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My Take on the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8
The Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 is my wide-angle choice lens for my DX (crop sensor) cameras. This lens has proven to be great for capturing night skies and aurora borealis. The majority of the images are crisp, only slightly degraded near the edges. When shooting in daylight, there is a bit of fringing or chromatic aberration (again, especially near the edges), but nothing so bad that it can’t be cleaned up in post-processing. It’s tough to beat this for a sub $500 wide-angle (retails for $449).
I’ve shot aurora with this lens in temperatures as low as -50° F and it performs well. The weather sealing is good, but not perfect. There was a tendency for frost to build up on the inside of the center of the lens at -30° F and below, but I could often warm it up in a few seconds with my finger, wipe the lens, and it would stay frost-free for a few tens of minutes to an hour.
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If shooting in a strong direct light source (like the sun or moon), there is almost always a strong coma effect, and that is difficult to avoid. You may notice some spherical aberration near the edges as well (this can somewhat be corrected in post-processing). When I’m worried that such effects might be a nuisance, I use my Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 instead.
One of my favorite features of this lens is the One-touch Focus Clutch mechanism. This allows you to slide the focus ring forward and back to switch between auto-focus and manual focus. If I leave the camera setting on the body on manual focus, focus with the lens at infinity for stars, and then slide the focus ring into auto-focus mode, there is no chance in the evening of bumping the lens out of focus. No need to use gaffers tape. Other lenses often have a switch that allows them to switch between manual and auto-focus, but most still allow for slight movement which can end up in out-of-focus images. The clutch system eliminates that chance. Of course, you must remember to leave the camera system in manual focus!
The auto-focus is quiet and accurate, using an internal silent focusing motor. The lens itself feels durable but it weighs only 1.2 lbs. It’s easy enough to throw in the backpack for longer hiking and bike-packing trips. Overall I’ve been very happy with the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 and have been shooting with it for 8 years (although I had to buy a second one after a bear spray incident left my original in the dust).