In the Fall of 2007, I rented a Tokina 12-24mm f/4 AT-X Pro DX AF Ultra Wide Angle Lens for a trip to New York State’s 1000 Island region. I had read a lot of good things about this lens and wanted to see how such a lens could be used to capture the scenic beauty and historical architecture of the area.
The Tokina 12-24mm lens only comes in Canon and Nikon versions at this time. The lens is built very solid. No play in the zoom mechanism at all. Zooming is very smooth through all focal lengths. Glass was in perfect condition. It looks a little strange seeing a glass dome on the 77mm filter sized front element but looking through the viewfinder you see everything in sharp focus. The auto-focus is not silent as a Canon or Nikon lens would be. I didn’t find that bothersome in the least. Being a DX lens means it can only be used with cameras with an APS-C sized sensor.
A general note on composition with an ultra wide angle lens. Look for a way to get something of interest in the foreground, middleground and background. The photo of the reflecting pond has this going for it as the reflections are in the foreground as are the plants on the pond’s edge with the trees in the middleground and the red building in the background with a blue sky above. Because of the large depth of field, you can put something very close to the lens and still get everything in focus out to infinity.
What I found out is you must always, and I mean always, try to keep the lens level with your subject. Pointing it up or down will create distortions. Sometimes very large ones. In the photo of Tibbit’s Lighthouse, by pointing the lens up at its widest setting of 12mm, I got a lot of distortion. With the buildings so close to the edges of the frame, it emphasized the distortion even more.
Being an f/4 lens, the Tokina 12-24mm is plenty fast enough to use indoors with available light. While the lens is not a light weight, it’s not so heavy you can’t hand hold it easily. The photo of Boldt Castle’s Reception Room was taken hand held at 1/15th of a second, f-stop of f/4 and ISO 320. The wide angle setting of 12mm captured the elegance of the room from floor to ceiling. Something a longer focal length lens could not do so easily if at all.
I will say, I rarely took this lens off it’s widest setting. It was just too much fun using it that way. I did find some use for it’s longest focal length of 24mm when shooting on top of the 1000 Island Bridge. The freight laker pictured was coming up the river and the framing looked better at 24mm then at 12mm which took in a lot more of the islands and mainland. I wanted to focus on the ship itself, not the surrounding landscape.
The lens is a very good bargain at B&H Photo and Video for a professional class lens. If I did not already own a zoom lens starting at 18mm, I probably would have purchased this lens. However, Tokina has just released (April, 2008 in the US) a new ultra wide angle zoom lens with a range of 11-16mm which has gotten very good first reviews including the same excellent build and optical quality as this one. They may get my money after all!