Nikon DX 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 vs. Nikon DX 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR II: The Ultimate In-Depth Lens Showdown for the Discerning Photographer

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Are you on the hunt for the perfect lens to elevate your photography game?

Look no further! In this article, we dive deep into a comprehensive comparison of two highly sought-after lenses: the Nikon DX 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 and the Nikon DX 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR2. Both of these lenses offer unique advantages for photographers with different needs and preferences, making them popular contenders in the world of photography.

Whether you’re a landscape enthusiast, a passionate travel photographer, or a dedicated portrait artist, understanding the key differences between these two lenses is essential to make the most of your photography journey. We’ll help you explore the nuances of each lens, from sharpness and bokeh quality to distortion control and optical stabilization, equipping you with the knowledge to make an informed decision tailored to your photography style.

As you read further, you’ll discover how these lenses perform under various shooting conditions. No matter your photographic interests, we’re confident that our detailed analysis will help you make the best choice for your camera bag.

So, sit back, relax, and let us guide you through this captivating comparison of the 16-85mm and 18-200mm lenses, unlocking new possibilities for your creative vision.


Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-85mm F3.5-5.6G ED VRNikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-200mm F3.5-5.6G ED VR II
Max ApertureF3.5-5.6F3.5-5.6
Aperture TypeVariableVariable
Focal Range (mm)16-8518-200
Max FormatAPS-C / DXAPS-C / DX
Zoom Ratio (X)5.311.1

The Nikon DX 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 and the Nikon DX 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR2 both have variable apertures, with a maximum aperture of f/3.5-5.6. The 16-85mm lens has a focal range of 16-85mm and a 5.3x zoom ratio, while the 18-200mm lens has a focal range of 18-200mm and an 11.1x zoom ratio. Both lenses are designed for APS-C / DX format cameras.

The 16-85mm lens is a versatile option suitable for various photography genres, such as landscapes, street photography, and portraiture. With its wider focal length of 16mm, it can capture more of a scene and is better suited for shooting in tight spaces, which is essential for landscape and architectural photography.

On the other hand, the 18-200mm lens is an all-in-one solution that covers a wide range of focal lengths, making it suitable for travel, events, or sports photography. The longer focal length of 200mm allows for better subject isolation and more compression. However, the trade-off is that the lens may struggle in low light situations, especially at the longer focal lengths, due to its smaller maximum aperture.

Design and Ease of Use

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-85mm F3.5-5.6G ED VRNikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-200mm F3.5-5.6G ED VR II
Diameter x Length (mm)⌀72×85mm⌀77×96.5mm
Weight (gr)485565
Filter Thread (mm)6772
Weather SealingNoNo
Zoom MethodRotary (extending)Rotary (extending)
Distance ScaleYesYes
DoF ScaleNoNo
Hood SuppliedYesYes
Hood CodeHB-39HB-35

The Nikon DX 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 is a more compact and lightweight option compared to the Nikon DX 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR2, with dimensions of ⌀72×85mm and a weight of 485 grams. This makes it easier to carry around and handle, especially for extended periods, and allows for a better balance with your camera setup. The smaller size also contributes to discreetness, which is useful for street photography.

On the other hand, the 18-200mm lens is larger and heavier, measuring ⌀77×96.5mm and weighing 565 grams. This might make it more challenging to handle and carry around. However, the larger size might be a trade-off for the extended focal range, which provides greater versatility.

Both lenses feature a rotary (extending) zoom method, which is generally simpler and lighter than internal rotary zoom lenses. However, this design can make the lens more cumbersome and harder to handle when zooming. It can also be more difficult to weather-seal, leaving the lens vulnerable to dust, moisture, and other elements. The camera’s balance may change while zooming as the lens extends and retracts, requiring more effort to maintain stability during shooting.

Lens Mount and Barrel

The Nikon DX 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 lens mount is a Nikon standard dull chromed brass metal, featuring a robust weather sealing gasket around the edge of the mount. This offers durability and protection from environmental factors.

The lens barrel is primarily constructed from high-quality plastics, making it lightweight and more portable. The rubberized zoom and focus rings provide excellent grip, and the ergonomic bevel adds to its comfortable handling. While the focal length changes, the lens maintains its equilibrium and doesn’t become unwieldy on different camera models despite its extended barrel.

