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Tokina X-Mount atx-m series 23mm and 33mm f/1.4 AF lenses, a first look at the future

November 19, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

For years people have been asking when will Tokina make lenses for the Fujiflim X-Mount. Well everyone, that day has come. It has come in the form of a 23mm f/1.4 (35mm equivalent focal length) wide and a 33mm f/1.4 (49.5mm ie nifty-fifty) standard focal length auto focus lenses with fast apertures in a compact package.

Before we get going for full disclosure reasons I do need to state that I am a Tokina Global Ambassador. Tokina sent me these lenses to work with. However I am not being paid by Tokina and Tokina does not control what I write or say about these lenses. The thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.

One of the appeals of sub-full frame sensors is the size-weight savings APS-C and MFT gives the user, its about mobility and ease of use while maintaining high image quality. Yes, full frame mirrorless bodies are smaller than FF DSLRs but the lenses are almost as large and just as heavy as DSLR lenses. This means more bulk, more weight to carry and honest truth that no one wants to confront is if you are mainly just posting images online the advantages the full frame sensor are almost completely lost.

This first look isn’t a crusade for APS-C sensor cameras but Tokina has taken advantage of the fact that the smaller sensor means smaller image circle which leads to faster apertures in smaller lens design. Both Tokina atx-m lenses appear to have the same lens barrels and the same small but still very standard 52mm filter thread. One set of small sized filters (vs large 77mm or 82mm filters) being used on both lenses saves money making the pair an even better value.

A stitched panoramic of 4 photos taken with the Tokina atx-m 23mm f/1.4 lens

 

Both 23mm and 33mm f/1.4s have almost the same weight at just 9.7oz (275g) and 10.1oz (285g) respectively.  I am not going to delve deeply into the specs because those can be read off Tokina’s website at www.tokinalens.com. Lenses are always more than the sum of the spec sheet and I have always felt that first looks where the reviewer spends most of his/her time reading off the specs are a little boring.

Their compact design and quick, nearly silent auto focus make these lenses great for street photography and for any situation where being discrete is desired. This is one of the reasons I normally I have been using micro four thirds in my street photography. Every time I have rolled out with my full frame camera and lenses as soon as bring that large camera and lens combo up to my eye all eyes and attention are on me which destroys the moment. Not so with the combination I chose, the Fujiflim X-E3 and these two Tokina lenses. The X-E3 is almost exactly the same size as the Olympus Pen F, my traditional go-to camera for street photography. With these two Tokina atx-m lenses it keeps the kit small and discrete which I need in street photography.

When you see a line of New York City cabs from the 60s and 70s lining a block of downtown Los Angeles you know that there's a movie or TV show being filmed. Tokina 33mm f/1.4 at f/4.0, 1/140 sec shutter speed, ISO200, fujifilm X-E3

 

A Note:  

 

Up until this year Fujifilm had not released it’s AF protocols so if another manufacture wanted to release a lens for X-mount it had to either be manual focus or the company had to reverse engineer the AF system for the lenses which could and did run into problems. Fujirumors.com, a Fujifilm focused website known for getting it right far more often than being wrong, had this to say:

“That’s different with Tokina. In fact, shortly after Tokina announced its new three Fuji X mount lenses, Fujifilm made a statement that they opened their lens protocols and that Tokina is the first to profit from it.
By having access to Fuji’s AF lens protocols, it should be easier for Tokina to develop fast, stable and bug-free lenses that work smoothly with Fujifilm cameras and always stay up to date with Fuji’s latest autofocus algorithm changes.” - fujiroumors.com 11/17/2020

Tokina could not comment on that statement but did not deny it either lets hope it is true.

 

Auto Focus/Manual focus

 

Both lenses focus quickly and accurately, there, I just gave it away. As mentioned earlier they have nearly silent AF. They are so quiet that even when recording audio with a camera’s built-in mics I don’t think it will pick up any sound from either lens. If you are using a shotgun mic or Vlogging with a lav’ mic you don’t need to worry about it at all.

