Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro DX II Lens Review by Bryan Carnathan
*Original Review by Bryan Carnathan: https://www.the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/Tokina-11-16mm-f-2.8-AT-X-Pro-DX-II-Lens.aspx
Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro DX II Lens Review
The Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro DX II Lens' predecessor, the version I model, was the first Tokina lens I used in the field and I found that experience to be a positive one. The major version II changes are found in the Nikon mount version of this lens. Utilizing an internal silent focusing motor, the version II lens no longer requires a Nikon DSLR with an AF drive gear and motor to autofocus this lens. Both Nikon and Canon mount versions of the Tokina 11-16 II have improved multi-layer coatings to minimize light reflection "... for slightly improved optical performance." [Tokina] There were no other changes made to the Canon mount version of this lens.
With so few changes made, much of the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro DX II Lens review will be very similar to the version I lens review. A quick 11-16 II overall summary is that this is a well-built, ultra-wide angle lens that has very good overall image quality and, key at review time, the widest max aperture available in a zoom lens wider than 14mm.
Focal Length / Focal Length Range
Getting the proper focal length or focal length range is crucial when selecting a lens. The first attraction to any ultra-wide zoom lens is just that – the ultra-wide focal length range. Being a Tokina "DX" (Digital Format) lens, the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro DX II Lens has a smaller-than-full-frame image circle designed to work only on APS-C/1.6x/1.5x FOVCF DSLRs. The Tokina's 11-16mm provides an angle of view similar to a 17.6-25.6mm lens mounted on a full frame DSLR.
These angles of view are extremely useful, but they are too wide for this lens to be considered as a general purpose lens for most people. Following are examples of what this focal length range looks like.
The 1.45x 11-16mm range is not an especially long one, but if your current lens kit goes no wider than 17 or 18mm, you are going to find a lens with this focal length range to be a very valuable complement to your kit. Shooting at these ultra-wide angles of view is especially fun and the results are very impressive with a well-composed scene.
These focal lengths take in a very wide angle of view and subjects must be close to not become a tiny spec in your frame. One of the best ways to use an ultra-wide angle lens is to find a relatively close subject that you want to stand out in relation to the background while generating a sense of presence in the viewer.
Landscape photographers are of course one group that loves to find a close subject and frame it in a striking, vast in-focus scene while utilizing the deep depth of field these ultra wide angles of view can give them (with narrow apertures of course).
People are the one subject that you will not want to be too close to when shooting at ultra wide angles as they will appear perspective-distorted. And this means that, unless you are going for the big head/big nose look, group photos and environmental portraits are the type of people pictures this lens is most useful for. And caution is still required for these shots. Any group members closer to the camera than those in the back of the group by any significant relative distance will appear larger (potentially much larger). Also, those members of the group positioned close to the edges of the frame will appear wider than they actually are because of the distortion.
There a many other uses for ultra-wide angle lenses including architecture (especially interiors) and automobile photography. While not generally as impressive from a composition standpoint, there is nothing wrong with simply capturing snap shots containing the big picture.
The Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro DX II Lens has a shorter focal length range than any of the other comparable wide angle zoom lenses. It does not go as wide and it goes no longer than any of the others. Still, 11mm is very wide and 16mm remains quite useful. The 11-16mm range will complement an 18-something mm lens very nicely.
The Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro DX II Lens makes up for any focal length range shortcomings with its wide maximum f/2.8 aperture available over the entire range of focal lengths. This lens can stop action in low light better than the rest of the available-at-review-time lenses in this class (aside from the version I model of this lens). The nearest competitor is the 2/3 stop darker Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM Lens. Thus, low light action is a use this lens is well suited for (though AF may be a limiting factor in shooting very fast-approaching subjects at short distances).
It is especially nice to have wide open aperture exposure values remain constant throughout the zoom range of a fixed maximum aperture lens. This feature is shared only by the Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM Lens and the 11-16 II's sibling, the Tokina 12-28mm f/4.0 AT-X Pro DX Lens, in the following comparison group. This chart shows the maximum aperture available at the specified starting focal lengths for each lens:
Keep in mind that built-in flash coverage on most DSLRs will not cover even the 16mm end of this lens' angle of view, so plan on an alternative method of flash lighting/diffusion if planning to use flash with this lens. An accessory flash, potentially with a diffuser, will handle this task nicely.
The optical formula used in the version II lens is no different than that used in the version I lens and I expected the image quality delivered by this lens to match the image quality from the version I lens. Mostly, my expectations were met.
The Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro DX II Lens delivers very good center sharpness wide open and shows slight improvement when stopped down. Corners at f/2.8 are obviously softer than the center, but not expected was that the version II lens is not looking as good as the version I lens in the f/2.8 corners at 15-16mm. It is not unusual for corners to be softer than the center at wide open apertures and this lens' corners image quality is not terrible at wider-than-15mm settings. By f/4, corners are looking better. By f/5.6, corners are looking very good and by f/8, they are great. The 16mm focal length remains this lens' weakest setting. I have been especially pleased with the real world image sharpness this lens delivers for landscape photography at f/8 or so.
