly option. If you are on a tight budget or prefer a lighter and more compact setup, the Tamron lens would be a suitable choice.

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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