These lenses manually focus by wire, which means there is no mechanical coupling between the large focus ring and the lens elements. That said, I was very impressed when out in the dark to focus on the stars for the Leonid Meteor shower. Anyone that has done it knows that getting the stars in focus can be the hardest part of setting up to shoot astrophotography. Using 23mm lens and the focus scale indicator in the X-E3 I slowly crept up to the infinity mark taking a photo then zooming into check the focus then moving it another “tick” on the scale and doing it again. When the lens is at its last focus setting, which is one step or tick beyond infinity, it is in perfect focus for 50F (10C) degree weather. That was consistent the rest of the night. When I had to stop and change batteries the lens reset to 2.0 meters (6.6 ft) I just turned the focus ring until the focus scale was back at its farthest setting and the stars were in focus again, so easy!

Trailing arm of the Milky Way Galaxy out of season, Tokina atx-m 23mm f/1.4 at f/1.4, 15 sec shutter speed, ISO 3200

 

Image Quality

 

Enough prefacing, let’s get to it. I have used the atx-m 23mm and 33mm lenses for several afternoons shooting in downtown LA, on a trip out to the desert near Death Valley and even tried (unsuccessfully) to capture a meteor or two during the Leonid Meteor shower the night of November 16-17th, more on that later. The lenses did not disappoint. The image quality, sharpness and contrast in the center of both lenses was very high.

The atx-m 33mm is a money lens. This means that its quality can relied on not only for personal and artistic work but for commercial jobs as well. It’s center sharpness is excellent and its corner sharpness keeps pace with much more expensive lenses at the same apertures. Like any lens is has a critical aperture which is about 3 stops down from wide open. So the difference in sharpness between F/4 and F/5.6 or F/8 is not so much even though the depth of field changes with each aperture. But the lens is very sharp and yield good images wide open at F/1.4 for shallow depth of field effects.

You can count very brick on the buildings, A block of 6th Street downtown LA being made to look like a block of New York City in the late 1970s. Tokina atx-m 33mm f/1.4 lens at f/5.6, 1/80 sec shutter speed, ISO 200

The atx-m 23mm has very good center sharpness, even wide open at F/1.4 the center is still sharp which is very useful for isolating the subject from the background. These days everyone loves to fixate on Bokeh, the out-of-focus qualities, but again do not forget the concept of critical aperture. The 23mm is very good wide open but like all lenses it performs better at F/4 or F/5.6 than at F/1.4. This would be perfect for something like an environmental portrait or other situation where the subject will be centered.

Stellar sharpness from the Tokina atx-m 23mm f/1.4 at f/2.0 1/900 sec shutter speed, ISO 400

 

Build quality

 

The build quality is excellent, if feels like both lenses have all metal lens barrels and a metal mount plate. These lenses should hold up to years of regular use which makes them both an excellent value at their price points. The focus ring is buttery-smooth and damp just enough to make you feel like its an old-school lens with mechanical coupling but its still focus-by-wire. The aperture ring feels like its metal and is very smooth to turn and well damped but not stiff. The de-clicked aperture is great for video and hybrid shooters but as primarily a stills photographer I would have like the aperture to have clicks at full stops but that is a very minor thing and a matter of personal preference.

Abandoned Gas Station, Trona, California, Tokina atx-m 33mm f/1.4 at f/5.6, 1/210 sec shutter speed, ISO 200

 

Conclusion

 

The Tokina atx-m 23mm and 33mm F/1.4 are quite the dynamic duo. They are sharp where it counts and the auto focus is more than quick enough for anything other than sports shooting. I will keep using them both and publish separate in-depth reviews in the coming weeks because they both deserve it but up to this point I am impressed with what Tokina has done with these lenses and happy to see more lenses becoming available for the Fujifilm X-mount.

 

Additional Samples

Dead and dried plant on a rocky hill in the Panamint Valley, California

 

A view west towards Death Valley on the other side of the ridge, Tokina atx-m 23mm f/1.4 lens

 

North Rim of the Panamint Valley as seen from the top of a rocky hill. Tokina atx-m 23mm f/1.4 lens

 

Closed down Family Dollar Store, Trona, California, Tokina atx-m 33mm f/1.4 lens

 

544 South Grand, Downtown LA, Glass door boarded up, Tokina atx-m 23mm f/1.4 at f/2.8, 1/100 sec shutter Speed, ISO 400

 

 


Objects of Desire

September 24, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

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There are some cameras that become legendary as objects of desire for photographers. Anyone suffering from the dreaded GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) can tell you that there are cameras and lenses that become coveted objects not necessarily for what they can do but for what they are. However sometimes, its for both reasons.

