Photography By Michael Burnham: Blog en-us (C) Photography By Michael Burnham [email protected] (Photography By Michael Burnham) Sat, 21 Nov 2020 17:33:00 GMT Sat, 21 Nov 2020 17:33:00 GMT Photography By Michael Burnham: Blog 88 120 Tokina X-Mount atx-m series 23mm and 33mm f/1.4 AF lenses, a first look at the future

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 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., 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.” - 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




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



[email protected] (Photography By Michael Burnham) APS-C California Canon Death Valley desert filter Fuji Fujifilm hoya lens mirrorless money Nikon Panamint Valley photography revew Sony Tokina travel Trona X-E3 XMount X-Mount X-S10 Fri, 20 Nov 2020 05:20:13 GMT
Objects of Desire Screenshot

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.


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.

[email protected] (Photography By Michael Burnham) aperture Camera Canon collection collector desire eBay film film camera manual manual camera Minolta Nikon Olympus OM1n OM-1n OM3Ti OM-3Ti OM4Ti OM-4Ti Pentax photo photograph photography price Program shutter Speed SLR TTL Thu, 24 Sep 2020 23:31:14 GMT

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.


[email protected] (Photography By Michael Burnham) a7C APS-C Camera Canon Canon R Cel Phones Editorial E-M10 EOS EOS M50 EOSM EOS-M Eosm7 Fujifilm Full Frame Lens M7 market mirrorless Nikon Olympus Panasonic Photo news photography Sony X-A7 X-T200 Z50 Thu, 17 Sep 2020 18:45:44 GMT
Tokina atx-m 85mm f/1.8 AF - The Lens You Keep 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. 




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. 




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.  


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.



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.




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.



[email protected] (Photography By Michael Burnham) 85mm AF atx atx-m auto focus Bokeh camera F1.8 Full Frame Lens photography review sharp sharpness Sony Tokina Tue, 11 Feb 2020 18:31:50 GMT
Canon Is Basically Done Developing the EF Lens Line-up, Good News for EF-M? OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


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.


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?


[email protected] (Photography By Michael Burnham) camera Canon DSLR EF EF-M EOS future glass lens manufacturing mirrorless Nikon photography R RF Fri, 10 Jan 2020 19:53:14 GMT
Tokina opera 16-28mm f/2.8: First Impressions OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.   


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.  


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.


[email protected] (Photography By Michael Burnham) 16-28mm Asherical Astro Astrophotography camera Canon DSLR Full Frame Full Frame lens lens Multi-coated Nikon opera optic Photography review Tokina Wed, 13 Mar 2019 17:43:11 GMT
Z? R? What Nikon and Canon’s New Mirrorless Cameras Really Mean

Some people are hailing the new mirrorless cameras offerings from Nikon and Canon as a sea change in strategy and a signal that the big two really “get it”.  But, is that really true?  

Both Canon and Nikon already are the entrenched players in the professional and consumer DSLR market.  They make the worlds best professional DSLRs and have multi-billion dollar investments in these systems.  Each has multiply factories churning out lenses and cameras bodies for the world-wide market. Are they just going de-emphasize their bread and butter, turning away from their cash-cows to pursue mirrorless?  I don’t think so.  

What the Z 6, Z 7 and EOS R represent is more the Nikon and Canon’s belief that the market for interchangeable lens cameras over-all is going to continue to shrink and they better be prepared to grab and maintain as much marketshare as they can.  It these mirrorless cameras are simply a way to stop defections to Sony and keep their photographers in their fold.  The internet has had a raft of stories of professional photographers that switched from Nikon or Canon DSLRs to Sony full frame mirrorless and they felt the need to create videos, some long and boring, justifying why they did it. I think most are actually video applications to the Sony Collective but I digress.

You can look at what Canon and Nikon introduced, both in terms of bodies and announced mirrorless full frame lenses to get a glimpse of what is really going on.
First Canon;  Actually Canon has been in the mirrorless space since the launch of the EOS M in June 2012. 7 years on and guess what, today Canon has 7 lenses for the EOS M systems despite a steady trickle of updated bodies from the original M through the M2, M3, M5, M10 M100 and M6. Get the impression this ain’t their fist rodeo? The most recent introduction, the consumer grade M50 was actually the best selling mirrorless camera in Japan over the holiday quarter and probably the best selling mirrorless camera in most markets around the world. But still to date only 7 native M lenses, only 2 of which are fast primes.  The rest are slow consumer zoom lenses.  Canon expects everyone to use their adapter and the standard EF lenses for professional offerings.  Also, all Canon’s EOS M cameras have been built around smaller APS-C sized sensors, not full frame.  

Next Nikon; It has fared even worse considering that is only foray into mirrorless before the Zs has been the not-well-received Nikon 1 series with the even smaller than Micro-4/3rds CX format sensors from some of their point-and-shoot cameras.  Whether the system took good photos or not is irrelevant, from a sales and marketing perspective it flopped and the entire line was officially discontinued early last year.

