Nikon DX 17-55mm f/2.8 vs. Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4: Unleashing the Ultimate Zoom Lens for Your Creative Arsenal

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Are you searching for the ideal lens to elevate your photography game? Join us as we delve into a detailed analysis of two leading players in the field of photography: the sharp Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8 and the versatile Nikon 16-80mm f/2.8-4.0.

These lenses are often compared due to their similar focal ranges, making them suitable for various types of photography, from landscape and architecture to portraits and events.

This all-encompassing piece aims to unveil the pros and cons of each lens, enabling you to make an informed choice that caters to your specific photography requirements. Discover how these lenses perform in terms of sharpness, bokeh, distortion, and more, along with insights on their build quality, autofocus, and optical stabilization. By understanding the nuances of these two lenses, you will be able to capture stunning images that align with your creative vision.

So, buckle up and join us on this exciting journey as we explore the fascinating world of Nikon’s 16-80mm and 17-55mm lenses, ensuring you’re well-equipped to make the best choice for your photographic pursuits.


Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 17-55mm F2.8G IF-EDNikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-80mm F2.8-4E ED VR
Max ApertureF2.8F2.8-4.0
Aperture TypeFixedVariable
Focal Range (mm)17-5516-80
Max FormatAPS-C / DXAPS-C / DX
Zoom Ratio (X)3.25

Comparing the Nikon DX 17-55mm f/2.8 and the Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4 lenses, both are designed for APS-C / DX format cameras.

The 17-55mm lens has a fixed aperture of f/2.8, while the 16-80mm lens has a variable aperture of f/2.8-4.0. The fixed aperture on the 17-55mm lens can provide consistent performance throughout the focal range, offering better low light capabilities. On the other hand, the 16-80mm lens provides a wider zoom range (5.0x) than the 17-55mm (3.2x), which can be more versatile for different shooting situations.

In terms of aperture, a wide aperture like f/2.8 on the 17-55mm lens allows for better low light performance and a shallower depth of field, ideal for isolating subjects. However, for landscape and architectural photography, a deeper depth of field is often preferred, making the variable aperture of the 16-80mm lens potentially not so bad.

The 17-55mm lens may have better overall image quality due to its fixed aperture, while the 16-80mm lens might exhibit some compromises in image quality and low light performance due to its variable aperture. However, the 16-80mm lens offers more flexibility in terms of focal range, making it an attractive option for photographers who need a versatile lens.

Design and Ease of Use

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 17-55mm F2.8G IF-EDNikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-80mm F2.8-4E ED VR
Diameter x Length (mm)⌀85.5×110.5mm⌀80×85.5mm
Weight (gr)755480
Filter Thread (mm)7772
Weather SealingYesNo
Zoom MethodRotary (internal)Rotary (internal)
Distance ScaleYesYes
DoF ScaleNoNo
Hood SuppliedYesYes
Hood CodeHB-31HB-75

Comparing the Nikon DX 17-55mm f/2.8 and the Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4, both feature an internal rotary zoom method, which allows for a more compact design, better weather sealing, and consistent balance when zooming. However, there are notable differences in size and weight between these two lenses.

The 17-55mm lens has a diameter of 85.5mm and a length of 110.5mm, while the 16-80mm lens is slightly smaller in diameter at 80mm and shorter in length at 85.5mm. In terms of weight, the 16-80mm lens is significantly lighter at 480 grams, compared to the 17-55mm lens which weighs 755 grams.

The smaller size and lighter weight of the 16-80mm lens make it more portable, potentially less tiring to carry around, and easier to store in a camera bag. It also contributes to better balance and handling, especially during longer shoots. Additionally, the more compact and lightweight design of the 16-80mm lens makes it more discreet for situations like street photography.

In conclusion, the 16-80mm lens has a clear advantage in terms of size and weight, making it a more convenient and comfortable choice for photographers who prioritize portability and ease of handling. Although both lenses feature an internal rotary zoom method, the 16-80mm lens stands out as the superior option due to its compact design and lighter weight.

Lens Mount and Barrel

Comparing the Nikon DX 17-55mm f/2.8 and the Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4 in terms of their lens mount and barrel, both lenses use different materials and designs.

The 17-55mm lens has a lens mount made of dull-chromed brass with paint markings and a rubber ring to seal out dust and water particles. Its lens barrel is primarily constructed of metal with some plastic parts, featuring a metal zoom ring and focus ring with rubber covers. The lens extends slightly at the extreme ends of the zoom range, particularly towards the wide end, allowing for a deeper lens hood. However, it does not have an aperture ring or depth-of-field markings.

On the other hand, the 16-80mm lens mount is made of metal, and it includes a rubber seal to keep dust out of the camera body. Its lens barrel is made of plastic with rubberized rings for focus and zoom, and it doesn’t change its physical size when you zoom in or out.