Today we are going to look at one of my favorite photographic object of desire that is not currently in my collection, the legendary Olympus OM-3Ti. This was an all manual film SLR camera introduced in 1994. It was based on the all manual OM-3 but with an advanced metering system that could give any manufacture, even Nikon’s matrix metering of the day a run for its money. The OM03Ti also had multi-spot average metering and TTL flash operation. When the 3Ti’s TTL was used with the F280 flash unit it could high-speed sync all the way up to 1/2000th of a seconds, remember this is 1994, not 2014. It really was an engineering marvel for the photography purist.

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All that while still maintaining the fully manual operation. No P setting or even A or S, just M. Manual shutter speed and aperture settings, manual film winding Manual focus. A pure photographic experience where if you made a great photograph it was because YOU made a great photo, the camera was only assisting.

However, this was a camera that would only be appreciated after it was discontinued. It wasn’t expected to sell in great numbers and it didn’t. The all manual OM-1n though discontinued could still be found at that time and at a fraction of the price of the OM-3Ti. Like its predecessor the OM-3 it was a sales flop again due to the OM-1n. The OM-3Ti would be officially discounted in 2002 along with it's all electronic brother the OM-4Ti. These were considered the last two true Olympus OM cameras.

In December of 2019 I was pricing the camera on eBay and commiserating with a colleague in Japan how expensive the had gotten. Then “shooters”, camera with scratches and wear on the body were between $900 and $1,400 while pristine samples that looked like they had never been acquainted with a roll of film were going for around $2,000. Curious as to what the impact of the pandemic had on this rare camera the other day I priced them again on eBay and found that in the last 9 months the price has spiraled up even further. Now the OM-3ti's in “Shooter” condition are hovering between $1,500 and $2,000 while pristine samples are going for up to $2,999. Seems like not even a global pandemic can stop some objects of desire.


Could Canon Rule With EOS-M?

September 17, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

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There has been a spat of rumors about Canon introducing a pro-sumer/advanced enthusiast EOS-M camera, lets call it the M7 as the rumor sites already have. But after this its end of the line. According to rumors they are going to kill off the M line and switch to “low coast” full frame camera bodies. The quotations are there because a lot of consumers even today consider a $1,000 camera body to be “quite expensive”. Then there are those full frame lenses...

Canon has never seemed that committed to the M line since its introduction almost a decade ago. Its lens line-up is the weakest of all the current mirrorless camera systems. Its camera bodies are strictly consumer, small, lightweight and somewhat plasticity but take perfectly good pictures as well as being easy to use for video content.

However Canon M-series cameras are constantly best sellers in their most critical market, Japan. They are also best sellers in China and other Asian countries. The M50 is even popular in the US with YouTubers and content creators that are not “pros”.

The photography equipment market has been challenging for several years now with ever declining year-over-year sales even before things fell off a cliff due to COVID19. Pre-COVID it wouldn’t make sense to invest the R&D in a pro-sumer level EOS M7 with 32 megapixel sensor, the first ever canon IBIS in a APS-C format camera and duel card slots. All these features have been postulated by the rumors sites. Why go to that length to kill it off? Wouldn’t it make more sense to at most just throw IBIS into an M50 with a couple additional very minor tweaks to keep sales going for a couple more years if you are going to call it quits?

Let’s look around:

Sony just announced the a7C an $1,800 rangefinder styled full frame camera. This means its going in the full frame direction and has never fully supported its APS-C line up. Sony relies on keeping the oldest model for low priced entry into the Sony system but without a current AF system, IBIS and other things that are lacking in a camera that is 5+ years old.  

Fujifilm has discontinued the entry level X-A7 without a successor and just cut the price of the X-T200 to a close-out price of $499 in the USA. Is a new entry level coming out this fall? Or, are they retrenching into the mid-level X-T30 and above to streamline the product lines and increase dollars per unit sold. Time will tell.