So let’s look at what they introduced.  Remember that both of these companies make the premier professional camera bodies on the market today and have been catering to the needs of professional photographers for decades.  But both the Zs and the EOS R have only one card slot.  That is the clearest sign that no matter how else these cameras are spec’d out neither company considers their first full-frame mirrorless cameras to be aimed at professionals.  These are prosumer bodies at best meaning they will be back-ups, second systems or experimenter bodies for working pros until the next generation of bodies are introduced. Nikon at least included In Body Image Stabilization (IBIS) in the Z 6 and Z 7 but offer no battery grip option for vertical shooting, something else working pro’s need.

Canon has a battery grip option but no IBIS.  Interesting considering the lens intro that Canon is touting, a native RF mount 28-70mm F/2.0 beast lens that is $3,000, has a huge 95mm front filter thread and NO Image Stabilization (IS) in the lens.  First the zoom range, 1999 called and they want their focal length back.  28-70mm, in 2019 really?  24-70mm f/2.8 have been the standard since the early 2000s.  Why didn’t you just roll out one of those in the RF mount with IS?  Oh, you want people to use the adapter and the 24-70mm f/2.8 you’re already making, get it. Next the 28-70mm is big and heavy because of the impressively f/2.0 aperture but has no IS and you are going to mount it to a camera with no In Body Image Stabilization either? Who thought that was going to make for an easy handling package?

Both the EOS RF mount 28-70mm f/2.0 and Z Nikkor Noct 58mm f/0.95 (manual focus only on that one) are show-boat lenses designed to show off each companies optical prowess. They are not lenses designed for photographers.  Now both companies have introduced other native full frame mirrorless lenses that are much more useful.

Both new mirrorless camera systems have adapters to use their existing arsenals of lenses, which is what these camera are both really all about.  Both systems have potential and Nikon has released a pretty excessive road map for Z lenses with primes being mostly f/1.8 which makes sense to take advantage of the larger lens mount.

For 2019 through early 2020 both Canon and Nikon want the EOS R and the Zs to simply stop the defections to Sony. These cameras are purely defensive maneuvers to give their install bases a reason to stay with them, shoring up marketshare and potential future sales. In the short term both companies are not considering coming out with full frame mirrorless camera bodies that threaten the dominance or sales of their flagship professional DSLR cameras and lenses.  No sea change or change of heart here.

[email protected] (Photography By Michael Burnham) camera canon eos m50 eos r full frame lens market mirrorless nikon nikon z 6 nikon z 7 photography r review strategy z Thu, 31 Jan 2019 04:17:21 GMT
The 500 Rule in Astrophotography OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The 500 Rule in Astrophotography

Just want to write a short post to show you an easy way to determine the correct shutter speed for Astrophotography.   This is also known as the 500 Rule.

You may be seeing all those amazing photos of the core of our Milky Way Galaxy at night and thought to yourself “I have a camera, I want to do that”. Later I will be doing a more in depth look at all the aspects and settings for doing astrophotography but today I just want to talk about one thing; setting your shutter speed and that is where the 500 rule comes in:

If you have a full frame camera and you want to know what the maximum shutter speed you can use and still have all the stars in the photo be points of light and not blurs then just take the focal length of the lens  and divide it into 500 to get the maximum shutter speed in seconds.

A simple example with a 20mm full frame lens.  Take 500 and divide it by 20 and you get 25, 25 seconds in the maximum shutter speed you can set and still have sharp pin-point stars.

Now maybe you have a camera with a DX or APS-C sensor not a full frame, what do I do then? Say I want to use this Tokina 14-20mm f/2.0 lens on my D5600 or similar camera with an APS-C sensor. First convert the focal length to full frame which in this case would be 14mm X1.5 to give you an equivalent focal length of 21mm in full frame.  Now take the 21mm and divide it into 500 and you get 23.8 seconds.  Most cameras cannot set 23 seconds so I recommend rounding down to 20. 20 Seconds is the longest shutter speed you can set and keep the stars from blurring.

The 500 Rule a rule of thumb and in my experience its better to back your shutter speed down by 3-5 seconds. So for the 20mm full frame lens we talked about probably 20 seconds would be better than 25 but the 500 Rule will give you a good starting point.   


[email protected] (Photography By Michael Burnham) 500 Rule Astro Astrophotography Canon exposure Galaxy lens Milky Way Galaxy Nikon Shutter Speed Tokina Wed, 23 Jan 2019 20:48:25 GMT
Tokina AT-X 14-20mm F/2 PRO DX Review Super-fast, Super-Wide Zoom


Can you feel it?  The start of Milky Way Galaxy season is less than 6 weeks away!  This is the time of year when the core of the Milky Way Galaxy is up at night. It starts being visible in the predawn hours in late February and goes into September.  If you shoot with a DLSR with an APS-C (DX) sensor Tokina has an amazing fast apertured super-wide angle zoom that is perfect for shooting the Milky Way Galaxy or any other astrophotography application.  Ladies and Gentlemen, if you don’t know it already please allow me to introduce the Tokina AT-X 14-20mm f/2 PRO  DX lens.  Not a misprint, its a constant f/2, not 2.8.  

