Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4.0 vs. Nikon FX 24-120mm f/4: The Ultimate Lens Showdown for Aspiring Travel Photographers

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As photographers embark on new adventures and capture memories with their trusty cameras, choosing the right lens becomes a crucial decision that can significantly impact their photographic journey.

In this article, we dive deep into the world of two versatile lenses: the Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4.0 on an APS-C camera and the Nikon 24-120mm f/4 on a full-frame camera.

Whether you’re a travel enthusiast looking for the perfect lens to complement your full-frame camera or a seasoned photographer contemplating an upgrade, this comprehensive comparison aims to provide valuable insights into the image quality, features, and performance of these two popular lenses.

So, buckle up and join us as we explore the nuances of these optical companions, helping you make an informed decision that caters to your unique photography needs and aspirations.


Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-80mm F2.8-4E ED VRNikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm F4G IF-ED VR
Max ApertureF2.8-4.0F4.0
Aperture TypeVariableFixed
Focal Range (mm)16-8024-120
Max FormatAPS-C / DX35mm FF
Zoom Ratio (X)55

Comparing the Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4.0 and the Nikon 24-120mm f/4, both lenses offer a 5x zoom ratio and have equivalent 35mm focal lengths. However, there are differences in their maximum aperture and aperture type.

Taking into account the 35mm equivalent maximum aperture for the 16-80mm lens, which is f/4.2-6, it is indeed narrower than that of the 24-120mm lens (f/4).

The 24-120mm lens, with its fixed aperture of f/4, will perform better in low light situations as it allows more light to enter the camera compared to the 16-80mm lens. Furthermore, the fixed aperture of the 24-120mm lens offers consistent performance across the entire zoom range.

On the other hand, the 16-80mm lens, with its narrower equivalent maximum aperture, might struggle in low light situations and will have a variable aperture across the zoom range, which could affect image quality.

The 24-120mm lens could be more suitable for photographers who prioritize low light performance and consistent aperture performance across the zoom range. Meanwhile, the 16-80mm lens might be a better choice for those who value the lens’s original focal range and don’t require the benefits of a wider aperture in low light situations.

Design and Ease of Use

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-80mm F2.8-4E ED VRNikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm F4G IF-ED VR
Diameter x Length (mm)⌀80×85.5mm⌀84×103.5mm
Weight (gr)480710
Filter Thread (mm)7277
Weather SealingNoNo
Zoom MethodRotary (internal)Rotary (extending)
Distance ScaleYesYes
DoF ScaleNoNo
Hood SuppliedYesYes
Hood CodeHB-75HB-53

The Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4.0 has a diameter and length of ⌀80×85.5mm, making it more compact than the Nikon 24-120mm f/4, which measures ⌀84×103.5mm. It also weighs less at 480 grams, compared to the 710 grams of the 24-120mm lens. This makes the 16-80mm lens more portable, easier to carry around, and less tiring during extended periods of shooting.

Its smaller size and lighter weight contribute to a better-balanced camera setup and make it more discreet for situations like street photography. Additionally, the lens takes up less space in your camera bag and is easier to handle when swapping lenses.

The 16-80mm lens also features an internal rotary zoom method. This means the lens doesn’t change its physical size when zooming, making it easier to handle and more compact overall. It also maintains a consistent camera balance while zooming and is typically easier to weather-seal, protecting your gear from dust, moisture, and other elements.

On the other hand, the 24-120mm lens has an extending rotary zoom method. This results in a simpler design, which can lead to lower prices and increased durability. However, this lens extends when zooming, making it more cumbersome and harder to handle. Attaining weatherproofing could prove to be a challenging task, and the camera’s equilibrium may shift during zooming, necessitating extra care to ensure steadiness when capturing shots.

In conclusion, the 16-80mm lens is superior in terms of portability, balance, discreetness, and weather sealing due to its smaller size, lighter weight, and internal rotary zoom method.

Lens Mount and Barrel

The Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4.0 has a metal lens mount with a rubber seal around it, providing dust protection for the camera body. Its lens barrel is made of plastic with rubberized rings for focus and zoom, maintaining a constant size when zooming in or out. This design offers a lightweight and portable option, but may be more prone to wear and tear over time compared to metal barrels.