The Tokina 11-16 has less distortion on not-too-close subjects than most competing lenses containing this focal length range (perhaps part of the benefit of a short focal length range), but it is not distortion-free. Some barrel distortion is present at 11mm. The barrel distortion transitions to nearly no distortion at 14-16mm.
At 11mm, the Tokina 11-16 II has about 2.5 stops of vignetting in the extreme corners with a wide open f/2.8 aperture. Vignetting diminishes as the focal lengths get longer with about 1.4 stops of shading showing in the corners at 16mm f/2.8. Stopping down can always be expected to result in less vignetting and this is the case with the 11-16 II, but expect about .9 through .6 stops of shading in the corners at f/8. Though not bad, you will see slight shading in the corner of your frames with an even-colored background (such as a blue sky) at f/8 at 11mm. This lens performs best (or near best) in class in regards to vignetting. A normal thickness circular polarizer filter will increase vignetting slightly at 11mm. This difference can be seen in the Vignetting Tool using the mouseover feature. You will want to use a slim-type circular polarizer filter on this lens.
With focal lengths this wide, you can expect bright light sources to often be included in the frame. If you are shooting outside, the sun is likely going to be that bright light source. The Tokina 11-16 arguably trails this lens class by showing the most flare in this specific situation. The new coatings on the version II lens appear to have "slightly" improved the flare response, but ... the improvement is probably not enough for most to care about. Unless you like the effect (my daughter thinks it's cool), you are going to have a challenge in removing the Tokina 11-16's flare from your images during post processing. The best option with this lens is to avoid the flare in the first place.
Tokina 11-16 images show noticeable CA (Chromatic Aberration) in the mid and peripheral image circle (corners) at all focal lengths. The appearance of the CA remains similar throughout the focal length range with uncorrected CA resulting in a less-sharp-appearing image.
The Tokina 11-16 has a 9-blade rounded aperture. While the 11-16 can indeed create some background blur, this is probably not the big reason you want to buy this lens (or any ultra wide angle lens). The quality of the background blur that you can create is not remarkable.
The Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro DX II Lens is not the fastest autofocusing lens – nor is it the quietest. The 11-16's micro-motor AF drive focuses reasonably fast, but most of the time (perhaps 90% of the time), the 11-16 will make a second focus adjustment immediately after the first. While not terribly slow, the second focus adjustment definitely increases the overall focus acquisition time. Ultra wide angle lenses can get away with slow AF much easier than longer focal length lens can.
If focus distance adjustments are short, this lens focuses quietly. A tsss-tsss sound typically is heard – one tsss for each focus adjustment. If the focus distance is long, a louder turbo-mode-like sound is heard prior to the fine-tuning adjustment sound.
Having a wider max aperture than most lenses at these focal lengths (shallower DOF) gives the Tokina 11-16 need to focus more precisely than the rest of its class, but the AF system is still not challenged too strongly by DOF with most uses this lens will see.
My 11-16 II has a very noticeable back-focusing calibration set by the factory. The lens needs to be sent in for recalibration or used on a DSLR with the AFMA feature available. At longer focal lengths, this lens does not focus as consistently as I would like and, unfortunately, inconsistency cannot be AFMA'd away. My version I lens focused more accurately on my EOS 50D than my version II lens does on my EOS 60D.
FTM (Full Time Manual) focusing is not available in the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro DX II Lens, but the focus ring does not turn under your hand during autofocusing.
Unique to Tokina is the "One-touch Focus Clutch Mechanism". The Tokina 11-16 utilizes a push/pull focus ring clutch to shift into and out of manual focusing mode (there are no other switches on this lens). I've used Tokina's MF clutch system before and it is still not my favorite design.
When pulling rearward on the focus ring to engage MF mode, the gear teeth must be aligned. This means that the focus ring sometimes must be rotated slightly – and that you will often inadvertently rotate the focus distance setting slightly with the shift process. If you autofocus and then switch to MF mode, the autofocus-set focus distance may not be precisely maintained. The ring shifting also results in a loud "snap" if you are not carefully avoiding this effect. Your wedding guests are going to hear the snap during the ceremony unless you use care to avoid this noise.
The manual focus ring is very smooth with no play and it has a relatively wide range of adjustment for an ultra-wide angle lens. Video shooters will also appreciate the lack of focus breathing – the subject framing does not change with focus adjustment. This lens is nearly parfocal (focus distance adjustment is not required after zooming) and may be so at short focus distances.
The Tokina 11-16 turns in what is easily the lowest MM (Maximum Magnification) value in its class (same as the 11-16 version I). The Zeiss 18mm f/3.5 Distagon T* ZE Lens is the only lens in my current-at-review-time lens specifications database with a lower MM value (0.08x) and the Canon EF 1200mm f/5.6 L USM Lens, on the other end of the focal length spectrum, is the only other lens with the equivalent MM spec.
