Tokina 16-28mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro FX Lens Review on Safari

12th January 2015
I have always loved Photography and especially Wildlife photography, I have done some Landscape photography in the past but I never really got too serious about it until recently when I presented a Landscape Photographic workshop and led a Landscape photographic trip to Namibia, I own a Nikon 24-70 mm F2.8 lens but I wanted something wider for Namibia so I looked at Nikons 14-24mm F2.8 lens, a super lens but it came with a super price tag ! R28 000-00 for the lens. I wanted a F2.8 because I really enjoy star photography and star trails and I wanted a nice fast lens but not at that price.

I looked around and after a lot of Googling and speaking to other photographers I decided to get the Tokina 16-28 mm F2.8 lens, it generally got good reviews and it didn’t cost a arm and a leg so I got one for R 8000-00 ( on special at the time ) now they go for R10 000-00 so considerably less than the Nikon option.
My advice to photographers is always to get original brand lenses and here I am not listening to my own advice ! So I guess I now have to say get original brand lenses if the budget allows otherwise a good affordable alternative.
When I got the Tokina lens I immediately did some tests comparing it with a Nikon 14-24 mm Lens I borrowed from a friend and I noticed the following.

I photographed a couple of buildings and scenes in town using a manual setting on the camera and using both lenses on the same camera and the same settings, the Tokina lens was consistently underexposing by about a third of a stop on all the exposures compared to the Nikon lens, I did not see this as a problem and with a small adjustment to my settings when using the Tokina lens it was exposing the same as the Nikon lens.

This is a obviously important part of any lens and how was the Tokina going to compare to the Nikon lens ? I did a focus calibration on both the Tokina lens and the Nikon lens to make sure there was no room for error and then I headed off to check how sharp the Tokina lens really was. After photographing different subjects and scenes I downloaded the images to have a look, I was really impressed with the Tokina lens! In almost all the images the Tokina was just as sharp as the Nikon lens on comparison, I am sure the Nikon lens is marginally sharper but it is hard to tell them apart.
The Nikon lens focused quicker and quieter than the Tokina lens but for Landscape photography I don’t think it matters too much.
So after my initial tests and results I was confident that the Tokina lens was going to deliver good results in Namibia and I was happy with the decision to purchase the lens.

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

The only issue I had when using the lens was switching it from auto focus to manual focus as the Tokina lens has a push pull focus ring clutch and what happens is that when I was using the autofocus to focus on the subject and then wanting to switch to manual focus on the lens the gears on the lens were not aligned and I had to turn the focus ring slightly to engage the manual focus of the lens but at the same time I was altering the focus on the subject !

The lens does not always easily switch from auto focus to manual focus as sometimes the gears aren’t aligned, this was a problem as now I had to re-do the focus, the simple solution was to use the autofocus of the lens and camera and then switch the camera to manual focus and not the lens, so not too much of a big deal, just a different way to how I normally would do things.

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

The next stop was Sossusvlei and after arriving and cleaning the camera and lens after the dust and sand of Kolmanskop we headed off to Deadvlei for our first shoot. At first everything seemed fine but I was noticing that some of the images were a bit soft and the lens would not autofocus every time, eventually after much frustration I found out why, on the push pull mechanism of the Tokina lens there is a very slight gap between the lens and the push pull system and at Kolmanskop the fine particles of sand and dust had made their way into this gap and this is what was what was causing the lens not to focus properly.

I carry a small brush and blower in my camera bag so I cleaned out the lens as best I could and after that it performed much better and it was back to its old sharp self.

After Sossusvlei we headed on to Walvis bay and the Living desert trip, again the lens worked perfectly, this time on some Wildlife and it seemed that its focusing problems were a thing of the past.

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

I was really happy with the Tokina lens, yes its not a original brand lens and I experienced a few challenges in Namibia but once I knew about some of the small issues the lens has it is easy to compensate for them and still get good sharp images of a high quality, since Namibia I have used the lens quite a lot in the bush on Safari and it is a great addition to my camera bag.

Have a look here to see how the Tokina lens compares to Nikons 14-24 mm lens and Nikons 16-35 mm lens on DXO MARK


Photo comment By Jonathan: Beautiful photography. Stunning. The chameleon photo is great and he looks undeterred by you taking his pic. I've just bought this lens btw. Regards J

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