In contrast, the Nikon 24-120mm f/4 features a chromed brass lens mount with a rubber dust and moisture gasket, although the lens itself is not weather-sealed. The lens barrel is constructed mainly of black polycarbonate, boasting a solid construction and well-finished design. As you zoom from 24mm to 120mm, the front of the lens extends from 10.4 cm to 15 cm. The barrel is well-built, sturdy, and doesn’t wobble, making it suitable for regular use.

Weather Sealing

The Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4.0, while not fully weather-sealed, offers some protection against dust and moisture. It features a rubber gasket around the lens mount, preventing dust from entering the camera body. Additionally, the front element has a fluorine coating that repels water and makes cleaning easier.

On the other hand, the Nikon 24-120mm f/4 has a rubber gasket at the lens mount, providing basic dust protection. However, it lacks internal seals at the rings, switches, and front of the barrel, making it less resistant to moisture compared to a fully weather-sealed lens.

For photographers who frequently operate in challenging environments, weatherproofing is a crucial attribute as it shields against dust, dampness, and minor water sprays. Fully weather-sealed lenses typically offer better durability and performance in adverse conditions, while non-sealed lenses may require additional care or protection.

In conclusion, the 16-80mm lens offers slightly better weather sealing with its fluorine-coated front element. However, neither lens is fully weather-sealed, so if you frequently shoot in challenging environments or unpredictable weather, it’s essential to consider investing in a lens with more comprehensive weather sealing. In controlled settings or indoor environments, both lenses should perform well without the need for extensive weather protection.


The Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4.0 features 2 rings, with the zoom ring positioned at the front and the manual focusing ring at the rear. The zoom ring is large and rubberized, providing a secure grip and a slightly heavy yet sturdy movement.

The manual focusing ring, on the other hand, is narrow and not aggressively knurled, resulting in a grinding feel. Locating the manual focusing ring may be challenging, and it lacks smooth rotation. A modest focus-distance-scale window marked in both feet and meters sits between the zoom and manual-focus rings.

In contrast, the Nikon 24-120mm f/4 also has 2 rings – a focus ring and a zoom ring. The zoom ring is a 30mm wide band located behind the front element, featuring a deeply ridged rubber grip that feels smooth to the touch.

The focus ring, positioned at the back of the lens, is plastic with a ribbed texture that isn’t very smooth to rotate. Manual focusing is imprecise due to the noticeable play between external movement and internal focusing. While the lens includes a windowed distance scale, there is no depth-of-field indicator. The manual focusing distance ranges from 0.45m to infinity, and the zoom ring lacks an extension lock switch.

In conclusion, the 16-80mm lens offers better ergonomics with its larger, rubberized zoom ring that ensures a comfortable grip and precise control. However, its manual focusing ring is not as user-friendly as it could be.

The 24-120mm lens, on the other hand, has a smooth-feeling zoom ring, but its plastic focus ring and imprecise manual focusing may be less desirable for some photographers.


The Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4.0 features 3 switches/buttons on the barrel for added functionality. The first is an AF/MF switch, which enables manual override of autofocus with minimal lag time, regardless of the AF mode in use. The second switch is an IS switch that activates the 4-stop vibration reduction system, while the third switch lets you choose between Normal and Active VR modes. Although these switches are clearly labeled, their identical appearance may hinder quick setting changes while the camera is raised to your eye.

On the other hand, the Nikon 24-120mm f/4 is equipped with 3 slider switches situated between the focusing ring and the camera body. The top switch controls focusing with M/A and M positions, allowing autofocus and manual focus override simply by grabbing the focus ring. The second switch controls the Vibration Reduction (VR) system, compensating for unintentional movement. The bottom switch toggles between Normal and Active VR modes. These switches are conveniently positioned for easy access by the user’s thumb, allowing for seamless adjustments without removing your hands from the camera.

In conclusion, both lenses provide essential switches/buttons for various functions, such as autofocus, vibration reduction, and VR modes.

Filter Thread

The Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4.0 features a 72mm filter thread made of plastic, with the front element remaining stationary during focusing. This design facilitates easy use with filters, such as polarizing or ND grad filters, which won’t spin around due to internal focusing. However, the 72mm thread size may not be compatible with larger 77mm filters.