While the metal lens mount and barrel of the 17-55mm lens offer better durability and a more professional feel, it may be heavier and less portable. Conversely, the 16-80mm lens with its metal mount and plastic barrel provides a lighter and more affordable option, although it might be less durable than the metal barrel of the 17-55mm lens.

Weather Sealing

Comparing the Nikon DX 17-55mm f/2.8 and the Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4 in terms of their weather sealing, both lenses offer some level of protection against dust and moisture, but neither is fully weather-sealed.

The 17-55mm lens features a rubber ring at the lens mount, which helps to seal out particles of dust and drops of water, providing a certain degree of weather resistance. This allows photographers to capture shots in harsh weather conditions. However, it may not be fully weather-sealed like some other professional lenses on the market.

On the other hand, the 16-80mm lens is not weather-sealed, but it does have a rubber gasket around the lens mount to keep dust out of the camera body. The front element has a fluorine coating that repels water and makes it easier to clean.

In conclusion, neither lens offers full weather sealing, but the 16-80mm lens provides a slightly higher level of protection against dust and water with its fluorine coating.


Comparing the Nikon DX 17-55mm f/2.8 and the Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4 in terms of their rings, there are notable differences in design, placement, and user experience.

The 17-55mm lens features 2 rings: a focus ring and a zoom ring. The focus ring is slightly wider than the zoom ring and is located about halfway along the barrel, while the zoom ring is closer to the camera. Both rings are smooth and easy to operate, with a nicely damped tactile experience.

The focus ring allows for precise control, but the zoom ring might be a bit difficult to control for those with bigger hands. There is no zoom creep, and the lens has a windowed distance scale but no depth-of-field indicator.

In contrast, the 16-80mm lens has 2 rings as well: a zoom ring at the front and a manual focusing ring at the rear. The zoom ring is big and rubberized with a slightly heavy movement, while the manual focusing ring is narrow, not aggressively knurled, and has a grinding feel to it.

The manual focusing ring can be hard to locate and doesn’t have a smooth rotation. There’s a modest focus-distance-scale window marked in both feet and meters between the zoom and manual-focus rings.

In conclusion, the 17-55mm lens offers a better ring design in terms of ergonomics and control, making it a superior choice for photographers seeking precise adjustments and a comfortable user experience. The 16-80mm lens has a sturdy zoom ring, but the manual focusing ring may be less enjoyable to use due to its narrow design and grinding feel.


When comparing the Nikon DX 17-55mm f/2.8 and the Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4 in terms of switches and buttons, there are clear differences in the number and functionality of the controls available.

The 17-55mm lens offers a straightforward design with a single slider on the left side of the barrel. This slider allows users to switch between M/A (autofocus with manual override) and M (manual only) focusing modes. There are no other controls provided, making it a simple and user-friendly choice for those who prefer minimalistic design.

On the other hand, the 16-80mm lens comes with 3 switches on the barrel, providing more control options. The first switch is an AF/MF switch, enabling manual override of autofocus with minimal lag time, regardless of the AF mode in use. The second switch activates the 4-stop vibration reduction system (IS), while the third switch allows users to choose between Normal and Active VR modes. Although these switches are clearly labeled, they are all identical, which may make it challenging to change settings quickly while the camera is raised to your eye.

In conclusion, the 16-80mm lens offers superior control options, giving photographers more flexibility in various shooting scenarios. However, the identical switches may require some time for users to become familiar with their positioning. The 17-55mm lens, with its minimalistic design, is a better choice for those who prefer simplicity and ease of use.

Filter Thread

Comparing the filter threads of the Nikon DX 17-55mm f/2.8 and the Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4, there are some noticeable differences in size and material.

The 17-55mm lens features a 77mm plastic filter thread that does not rotate when focusing, allowing for easy use with polarizers and graduated filters. This larger filter thread size may offer more filter options and better compatibility with existing gear, especially if you already own 77mm filters.

On the other hand, the 16-80mm lens has a 72mm plastic filter thread. Like the 17-55mm lens, the front element does not rotate when focusing, ensuring that polarizing or ND grad filters won’t spin around. While the 72mm filter thread is smaller than that of the 17-55mm lens and may not be compatible with larger 77mm filters, it still provides a good balance of compatibility, availability, and cost.

In conclusion, the 17-55mm lens with its 77mm filter thread size may be considered superior due to its wider compatibility with filters and possibly better adaptability with existing gear. However, both lenses offer the convenience of non-rotating front elements, making it easy to use various filters.

