Quick Review: Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X 116 PRO DX II (Nikon)

It’s Boxing Day, so it’s traditionally the time to unwrap gifts. While I do lament the commercialization of Christmas, I’d be lying to myself if I said I didn’t partake in it … at least, for my own benefit. As a result, I decided to buy one big gift for myself this year – a wide angle lens. It was the whole grey import price + eBay 10% off “everything” that really sealed the deal for me – the best the to buy any photography gear is just before you’re going away on holidays, so you actually get to use it!

In terms of wide-angle lens choices in the Nikon system, there really aren’t that many, especially if you’re on a budget. Doing some scouring online, the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X 116 PRO DX II seemed to fit my needs best – it’s a decent, fast piece of glass, at a good price (~AU$521 after discount including postage, brand new). The biggest limitation is that it’s a DX lens, most suitable for use with crop-factor sensors, but that’s no big deal right now since I’m using a DX-format camera.

Since I really don’t have the time to do an in-depth test, and I don’t have any other wide angle lenses I could compare it to, this is going to be a quick review.

Unboxing

The lens is packed inside a medium sized glossy cardboard box. It’s so glossy, I can almost see myself in the reflection!

The lens is made by Kenko Tokina of Japan, and is a “third party” lens. Some people dislike third party lenses as compatibility (in the future) could be a problem due to the electronics within the lenses and the reverse-engineered nature of their implementation. However, I’ve not had such issues in the past with Tamron or even the Samyang AE glass, so I’d probably be just fine with the Tokina. This particular version is a Nikon F-mount, although the lens is available for other mounts as well. Due to its wide angle nature, the front filter thread is a large 77mm, requiring fairly expensive filters.

Inside, we get an English instruction manual and a warranty leaflet.

Aside from that, we get the lens fully assembled with the hood and both front and rear caps shoved inside a plastic bag. The lens features a distance focusing scale through a clear window. The lens is fairly hefty, weighing in above 500 grams, so it’s probably a consideration for travellers.

The focus ring pulls backwards to engage manual focus mode, otherwise, clicks in its forward position for auto focus. The zoom ring slides quietly and smoothly, as does the focus ring, and the mechanism feels relatively solid even though the body appears to be made of plastic.

The petal hood is included, type BH-77B.

The front cap has the Tokina branding on it, and when removed, the front element is seen to have a curved shape (due to the wide angle it captures) and is not quite the size of the front, thus allowing slim filters to fit on with less chance of vignetting. The aperture blades within appear to be curved, with nine blades.

The rear of the lens looks pretty normal to me.

Aside from that, there are no other inclusions in the box, which was a little disappointing. Normally, manufacturers might make some effort to include a token gesture lens bag (e.g. a thin velvet drawstring bag) just to provide that extra bit of travel protection. As a result, it seems all the money went into the glass – which is probably a good thing.

Of course, I wasn’t going to take any chances, so I fitted a Hoya HMC UV(C) filter to the front immediately after taking these photos, before walking outside to snag a few sample shots.

In Use

The following are some sample shots I took with the lens which have been processed through Lightroom. Unfortunately, being a complete novice at shooting with a wide-angle lens, the shots are relatively unremarkable and the overcast day just prior to a storm didn’t help much. The web host isn’t particularly happy about hosting full 24MP sized images, so all of these are “downsized” to 2560px wide – 100% unprocessed crop peeking is shown in the next section.

The lens itself is quite heavy, so while walking around, I did notice its presence a little more than otherwise. The lens has a micromotor focus, but it’s much quieter than my noisy Tamron, making only a relatively quiet pssht noise, like someone fanning a ream of paper. It’s also fairly quick for a micromotor, and I had no real focus issues with it. The one thing I did notice was the more limited zoom range – 11-16mm isn’t much, and it feels more like a “tweak” to the focal length rather than a real “zoom”.

It does, however, open up the perspective to much more of what you can see all around you, without the same level of distortion as you’d get from a fisheye lens. This particular lens seems to have a little distortion but it’s not too distracting.

It also lets you put your face “right into” things, to avoid the “empty foreground” effect (which I’m still learning about). The bokeh is smooth and relatively unremarkable.

In my short walk, I was quite happy with the level of detail that the lens captures – it’s especially demanding as I’m using a 24MP DX sensor which means a pixel density much greater than many others. Sharp images really need good MTF scores to achieve, although for a wide angle, this is a lot easier than for a tele. Still, quite impressive to me.

The counterpoint is that when the sun does come out (which it didn’t during this test sequence), the Tokina seems to flare quite badly compared to other lenses I’ve used, resulting in distracting bright areas showing in the image. Overcast days are just fine though …

Another weakness of the Tokina is chromatic aberration – this lens has it in plentiful quantities in the corners, although once “corrected” in post-processing, it doesn’t really cause any issues except for possible loss of fine colour detail at the edges.

I walked around the neighbourhood, shooting random things just to see how it would turn out. As I am near both residential and industrial settings, I couldn’t pass up the chance to shoot a few random things.

Such as this pair of transformers sitting behind a fence.

This bus shelter that doesn’t see as much service as it once did.

Above, one of my favourite shops – element14, where I buy a lot of my electrical components and some hardware necessities.

To the left, the interior of a port-a-loo at a worksite. The wide angle really came in its own here – I have one hand holding the door open, and I managed to capture all of the interior at that distance.

Not the most flattering image … but perhaps, a practical one? Yeah. I need to learn how to use this thing better. That’s what my holiday’s for!

Up Close

The above images were all post-processed, so we need to take a careful look at images which have gone through no processing at all from RAW to see what the lens is really like. I took six 100% crops from the raw in the areas shown in the image below:

The resultant 100% crops are below:

The points I mentioned about chromatic aberration are clearly visible in the first three crops, whereas the high detail is visible in the latter three. Due to lighting conditions, shots were handheld with ISO 200, thus, some noise is present due to sensor deficiencies in the low-pass filter-less Nikon D3300 I am using.

Conclusion

The Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 lens is not quite fault free – it has a fair amount of chromatic aberration, and it also seems to flare up with direct sun more than others. It’s a DX-format lens, with a fast although somewhat “average” micromotor focusing system. It’s strong points are in image sharpness, build quality and price. For the price, I’m pretty happy with it, as it will give me something new to play with during my holidays and a new perspective which I hope I can eventually master, and suits my needs as a DX shooter for now. Merry Christmas to me!

About lui_gough

I’m a bit of a nut for electronics, computing, photography, radio, satellite and other technical hobbies. Click for more about me!

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