In contrast, the Nikon 24-120mm f/4 boasts a 77mm filter thread, a standard size for most professional lenses. The metal filter thread does not rotate during focusing, thanks to the internal focusing system, making it convenient for use with polarizers and other filters. Yet, when using thick filters at shorter focal lengths, some vignetting may occur in the corners. To circumvent this issue, it is advisable to use slim versions of polarizing filters.

In conclusion, both lenses offer filter threads that facilitate the easy use of filters without rotating during focusing. However, the 24-120mm lens has a superior filter thread due to its 77mm size, which is more compatible with a wider range of filters, and its durable metal construction.

Lens Hood

The Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4.0 comes with a squared petal-style lens hood, included in the package for added convenience. This hood is made of hard plastic and has a matte finish, with an ergonomic bevel for comfortable handling. The hood features a lock button, which allows for smooth rotation and secure attachment, improving upon older twist-on/click hoods that could wear out over time.

On the other hand, the Nikon 24-120mm f/4 includes a petal-shaped HB-53 lens hood with a ribbed inner surface. The hood fits around the filter thread and is optimized for wide-angle distances. It can be reversed onto the lens for storage. The lens hood and the lens cap are made of plastic bayonet, and the hood adds an additional 4 cm to the length of the lens.

Comparing the two lens hoods, the 16-80mm lens hood stands out with its unique squared petal-style design and lock button mechanism, ensuring secure attachment and ease of use. The 24-120mm lens hood features a ribbed inner surface that helps prevent light reflections and maintains image contrast while providing a more visually appealing design. The exterior ribbing also aids in grip during installation and removal.

In conclusion, while both lens hoods offer convenience and protection, the 16-80mm lens hood is superior due to its innovative design and lock button mechanism, which provides a secure fit and smooth operation. However, the ribbed inner surface of the 24-120mm lens hood may appeal to those seeking better light reflection prevention and improved aesthetics.

Focusing and Optical Stabilization

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-80mm F2.8-4E ED VRNikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm F4G IF-ED VR
AF MotorSilent Wave MotorSilent Wave Motor
Rotating Front ElementDoes not rotate on focusingDoes not rotate on focusing
Min Focus Distance0.35m0.45m
Max Magnification (X)0.220.24
Full-Time Manual FocusYesYes
Focus MethodInternalInternal

Focusing Performance

The Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4.0 boasts an impressive autofocus performance with quick, accurate, and quiet focusing, making it suitable for both photography and video applications. Its focusing speed is fast, and it performs well in low-light situations, maintaining autofocus accuracy and speed.

The lens supports manual focus override for fine-tuning focus, even when autofocus is engaged. Featuring an internally focusing design, it maintains a constant length regardless of focus and zoom settings. The lens exhibits minimal focus breathing, making it an excellent choice for those requiring consistent framing during focus adjustments.

The Nikon 24-120mm f/4 features a Silent Wave Motor for quiet autofocus operation and reasonably fast focusing speed. Its initial autofocus acquisition speed is quick, and it can focus accurately in most situations. However, it may struggle with tracking fast-moving subjects.

Manual focus override is available at all times, but the manual focus action is not as smooth due to some play in the coupling with the actual focus unit. The lens has an internally focusing design and does not exhibit noticeable focus breathing. However, it may show some hunting in low-light situations, particularly with low-contrast subjects or close-ups.

In conclusion, the 16-80mm lens offers superior focusing performance due to its quick, accurate, and quiet autofocus, minimal focus breathing, and smooth manual focus override. Although the 24-120mm lens also provides decent focusing performance, it falls short in a few aspects, such as tracking fast-moving subjects and focusing in low-light situations.

Optical Stabilization

The Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4.0 features a Vibration Reduction (VR) system with 4 stops of compensation, allowing you to capture sharp images at slower shutter speeds. It has two modes: Normal and Active, with Active being more suited for shooting from a moving platform. With the VR enabled, sharp shots can be achieved at 1/3 of a second at 16mm and 1/4 of a second at 80mm, even with some hand movement. However, stabilization performance may vary based on individual shooting conditions and photographer steadiness.

