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Comparing 3 Nikkor 16mm fisheyes

I have a special craving for these lenses, especially the older one, the f/3.5.
I compared an old f/3.5 non Ai, a f/2.8 Ais and the latest AF f/2.8D. I just wanted to know which one is the sharpest at center and border to decide once and for all which one will remain in my bag.

I used a Nikon Df on a tripod, with Aperture Priority. This is far from a complete and scientific test.


First batch are pictures of a map in my wall, with the camera placed 1m away from it, so focus may not be perfect. 100% crops from the center and upper left side, lens wide open and two other apertures (f/5.6 and f/8).
Second batch are from my window, lens at infinity and 100% crops from center and border (close). Only at f/5.6.

They are all in this sequence (older at the top, newer at bottom).
1- NIKKOR 16mm f/3.5 non AI
2- NIKKOR 16mm f/2.8 Ais
3- AF NIKKOR 16mm f/2.8D





















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I`d say my dearest one, the oldest f/3.5 is the best IMHO, and it is one that will be my companion.
The difference at the corner @f/5.6 is so noticeable. 
I was expecting the AF to have the best performance.

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It's no wonder the old 16/3.5 has such a dedicated following.

I've owned the 10.5/2.8 DX and the 16/2.8 AF-D in the past and was never happy with either of them in performance, both lacking in sharpness and having bad edge colour fringing (which was extensive in both). In fact my current cheap, manual focus Samyang 8/2.8 on my Fuji cameras completely betters those two Nikkors managed in their day, both on DX and FX cameras. For a company that had such a huge reputation for brilliant fisheyes in earlier years, Nikon really seems to have lost the plot with their f2.8 AF fisheye lenses of more recent times.

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Great post, Aguinaldo! I think this deserves to be made an article, so I will work on doing that this morning. 


I used to have the 16/2.8 AIS which I never got to use on digital because I sold it before Nikon brought out their FX cameras. I truly regretted that because as you guys will have seen from my event work, I love fisheyes! 

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This is the beloved fisheye Nikkor 16mm f/3.5.
Note that it has four built in filters.
The second picture shows the last version, with a different rubber grip.





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Guest Toby Marshall


I concur the f3.5 version is the best. I have the 2.8 AiS version and don't like it much. Truth be told, the fisheye I love is the 8mm Samyang. Sharpness in the corners almost equals that of the center starting at f4. But more importantly, it has an near stereographic projection, as compared to the equidistant projection of the Nikkors (and almost all the others except the Nikkor 10mm circular.)

What that means practically is much less pronounced barrel distortion than with equidistant projection, but still covering 180 degrees diagonally. It it a DX lens (OK with my D800). Practically speaking, it is like having a 12mm FF fisheye. That means that the size of the center objects is the same as it would be with a 12mm rectilinear lens instead of a 16--that is a huge amount less "ballooning" of the center portion of the image as compared to the edges.

For the low price of this lens, I definitely recommend it. You might end up leaving all three of your Nikkors at home ;)


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First, thank you for doing this interesting and useful exercise and posting it with your findings.


Mongo is surprised by these results but the pictures speak a thousand words (each !) and Mongo agrees with your findings.


It is a shame Mongo is not after one of these lenses. He will probably buy a Tamron 15-30mm for his wide angle purposes. However, your article does make Mongo give some healthy respect where it is due to the lenses you tested.

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Interesting test, thanks a lot for the effort. I no longer shoot with a Nikon dslr but I became infected by the fish-eye virus since I bought my excellent performing Samyang 7.5mm for MicroFourThirds. 

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Thanks atpaula for your findings


Indeed they are the same of mine.


Yes... I've been a fisheye addicted... and for almost 25 years I widely used -and abused- a beloved SMC Takumar 17mm f4 -screw attachment- modified for Nikon by a great professional.


It is a really outstanding lens, currently still one of the best I ever used among my Nikon gear (among them... noct 58 f1,2 -for the bokeh- 180 2.8, dc 135 f2, afs 85 1.8, afs 24 1.4, 55 3.5, and some more).


I've been forced to change it because of the wearing of the front lens and some haze on the inside lenses that was impossible to clean.


So I bought thru ebay an almost mint Nikkor ais 16mm f2.8, but I immediately discovered that: while with the Takumar 17mm I was able to count the leaves in the corner of the frame (even with the haze in the lenses), with the Nikkor 16mm I was only able to count the trees (this is not a joke)


So, I sold it right away and one year later I've been luck to find an excellent Nikkor 16mm f3,5 (AI modified). Before to buy it I did some comparison with the Takumar 17mm where it showed it's really good sharpness and contrast.


So, I'm now the lucky owner of a Nikkor 16mm f3,5 but... if somebody would find an old Takumar 17mm f4 I do suggest him to modify it as I did, as it's rendition, contrast and minimal CA  -even at full wide aperture- can be set among the best lenses ever conceived.


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Guest Ross Alford


Had a 16/3.5 Nikkor and sold it in the early days of digital.  Really wish I hadn't.  The 10.5 for DX seems quite good, but I had the impression the 16 AF was not quite as sharp, now confirmed.  Just have to shoot stopped down when possible I guess. 


I also shoot Micro 4/3 and have had a wonderful time with the Olympus body cap fisheye; it really is astonishingly good (particularly since I usually shoot in 2:3 aspect ratio, so I lose the extreme corners) and I can carry that, a Panasonic GM5 with its standard 24-64 equivalent zoom, a spare battery, and a closeup filter in a tiny case meant for a point-and-shoot.  Nice as a travel kit.  A couple of examples, both from a trip to New Orleans, one the full frame still in fisheye the other partially defished and corrected for convergence.



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Welcome Ross! Nice to have a new participant on our site. :) 


I also shoot m43 in 3:2 aspect ratio, but because I shoot RAW getting the missing bits recovered is as simple as clicking the crop tool in Lightroom. I can't tell you how many times that little feature on its own has saved an image for me by allowing me to reincorporate what I might have missed while shooting. 


If you want a really cool little fisheye for your GM5 you should get the Samyang 7.5/3.5. One of my favourite lenses. 

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