Tokina 11-16 f/2.8 AT-X116 Pro DX was my first ultra wide angle lens. It was coupled with my first DSLR Nikon D90. I was very happy with the lens and I was using it almost all the time. At least for my landscape shots. For the DX sensor it is one of the best wide angle lenses I have ever used. It’s fast (f/2.8) and very sharp. Distortion is visible, but taking into account the focal length of 11mm it’s very acceptable. With the small help of Lightroom or Photoshop we can easily correct the geometry.
After switching to FX sensor camera I almost forgot about this lens. An then one day I thought about shooting some very long exposures. I was using Nikon 14-24 at that time as my ultra wide lens and the main disadvantage of this lens is a very well-known problem with filters. Even after purchasing LEE fitter kit we are unable to use filters like big stopper. So I was reminded about my old Tokina as I read somewhere that it still might be used on FX sensor to some extent.
After mounting the lens on my Nikon D700 I was surprised that on 16mm I didn’t see any vignetting! Unfortunately that’s the only focal length on this lens that doesn’t produce dark corners on the picture. But hey – we have a wide angle prime of 16mm with the ability to use filters.
I took many long exposures with this setup and was quite happy with the results. Quite recently I have had the chance to use another wide angle, but this time FX lens – Nikon 16-35 1:4G ED VR. I thought that it’s a good opportunity to test both and see how the Tokina performs compared to proper FX wide angle from Nikon.
I’m not going to go too deep with my comparison and analyse all the tiny details on every possible setting. I prefer to focus on the results I get from both in my usual landscape environment.
Below you can see two shots I took the other day. Both on 16mm, using B+W ND3 filter with the exposure of ~60 seconds.
I was trying to frame exactly the same picture, but removing and attaching a lens moved slightly my tripod and they are not exactly aligned. but I don’t think the difference is big enough to affect the results. When you right click on the image and select open in new tab/window you will get the full resolution picture.
At the first look on the 700px images there’s hardly any difference. Opening two full resolution pictures and switching from one to the other will give us a bit more details but still it’s not really that big difference.
First thing that caught my eye was slightly bigger contrast on the whole image with Nikon, a bit sharper corners and a bit less distortion visible on the straight elements in the frame. Another thing I noticed is the reddish colour cast on the picture produced by a filter on Nikon, which doesn’t occur on Tokina’s.
On the other hand Tokina is more likely to produce chromatic aberrations, we can clearly notice that on the 100% crops below around the lanterns.
Here’s another shot taken with both lenses:
Again, comparing picture side by side I noticed a bit more contrast on the picture produced by Nikon lens. Tokina produced some CA around the edges and distorted the geometry a little bit more.
Here are some details at 1:1 crop:
Clearly, the corner of the frame is much sharper on the picture produced by Nikon. If you look closely Nikon produces CA as well, but on the Tokina’s image it is much more visible.
To be honest I was expecting Nikon to be performing way better. Surprisingly, Tokina does a really good job on FX camera. After using Lightroom to deal with geometric corrections and removing chromatic aberrations the output image quality is very good. If you don’t need big resolution images, you won’t even notice the lack of sharpness in the corners.
Let me also remind you that Tokina gives you aperture of f/2.8 which might be useful in low light situations where Nikon would perform worse. Lower f-number brings up more difference between the two lenses in terms of sharpness, but as I mentioned in the beginning – I’m comparing the lenses from my landscape-photography point of view.
If you have Tokina 11-16 and you’re switching from DX world to the full frame and you are wondering what ultra wide angle lens you should be getting instead – you can keep it in the beginning, and the switch will be less pricey.