Nikon? Nikon has the Z50 strategy with an APS-C sensor and a single full frame Z mount. The Z50 with kit lens sells for $996 as I write this. But beyond the kit that camera is wed to larger, heavier and more expensive full frame Z mount lenses.

Olympus imaging is being transferred to JIP with their stated focus on professional and business markets meaning probably no more E-PL series and EM10 series consumer cameras. Their plan seems to be to survive with the more professional focused E-M5, E-M1 and E-M1X series.

Panasonic has made vague statements that it is going to continue to develop Micro Four Thirds for their Cine/Video customer base but that could mean a new GH6 but no other G/GX series consumer cameras.

See the trend? It seems most all the camera manufacturers are withdrawing from the consumer mirrorless interchangeable lens market. This is where Canon could theoretically clean up. The current price of the EOS M50 kit with lens is $649 and the even smaller and less expensive M200 is $549 at time of writing. There will always be a market for sub-$800 camera-with-lens kits for people once they decide to move beyond their phones. Most people do not just jump from their phones into a $2,000-$3,000+ camera system.

If Canon maintains and continues to develop the EOS-M line it could be alone in the sub $800 interchangeable lens market with successors to the M50 and M200. The M6 mkII, or its successor, and an EOS M7 would be upgrade paths. Additionally if there were a just couple more native M mount lenses to round out the system like a small, native 16mm f/1.8 for vlogging, a f/2.8-4 faster but still compact standard zoom and a 70mm f/1.8 portrait lens their wouldn’t a need for the majority of EOS-M customers to ever leave the system. The system also the possibility of using the adapter to mount almost the entire Canon EF lens line-up for greater options.

This isn’t to say That this is the path that Canon will take as an R series camera with an APS-C sensor and RF mount is rumored to be in development. If they go that route it will be the same trap as Nikon and Sony forcing customers into larger, heavier, more expensive lenses that will make them think twice about taking the leap and keep them using their ever increasingly capable cell phones for a longer time. It would be a shame if the only options were full frame cameras with larger heavier lenses or cel phones.

Will Canon continue with EOS-M or are the rumors true and it’s the end of the road? We should find out soon.

 


Tokina atx-m 85mm f/1.8 AF - The Lens You Keep

February 11, 2020  •  2 Comments

Tokina atx-m 85mm AF lens for Sony ETokina atx-m 85mm AF lens for Sony E

First Impressions of the New Tokina atx-m 85mm f/1.8 AF Lens 

The Lens You Keep 

 

After having a sample of the new Tokina atx-m 85mm f/1.8 AF lens for full frame Sony E mount for two weeks and having taken well over a thousand photos with it I can share with you my first impression of the lens. 

 

Before I begin you should know that I am a Tokina Global Ambassador based in Los Angeles, California and Tokina provided me with a sample of this lens to test and work with. However Tokina does not pay me and does not tell me what to say or post. Everything is strictly my own thoughts and opinions. 

 

Economics: 

 

The atx-m 85mm lens is very simple and straight forward in appearance. There is nothing fancy here just a large manual focus ring that takes up a good portion of the main barrel with a simply linear grip. The filter thread of the lens is 72mm which is pretty standard for this type of lens and the weight of 22.7 ounces (645g) is substantial but it balances well on my Sony a7R-II without the battery grip. Adding the battery grip brings the center balance point back even more.  

 

Manual Focus 

 

Despite using the lens in several low-light and low contrast situations there were no scenarios where I needed to switch to manual focus to get a shot. So my experience with manual focus so far has just been for test. The manual focusing ring is heavily damped and there is good amount of resistance when turning it. That makes Manual focusing a slower process but with the shallow depth of field of a fast 85mm you don’t want it to move to quickly and easily. So far even shooting street photography at night I have not needed manual focus. 

 

 

Auto Focus

ArrivalArrivalTaken with the Tokina atx-m 85mm f/1.8 lens

Quick and silent, that is the headline here. Even though my camera is not the newest it focused quickly and accurately in a variety of lighting situations. I have no complaints about autofocus speed or accuracy. 