Focusing and Optical Stabilization

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 17-55mm F2.8G IF-EDNikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-80mm F2.8-4E ED VR
AF MotorSilent Wave MotorSilent Wave Motor
Rotating Front ElementDoes not rotate on focusingDoes not rotate on focusing
Min Focus Distance0.36m0.35m
Max Magnification (X)0.20.22
Full-Time Manual FocusYesYes
Focus MethodInternalInternal

Focusing Performance

When it comes to focusing performance, the Nikon DX 17-55mm f/2.8 and the Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4 showcase unique strengths.

The 17-55mm lens offers fast and accurate autofocus, driven by Nikon’s Silent Wave Motor (SWM) technology. Its autofocus speed is normal, with perfect accuracy at all distances and focal lengths. In low-light situations, a focusing aid is recommended.

The lens supports manual focus override, and its internally focusing design keeps the lens length constant, regardless of focus and zoom settings. This lens also has minimal focus breathing, making it suitable for cinematographers.

The 16-80mm lens boasts impressive autofocus performance, with quick and accurate focusing that is relatively quiet, making it suitable for both photography and video applications. Its focusing speed is fast, and it performs well in low-light situations.

The lens also supports manual focus override, allowing fine-tuning even when autofocus is engaged. Similar to the 17-55mm lens, the 16-80mm features an internally focusing design and minimal focus breathing, making it an excellent choice for various shooting situations.

In conclusion, both lenses provide strong focusing performance, but the 16-80mm lens is slightly superior due to its faster and quieter autofocus. The 16-80mm lens is better suited for capturing moving subjects and performs well in low-light conditions, making it a more versatile option for a wide range of photography and videography applications.

Optical Stabilization

The Nikon DX 17-55mm f/2.8 does not have optical stabilization, while the Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4 features a Vibration Reduction (VR) system that offers up to 4 stops of compensation. This enables you to capture sharp images at slower shutter speeds.

The stabilization system has 2 modes: Normal and Active, with Active being more suited for shooting from a moving platform. The VR system itself does not make any noticeable noise during operation. With the VR enabled, you can achieve sharp shots 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.

Optical stabilization is not always essential, but it can be beneficial in certain situations, such as low-light conditions, handheld shooting, or when recording video. Many modern cameras now offer in-body image stabilization (IBIS), which can effectively work with wide-angle lenses to minimize the effects of camera shake, even if the lens itself doesn’t have built-in optical stabilization.

In conclusion, the 16-80mm lens with its Vibration Reduction system offers superior optical stabilization compared to the 17-55mm lens, which lacks this feature. This makes the 16-80mm a better choice for photographers who prioritize stability and sharpness in various shooting conditions, especially when optical stabilization is desired or necessary.

Image Quality

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 17-55mm F2.8G IF-EDNikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-80mm F2.8-4E ED VR
Special Elements3x ED glass elements and 3x aspherical lens elements4 ED and 3 aspherical elements. Nano Crystal Coat.
Diaphragm Blades97
Circular ApertureYesYes


The Nikon DX 17-55mm f/2.8 exhibits chromatic aberration throughout its zoom range, with fringing up to 1.5 pixels wide becoming noticeable in large prints, especially when stopped down beyond f/16. Coma performance is generally not a problem, as there is minimal sagittal coma flare. Spherical aberration is somewhat controlled, but not outstanding, with issues related to field curvature at 17mm and slightly lower border sharpness at 24mm @ f/2.8 and at 55mm.

On the other hand, the Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4 demonstrates good control of chromatic aberration, with noticeable fringing only at 16mm, which can be corrected in-camera or during post-processing. Spherochromatism, an advanced form of chromatic aberration, is not present in this lens.

Coma is also well-controlled, with only a tiny bit visible at specific settings, which disappears as the lens is stopped down. 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.

In conclusion, the 16-80mm lens offers superior aberration control compared to the 17-55mm lens. With better management of chromatic aberration, coma, and spherical aberration, the 16-80mm lens is more likely to produce higher-quality images with fewer optical issues, making it a better choice for photographers who prioritize image quality and minimal post-processing.


The Nikon DX 17-55mm f/2.8 delivers outstanding sharpness in the center and good levels towards the edges of the frame. Peak clarity across the frame is achieved between f/5.6 and f/8 for most focal lengths, while at 55mm, peak quality across the frame is realized at f/5.6.

The lens is super sharp wide open to mid-aperture, with great color and contrast, and locks into focus quickly. Sharpness performance is top-notch at all apertures and throughout the DX image, with only slightly less contrast in the far corners at f/2.8. The lens remains sharp on DX even at f/22 with minimal diffraction softness.

On the other hand, the Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4 is generally super-sharp at most zoom settings, with center sharpness being particularly good. However, corner sharpness can suffer at wider focal lengths and wide open apertures, but this can be improved significantly by stopping down to around f/5.6-8. The sharpest aperture varies slightly depending on the focal length, but it tends to be around f/5.6-8.

