A Tokina 16-28mm field review (available for both Canon and Nikon mounts)

I have always loved photography, especially Wildlife photography. I have done some Landscape photography in the past but I never really got too serious about it. Recently, however, I presented a Landscape Photographic workshop and led a Landscape photographic trip to Namibia. I own a Nikon 24-70mm F2.8 lens but I wanted something wider for Namibia, so I considered Nikon’s 14-24mm F2.8 lens, a super lens which comes with a super price tag of around R25 000.00. I required a fast F2.8 lens since I really enjoy star photography and star trails, but not at that price.

I started searching for an alternative on Google, and after speaking to other photographers as well as the sales staff at Outdoorphoto I decided to buy the Tokina 16-28 mm F2.8 lens. In general, it received good reviews and it didn’t cost a arm and a leg. Their usual retail price is around R10 000.00, which is considerably less than the Nikon alternative.

My constant advice to photographers is to always to purchase original brand lenses and here I am not practicing what I preach! So I guess I now have to start saying, invest in original brand lenses if the budget allows, otherwise opt for a cost-effective yet high quality generic.

Once I received the Tokina 16-28mm, I immediately put it to the test comparing it with a Nikon 14-24mm (which I borrowed from a friend).

Exposure

I photographed a couple of buildings and scenes in town using both lenses on the same camera with the same settings. The Tokina was consistently underexposing by about a third of a stop on all the exposures, compared to the Nikon lens. I did not view this as a major problem since, with only a small adjustment to my settings when using the Tokina it provided me with the same exposure as the Nikon.

Focus

The focus is an obviously important part of any lens. How would the Tokina compare to the Nikon lens?

I did a focus calibration on both the Tokina and the Nikon to ensure there was no room for error. After photographing different subjects and scenes, I downloaded the images to have a look, I was really impressed with the Tokina lens! The images taken with the Tokina were just as sharp as the Nikon lens in comparison, I am sure the Nikon lens is marginally sharper but it is difficult to tell them apart.

The Nikon lens was both quicker and more silent than the Tokina, but for landscape photography I don’t think it matters too much.

After my initial tests and results, I was confident that the Tokina lens was going to deliver good quality images in Namibia. I was happy with my decision to buy the lens.

Practical Shooting In Namibia

The first opportunity to use the Tokina lens was at the Quiver tree forest near Keetmanshoop, I used it on the D4 and the D800 and I was really happy with how the images turned out. Whether I was shooting during the day, at sunrise, sunset, shooting stars and star trails it delivered exceptional results.

The Tokina has a push-pull focus ring clutch and while I used autofocus to focus on the subject, switching over to manual focus delivered a draw-back. The gears on the lens were not aligned and I had to turn the focus ring slightly to engage the manual focus of the lens, causing me to alter the focus on the subject! The simple solution was to use the autofocus of the lens and camera and then switch the camera to manual focus and not the lens. So not too much of a big deal, just a different way to how I would normally do things.

Next was Kolmanskop, the lens worked perfectly on the D800, producing images that were crisp and sharp. The last hour or so we spent at Kolmanskop it got very windy, blowing around a lot of dust and sand. At the time I didn’t notice any issues but later on the sand and dust would have an affect on the lens.

The next stop was Sossusvlei and after thoroughly cleaning the camera and lens, we headed off to Deadvlei for our first shoot. At first, everything seemed fine but I noticed that some of the images were a bit soft and the lens would not autofocus continuously. After much frustration I finally figured out why, on the push-pull mechanism of the Tokina, there is a very slight gap between the lens and the push-pull system. Which made an undesireable location for the fine particles of sand and dust to repose causing the lens to not focus properly. I carry a small brush and blower in my camera bag, so I cleaned out the lens as best I could after which it performed much better and it was back to its old sharp self.

After Sossusvlei, we headed on towards Walvis bay and the Living desert trip, again the lens worked perfectly. This time on some wildlife and it seemed as if its focusing problems were a thing of the past.

The last stop on our trip was Spitzkoppe. I used the Tokina lens almost exclusively, photographing the magnificent granite formations during the day as well as some star images at night and the Tokina delivered exceptional results.