An informal review of the Tokina 11-16mm lens

Chris Lane / Camera parts, photography, review / / 2 Comments / Like this


As I mentioned in my last Friday Photo post I recently rented a lens from BorrowLenses.com. I could review their service, which was excellent when I had a problem, but I’m going to review the lens I got instead. There is some good and some bad to this story.

So I was set to do some real estate photography and currently the widest lens I have is down to 28mm (This one here in fact.), which on a Canon 40D is equivalent to a 45mm for width. So this was not going to be wide enough for interior shots, as the room to back up is quite limited. So I rented the Tokina 11-16MM F/2.8 ATX 116 Lens.
When I first got this lens, I was quite impressed. The build is solid, it has some substantial weight to it. According to Amazon.com it is 1.2 pounds. I don’t want a particularly heavy lens, but when it has a bit of weight, it seems to mean that it will have some strength to it. Besides, I will always be using a tripod in this sort of situation anyway, so I won’t fatigue due to the weight.
Another thing I was happy about is this is a pretty fast lens, in comparison to a lot of the other wide angle lenses out there. And then the width seen in this lens is magnificent. It is next to the widest available at 11mm, effectively 18mm (widest I have seen is 10mm, such as this Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6) Going from 28mm was a definite treat. I could easily get an entire room into frame using this lens.
Real Estate Photography © Chris Lane Photo

The Bad

When I was using it, however, I quickly ran into problems. It was having problems speaking with my camera. I got the Err 01, where it says to clean the contacts. This wasn’t immediately when I used the lens, but a few shots in. I tried cleaning the contacts, to no avail. One of my thoughts was that my camera is getting old (it is 2 generations old now) but all of my other lenses worked fine. I can’t blame it on being a ‘low-grade’ camera either, because this lens doesn’t even really work on the higher level cameras like the Canon 5D Mark II. The particularly odd thing was that it would work every 5th shot or so. So I was able to slog through my real estate shoot, but barely. I ended up switching to the 28mm lens toward the end, because it was just taking up so much more time when I didn’t know if a shot was actually going to work or not.
This wasn’t the only problem I had though. It was also acting as if the aperture blades were not opening to the full aperture when looking through the camera. This happened irregularly just the same as the connection failure. Looking through the lens (or through LiveView) the scene would be dark as if I had the preview aperture button down. My last guess that the blades were sticking was when I had my camera set at f/2.8 and the lights in the scene were coming out in a star pattern. This only happens when the aperture is set very low, such as f/22 or so.
Why do I think this happened? My guess is the lens just needed maintenance. I’m not saying borrowlenses.com is at fault, its just that lenses when used a lot, can wear down after time. I have no way of knowing how much this lens has been used, besides the borrowlenses site saying they have trouble keeping the lens in stock because it is so popular. So I’m guessing I just had a bad experience with a good lens.

How did it perform?

Besides what I talked about it being fast and very wide, when it actually did take a photo, I was very happy with it. So much so, that I would like to buy one (or maybe that less expensive Sigma I linked to earlier).
This lens has some great reviews out there about it being very sharp. And it is, especially in the center. Here is a photo I took that is so sharp, you could read the numbers on the light of my Ford Escape. I certainly could not read those numbers from where I was sitting, and I should mention, this shot is handheld at 1/640 shutter speed, f/2.8!
sharpness detail
Considering this is such a wide angle lens, you would probably expect it to have some pretty massive barrel distortion. The sides ending up curved so bad it would be totally worthless for real estate. But actually, it has very very little distortion at all. At the widest angle, I can barely notice it in this following photo of my son at the table. This photo has all kinds of straight lines, all the way out to the edges. Now, this isn’t a true review photo, as that would have diagrams and all that such, but I did title this an informal review.
eating

And finally, the chromatic aberration. CA, for short, is when edges of objects in a photo have a color halo, usually cyan and red, or yellow and blue. This lens does have some, but better than expected. Shooting into higher contrast (like a dark object on a sky, for example) will tend to have this more than anything. So the following is a photo of a tree. You can see some blue CA where the tree trunk meets the very bright sky, but where it is in front of the trees of the background, none. Camera Raw is able to remove all of this CA in it’s lens correction dialogue, so it really doesn’t concern me.
You can also notice that there is very little, if any vignetting, in this photo.
Detail of Chromatic Aberration

So what did I think?

I said it already, I would love to buy this lens. It’s shortcomings are very slight, and it is a lovely wide angle lens. I could see if you would want something with a longer zoom capability, but I rarely used anything other than the widest setting when I had it. But then, I am a big fan of prime lenses over zooms anyway. They tend to have better optics, but all lenses have their limits.
It is available on Amazon currently for $739. Though I have seen it on the same site for under 700, so just keep an eye out for a deal.

If you have this lens and have something to add, please do in the comments below. Or if you care to share one of your own photos with this lens, leave the link in the comments too. Also, this is the first lens review I have written, so let me know what you thought.

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