** Update ** new post with much better comparison images here.
The lens is light and somewhat slender, but long. The rear element moves in and out quite a long distance with the zoom. The front element moves in a similar fashion to the 17-35, with a middle slider moving in and out.
I made some images at home with a D700 on Aperture Priority @ f/8, ISO 200, WB Auto, mounted on a very sturdy tripod. Sharpness is good, colors are good, barrel distortion @ 16mm is fairly strong, overall brightness is a bit less than the f/2.8 lenses I compared to. No surprises as far as I’m concerned.
The MTF chart for this lens indicates some improvements in sharpness and contrast vs. the venerable 14-24mm f/2.8N, except in the corners. I really wanted to get a feeling of whether that is true or not.
I compared 16mm, 20mm, and 24mm vs. the Nikon 14-24/2.8N at same focal lengths. The 16-35 might be a bit softer in the corners and a bit softer in the center but a bit sharper 1/2 way from center to corner. Very tough to tell. I bet this lens is razor sharp corner-to-corner on a crop-sensor (DX) camera body, but I don’t have one to tell for sure.
I compared 24mm, 28mm, and 35mm vs. the Nikon 24-70/2.8N at same focal lengths. The 16-35 was sharper @ 24 and 28, a bit softer @ 35.
See the photos below for some examples from this lens.
Light falloff (vignette) seems pretty well controlled, didn’t notice much until I mounted a fairly thick filter. I can’t say I noticed any when no filters were installed, and very little when just a basic circular polarizer was installed.
These are RAW (NEF) images, zero adjustments except for spot removals from sensor spots, exported from Lightroom 3 Beta. You can click through to slightly higher resolution versions.
(Not great images, I know. I just got the lens and haven’t had a chance to go out for some “real photography”.
16mm, f/4.0, 1/4000th
35mm, f/11, 1/500th
16mm, f/16, 1/250th
16mm, f/22, 1/125th
28mm, f/11, 1/200th
28mm, f/11, 1/250th
The construction durability is yet to be proven out, but the IQ is very, very, very good. My simple tests tell me this lens might be just about as good as the 14-24 for sharpness, and I love that it can mount filters. This lens is quite a match for the older 17-35/2.8D AFS, which is faster but more expensive and an older design.
This is not an official review, this is just my observations and very limited experiences with this copy of this lens.