On the other hand, the Nikon 24-120mm f/4 also offers Vibration Reduction (VR) technology, providing up to 4 stops of camera shake compensation. The VR II image stabilizer adjusts the floating elements with barely-detectable buzzing and includes 2 modes of stabilization, Normal and Active. The stabilizing effect can be seen through the viewfinder in both VR modes, and the lens operates quietly during autofocusing. The VR II system works as advertised, allowing for sharp images at slow shutter speeds and making it a useful feature for low-light photography.

Optical stabilization is not always essential for wide-angle photography but can be beneficial in certain situations, such as low-light conditions, handheld shooting, or when recording video.

In conclusion, while both lenses provide effective optical stabilization systems with 4 stops of compensation and two stabilization modes.

Image Quality

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-80mm F2.8-4E ED VRNikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm F4G IF-ED VR
Special Elements4 ED and 3 aspherical elements. Nano Crystal Coat.2 ED glass elements, 3 aspherical lenses, Nano Crystal coat
Diaphragm Blades79
Circular ApertureYesYes


The Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4.0 showcases impressive control over chromatic aberration, with only noticeable fringing at 16mm that can be easily corrected in-camera or in post-processing. Spherochromatism, a more advanced form of chromatic aberration, is absent in this lens.

Additionally, coma is well-managed, with only a tiny bit visible at certain settings, which disappears as the lens is stopped down. However, spherical aberration is present at the extreme end of the lens’s focusing distance, causing some loss of contrast and requiring post-processing for high-impact images.

On the other hand, the Nikon 24-120mm f/4 exhibits noticeable lateral chromatic aberration, particularly in the 24-50mm range. This appears as purple or blue fringes along contrasty edges, especially in the corners. Nonetheless, this chromatic aberration is relatively easy to fix in post-processing using tools like Lightroom or Photoshop.

The lens does not suffer from significant axial chromatic aberration, as the aperture isn’t extreme. The lens demonstrates good sharpness, contrast, and color reproduction, suggesting that these aberrations are not major issues. Stopping down the aperture can help reduce chromatic aberration and improve overall image quality.

In conclusion, the 16-80mm lens offers superior control over aberrations, with minimal chromatic aberration and excellent management of coma and spherochromatism. Although the 24-120mm lens exhibits some lateral chromatic aberration, it is easily correctable and does not significantly impact image quality. However, the 16-80mm lens’s overall better control of aberrations makes it the preferred choice in this aspect.


The Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4.0 boasts exceptional sharpness at most zoom settings, with center sharpness being particularly noteworthy. However, corner sharpness can suffer at wider focal lengths and wide open apertures, but this can be significantly improved by stopping down to around f/5.6-8. The sharpest aperture varies slightly depending on the focal length but tends to be around f/5.6-8.

In comparison, the Nikon 24-120mm f/4 exhibits excellent center sharpness, particularly at shorter focal lengths and when stopped down to at least f/5.6. Corner sharpness improves when the aperture is stopped down, with the best performance typically seen around f/5.6 to f/8.

At the longest focal length of 120mm, the lens experiences a significant drop in resolution, with corners lacking sharpness even when stopped down. Stopping down the aperture to f/8 or f/11 generally provides the best overall sharpness across the frame, while diffraction may cause a slight decrease in sharpness at f/16 and f/22. The sharpness at wide open apertures varies depending on the focal length, but it is generally good at shorter focal lengths and weaker at longer ones.

In conclusion, the 16-80mm lens delivers superior sharpness across a range of focal lengths and apertures, with impressive center sharpness and reasonable corner sharpness when stopped down. Although the 24-120mm lens performs well at shorter focal lengths and smaller apertures, the drop in sharpness at its longest focal length slightly detracts from its overall performance. Therefore, the 16-80mm lens is the winner when it comes to sharpness.

Bokeh Quality

The Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4.0 offers varying degrees of bokeh quality depending on the settings used. At 80mm and near the minimum focusing distance, the bokeh is smooth and pleasing, making it suitable for capturing flowers and small subjects.

However, at other focal lengths and apertures, the out-of-focus quality is not as smooth or attractive, and can even be hard-edged or exhibit onion bokeh. To achieve the softest backgrounds, it is recommended to zoom to the longest focal length, get as close as possible to the subject, and shoot at the largest aperture. Overall, the bokeh produced by this lens is not Nikon’s best.