In contrast, the Nikon DX 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR2 lens mount is made of metal with a rubber ring, providing some degree of environmental sealing. This helps prevent dust and moisture from entering the camera body or the rear of the lens.

The lens barrel is made of metal, giving it a sturdy and professional feel. However, as you zoom, the barrel extends or retracts, and the lens is prone to zoom creep between 28 and 135mm. The newer version of the lens includes a lock switch on the side to prevent this issue.

In conclusion, the 16-85mm lens offers a superior combination of lightweight materials, excellent grip, and weather sealing, making it an ideal choice for photographers who prioritize portability and handling. The 18-200mm lens, with its metal construction and environmental sealing, may be better suited for those who value durability and a more professional feel.

Weather Sealing

Both the Nikon DX 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 and Nikon DX 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR2 provide a similar level of protection, featuring rubber rings to guard against dust and moisture. While these rubber rings offer some degree of environmental sealing, neither lens is fully weather-sealed, leaving them susceptible to harsher conditions.

It is essential to consider your specific needs and shooting conditions when selecting a lens. If you frequently shoot outdoors or in unpredictable weather, you may want to invest in a lens with more comprehensive weather sealing. However, for photographers who primarily work in controlled environments, the weather sealing provided by both the 16-85mm and 18-200mm lenses may be sufficient.


The Nikon DX 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 boasts rubber-ribbed rings for both zoom and focus control, ensuring a comfortable and secure grip. The zoom control rotates about 90 degrees from the shortest to the longest focal length, offering a firm and steady experience with no zoom creep.

On the other hand, the focus control rotates about 130 degrees, providing sufficient travel for easy manual focusing. Although the zoom ring stiffens slightly beyond 50mm, the lens features a windowed distance scale and ergonomic design but lacks a depth-of-field indicator and extension lock switch.

In contrast, the Nikon DX 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR2 is equipped with 2 well-placed rings for zoom and manual focus. The zoom ring is ideally positioned for thumb and forefinger operation, smoothly moving through almost half a turn across its range.

The manual focus ring features a 10mm wide ridged rubber grip, rotating through roughly one-third of a turn and is easily operable by the middle finger. This lens also offers a recessed distance scale with settings for 0.5, 1, and 3 meters plus infinity. Notably, the 18-200mm lens includes a zoom lock switch to prevent zoom creep, although it can be slightly inconvenient to use.

Upon comparing the two lenses, the 16-85mm lens offers a slightly better experience in terms of ergonomics and control, particularly with its rubber-ribbed rings and firm zoom control. The 18-200mm lens, however, includes a convenient zoom lock switch and a more comprehensive distance scale.


The Nikon DX 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 is equipped with 3 thoughtfully designed switches/buttons, allowing for seamless control over various functions. These include an AF/MF switch for activating and deactivating autofocus with manual override, an IS switch for activating and deactivating Vibration Reduction with two modes to choose from, and a third switch for setting the VR mode sensitivity level (normal or active).

The AF/MF switch is labeled as “M/A M,” which signifies autofocus with instant manual override, enabling quick switching to manual focus mode by turning the focus ring. The switches on this lens contribute to its overall user-friendliness.

In comparison, the Nikon DX 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR2 features 3 slider switches located on the side of the lens barrel, just behind the focusing ring. These switches include M/A and M focusing modes, VR on and off, and Normal and Active VR settings. Similar to the 16-85mm lens, the 18-200mm lens boasts well-considered and easy-to-use switch/button design.

When comparing the switches/buttons of the two lenses, both provide a similar level of functionality and user-friendliness. The main difference lies in the design, with the 16-85mm lens offering a slightly more intuitive layout.

Filter Thread

The Nikon DX 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 features a 67mm plastic filter thread, which is lightweight and less expensive compared to metal filter threads. The front element does not rotate during focusing or zooming, making it convenient to use with polarizers and graduated filters. Even with a double-stack of filters 11mm thick (excluding rear threads), there is no vignetting, ensuring a high-quality image.

