I've been looking to invest in a ultra wide zoom lens for an upcoming trip to Germany. The main purpose for this lens will be for landscapes and shooting backgrounds for composites. Originally I was sold on the 16-35 f4 from Nikon but decided to give this little lens a try before I committed. The 14-24 f2.8 is a great lens but personally a deal breaker as filter systems for it are way too expansive and it's a monster of a lens both in size and weight. This will not be a tech review as there are some really good ones out there already.
The first thing that I noticed about this 18-35 was its light weight compared to the 16-35 f4. I think this is a great benefit for landscape photographers as weight can make or break a trip especially if you are out for days at a time. Some of my favourite places in the world are mountainous regions and weight is often the deciding factor if a piece of gear is coming or not. At 385g this has got to be one of the lightest zoom lenses period and trust me, at 4000m every gram counts.
Image quality has been very impressive and I would say it's very close the gold ring 16-35 f4 from Nikon and I would go as far as saying that it is a tad sharper especially at 35mm wide open. Both lenses have a fair amount of barrel distortion at their wides setting but I've found it easy to correct in photoshop.
So why would someone go for the famous 16-35 f4? Well to start off the build quality is better. The housing does have some magnesium alloy and I would expect it to have a longer life span. It is slightly wide at 16mm. I have been in tight spots with an 18mm before and just couldn't get everything into the frame. I think this will be more of a concern if you do a lot or interiors and exterior in urban settings then landscapes. The other major difference is that it had nano crystal coating and in theory should be more resistant to flare and should have overall better image quality and the VR, which will only come in handy if you are shooting handheld in very low light without a tripod.
So, does the above mentioned justify an extra $500? I've been struggling with this decision myself over the last week. Personally I will be going with the 16-35 f4. I think the image quality on the 18-35 is great but it just lacks that punch that the 16-35 produces, I feel like this lens has a certain character that seems absent in the 18-35. Most likely it is the nano coat that makes the biggest difference.