 

 

Bokeh 

Since Tokina made this lens specifically for its Bokeh performance I want to spend some time talking about it. While there are many used for a moderate telephoto lens the primary use will be for portraits. Tokina fully understands that and wanted to create what they are calling a "Bokeh Monster". What that means in real world shooting are two things. First, smooth focus fall-off to the out of focus areas of the image. No jagged transitions or sharp edges in out of focus areas. Second, and what has become more associated with bokeh these days, that out of focus highlights or point light sources are rendered as nice, pleasant soft round balls of light without harsh edges or worse, football shaped "cat's-eye" bokeh.  Though I do not own the Sony 85mm f/1.8 I have seen a lot of photos from the lens and its out of focus areas are very "busy' looking and it has the cats-eye bokeh, especially in the corners.  

The following sequence of 3 photos were all taken with the lens set to an aperture of f/1.8.  

The first was focused accurately at 40 ft (12 meters)

This second photo was focused manually at 6.6 ft (2 meters) 

The 3rd photo was focused closer at 3.3 ft (1 meter). 

The shapes of some of the lights caused oblong "Bokeh Balls" but if you look at the bottom row, they were all round lights to begin with and maintain there roundness throughout the test just getting larger and more soft.  Even light that start oblong because that was their original shape in the classic LA lamppost turn in soft round orbs of light at close focus distances.  

Sharpness 

Alexandra 2020Alexandra 2020Studio shot with the Tokina tax-m 85mm AF lens

Now to the meat of this review, and its a filet mignon. The sharpness far exceeds the 42 megapixel sensor of the a7R-II/III and should have no problem matching the 60 megapixels of the a7R-IV as well. When I used the lens for an actor headshot shoot I was impressed that I  could zoom on just eye and have an incredible amount of detail in just the pupil of the eye. Counting individual eyelashes or strand of hair was no problem. This lens excels in the studio and any portrait photographer should consider it. So in sharpness this lens is punching far above its price class. It has sharpness that I would expect... no, sharpness I would demand from a portrait lens that was $999 or $1299(USD). But, you get it for $499 in the USA. 

Chromatic Aberration 

 

There is a little purple fringing around very high contrast areas and light sources but honestly for $499 I was expecting there to be more. What chromatic aberrations the lens has is easily eliminated during post processing in adobe Lightroom. I shot a scene in the LA subway that I have shot many times before with many different lens and camera combinations. The lights and back-lit signs make it a good test for CA and the lens lens while not perfect performed very well and was easily correctable in post.  

Subway StationSubway StationThis photo is my chromatic aberration test shot.

Vignetting 

 

Have to be honest, this may be the only area where the lens performed like its price. In bright flatly lit scenes there is noticeable vignetting at f/1.8-2.2. The vignetting decreases rapidly between F/2.2 and F/3.2. It’s almost imperceptible (you’d have to shoot a white wall to see it) at 3.5 and gone at f/4. But again its not bad and is an easy fix in post. I shot the lens a lot at f/2.2 and in many scenes didn’t even notice it.

 

Conclusion 

 

So far with great quick and silent AF as well sharpness that far exceeds it price I am throughly enjoying this lens. I am going to keep using the lens and post a more in-depth review in 2-3 weeks time. There is a saying in photography: “You date camera bodies but you marry lenses.” This is especially true with Sony’s break-neck pace of updating it’s cameras. However, lenses, that is a different story and and the Tokina atx-m 85mm f/1.8 AF is a definite keeper.

 

 


Canon Is Basically Done Developing the EF Lens Line-up, Good News for EF-M?

January 10, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

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Though there has been a lot of speculation on this topic, a representative form Canon Europe has stated outright that Canon will continue to maintain the EF line of lenses but most all future research & development will be channeled into the RF line of lenses for Canon’s full frame mirrorless R series cameras. 

 

Canon has manufactures and developed the Canon EOS EF line of auto focus lenses since it was introduced alone side the EOS 620 in 1987. These lens were used with Canon auto focus film cameras and now with their current Digital SLR The line up. Canon just announced a new high-end professional EOS 1Dx mkIII that uses EF lenses. According to Canon the lens line is fully built out featuring approximately 60 lenses encompassing everything from a super-wide fish-eye lens to several fast super-telephoto options. 

