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Tokina AT-X 116 PRO DX

In this section, I will review the photo equipment I typically take on board cruises or travel, how I pack the equipment, and some photo examples. I rarely take all of the equipment on a given cruise, but rather tailor what equipment I take to where we are going.

Note that as time goes on, equipment becomes discontinued by the manufacturer. Therefore consider this review representative of the types of equipment you wish to take on your cruise or travel vacation.

The Tokina AT-X 116 PRO DX is an ultra-wide angle lens with a fast f/2.8 aperture for better photography in low-light situations. It could be the lens you use most often for ship-board photography. Its fast, sharp, and super-wide angle, perfect to capture the interesting subject matter on board.

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Tokina AT-X 116 PRO DX Overview

Tokina AT-X116 DX

Specifications
Lens Type: 1.4x Zoom
Format: DX (APS-C)
Max Aperture: f1:2.8 constant
Min Aperture: f1:22
Focal Length: 11mm to 16mm
Autofocus Type: AF
Min Focus Distance: 1ft
Max Field-of-View: 104 to 82 deg
Filter size: 77mm
Manufactured: Japan
Lens construction: Semi-pro
Street Price: $600


Alternative

Overview: I classify this lens as semi-pro, as it has a metal mounting ring, and very well built. So why do I recommend a 3rd party lens over a Nikon-brand lens. Simply, its a better fit for cruise photography. The sharpness of this lens exceeds the Nikon 10-24, as well as it's superior low-light capability, and the price (which is 25% less). And the lens is arguably better built. Some of Nikon's made-in-China lenses are somewhat suspect. While not a bad lens, the Nikon 10-24 should look and feel better given it's $800 price tag.

This lens is available in Canon, Nikon, and Sony mounts. However, since I have the Nikon version, that is the one I am reviewing.

One advantage of the Nikon is it has a 1mm advantage at the lower end of the zoom, and after all, you are buying an ultra-wide lens for the wide angle. However, the usefulness of the f2.8 Tokina lens more than makes up for the focal length advantage of the Nikon in that you will find the Tokina easier to use for interior photos, low light at-night photos of you stuffing your face at the midnight buffet, and so on.

However, the Tokina is AF while the Nikon is AF-S, so if you have an entry level Nikon camera (D3XXX, DXXX, D40, or D60) it will not be able to autofocus with the Tokina, so this may give the advantage to the Nikon. In reality though, at these extreme wide angles, most everything is going to be in focus anyway.

Note:

There have been some reported issues with earlier Tokina Lenses having problems correctly auto-focusing. While I cannot verify whether or not this is true, the prudent thing to do is to is to purchase it from a high-volume dealer to ensure you are getting newer product, and do not purchase from eBay, or other non-traditional sources. If you purchase via eBay, make sure it is with a reputable dealer that offers returns.

Alternatives: The Sigma has an even wider 8mm offering, and like the Nikon, their HSM technology consists of essentially an in-lens focusing motor, similar to Nikon's AF-S. Given the similar aperture range, the Sigma might be an attractive lower cost alternative for those needing AF-S focusing. The field-of-view for the Tokina @ 11mm is 104mm, for the Nikon @ 10mm is 109mm, and the Sigma @ 8mm is 121 deg, which is the widest super-wide angle lens available today.

Tamron also has a 10-24mm f3.5~4.5 lens, however, I find it hard to recommend as I have never thought their lenses to be in the same quality range as the other three. While the Tamron is cheaper, I think you would be happier if you saved a few more dollars and bought the Tokina or Sigma.


10mm - English Harbor and Nelson's Dockyard - Antigua

11mm - English Harbor and Nelson's Dockyard - Antigua

Summary: From the photo above, the difference between 10mm and 11mm is not readily apparent, and in my opinion, not enough to offset the superior optics of the Tokina. Tokina is somewhat of a boutique lens maker these days, and concentrates on making a few great lenses rather than a wide-range of lenses like the camera manufacturers tend to do. In reality, you will likely be happy with any of the lenses reviewed here; but you may be "more-happy" with the one that lightens your wallet the least. The Tokina has a good reputation, and unlike many 3rd-party offerings, should you decide to sell it, it has a decent resale.

Update:

In late 2011, Tokina introduced a version of this lens that has a built-in focus motor, essentially making it equivalent to a Nikon AF-S type of lens. Tokina lenses without the focus motor are called DX, while those with focus motors (and appropriate for entry-level Nikon cameras) are called DX II (DX2). If you have such a camera, make sure you purchase the DX II version if you want autofocus capability.