On the other hand, the Nikon DX 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR2 has a metal filter thread with a size of 72mm, which is more durable and long-lasting than its plastic counterpart. Like its 16-85mm counterpart, the lens’ front element and filter thread remain fixed during focus adjustments, ensuring that it’s effortless to operate with angle-dependent filters and attachments. Filters can be used effortlessly with this lens without the need for readjustment.

When comparing the filter threads of the two lenses, the choice mainly depends on your preferences and priorities. If you value durability and a slightly larger filter size, the 18-200mm lens with its metal filter thread might be a better choice.

However, if you prefer a more lightweight and cost-effective option, the 16-85mm lens with its plastic filter thread would be more suitable. Both lenses offer the convenience of non-rotating front elements, ensuring compatibility with various filter types without sacrificing image quality.

Lens Hood

The Nikon DX 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 comes with a petal-shaped lens hood included in the package. Made of lightweight plastic, it fits firmly on the lens and does a decent job of reducing extraneous light, preventing flare, and preserving contrast in images. The hood can be rotated smoothly, although it is not as effective at blocking stray light at 85mm compared to wider angles. Overall, this lens hood is a valuable accessory that enhances image quality.

The Nikon DX 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR2 also includes a lens hood in the package, along with a snap-on front lens cap, rear lens cap, bayonet hood, and a flexible lens pouch. The hood has a bayonet mount and is made of plastic with a matte finish. Its ergonomic bevel is smooth, allowing for easy attachment and removal, and can be rotated smoothly to adjust the angle of the hood.

When comparing the lens hoods of the two lenses, both provide satisfactory performance in reducing flare and maintaining image contrast. The 16-85mm lens hood is more effective at wider angles, while the 18-200mm lens hood offers a smooth ergonomic bevel for easy attachment and removal.

Focusing and Optical Stabilization

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-85mm F3.5-5.6G ED VRNikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-200mm F3.5-5.6G ED VR II
AF MotorSilent Wave MotorSilent Wave Motor
Rotating Front ElementDoes not rotate on focusingDoes not rotate on focusing
Min Focus Distance0.38m0.5m
Max Magnification (X)0.220.22
Full-Time Manual FocusYesYes
Focus MethodInternalInternal

Focusing Performance

The Nikon DX 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 features an AF-S motor, providing fast and near-silent autofocus operations. The autofocus is accurate but with average speed, and the ultrasonic motor allows for manual focus override at any time.

The lens’ manual focusing action is sleek and refined, and its internal focusing configuration maintains a constant length, regardless of zoom or focus settings. In terms of autofocus, it acquires reasonably fast, taking approximately one second to shift from its closest focusing distance to infinity. However, the lens exhibits focus breathing and sometimes produces an audible squeak during focusing.

The Nikon DX 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR2 is equipped with a Silent Wave Motor for autofocusing, which is nearly silent and efficient. The focusing speed is generally adequate, taking around 1.2 seconds to go from infinity to 50cm and back again. Autofocus performance is reliable and accurate in well-lit situations, with slightly slower performance in low light.

The lens offers a full-time manual focus override, smooth and precise adjustments, and an internally focusing design. The front element does not rotate during focusing, making it convenient to use with polarizing filters or angle-critical attachments. The lens does not exhibit significant focus breathing, contributing to its overall solid autofocus performance.

In conclusion, both lenses have satisfactory autofocus performance, with the 18-200mm lens having a slight edge due to its minimal focus breathing. The 16-85mm lens is still a solid choice for its smooth manual focus action.

Optical Stabilization

With its second-generation optical stabilization (VR II), the Nikon DX 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 lens permits shutter speeds up to 4 stops slower than typically advised. There are two modes available in the VR II system – normal and active – with the latter being more receptive to camera motion. This stabilization system is effective in low-light situations, resulting in sharper still shots and smoother video footage, without any audible noise during operation.

On the other hand, the Nikon DX 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR2 is equipped with Nikon’s second-generation VR II vibration reduction system, which claims to allow handholding at shutter speeds 3.5 stops lower than usual. The mechanism is near-silent, producing a quiet whirring noise when in use and distinct clicks when activating and deactivating.

The lens also has 2 VR modes – Normal and Active. At various focal lengths, the VR system provides an 80% chance of getting usable results at specific shutter speeds. Even at slightly slower speeds, you can achieve sharp handheld shots by taking multiple shots.