 

Since the introduction of the EOS R with a new RF mount in late 2018 rumor sites and photography bloggers/vloggers have speculated that Canon would not be able to split its resources among 3 different lens mounts, the traditional EF line for DSLRS, the EF-M line for Canon’s APS-C format mirrorless cameras and the newest RF line for full frame mirrorless cameras. Now that there has been confirmation that the EF line will be maintained but not developed Canon seems to be acknowledging that the future is mirrorless.

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What is interesting in this admission is what impact it might have on the EF-M line. Canon’s M series of mirrorless cameras have been around since June 2012 but Canon has treated the line as a me-too afterthought. Though the M line has been around for 8 years there are still only 7 native lenses and most of those are compact consumer oriented zoom lenses with relatively slow maximum apertures.

 

In contrast the RF mount has been around a scant 16 months and at time of writing there are already 10 lenses either available now or shipping soon with a robust published roadmap of new lenses in the pipeline. So to say that the EF-M lens line has languished would be an understatement. 

 

Last year Canon introduced the EOS M6 mkII along side the Canon 90D DSLR both featuring its latest 32 megapixel APS-C sensor and that had a lot people in the vlogosphere scratching their heads. Unlike what most vloggers have been betting, does this mean that the EF-M line will get a fresh look and expansion along side the RF line now that Canon plans to stop development of any new EF glass?

 


Tokina opera 16-28mm f/2.8: First Impressions

March 13, 2019  •  2 Comments

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When Tokina set out to make a new 16-28mm f/2.8 lens for the opera series they reconsidered all aspects of the lens to improve performance.  

Tokina’s second introduction in the high-resolution opera series is a new full frame 16-28mm f/2.8 super-wide angle zoom lens with refined optics, but how refined is it? Here are my first impressions of the new lens.  

(Above: The Tokina opera 16-28mm lens handles astrophotography with ease. Photo taken with lens at 16mm, F/3.5, ISO 1600 at 20 seconds)

A word about the Tokina opera Series

Tokina’s opera series of full frame DSLR lenses are designed to meet or exceed 50 megapixel resolution. Currently Canon and Nikon have 45-50 mega-pixel sensors but these two camera manufactures are locked in a seemingly never ending bragging rights war for the highest resolution.  Now wether or not you or anyone actually needs these high-res sensors is a topic for another blog post all-together. But it’s almost assured that within two years full frame sensors will hit 60+ megapixels. Even now anyone who has stepped up from a 20-24 megapixel body to a Canon 5DS or Nikon D850 found out really quick that some of their old favorite glass was actually not that sharp even if it yields a nice look. The Tokina opera series lenses are designed to be a future-proofed by exceeding today’s sensors knowing full well even higher resolution sensors are coming.

Build Quality & Ergonomics

Tokina’s professional lenses have always had a very robust build quality because they use more metal in their lens construction than a lot of other lens manufacturers and the opera 16-28mm lens is no exception.  There is a lot of metal and glass in this lens making a feel weighty  at 940 grams (33.2 oz.) when you pick it up but it balances very well on the heavy full frame camera bodies it was designed for. The heft of the lens combined with the black semi-mat finish gives the lens an earned quality feel.   

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Anyone familiar with Tokina lenses knows of their One-Touch Focus Clutch for switching between Auto Focus and Manual Focus and the 16-28mm lens maintains this tradition.  To switch between AF and MF you pull the large focusing ring back towards the lens mount.  Then to auto focus again push the focusing ring forward into the AF position.   It’s a simple process that quickly becomes second nature as you are shooting.

Due to its very large curved front element the lens has a built in lens hood to help control stray light and to protect the most expensive part of the lens, the first element group. The only down-side to this is that there is no way to mount a filter not this lens but I haven’t ever found that to be an issue with super-wides. Some may consider this a down side but a large curved front element is necessary for low distortion and minimal light fall-off at the edges as well as superior color rendering.  When shooting in Joshua Tree National Park with the lens the skies were a nice deep blue without a circular polarizer.