The AT-X 14-20mm f/2 PRO DX zoom equates to a 21-30mm full frame angle of view on Nikon or 22.4-32mm on Canon. This super-wide is great for including a lot of landscape and sky in your composition.  

Fast Aperture

At the time of writing the constant f/2.0 is the fastest super-wide angle zoom lens available for APS-C sized DSLRs.  F/2.0 is nearly a full stop faster than f/2.8 which equates to almost twice as much light entering the camera.  More light entering the camera has several advantages;  First, it allows the camera to focus in lower light situations. Second, it allows for more light to hit the sensor when doing long exposures at night, the faint light from more distant stars will be recorded making it perfect for astrophotography.  More light gathering can also translate into shorter exposure times or lower ISO settings for sharper astro photos with less noise.   


Next, the f/2.0 aperture yields a shallower depth of field than f/2.8 or slower lens.  This last point allows you to isolate your subject more for a dramatic perspective.   In another review I will be doing an in depth comparison of the the AT-X 14-20mm f/2 PRO DX vs the slower AT-X 12-28mm f/4 PRO DX lens so stay tuned to my blog fort that.  


Handling and Ergonomics

The Tokina 14-20mm is a weighty lens for its size weighing 735g (25.9 oz.).  It feels solid, well made and balances well on PRO APS-C bodies like the Nikon 7500 or Canon 7D mkII.  It will feel a little front heavy on smaller, lighter APS-C bodies like the Nikon 5600 or any of the Canon digital Rebel cameras but not too much.  The reason for the weight is the amount of glass needed to accommodate the bright f/2.0 aperture and the fact that Tokina uses more metal than other manufactures in the internal barrels of the lens making them heavier but more durable.  

The lens has common 82mm filter thread so there are a wide variety of filters available for image enhancement and creative possibilities.   

Like all other Tokina AT-X PRO lenses, the 14-20mm has a Tokina’s exclusive One-Touch Focus Clutch mechanism for switching between auto focus and manual focus.  Just pull the manual focusing ring back toward the base of the lens, the ring will snap back to engage the manual focus and then push it forward to engage auto focus again.  

The lenses barrel design makes it very intuitive to handle on location in the dark.  The rings are large enough and set far enough apart that I don’t get them confused in the dark or move one ring accidentally while turning the other, even while wearing gloves.



Auto focusing on the Tokina 14-20m is fast and smooth, it won’t break any speed records but its accurate.  The lens does emit a little motor noise if you rack the AF between a very close subject and something far away.  It’s not enough for anyone standing around you to notice but it might be heard on video using the built in mic so I would recommend using it in manual focus for video.  The lens has had no problems acquiring and locking focus in a wide variety of lighting situations.

At night under the stars you will need to focus manual but that goes for any lens.  A trick for getting infinity focus at night.  If you have a high-power flashlight point it at something you know to be at a greater distance than the infinity scale. With a super-wide lens like the 14-20 something more than 5 meters (more than 15 feet) away, put your AF point on what you are lighting up and AF on it.  Then carefully pull the manual focus light back into MF and you should be focused at infinity for the stars.  After that, take a test shot and use the camera’s screen to zoom in on the stars to make sure they are in focus.  If its not, start by moving the focus ring just a little to the left or right and take another test shot and check it to see if the starts are more or less focused. Repeat until the starts are sharp.

Here’s a tip; painters tape or other adhesive tape that is designed to be temporary and removable.  Once you have the lens focused at infinity use a 3-4 cm (1.5 inches) long piece of painters tape to tape down the manual focus ring.  That way it wont move accidentally if you move the camera to recompose your shot.



Simply put, this lens is sharp, even wide open the lens is sharp. Other than the fast aperture sharpness is where this lens shines.  DXO Mark gave the Tokina AT-X 14-20m f/2 PRO DX lens an over-all score of 26 which is higher than either the AT-X 11-20mm or the old 11-16mm lenses.  That has been my experience with the lens as well, its the sharpest of the lenses in this class.  The lens does not disappoint and you will be able to make large prints if you are using a camera with a 24+ megapixels sensor.


As with any lens, it is sharper when stopped down and the lens’s critical aperture setting is f/4.5 - f/5.0, I could not see any sharpness difference between these aperture settings and stopping down to f/5.6 did not improve sharpness over f/4.5-5.0.  But sharpness wide open is still very good which is necessary for low light photography.

Astrophotography is where this lens is really at home.  The Tokina 11-20mm may have a wider angle of view but the f/2 of the 14-20mm allows more light gathering and that means more stars captured and more flexibility to change exposure time or ISO.

Coma is not bad at all and Chromatic Aberrations (CA) are well corrected.  In some high contrast situations you will see a just a little purple fringing but it is easy removed in post.   

