New Breed of Super Wide-Angle Lenses for Digital
Feb 19, 2006
Review by photog77
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Sharpness, build quality, saturated colors and deep contrast, price
Cons:Distortion can be noticeable 12mm, CA in high contrast shots
The Bottom Line: A near equal to the Nikon 12-24mm f/4 lens, at 1/2 the price. You'll love how this lens performs and how much fun it is to use!
Tokina 12-24mm f/4 Super Wide-Angle Lens
Recommend this product?
With the advent of digital SLR cameras, and their field of view crop of 1.5x or more, the traditional 35mm wide angle lenses of around 18mm simply weren't wide enough. Because of this, manufacturers began to roll out a whole new breed of super wide-angle lenses. These lenses would be wide enough (12mm or wider) to duplicate the wide-angle effect 35mm camera users were used to with their old film bodies and an 18mm lens.
Tokina's answer to the need for a lens that would reproduce an effective 18mm on a digital body was the 12-24mm f/4 ATX-124 Pro. Upon release the lens generated some interest because of it's constant f/4 aperture, and quite good on paper specs.
Typical for Tokina is the impressive build quality. This is the 3rd Tokina lens I've owned, and all are quite impressive to hold - expect a solid zoom and focus ring feel, excellent professional feel finish, and a lens that simply feels solid. The lens is also impressive looking with a large (but fortunately rather easy to find) 77mm from filter element, and large petal hood.
The lens construction features a highly advanced design of 13 elements in 11 groups, 2 of those elements are sharp-cut aspherical elements, a product of advanced computer optical modeling. The lens fortunately does not extend while focusing or zooming, making it quite simple to handle AND to use a polarizer. A Tokina exclusive is the clutch-focus mechanism, through which one can engage auto/manual focus simply by moving the focus ring backward or forward - pretty slick!
Compared to other lenses in class I'd rate the Tokina 12-24 very highly. It's build quality bests the Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 easily, and I believe even tops the Nikon 12-24mm f/4 lens as well. I'd say the only other lens in class with equal build quality and feel is the Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6 - however it's usability is MUCH worse than the Tokina, due to it's funky bug-eye front element and use of gelatin filters.
Build-quality and feel is a definite win for the Tokina!
There are quite a few areas to consider when quantifying a lenses' performance. For me and many others, of primary importance is the sharpness of the lens. And in terms of sharpness the Tokina delivers an excellent performance with a few exceptions.
I'll start with the good - center sharpness of the lens is excellent at all focal lengths and apertures. If your subject is in the center of the frame, the lens will produce very pleasing results at any setting. The bad is something one might expect from a super wide-angle lens, edge sharpness at 12mm-18mm wide open (apertures of f/4 - f5). At the edges on the wide end, you really need to stop the lens down to f/5.6 at least to get good border performance.
To summarize that point, the lens will produce excellent results edge to edge EXCEPT at focal lengths of 12mm - 18mm and apertures from f/4 - f/5. If you need edge sharpness in your shot, avoid those areas.
Distortion is very well controlled, however noticeable enough that the lens isn't suitable for architecture use at focal lengths of 12mm - 15mm. By 18mm however distortion is hardly noticeable. In real world use, even at 12mm, distortion is only noticeable if you're shooting a subject with straight lines. For shooting subjects like landscapes or people, you'll be hard pressed to see any distortion.
Vignetting is also very well controlled in the Tokina, with the only noticeable light fall-off being occasionally noticeable at 12mm with the lens wide open at f/4. Stop the lens down to f/5 and Vignetting is effectively gone.
If using a polarizer or UV filter with your Tokina 12-24 (or really any super wide-angle lens) you should certainly consider spending the few extra bucks for a thin type filter. The standard thickness filters WILL produce some vignetting at 12mm - 15mm settings, although slight it is noticeable. For me this was unacceptable, so I chose a Hoya Pro1 UV filter and Pro1 Circular Polarizer.
Chromatic Aberration, also known as CA is an effect which results in purple fringing around high contrast areas of a picture. For example, if you're shooting a picture of a tree with sunlight shining through the branches. CA quite simply is nasty, and is probably the ONLY real weakness of the Tokina 12-24.
I have been able to produce some CA with this lens, however it's not nearly as bad as I expected after reading internet forums with discussions about the lens. The level of CA I've witnessed is easily fixed with post-processing in programs like Nikon Capture or Adobe Photoshop. Maybe the level of CA I've seen is small because I almost always shoot in .raw format, and Nikon Capture can automatically attempt to correct CA. Another possibility is that I simply got a good sample of this lens, because CA really has not been an issue for me
This lens doesn't have an internal focus motor like Nikons AF-S Silent Wave drive, or Sigmas HSM motor ... instead it uses what's called 'screw drive' where the lens' internal focus gearing is engaged mechanically to that of the camera body. Typically a screw drive lens focuses slower than those with internal focus motors, however it's not an issue with the Tokina. Focusing is snappy and 100% accurate. It's also relatively quiet. I've never seen any issues with incorrect focus. Quite simply, the lens focuses exactly how one would want.
I can't say enough about this lens, I simply love it! It produces pictures with all the sharpness and color reproduction I could want. It's well built and easy to use. And it's weaknesses are nothing that I've ever seen in real world shots.
I tested the Nikon 12-24mm f/4 and Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6 before purchasing the Tokina. I chose the Tokina because of it's excellent all-around performance, and the fact that it's $400 (or more) less than the Nikon. I chose against the Sigma for 2 reasons, I don't like variable aperture lenses - and it's bug-eye front element is just asking to get damaged.
If you haven't yet purchased a super wide-angle lens for your Digital SLR, you really should! They open up areas of photography you never before though possible. The more I use mine, the more I love it ... and the more possibilities I begin to see with it.
It's been said that you can hand-hold a lens down to a shutter speed of 1/2 the focal length. With this lens I've found it to be more like 1/3 or even 1/4. I've produced extremely sharp hand-held results at a 1/3 second exposure, that allows you to turn night into day without having to crank up the ISO setting.
You can't go wrong with this lens ... and even if you don't buy the Tokina, do yourself a favor and buy ANY of the available super wide-angle lenses. You'll be happy you did!
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