Another note, you don’t want to use a circular polarizer with super-wide angle lenses due to uneven polarization.  The sky in one area of the photos usually one side, will be much darker than the other side of the image creating an odd artificial look.  

(Above: The lens has excellent color rendering yielding a nice blue sky even without a circular polarizer)

Auto Focus

The auto focus system in the opera 16-28mm uses a nw GMR magnetic AF sensor coupled to a nearly silent DC micro motor to move smaller elements within the lens for quick and smooth auto-focus.  The lens focuses quickly and accurately.  Super-wide FF lenses are not known to be the fastest focusing from any manufacturer but the opera lens focus speed is fast enough. So far while shooting with the lens there hasn’t been an instance where I didn’t feel the lens was focusing fast enough.

Optical Performance

(Diagram provided by Tokina)

Now on to what everyone really want to know about, how does it perform.  Tokina spent a lot of time and energy reviewing the optical design making refinements and improvements in the optical coatings throughout the lens. 3 aspherical elements and 3 elements of SD (Super-low Dispersion) glass are included to control and correct for astigmatism, chromatic aberrations and improve over-all optical performance. The lens has 15 individual lens elements arranged in 13 groups throughout the lens.  That’s a lot of glass, 30 surfaces to account for in total so anti-reflective multi-coating throughout the lens to reduce internal reflections.

 (Downtown photo of the mural on the SB Tower, The lens hands high-contrast situations very well. I took this back-lit shot expecting a lot of chromatic aberrations in the trees in the upper left of the photo and along the backlit edges of the buildings.  Surprisingly there was very little CA and what was there was easily eliminated in Adobe Lightroom.)

What I noticed from in my first outing with the lens on the streets of downtown LA was that chromatic aberrations were very well controlled. Even in very high contrast and back-lit situations where a lot of super-wide lens have very distinct purple fringing the opera 16-28mm had less than I was expecting and completely eliminating it in adobe Lightroom was as easy as checking the “Remove Chromatic Aberrations” box.

(This shot is in very much less than idea conditions.  It's backlit against a lightly gray cloudy sky, Aperture set at f/11, Low ISO setting. From there I over exposed by almost 3 stops to get down to 1/10 of a second shutter speed for some motion blur and there is fill-flash on the sign. Again I was expecting a lot chromatic aberrations on the edges of the buildings against the sky and the palm trees on the left but was impressed that there was almost none.)

Center sharpness on this lens is excellent. I can’t state it more directly than that.  Even wide open at f/2.8 the center of the lens was very sharp.  But wide open at 16mm the edge sharpness fell off and honestly I would recommend shooting this lens at f/4 or smaller apertures for the best results  at the edges.  In my shooting I found the sweet spot (critical aperture) to be f/7.1-f/8. The critical aperture of most lenses is 2.5-3 stops down from wide open and the opera 16-28mm is no exception.  This is perfect for landscape or any other shooting situation where you want to get a deep depth of field.

(Above: Even at f/4 there is a great amount of depth of field when shooting at 16mm. It's best to try to use a hyper-focal distance in this type of a situation.)

Shooting wide open at f/2.8 at 28mm very close to a small subject you can get some good isolation if there is a good separation distance between the subject and the background. If you are focused close up on a detail of larger subject that recedes into the background the lens renders some nice Bokeh.  

Conclusion

I'm impressed, the Tokina opera 16-28mm f/2.8 lens performed very well in my fist couple weeks of shooting with it. I was impressed how it performed in a variety of shooting situations from astro-photography in the California desert to street photography downtown.  The lens handled all these situations equally and yielded consistently very sharp results.  I am looking forward to doing a more extensive test over the next couple months and write a more in-depth review. 

 

(Above:  While waiting for the subway to Union Station I decided to try to do a handheld long exposure, this is 1/4 second, F/5.6, 16mm)  

(Above: The original ticket hall of Union Station, Downtown LA. This hall is only used for special events as most of the ticketing is online or automated.)

Note:  I am a Tokina Global ambassador and this lens was loaned to me for the purpose for reviewing purposes. I was not paid by Tokina They can request their lens back at any time. Tokina has not told me what to say and the opinions in this review are my own.