The Tokina AT-X 14-20mm f/2 PRO DX lens is at the top of its class in both fast aperture and sharpness.  The constant f/2 aperture is the fastest available in a super-wide zoom lens for APS-C lenses at this time.  That coupled with amazing optics makes this lens a natural for low-light photography and a lens that anyone interested in astrophotography should seriously consider. 

[email protected] (Photography By Michael Burnham) Astro Astrophotography Camera Canon Galaxy lens Meteor Meteor Shower Milky Way Galaxy Nikon optics review super-wide Tokina Thu, 10 Jan 2019 21:19:59 GMT
Tokina AT-X 17-35mm f/4 Review

A Jack-of-All-Trades Super-wide Lens

The Tokina AT-X 17-35mm for full frame isn’t a new lens but its often overlooked because its a constant f/4 instead of f2.8 lens.  Unlike the faster lenses like the Tokina 16-28mm f/2.8 lens, you can use 82mm filter on the 17-35mm while no standard filter options exist for the 16-28.

Another advantage is the 17-35 is a smaller full frame super-wide that is lighter and much easier to pack for traveling.  Let's face up to the fact that full frame lenses are large and heavy and you may not always need a fast aperture while you may need compactness or lighter weight.  This is especially true if you are the type of photographer that likes to load everything on your back and walk or hike all day.  If you travel a lot, this lens is an excellent choice.

Handling and Ergonomics
The AT-X 17-35mm is just 3.7 (94mm) inches long and weighs 21 oz (600g) its feels good and balances well on a full frame DSLR like the Nikon D750. The lens has Tokina signature “One Touch Focus Clutch” mechanism, to switch the lens from AF to MF just pull the manual focusing ring back towards the camera to disengage the AF and when you want to return to AF push the focusing ring forward to engage it. Manual focusing is smooth and not heavily damped so the focusing ring moves easily but does not feel loose, it just has a natural feel.  The focus ring turns about 90 degrees to go from the closest focusing distance of 11 inches (0.28m) to infinity.  

Auto focus it quick and accurate but it will not be wining any speed awards. Super-fast AF generally isn’t usually required for subjects that people shoot with super-wide angle lenses of this kind anyway. For a lot of my shooting with super-wide lenses the camera is locked down on a tripod for a long exposures so AF speed is not critical.

The Tokina AT-X 17-35mm lens is a sharp lens and like any super-wide its sharper in the center than on the edges. Sharp enough to make large prints from full-res 24 megapixel files.  Sharp enough to shoot cactus and count all the individual spins. Like most lenses of its class it is sharper in the center than at the edges and stopping down about 2 stops improves things.  The lenses critical aperture seems to be about f/9.0 which is just over 2 stops down from wide open.  Critical aperture, the aperture at which any lens is the sharpest, is usually somewhere between 2 and 3 stops down from wide open.

There is some slight vignetting at the corners wide open and some very slight purple fringing but its not usual with a super-wide and I found both to be easily corrected in post.  In fact in light-room just clicking the “Remove CA” check box usually eliminated any purple fringe.  

The 17-35 is well corrected without much linear distortion and it can be used for architectural photography. This is a shot of the original 1908 Hamburg & Sons/May Company building that was once the largest department store west of the Mississippi River is now being renovated to be the California Broadway Trade Center. The Tokina 17-35 keeps the all lines straight and the over all picture is sharp.   The picture was shot at f/8 to increase sharpness and keep everything in focus.  Below is the facade of the Broad Contemporary Art Museum.

Close Focus

Never underestimate the impact of a super-wide lens that can focus close.  You can take something small and fill the frame with it. As mentioned earlier The 17-35mm lens has good close focus of just 11 inched (0.28m)  This cactus plant is rally only 8 inches tall but because the lens can focus so close it dominates the landscape where you would barely notice it walking by.  

While f/4.0 is not an idea aperture for astro-photography, the 17-35 does pretty well when out shooting where there is a little moonlight present as there was in the photo from the Geminids Meteor shower.  According to the 500 rule, a 17mm lens on a full frame camera means you can set an exposure as long as 30 seconds (actually 29.42 but how’s counting) without getting start trails. In reality you should probably back it down to 25 seconds but that is still a lot of light gathering time to take in so many stars.  I got this lens after the Milky Way Galaxy season ended but I am looking forward to trying it out when the core returns to the night sky at the end of February.  

So yes, for sure this is a Jack-of-all-trades lens.  I like it a lot.  It does everything it does very well and for an excellent price.  This value of this lens is in what it does well verse the cost, which is lower than most other AF full frame super-wide zooms All things considered its an easy lens to recommend so if you are on a budget, seriously check it out.

The 720 Eastbound from Downtown LA

[email protected] (Photography By Michael Burnham) architecture Astro Astrophotography Camera Canon full frame Hoya lens Meteor Meteor Shower Nikon optics review super-wide Tokina Fri, 21 Dec 2018 01:52:27 GMT
Advantages of UV Filters  

Sea Spray You never want to see this coming directly at your lens.