On the other hand, the Nikon 24-120mm f/4 produces a bokeh that is generally smooth and pleasant, particularly at longer focal lengths. However, there can be some outlining in the foreground and background, which results in a somewhat nervous effect.

Background highlights maintain their circular shape throughout the aperture range but may display some outlining when the aperture is wide open. While the quality of the bokeh might not be exceptional, it is still adequate for many situations, particularly for close-up work with the f/4 aperture setting.

In conclusion, the 24-120mm lens delivers a more consistent and smooth bokeh quality compared to the 16-80mm lens, especially at longer focal lengths. Although neither lens offers outstanding bokeh quality, the 24-120mm lens has a slight edge in providing a more pleasant background blur for various situations, making it the superior choice in terms of bokeh quality.


The Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4.0 displays noticeable flare when pointed near the sun, which can be easily eliminated by using the included hood. Ghosting is visible when shooting into the sun, but it is not significant and can be minimized by shading the lens with a hand.

In contrast, the Nikon 24-120mm f/4 produces mixed results concerning flare and ghosting, despite having Nano Crystal Coat. Flare and ghosting are not completely eliminated, and careful positioning of the sun in the frame is necessary. Using filters may potentially introduce more flare and ghosting. However, when the lens is stopped down, ghosting and flare are controlled very well, and in some cases, not present at all.


The Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4.0 exhibits noticeable vignetting in the corners when shooting wide open, especially at 16mm and f/2.8. However, stopping down the lens by 1 or 2 stops dramatically improves vignetting, and it is well controlled at f/4 and beyond. Applying a lens correction profile, either in-camera or in post-production, can easily correct the vignetting, but it does slightly reduce the resolution. Overall, vignetting is manageable with some adjustments.

Conversely, when the Nikon 24-120mm f/4 lens is fully open at 24mm, distinct vignetting can be observed, with the edges appearing more than 3 EV darker at f/4. However, once the aperture is reduced, the vignetting decreases considerably at all focal lengths. At 35mm, there is little vignetting, but it’s more visible at 50mm and marginally creeps back in at 85mm.

The effect diminishes as you zoom, and the camera can correct dimmed corners when shooting JPGs, making uniformity of illumination much less of an issue. Overall, while this lens does have some vignetting, it can be easily corrected with post-processing or camera settings.

In conclusion, both lenses exhibit vignetting, but the 24-120mm lens appears to manage it more effectively across its focal range, especially when stopped down. The 16-80mm lens requires additional adjustments or post-processing to correct vignetting. Therefore, the 24-120mm lens is superior in terms of controlling vignetting.


The Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4.0 exhibits both barrel and pincushion distortion at different focal lengths. Barrel distortion is more noticeable at 16mm, while pincushion distortion is moderate at longer focal lengths.

However, both types of distortion can be easily corrected in post-processing with supported software like Adobe Lightroom or in-camera if using Nikon’s in-body distortion correction. Keep in mind that, for subjects with critical straight lines, such as buildings or ocean horizons, correcting for the distortion is necessary to avoid noticeable bending of the lines.

In contrast, the Nikon 24-120mm f/4 displays noticeable distortion, with barrel distortion at the shortest 24mm zoom setting and pincushion distortion in the 35-120mm sector. However, the distortion is fairly uniform in nature and easy to correct in post-processing.

In summary, while both lenses display distortion, the 24-120mm lens displays a more consistent distortion pattern, which may make it simpler to correct using post-processing techniques. Therefore, the 24-120mm lens is superior in terms of managing distortion.

Final Verdict

Taking into account all the factors discussed, the Nikon 24-120mm f/4 emerges as the superior choice in several aspects, such as low light performance, bokeh quality, vignetting control, and distortion management. Additionally, the 24-120mm lens has a more consistent performance across the entire zoom range due to its fixed aperture.

The Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4.0, however, offers advantages in compactness, weather sealing, focusing performance, and aberration control. It also delivers superior sharpness across a range of focal lengths and apertures.

While the 16-80mm lens is a bit more expensive, it may be a better choice for photographers who prioritize portability, quick and accurate focusing, and excellent sharpness. However, for those who value low light performance, consistency across the zoom range, and smoother bokeh, the 24-120mm lens is likely the better option, especially considering its lower price point.

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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