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Tokina 11-20mm f2.8 Review
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Tokina 11-20mm f2.8 Review

Pro DX Performance

Update: I have been very impressed with this lens. It produces excellent images with very good contrast and clarity, new images added to the gallery below.  Also, it survived a steady rain for several hours - with my help of course, and performed out in the high humidity and rain for at least 5 hours of shooting.

My only real complaint is the short zoom range, I would prefer a  11-24.

In my FX line of lens I have the wide end covered all the way down to circular and diagonal fisheye but my DX cameras needed a dedicated wide DX lens. Problem Solved: Tokina 11~20mm f2.8. Sharp and professional.

Tokina is one of three well respected 3rd party lens makers. Tokina is known for quality and performance when it comes to camera lense and for those who don’t know Tokina owns Hoya, One of the finest optical glass makers in Japan who manufactures glass for a wide range of optical uses, everything from Astronomy, Microscopes to filters - so they know their glass.

Release Date: Tokina announced the 11~20mm F/2.8 lens in late 2014 and became widely available in the US in the spring of 2015. Current production pricing is around $500.00 depending on where you buy.

Technical Specifications: f/2.8 ~ 22, nine-blade diaphragm, Lens coatings, three ED type elements, internal focus, 560g or 1.3 lbs,  82mm front filter – plastic, length 3.6 inches

What you get:  From a dealer you get a 3yr limited warranty (us versions), front / rear lens caps,  BH0821 Lens Hood

Build Type: Professional construction using metal and high grade plastics.  The lens feels and operates like a high quality instrument and a fine lens.

Early Morning

Early Morning

Sigma 11-20 f2.8 DX lens used on a D7200 for low light & rich colors.
Focus: Features automatic and a manual focus ring.  Manual focus must be engaged by pulling the front focus ring backward to engage.  This is Tokina’s weakest point of this lens; other manufactures have a simple slide switch for Automatic or Manual override but with Tokina’s solution it is cumbersome, and at times annoyingly tedious to engage the manual focus ring – it catches and needs to be coaxed into position.   Truth be toad, I don’t find myself engaging manual focus all too often on WIDE lens, as trying to manually attain sharp focus through the viewfinder is hit or miss for me (my eyes). Luckily, if I need to recompose and keep the focus – I disengage auto focus by using my CAMERA, if you try to disengage manual focus using Tokina’s cumbersome setup you will most certainly move the focus off in the process.

Automatic Focus:  is quick and accurate – speed and accuracy largely depends on your camera body but with a large 2.8 aperture you have a slight advantage over other slower lens. One minor thing to note during focus acquisition you will hear the focus motor operate,  this may be an issue for videographers; the sound is not too loud but is audible and like other Tokina lens has a clunk sound when focus reaches the far ends of travel.  Another area that Tokina can improve on is by employing dampening and quieter focus motors.

Operation: Like most modern lens Tokina has opted to drop the aperture ring and has gone electro-mechanical G style.  This mostly eliminates compatibility of older camera bodies that use the “mechanical” couplings.  Otherwise, I find this set up an improvement to the old mechanical aperture ring replaced by electro-mechanical. 

Zoom Range:  This zoom lens offers a firm short zoom range, I prefer the Tokina's firmness over zooms that feel loose and require re-positioning to complete the zoom; This is firm but provides you solid consistent feedback as you zoom.  You can obtain end to end zoom range in one motion.  Although the 11~20mm range is nice I do find myself wishing I had a bit more on the far end.

Filters: One area of concern for some potential buyers is the 82mm front filter size this lens requires. Most folks including myself have filters in the 72 / 77mm range.  Making investments in 82mm filters should be considered as added cost.  I just laid out an additional $110.00 for a polarizing filter and by the way the front threads are plastic - be careful.

Fit and Finish: Overall this lens is top shelf. My biggest complaint is the fiddly manual focus ring; poorly engineered way to engage manual focus.  Weather sealing of this lens appears in line with other pro level lens, a rubber seal is employed at the real lens coupling to prevent water from entering between the lens and camera body coupling; it was stated by another reviewer the seal did not seal anything.  I beg to differ; the rubber ring fits snugly around the outer flange of the camera’s lens mount.  I used this lens on a rainy morning, carrying it mounted and on a tripod over my shoulder for several miles out in the open in a drizzle.  When I got to the site to photograph, I wiped off the rain and began shooting without any issue.  I do question if the front manual focus ring has an internal seal - which seems the weakest link on this lens.

Sharp With Contrast

Sharp With Contrast

Taken early morning in rainy foggy weather, the lens show very good sharpness, with good color contrast.
Comparing Nikon’s 10-24 to Tokina’s 11~20:  I have a difficult challenge with comparing lens to others in the same wide DX zoom range. If all things are close to equal I side on cost savings.  In this case, I knew the Tokina was optically sharp & excellent lens costing almost half what the Nikon 10-24 all plastic pumper zoom sales for.  Nikon being a slower variable aperture lens was at the disadvantage on light gathering, and every photographer I know wants faster - sharper.

-          On the short end 1mm is minimal but those missing 4mm on the long end of Tokina’s may be a deciding factor on which lens you go with.   With Nikon you get a 109 (wide) & 61 degree field of view The Tokina falls within Nikons ranges having a 104.3 (wide)  & 72.4 degrees FOV.

-          Another consideration is the “Front Filter” threads, like I stated most folks who own good glass already have some 77mm filters, what Nikon uses.  Tokina is 82mm, requiring an investment if you choose to add a filter.

-          Mechanically Nikon is better engineered but not better made - Nikon’s focus options and setup are near perfect, Hyper silent operation; Tokina can take lessons from Nikon in this area.

-          The aperture is a big difference and with Tokina’s constant 2.8 vs Nikons variable 3.5 ~ 4.5; this is an important consideration if you plan on shooting in low light / night photography.

-          Optically both Nikon and Tokina are excellent, I think Tokina may have a very slight advantage.

-          Cost, Nikon is nearly twice the cost of Tokina, and both lens have tradeoffs, so my decision boiled down to price. But quite frankly if both were equal price - I would still pick the Tokina for the faster 2.8 f stop.

-          The Tokina and Nikon weigh nearly the same, Tokina is slightly larger overall both are near equal in the size comparison @ under 4 inches for each.

Tokina Can Make Improvements by: 

  • ·         Employing silent motors and sound damping for focus operation
  • ·         Re-engineering the stupid manual focus / override
  • ·         If possible add 4 more mm to the far end of the zoom 11~24mm

Closing Thoughts: Tokina has made an excellent pro level lens. This lens is a pleasure to use with exceptional clarity, sharpness, contrast with a constant aperture at all zoom ranges.  I truly enjoy the firm no-slop positive feel this lens offers along with the excellent pictures it produces right out of the camera. I find the low end of the zoom almost perfect for my wide landscape needs and the 20mm long end just a bit short but still very nice vs the older 11-16mm.  Considering the price and performance this lens is a big hit, and well worth your consideration if a wider lens for your DX body is in your future.

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