I thought I was high enough on the rocks so that the salt spray of the waves wouldn’t get to me... I was wrong... A big one hit and my camera and I were spattered. But a UV filter saved the front of my lens from taking a direct hit from the sea spray that contained on only salt water but silt and not so fine sand as well. This is what you DON'T want see coming directly at your lens. The lens was “water-resistant but with salt water all bets are off.  The lens was OK after I quickly wiped it off but that would not have helped the front glass of my lens if it didn’t have a filter over it.

There is a lot of options and more than a little misinformation out there regarding UV filters.  So I wanted to bring up some facts given my years, decades actually, of experience as a photographer and as someone who has worked for filter distributors and manufacturers.  

First, what is UV?  Ultraviolet (UV) light is the light that boarders the lower end of the visible spectrum. The visible spectrum is between 400-700nm and UV spectrum is between about 280-430nm.  This is light that your camera’s sensor is not completely calibrated to and the more UV present the more of a negative impact is has on your photos.  UV light contributes to atmospheric haze that makes scenic photos less sharp.  

So what does a UV filter do? It does two things. One it does all the time and the other depends on your location.   A UV filter over your lens will always protect the font element of your lens all the time its on.  Keep in mind the front element is the largest and most expensive piece of glass in your lens and replacing it is one of the most expensive lens repairs. It protects it from everyday bumps when you are out shooting. It also protects it form wind-blown sand, salt spray, mud, or if you scramble over rocks with your camera on a strap to get to where you shoot. Under these conditions a UV filter should always be on the front of your lens.  

Waves splash up from the rocks

Beyond that the effect of a UV filter depends on your location, or more accurately it depends on your altitude.  UV light is filtered out as it travels through the atmosphere so there is more UV light present at higher altitudes than there is closer to sea level.  Using a UV on the rocks boarding the Pacific Ocean as I was doing early was not as much about filtering out UV as it was about protection. There is still some UV light present that day it was about protecting the front element of my lens.

But when photographing at higher altitudes above sea level there is a lot more UV light present and even more UV as you go higher.  A UV filter will improve the sharpness of the sweeping scenery I came out to shoot and have the added benefit of protecting my lens.  This scenic photo from Valle de Bravo, Mexico was taken at over 6,070 feet (1,859 meters) above sea level.  For comparison, the "Mile High City" of Denver, Colorado sits at 5,280 feet (1,609 meters) above sea level. 

Even higher than Valle de Bravo is Mexico City and the Pyramid del Sol in the Teotihuacan, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Both sit on the same plateau at 7,380 feet (2,249 meters) above sea level.  More UV makes scenic photos in these higher elevations more hazy and less sharp. A side note, there is also less oxygen at these altitudes so while hiking up the several hundred steps of the pyramid del Sol you get winded much more quickly.  I raced to the top and it took 10 minutes to catch my breath and stop shaking.


“A $2,000 lens with a $20 filter is going to preform like a $20 filter.”

“So I should just get the cheapest UV filter I can find, right?” ... WRONG!  One of the “purist” arguments against UV filters or any filters for that matter, is that they are “inferior” glass that can degrade your image.  People promoting this argument have not kept up with the times or filter technology. This is true if you choose a cheap filter form a company you have never heard of on or eBay.  These filters often do not have true UV optical glass in terms of the quality and formula of the glass as well as precise grinding and polishing of the surfaces of the filter.  The reason they can call them UV is because all glass filters out some, if even just a little UV but can degrade sharpness and cause inaccurate colors if the glass they use is not formulated optical glass.  

Remember:  A $2,000 lens with a $20 filter is going to preform like a $20, pure and simple. Make a wise choice when choosing a filter.  

If the choice is between a $20 (or even less) filter or no filter at all, go with no filter.  No filter is better than taking a chance on a cheap piece of glass.  In that respect the purist are correct.  No matter how much your lens cost, you made an investment in it so make an investment in the filter to protect the lens and choose a filter that is going to protect your lens and improve your pictures, not harm them.  High quality filters are cheap insurance for the front of your lens and will help improve your pictures.  

Buy UV filters from established brands known for optical filters and who’s roots in optics go back decades. Some of these include Hoya, B+W, Kenko, Schneider and just a couple others.  These filters use specifically formulated optical glass that is formed, ground and polished for perfectly flat smooth and parallel surfaces. These filters are multi-coated like your lens is multi-coated to reduce reflections that could degrade your photos. So using a high quality UV filter will not degrade your images but only help improve them and protect your lens.  

Next, make sure the filters are multi-coated and in some ways the more layers of multi-coating the better.  Lens manufacturer go to great lengths to multi-coat their lenses to avoid reflections and putting a non-multi-coated filter in front of your lens is almost same as shooting through a window.  You would do that to get the best pictures so make sure the filters you buy us high-quality multi-coating.  