In conclusion, both lenses offer effective optical stabilization systems with their second-generation VR II technology. The 16-85mm lens provides up to 4 stops slower shutter speeds, while the 18-200mm lens offers 3.5 stops with a high chance of achieving sharp results at various focal lengths. Although both lenses perform well in this regard, the 16-85mm lens has a slight advantage with its 4-stop stabilization, making it the superior choice for optical stabilization between these two lenses.

Image Quality

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-85mm F3.5-5.6G ED VRNikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-200mm F3.5-5.6G ED VR II
Special Elements2x ED glass elements and 3x aspherical lens elements2x ED glass elements and 3x aspherical lens elements
Diaphragm Blades77
Circular ApertureYesYes


The Nikon DX 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 exhibits impressive control over chromatic aberration throughout its zoom range. At its worst, chromatic aberration is seen at a mere 5/100ths of a percent of frame height at the telephoto end (85mm), and it is practically non-existent between 24mm and 70mm.

The lens also effectively manages coma and spherical aberration, thanks to its 3 aspherical lens elements designed to eliminate these types of distortion. However, some field curvature in extreme corners and a bit of focus shift when stopping down may be noticeable at 16mm.

In contrast, the Nikon DX 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR2 demonstrates some chromatic aberration, with red-green fringing detectable at the widest focal lengths. Nevertheless, this diminishes at longer focal lengths and is easy to correct. Spherical aberration is more evident in this lens, as shown by the focus shifting required when apertures are stopped down. This issue is likely a consequence of the lens’s extended zoom design.

In conclusion, the 16-85mm lens outperforms the 18-200mm lens in terms of aberration control. With excellent chromatic aberration control throughout the zoom range and well-managed coma and spherical aberration, the 16-85mm lens is the superior choice when considering aberration performance between these two lenses.


The Nikon DX 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 is consistently praised for its sharpness, delivering excellent results even at maximum aperture and in the center of the frame. It maintains even sharpness across the frame, with only slight variations when shooting special test subjects at full aperture and enlarging images to significant sizes.

The lens provides satisfactory corner sharpness, with a minor reduction in sharpness when used wide open at 16mm or 85mm. But, stopping down to f/5.6 or f/8 yields exceptional sharpness throughout the frame. The most precise aperture varies based on the focal length, but usually, f/5.6 or f/8 delivers the best performance.

On the other hand, the Nikon DX 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR2 exhibits impressive sharpness for an F-mount superzoom, especially at short to mid zoom settings. Center sharpness is generally excellent throughout the focal range, while corner sharpness might be slightly weaker at wider apertures but improves when stopped down.

The sharpest apertures typically range from f/8 to f/11. At longer focal lengths, such as 135mm and f/5.6, image quality can be visibly impacted, but stopping down to f/11 can yield better results. This lens is capable of delivering sharp images, although not as sharp as some prime lenses or more specialized zoom lenses. Overall, the lens offers a versatile and convenient zoom range with a good balance of sharpness and image quality.

In conclusion, the 16-85mm lens emerges as the superior choice in terms of sharpness when compared to the 18-200mm lens. With its consistent sharpness across the frame, even at maximum aperture, and excellent corner sharpness when stopped down to f/5.6 or f/8, the 16-85mm lens is the top pick for photographers prioritizing sharpness in their images.

Bokeh Quality

The bokeh quality of the Nikon DX 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 is somewhat mixed. While the bokeh at 85mm f/5.6 is passable for both general blur and highlights, it’s not particularly remarkable. However, as you move towards 50mm f/5, the blur can be quite busy, with shadows and outlining effects visible around highlights, which is not ideal and somewhat reminiscent of a mirror lens. The bokeh is rather unimpressive in typical scenes due to the lens’ relatively slow maximum aperture and is notably harsh at 50mm.

On the other hand, the Nikon DX 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR2 can deliver smoothly blurred out-of-focus regions, particularly at 200mm F5.6, but the bokeh is not entirely smooth. Hard-edged specular highlights can give a harsh appearance to defocused areas. However, with careful selection of the background and thoughtful composition, it is possible to achieve appealing results. Some users have reported distracting and nervous bokeh that required additional post-processing to smooth out.