In conclusion, the 17-55mm lens offers superior sharpness performance throughout its aperture range and focal lengths compared to the 16-80mm lens. The 17-55mm lens maintains its sharpness even in the far corners, making it an excellent choice for photographers who prioritize image quality and sharpness in various scenarios.

Bokeh Quality

The Nikon DX 17-55mm f/2.8 offers reasonably good bokeh quality. While it may not be the best among its competitors, it delivers satisfactory results for most situations, particularly considering the lens design and its primary purposes. The bokeh is generally smooth and more pleasing towards the telephoto end of the zoom range. However, there might be some minor issues with highlight rendition at certain focal lengths and apertures.

In contrast, the Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4 produces 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 good for flowers and small subjects.

However, at other focal lengths and apertures, the out-of-focus quality is not as smooth or beautiful and can even be hard-edged or have onion bokeh. The quality of the bokeh is fair at 16mm, neutral at 80mm, and typical of a many-elements zoom, with background highlights turning into strong edged circles. 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.

Although bokeh quality is not typically a primary concern for all photography styles, it can play a role in certain situations, such as portraits or close-up photography, where a pleasing bokeh can add a creative touch and help separate the subject from the background.

In conclusion, the 17-55mm lens delivers better bokeh quality compared to the 16-80mm lens. While neither lens is renowned for its bokeh performance, the 17-55mm lens provides more consistent and generally smoother results, making it a more suitable option for photographers who desire a pleasing bokeh effect.


The Nikon DX 17-55mm f/2.8 is prone to flare in most backlight situations, and there may be some visible contrast degradation and ghosting when the light source is directly in the picture. However, the supplied lens hood does an excellent job of keeping light from hitting the front element in most situations, and the use of thin glass UV filters, such as the Hoya Super Pro1 series, can help reduce flare and UV rays. It’s important to adjust your shooting angle and use good filters to minimize flare with this lens.

On the other hand, the Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4 exhibits 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 conclusion, both lenses have some flare and ghosting issues when shooting in backlight situations. However, the 16-80mm lens performs slightly better in controlling flare and ghosting, especially when using the included hood and shading the lens with a hand.


The Nikon DX 17-55mm f/2.8 exhibits well-controlled vignetting characteristics. On digital bodies, light falloff is effectively managed throughout the focal range. Some users don’t mind vignetting and may even use it creatively to enhance their shots.

In contrast, the Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4 has noticeable vignetting in the corners when shooting wide open, especially at 16mm and f/2.8. However, it can be improved dramatically by stopping down the lens by 1 or 2 stops. At f/4 and beyond, vignetting is well controlled.

Applying a lens correction profile, either in-camera or in post-production, can easily correct the vignetting, but it does reduce the resolution slightly. Overall, vignetting is an issue that can be managed with some adjustments.

In conclusion, the 17-55mm lens offers superior vignetting performance compared to the 16-80mm lens, as it effectively manages light falloff throughout the focal range.


The Nikon DX 17-55mm f/2.8 exhibits some distortion at both ends of the zoom range, with barrel distortion at 17mm and pincushion distortion at 55mm. However, the distortion pattern is uniform across the frame, which makes it relatively easy to correct using image editing software. The distortion is also low in amount and not as obvious as in some other Nikkor designs. While distortion may not be a big issue for some photographers, it would require correction for architecture photography.

On the other hand, the Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4 exhibits both barrel and pincushion distortion at different focal lengths, with barrel distortion being more noticeable at 16mm and pincushion distortion being 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 if you are shooting subjects with critical straight lines, such as buildings or ocean horizons, you will need to correct for the distortion to avoid any noticeable bending of the lines.

In conclusion, the 17-55mm lens has a slight advantage in terms of distortion control compared to the 16-80mm lens, as it exhibits lower distortion and a uniform pattern across the frame. However, the 16-80mm lens still offers manageable distortion that can be easily corrected with the right tools.

Final Verdict

Considering all the aspects discussed, the choice between the Nikon DX 17-55mm f/2.8 and Nikon DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4 depends on the priorities and preferences of the photographer.

The 17-55mm lens offers superior sharpness, better bokeh quality, more effective vignetting performance, and a slight advantage in distortion control. Its fixed aperture of f/2.8 provides consistent low-light performance throughout the focal range.

On the other hand, the 16-80mm lens stands out for its versatility with a wider zoom range, superior optical stabilization, better aberration control, and slightly better flare and ghosting control. It is also more compact, lightweight, and provides faster and quieter autofocus.

If image quality, sharpness, and bokeh are your primary concerns, the 17-55mm lens is the better choice. However, if versatility, portability, and optical stabilization are more important to you, the 16-80mm lens would be the ideal option.

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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