Through my entire time in photography, which goes back decades, I have only used Hoya filters so they are the brand I know best and have the most experience with.  The HMC Skylight 1B filter over the lens of my first “real” camera, a Canon AE-1 was a Hoya and I have used them ever since.  By the way, I was 13 years old when I got that AE-1. Glass and multi-coating technology have made great leaps in the last 30 years. The current generation of Hoya UV filters, the HD series with chemically hardened glass and ANTISTATIC series with hardened coatings that negate static build-up have up to 16 layer (HD) of multi-coating on both front and back sides of the glass to reduce reflections. Both series are some of the best filters that money can buy bar none.

So remember, you made an investment in the lenses you shoot with so extend that investment by protecting it with a high-quality UV filter that will not only protect your investment but also help improve your pictures.  


[email protected] (Photography By Michael Burnham) B+W Camera Canon Filter Fusion Fusion Antistatic HD HD nano Hoya Nikon optics Sigma Sony Tiffen Tokina UV UV Filter Sun, 16 Dec 2018 00:49:26 GMT
A Superfecta of Meteor Showers OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

(composite photo of 33 meteors in one night)

In horse racing a Superfecta is when you correctly pick the first 4 horses across the finish line.  In 30 days between December 5th and January 4th there will be superfecta of 4 meteor showers visible in the Northern Hemisphere but you only need to hit one to get some awesome meteor photographs.  This article contains what you need to know to photograph these or any meteor shower.

Which Meteor Showers and when?

Andromedids Meteor Shower
(This was one of the most intense meteor showers of the year in the late 1800s but went dormant for over a century. Surprisingly in 2011 it started to perk up again and this year is predicted to be a good one.)
Peak: Night of December 5th in the morning of the 6th

Geminids Meteor Shower
(the most intense of the 4, if you can only shoot one, go for this one.)
Peak:  Night of December 13th into the morning of the 14th

Ursids Meteor Shower
(This year a full moon will obscure all but the brightest meteors)
Peak:  Night of December 21st into the morning of the 22nd

Quadrantids Meteor Shower
Peak:  Night of January 3rd into the early morning of the 4th

As mentioned, if you think you are only going to try one meteor shower then go for the Geminids, it’s always the most intense with upwards of 100-120 meteors per hour at it’s peak. Last year’s Geminids were amazing all night.  


These times mentioned are for the Pacific Coast of the USA. Check locally for the best viewing times in your area.  Some meteor showers peak for as long as 24 hours while others peak for just 4-5 hours.


What you will need to photograph a Meteor shower:

Dark Sky

Camera that can be set manually

Lens, preferably a super-wide to get the most area of the sky in photo, that can be focused manually

Sturdy, reliable tripod

Remote release or the ability to set the camera’s self timer and/or time-lapse mode

A HOYA STARSCAPE filter to filter out light pollution for better color (optional but HIGHLY recommended)


Dark Sky

The darker the sky the better because light pollution caused collectively by millions of city lights hides all but the brightest object in he night sky.  The brightest meteors can be seen from anywhere but its best to get as far away from lights of the city as you can.  You can search for dark sky nearest you using:

Next, check and double check the weather in the dark sky location you have chosen.  There is nothing worse than driving for 4 hours or more just to be clouded out.

Tip: Once you  choose your dark sky areas plan to get there 1-2 hours before sunset so you have time to find the exact location and composition you want. When you have your composition set up your tripod and lock the camera down in it so it won’t move.

Camera, you will need a camera that you can focus and control all of the settings manually; these days, that’s almost any DSLR or mirrorless camera.

Now lets run through the camera settings quickly.

Set your camera’s control dial to “M” for controlling the shutter speed and aperture manually.  

Determining the Shutter Speed

The 500 Rule introduction:  500 / focal length of the lens = maximum shutter speed

You might have heard of this before, it's a rule of thumb where you take 500 and divide it by the focal length of the lens you plan to use. The resulting number is the longest shutter speed (in seconds) you can use and still get pinpoint stars.  Longer shutters speeds would record the starts movement as a blur or “star trail”.


(This is an extreme example of Star Trails but this is what they look like and what you want to avoid when shooting meteors)

Say I have a Nikon D750 full frame camera and a Tokina 16-28mm f/2.8 lens that I plan to shoot at 16mm. I would take 500 and divide it by 16mm to get 31.25.  Then round that number down to 30. 30 seconds would be the long shutter speed I could set with this lens and still get pin-point stars. I mentioned the Tokina 16-28mm F/2.8 lens because I have used it and it works great for shooting stars.

For cameras with APS-C (DX) sized sensors:  You would first have to convert the focal length to a full frame equivalent then divide that number into 500.

Example:  Say I have a Canon 80D with a Tokina 14-20mm f/2.0 lens that I intend to shoot at 14mm.  I would multiply the 14mm by the sensor crop factor of 1.6 to get 22.4, rounded to 22 or 22mm in full frame terms.  Now take 500 and divide by 22 to get 22.73 or 22 seconds. Rounding down is always better in photographing stars and most cameras can’t set a 22 second shutter speed so round down to 20 seconds.  That is your shutter speed.
These long exposure times give you a better chance of capturing a meteor or meteors in the shot while still keeping all the stars as points of light.