In conclusion, both lenses have their limitations in terms of bokeh quality. While the 16-85mm lens struggles with busy blur and harsh bokeh at certain focal lengths, the 18-200mm lens manages to produce smoother bokeh, particularly at its maximum focal length. Although neither lens excels in this aspect, the 18-200mm lens has a slight edge when it comes to bokeh quality, making it a better choice for photographers who prioritize smoother out-of-focus areas in their images.


In terms of flare resistance, the Nikon DX 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 lens is relatively robust, with only exceptionally bright light sources within the frame causing any problems. The lens comes with a deep, petal-shaped hood that effectively prevents extraneous light from causing flare and reducing contrast in images.

Although the lens has impressive flare resistance, it may still display some flaring artifacts and a reduction in contrast, particularly when zoomed in, when shooting against bright lights. So, even though the lens performs admirably when it comes to resisting flare, it’s still critical to be aware of the shooting environment to avoid undesirable flaring and a loss of contrast.

In comparison, the Nikon DX 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR2 exhibits minimal flare and ghosting, as long as it is not pointed directly into the sun. When forced to flare, it produces starbursts, rainbow effects, and circular patterns of various colors.

However, contrast is not significantly affected. The lens handles flare relatively well, especially compared to some other lenses in its class, and its complex optical construction allows for intricate flare patterns at small apertures.

In conclusion, both lenses demonstrate decent flare resistance, but the 18-200mm lens has a slight advantage, handling flare and ghosting more effectively than the 16-85mm lens.


When used wide open at 16mm, the Nikon DX 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 displays some vignetting. Nonetheless, this phenomenon is typical in wide-angle lenses and can be rectified using post-processing software. At other focal lengths and smaller apertures, the vignetting is adequately controlled, with only a slight darkening of the corners.

On the other hand, the Nikon DX 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR2 exhibits occasional vignetting, particularly at wider focal lengths. However, compared to its competition, this lens demonstrates better optical performance in terms of vignetting correction, indicating a good starting point for post-processing.

It is worth noting that vignetting can be reduced effectively through software or in-camera correction, but it is always preferable for the lens to produce good results without any digital manipulation.

In conclusion, both lenses display some level of vignetting, which is typical for wide-angle lenses at shorter focal lengths.


At wider focal lengths, the Nikon DX 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 lens exhibits a certain degree of barrel distortion, while at longer focal lengths, it displays pincushion distortion. However, the distortion is not excessive and can be rectified using post-processing software. Moreover, compared to other similar zoom lenses, the level of distortion is relatively low. All things considered, while distortion is present in the lens, it’s not a major issue and can be dealt with efficiently.

In contrast, the Nikon DX 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR2 displays noticeable distortion, particularly at the wide-angle end, with prominent barrel distortion. This can result in a “mustache” or wavy distortion pattern that may be challenging to correct using simple software tools.

Pincushion distortion becomes more evident between 35mm and 70mm, although it is less complex and can be more easily corrected with software. It is important to note that distortion is mostly an issue in photos with straight lines, and may not be a significant problem for subjects like landscapes, portraits, or wildlife.

In conclusion, the 16-85mm lens has a superior performance in terms of distortion control compared to the 18-200mm lens.

Final Verdict

Taking all factors into consideration, the Nikon DX 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 performs better in terms of sharpness, distortion control, aberration performance, and optical stabilization. Its wider focal length makes it more suitable for landscape and architectural photography, while its lightweight materials and excellent grip provide a more portable and user-friendly experience.

However, the Nikon DX 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR2 is an all-in-one solution that covers a wider range of focal lengths, making it a versatile choice for travel, events, and sports photography. It has a slight edge in terms of autofocus performance and bokeh quality. Additionally, the 18-200mm lens is priced at about half the cost of the 16-85mm lens, which could make it an attractive option for photographers on a budget or those who value an all-in-one lens solution.

Ultimately, the choice between these two lenses will depend on your specific needs and priorities. If you value superior image quality, sharpness, and distortion control, the 16-85mm lens is the better choice. However, if you prefer a versatile all-in-one lens at a more affordable price, the 18-200mm lens might be the better option for you.

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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