Conclusion - Pros
- Excellent sharpness across almost all of the range, even wide open
- Benign distortion characteristics (easy to correct at 12mm, visually neutral from 15mm to 24mm)
- High quality build
- Well-implemented focus clutch mechanism
- Constant F4 maximum aperture
Conclusion - Cons
- Relatively narrow wideangle end (12mm vs 10mm of many competitors)
- Rather prone to flare when shooting into the light
- Complex chromatic aberration behavior
- Relatively poor close-range performance
- Slightly soft at 24mm
The Tokina AT-X Pro SD 12-24mm F4 (IF) DX is a lens that could easily be overlooked by buyers considering a wideangle zoom, simply because of its more limited angle of view compared to most similar lenses on the market. But perhaps because of its more modest aspirations, it comprehensively outperforms the other third party APS-C wideangle zooms we've tested recently, i.e. the Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 EX DC HSM and the Tamron 10-24mm F3.5-4.5 Di-II. It's simply a much sharper lens, especially wide open, delivering consistently good results at almost all settings; it also scores well with respect to its distortion and falloff characteristics. These characteristics, coupled with the constant F4 maximum aperture, makes it much better suited to shooting interiors or in low light than similar lenses (with the exception of Tokina's own 11-16mm F2.8), adding to its overall versatility. This from an extremely solid, well-built lens which feels like it would shrug off knocks capable of breaking less rugged designs, and which also has excellent operational characteristics; the zoom and focus rings are impressively smooth, and the focus clutch system is one of the better-implemented of its kind.
It's not perfect, of course (no lens ever is), and does have a couple of imaging issues. Its otherwise excellent sharpness characteristics desert it somewhat when shooting at 24mm and apertures larger than F8, however we suspect most users will primarily be buying it for the 12-18mm range anyway. Lateral chromatic aberration can also be problematic - while fringing is really no worse than many other lenses we've tested, the concern is that it is difficult to correct in software when desired. Flare can also be a distinct issue, but in this regard we'd expect an improvement from Tokina's new 'II' version of the lens (which owners of entry-level Nikon DSLRs such as the D60 will need to buy anyway, in order to gain functional autofocus). Finally imaging performance at very close focus distances is not particularly good; but again we'd not expect many people to be buying a wideangle zoom to shoot macros.
So overall the choice when considering a third-party lens in this class boils down to either the optical excellence of the Tokina, or the wider angle of view but compromised sharpness of its competitors (or at least those that we've tested so far). Now the difference between 12mm and 10mm is indeed significant; those 2mm cost 10 degrees in the diagonal angle of view (99º as opposed to 109º), so the question is whether you're willing to sacrifice that ultra-wide perspective. But the rewards are, on the whole, worth it; the Tokina 12-24mm F4 simply produces superior images. If sharpness is your goal, it's an option not to be overlooked.
Rating (out of 10)
|Ergonomics & handling||8.5|
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Tokina 12-24mm F4 Review Samples