Set your Aperture
No matter what lens you plan to use you want to allow as much light as possible to come through the lens and onto the sensor so set your camera lens to the widest aperture, expressed by the lowest f/ number, that the lens will allow.  This could be f/2.0, f/2.8 or even f/3.5 or 4.0 on some lenses.  If you have an F/2.8 lens use 2.8, etc.  I have had excellent results with the Tokina 14-20mm f/2.0 and 11-20 f/2.8 lenses.

Set your ISO
The ISO setting controls your camera’s sensitivity to light.  For shooting meteors or other astro photography set a higher ISO such as 1600, 3200 or even 6400 if you are using a kit lens that has a f/3.5 or 4 aperture.

Focus at Infinity

There isn’t enough light at night for the camera’s AF system to function. This is probably the trickiest part and usually takes a little guesswork to get the focus dialed into infinity properly. The problem with just setting the camera/lens to manual focus and then turning the focus ring to infinity is that the infinity marking on the lens assumes that they lens is at a normal room temperature.  Outside at night in the winter the glass contracts as it cools and the actual focus points begin to differ from the focus scale on the lens.  Start with the lens set at the infinity marking and take a photo using the shutter speed you just calculated.  Now look at the picture on the camera’s screen and zoom in to 100% to see if any visible stars are sharp points of light.  If they are not, turn the focus ring just a little towards the closer focus and repeat to see if the stars are in sharp focus or at least in sharper focus. This is little trail and error but you should be able to nail the focus in just a few minutes. I recommend bringing along some painter’s or gaffers tape and once you have the lens focused at infinity tape down the manual focus ring to the lens barrel so it won’t move if you hit it by accident.

(This is the focus scale window showing the lens is focused at infinity but in cold conditions this focus scale might not be accurate and will need to be tested and checked once you set up and lens cools to match the outdoor temperature.)

Tip:  Leave your camera with the battery removed and lens outside the warmth of your car, tent or house if you are luck enough to live in a dark sky area.  That way the equipment will be cool down and it will be less likely to focus to shift while shooting.  The same goes for after the shooting is finished.  If you bring a cold lens inside the house or warm car it will fog up almost immediately.  Place it in a plastic bag and seal it if you have bring it in.  

Tip: Keep the batteries warm in your pocket until you are ready to start shooting to get the most use out of them in cold weather.  


Light Pollution Filters


In the USA and Europe, even in dark sky areas, there will still be brownish color cast caused by light pollution on the horizon and possibly over the entire photo.  A HOYA STARSCAPE filter will filter out a lot of light pollution giving a more natural color balance. This saves a lot of time in post processing and yields much better, natural color in the final image. Many photographers that do astrophotography a lot consider this filter a necessity and I recommend it highly.



(The HOYA STARSCAPE filter removes a lot of light pollution from astrophotos to yield a more natural color balance in camera.  This will save a lot of time in post processing.  keep in mind that by reducing the amount of light pollution the HOYA STARSCAPE does reduce the exposure by half a stop.  


(These two photos are converted from unedited raw files straight out of the camera to show the color difference before editing for with/without the HOYA STARSCAPE filter.)


Here is a brief video clip that shows the effects of the Hoya RA54 Red Enhancer/Intensifier/Kenko Red Enhancer No.1 (all the same filter) on a couple different scenes.  The first 25 second of the video shows the other use of the filter, enhancing the color saturation of red and orange colors making it a great filter for autumn foliage.




(This photo was about an hour before sunrise at the trail end of a summer meteor shower.  I was about to pack it up and move to another location to shoot the sunrise when this little guy showed up.)

Once you have the camera’s shutter speed, aperture, ISO and focus set the last thing to do it set the camera or the camera’s remote to do time-lapse photography.  This is a setting where the camera will take photos automatically at predetermined intervals.  Meteors can happen at any time during a meteor showers and each meteor only last a faction of a second so its best to set up your camera to automatically take a photo every 4,5, 6 seconds until the battery runs out.  You end up with a lot of throw-aways but you will also capture the most meteors this way. Once this is all set, let it rip and then sit back and enjoy the show!

[email protected] (Photography By Michael Burnham) Andromedids astro astrophotography camera filter full frame Geminids how to Hoya lens meteor meteor shower Quadrantids Super-Wide Tokina Ultra-Wide" Ursids Sun, 02 Dec 2018 19:39:28 GMT
Tokina opera 50mm F/1.4 Review - The Proof Is In the Pictures

The opera Series

This is the founding lens of Tokina’s new series of full frame DSLR lenses designed to exceed 50 megapixels. This year we have 45-50 mega-pixel sensors from Nikon and Canon but the megapixel war is far from over and in two years we might have 60+ megapixel full frame sensors. Anyone that 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. The Tokina opera has a future-proof design by exceeding today’s sensors knowing full well even higher resolution sensors are coming.  