If the in-your-face, perspective-distorted close-up look is what you really want, other lenses in this comparison, with their shorter minimum focus distances and wider focal lengths, are going to be better choices. I suppose another way to look at the 11-16 II's spec is that it will prevent you from making the most-severe perspective distortion mistakes.
Build Quality & Features
The plastic-constructed Tokina lens barrel finish is nice and the lens feels solid. Much of the lens surface is rubber-coated ring.
As I said before, there are no normal "switches" on the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro DX II Lens, but you can see the focus ring shift forward/rearward as you mouseover the labels above. Also notice that the front lens element extends and retracts slightly with the fully retracted focal length being around 14mm.
The zoom and focus rings are raised from the lens barrel and have different, but significant ribs in their rubber grips.
The adequately-sized, well-positioned and strongly ribbed zoom ring on this lens is very smooth, has a nice amount of rotation with no play and is modestly-tightly damped. Standard for Tokina zoom lenses is that the zoom ring rotates in the same direction as Nikon lenses, opposite the direction of the Canon standard.
Tokina does not talk about weather sealing in the press release for this lens, but with a lens mount gasket provided, we can be sure that some level of protection is provided. However, Tokina mentions "Please note, the Tokina AT-X 116 PRO DX lens itself is not waterproof or water resistant." on their website.
The Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro DX II Lens is among the heaviest lenses in its comparison group. The specs say that this lens is .4 oz (10g) lighter than its predecessor, but the digital scales say that the difference is .2 oz (5g) – which is an even more-negligible amount. Still, tipping the scales at 19.4 oz (550g) does not make this a heavyweight lens. It is one that I can carry for long periods of time without incurring muscle strain.
For many more comparisons, review the complete Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro DX II Lens Specifications using the site's Lens Spec tool.
The 11-16mm II lens' 77mm filter size is a common one. These filters are not small or inexpensive, but a great convenience is that they can often be shared among other lenses from various manufacturers. Be aware that a circular polarizer filter may deliver an uneven effect in the sky and other large even-colored areas when used at 11mm on this lens.
The BH-77B lens hood comes standard in the Tokina 11-16 II box. This hood is slightly different than the BH-77A lens hood included with the version I lens in that it has a plastic-ribbed interior instead of a flocked-interior. Tokina does not include a lens case in the box.
The Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro DX II Lens has a sibling in the form of the Tokina 12-28mm f/4.0 AT-X Pro DX Lens. As shown above, one needs to read the labels to tell these two lenses apart.
The following lenses are shown from left to right in the above and below lineup:
Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM Lens
Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 Di II Lens
Nikon 12-24mm f/4G AF-S DX Lens
Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM Lens
Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro DX II Lens
Tokina 12-28mm f/4.0 AT-X Pro DX Lens
Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM Lens
The lenses are very tiny in these comparisons, but the fact that all are similar sized is quite apparent. Use the product image comparison tool to make higher resolution comparisons of any combination of these lenses.
The price of the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro DX II Lens is on the moderate side. This lens has the widest-available aperture in its class, and that fact is often responsible for higher prices. Thus, that the 11-16 II is not the highest-priced ultra-wide angle zoom lens is a very positive feature. Many of the competing lenses are more expensive, though some remain less expensive that the 11-16 II (including the Tokina 12-28mm f/4 sibling).
As you saw in the charts on this page, there are a large number of ultra-wide APS-C format zoom lenses available. Since these lenses compete strongly against each other and since no standout exists from an image quality standpoint, selecting the right model for your needs is quite challenging. I've already mentioned the Tokina's focal length range disadvantage and significant max aperture advantage over all of these other lenses. The aperture advantage makes the 11-16 the definite choice for stopping action or handholding in low light (at least until the image stabilized Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens appears). The Tokina has less vignetting and less distortion than most of the rest.
The Canon EF-S 10-22 has Ring USM AF to its advantage and the Sigma 8-16mm and 10-20mm lenses have HSM to their advantage.
The Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro DX II Lens is available in Canon (reviewed), Nikon and Sony mounts. My standard disclaimer: There are potential issues with third party lenses. Since Tokina reverse engineers (vs. licenses) manufacturer AF algorithms, there is always the possibility that a DSLR body might not support a (likely older) third party lens. Sometimes a lens can be made compatible by the manufacturer, sometimes not. There is also the risk of a problem that results in the lens and body manufacturers directing blame at each other. Tokina USA's 3-year warranty is 3x longer than Canon's 1 year warranty.
The lens used for this review was a retail version ordered online.
The Tokina 11-16 is a lens of bests and worsts, but its price tag falls in the middle of those of this group. For the money, the Tokina 11-16 is a very strong performer optically and a very good deal.
Bringing you this site is my full-time job (typically 60-80 hours per week). Thus, I depend solely on the commissions received from you using the links on this site to make any purchase. I am grateful for your support! - Bryan
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