Tokina 11-16mm / F2.8 IF AT-X Pro DX II – Love was never said any sweeter…

First, allow me to start with OH MY GOD!  I love this lens!

Ok… so now that I managed to get my inner teenager out of the way…  The Tokina 11-16mm f2.8 lens is simply an amazing lens.  Very rarely will you find a lens that offers so many possibilities for creativity and versatility as this powerhouse of a lens.  And the price is quite reasonable when you compare it to its Nikon and Cannon contemporaries.  At just over 400 US dollars on sites like Amazon and stores like B&H, this lens will provide you with a plethora of choices to create images that impact and draw the viewer’s eye into the photograph without breaking your budget.

I received mine yesterday as a gift to myself (I like being good to me.  You should try it too).  I was looking into getting a super wide angle lens for a while but I was concerned about the price tag for the Nikkor 10-24mm f3.5-4.5 DX lens which blows a hole in your pocket around the size of 900 US dollars.  I wanted something I could use for landscape photography but that I could also use indoors for shooting bands, so aperture was very important to me and 3.5 variable to 4.5 just didn’t sound like something that would make the grade.

After a bit of research, I found tucked away in the deepest recesses of the internet (the ass crack, if you will), the Tokina 11-16mm f2.8 (fixed throughout all focal lengths) IF AT-X Pro DX II.  Yep, that’s a lot of name for a piece of glass that could have just as easily been called “Awesome”.  Plain and simple.  I went, I got it and I took it for a spin around town.

If you know Houston, you know Westheimer.
If you know Houston, you know Westheimer.

First and foremost, this is a cropped sensor lens so if you are using a full frame body, I would recommend going elsewhere… although I have seen some images taken with it on a full frame camera and it is just as sharp and dynamic as long as you shoot at 15 or 16 mm.  Anything below that and you will get the rounded black edges that characterize cropped sensor lenses on full frame (if you are going to spend so much on a full frame camera then keep spending for the full frame lenses… duh!) but if that’s your thing, then hey…. who am I to judge?  Go for it.  A vision is a vision.  Personally, I am using it on my Nikon D7100 which is a cropped sensor camera (and which I loooooooooooooooooove) so I have full use of the various focal lengths of the lens without the “telescope” effect.

The initial thing you will notice about this lens as you take it out of the box is its weight.  This is a heavy lens.  Its construction is sturdy, solid and metal.  There is very little plastic on this lens which tells me that it will be with me for a very long time.  It might become a bit cumbersome on long day trips hanging around my neck but this is not something that has ever bothered me so for me it is a non-issue (plus I seem to have a freakishly thick neck).  It comes with a flower lens hood and, on the camera, it just looks like a tank.  Not the prettiest looking lens on the market for sure but certainly impressive.

The next thing you will notice about this lens as you start shooting with it is that it is sharp.  And when I say sharp I mean TACK sharp!  This is not very common in wide angle lenses due to the rounded nature of the glass to capture such a wide range from left to right and top to bottom.  But this guy is ridiculously sharp.  Of course, you will get some soft edges at its widest aperture and focal length (no wide angle lens will be sharp throughout the whole image) but it is easily corrected by changing your f-stop to a smaller aperture.  The center of your image is ALWAYS perfectly sharp and the lens distortion is minimal.  There is a little bit of chromatic aberration though but that can be easily corrected in Lightroom or any other photo editing software.

So sharp you just might get stung.
So sharp you just might get stung.

As I started shooting, I also noticed that it shoots pretty hot.  Every shot I took, the skies were completely blown out and overexposed.  I am not sure if it is the lens that tricks the camera into thinking there is not enough light but the through-the-lens metering system overexposes the shot by a full stop in broad daylight.  I have yet to try it in a darker environment (where something like that might even be useful) so I cannot say yet how it behaves there.  In any case, by adjusting my exposure compensation minus one stop, I was able to get the desired exposure.  So no big deal there.

The diaphragm consists of nine blades and opens from 2.8 to 22 at its smallest aperture and it can focus as close to 0.8 feet distance.  It has its own autofocus motor so it can be used on camera bodies that have no AF motors although it will be a bit slower.  The glass is Super Low Dispersion Glass which is the same glass that Nikkor and Cannon uses for their lenses.  It is 77mm wide (for filters) and has two rings for changing focal length and manual focus (which is kind of weird because it has to be pulled down in order to manually focus).  Gotta love those Japanese.

But enough tech crap… just take a look at some of these shots I took on a stroll around town to test it out…

The super wide angle creates a wonderful sense of drama to the image.
In this picture, I am standing less than two feet away from the building and still I am able to capture the whole thing.
Starting to get hungry…
The creative possibilities of this lens are endless. Fisheye without being fisheye.
Super clean and sharp.
Color reproduction on this lens is another strength. Colors are rendered magnificently.
A true staple of the Houston night scene since the early 80’s… Numbers.
I disagree… there are always many ways.
So sharp you could bleed if you touch it.
Notice the distortion at the edges of the photo. The front wheel looks enormous. Not good if you are shooting a face but for other things, it can be pretty cool.
Lovely, wide, open spaces… at 11mm you can see it all.
The downside of every wide angle is that your background recedes in the distance. Downtown Houston looks much closer to the eye than to this 11mm shot.
Everything becomes available to you at these wide angles. You can capture everything in the frame.

So there you have it.  This Tokina lens has very quickly become a favorite of mine and you will be seeing a lot more of it in the images I produce.  As with all wide angle lenses, it is not meant for standard portrait work, but to create some very interesting and impactful images it is a Godsend.  I highly recommend it.

Now get out there and shoot!

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1 thought on “Tokina 11-16mm / F2.8 IF AT-X Pro DX II – Love was never said any sweeter…

  1. Contrast between far and near and color very sharp detail. Enjoy! Don’t ever lose the teen inside you and your good humor; most endearing trait.

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