So now let’s dive in; Basically, the lens is incredibly sharp and I can’t state that emphatically enough. That is what you need to know from the outset. This lens beats some of the sharpest primes I own such as the Canon 50mm F/1.4 and its even sharper than the Canon 100mm F/2.0 USM which has been my go-to headshot lens for many years. It’s sharpness easily exceeds 45 megapixels and that is what this lens was designed to do. When reviewing portraits in camera and  later on the screen you can count individual eyelashes without ever having to go to the sharpening tool.

Above Image:  For this shot of author Sean Haynes I wanted to pose him with the book but have the book out of focus so all the attention goes to his eyes.  The Tokina opera 50mm f/1.4 is a perfect lens for portraiture, is incredibly sharp and the wide aperture give you the option of very shallow depth of field


Personally I love the 50mm focal length for street photography.  I have always shunned the popular 35mm focal length.  I pass over it to go straight from 50mm down to 24mm.  50mm gives you a little more compression of the background. Plus the shallow depth of field of a wide aperture like f/1.4 places more emphasis on your subject. So a fast 50 is always of great interest to me and my Canon 50mm F/1.4 USM has been my workhorse but the Tokina opera beat it handily.  From the first shot it was clear that the opera was a sharper lens.  

Above Image:  This shot is of the side entrance leading to the old ticketing area at Union Station  in downtown Los Angeles.  The 50mm focal length yields the most natural looking perspective and its my favorite for street photography.

Above and Below Images.  The Tokina opera 50mm lens is so sharp that in  both shots you can literally count the individual stone blocks that were used to create the Dom Cathedral in Cologne, Germany and the Los Angeles City Hall.   

Above Image: Not only is the sharpness evident in this photo of the Union Station marque but the contracts makes the Union Station letters pop out from the background.


Always, whenever a fast lens comes out there are immediate questions about how it renders the out of focus areas with special attention to out of focus highlights. This out of focus quality is known as “Bokeh”.  Some lens have a bokeh that is “harsh” or “busy” but not this lens. The opera 50 renders out of focus areas with a very pleasing silky-smooth softness that keeps the attention on the subject. This lens is really the Bokeh master. Out of focus highlights are soft and circular thanks in part to the circular aperture diaphragm and a ton of glass in the lens. I have not found a lens that has better Bokeh rendering. That and sharpness are really the main strengths of this lens.

Above Image: This low-light shot of my dessert was a perfect opportunity to test the Bokeh of the opera lens at f/1.4, the focus fall-off and Bokeh are so smooth and gradual that your eye just slips into the out of focus areas of the image

Above Image: These rental bikes appeared overnight on the street of Cologne while I was there, it was like one day there were none and the next day they seemed but everywhere.  A super-wide aperture is so useful to separate the subject from the background as in this shot and the smooth Bokeh keeps the attention on the bike by not creating a busy, distracting background.

Auto Focus

Since I was not doing a lot of demanding quick-shooting or focus tracking I never had a chance to really tax the AF system but I will say it acquired and locked focus fast every time. I appreciated that the AF was fast and smooth, but its also quiet! Some older Tokina lenses are by today’s standards quite noisy when they auto focus but the opera is nearly silent. You should have no problem shooting video in AF mode but don’t buy the lens specifically for that, buy it because it’s incredibly sharp.

Build quality

The lens is beefy, it weighs a hefty 33 oz. (950g) which is surprising at first but balances very well on a full frame DSLR.  All-metal lens barrels add little to the weight but let you know this is no flimsy or cheaply made lens. A wide manual focusing ring that is engaged full time to allow for manual focusing without having to hit a switch on the lens is a welcome update. This is different from Tokina’s traditional focus clutch mechanism where the focus ring is pulled back into the manual focus mode and pushed forward for AF. Now manual focusing on the fly is much easier. The lens is also weather-sealed to prevent moisture from getting in. I wouldn’t use it or any equipment in a driving rain but in a heavy mist or very light rain for short periods of time you should be fine provided the body you mount it on has weather-sealing as well.  

The lens also uses 72mm filters that are lens expensive than larger 77 or 82mm size so you can save some money there. The lens hood is a deep petal design that does an excellent job of shading the lens. This hood has a removable tab near the bayonet that opens so that a filter such as a circular polarizer can be rotated without having to remove the hood for added convenience.   Over-all the handling and balance of the lens on a full frame body is excellent.   

Final Thoughts

Impressed, that is my final thought on this lens, extremely impressed.  It’s sharpness and silky-smooth bokeh rendering are amazing and with quick and silent AF the lens performs as a lens should perform. If photography is your job, this lens absolutely justifies its price, no question about it.  The opera gets out of your way and just lets you shoot knowing you are capturing some of the sharpest images available from any 50mm lens and really, isn’t that the point?   


[email protected] (Photography By Michael Burnham) 50mm Bokeh Canon f1.4 full frame lens lens review Nikon opera Photography review sharpness Tokina Mon, 26 Nov 2018 13:41:17 GMT