A good deal popped up on a Tokina 16-28mm ATX Pro zoom lens for my Nikons. I bought it with the proviso that I could test and return, if necessary. Still mulling...

20mm. f5.6

I did a P.R. job for an architectural firm. We were there to do a ribbon cutting and to make photos of VIPs making speeches. I got to the location about an hour and a half early, no one was there yet, so to stave off boredom I pulled out a tripod and a 24mm lens and made a series of images of interior spaces and exterior glamor shots of the building. I'm not exactly a neophyte at shooting architecture and have a couple dozen magazine covers to my credit from 4x5 view camera work of buildings and historic homes from back in the late 1980's and early 1990's. You know, back when you had to know a bit more, technically, than how to set the HDR function on your DSLR...

I sent along the building images with the photographs they'd requested and didn't give it much thought until I got a very laudatory e-mail telling me how much they loved the work. We exchanged a few e-mails and the next thing I know I'm bidding on a full day of shooting; and the almost promise of future work. 

The speed bump for me was the immediate realization that I'd need something wider than the ancient 24mm f2.8 AF Nikon lens I used that afternoon. I'd already bumped into limitations in that first, informal shoot and knew I needed a lens that would allow me to get a wider frame. More so because I knew I'd want to go a bit wider and then use the lens tools in PhotoShop to correct geometry and keystoning, after the fact. (When you make fixes in post you inevitably surrender a bit of the frame in the process. Starting wider and allowing for a post production crop is the smart way to proceed.  Especially if you are using 36-45 megapixel cameras. You can afford a bit of slop space...

Since this all came up I've been tormenting myself with a bit of recreational lens research. I have the very good Panasonic/Leica 8-18mm lens but I'd like to take advantage of the higher megapixel count for work like this, just as a hedge against my own missteps, and use the 36 megapixel, Nikon D800e.  It would be an added safety factor for the extra cropping I anticipate.

No. I'm not going to invest in Tilt-Shift/PC lenses so don't bother lecturing me on their mandatory use....

I narrowed down my search to a small selection of lenses which included: The Sigma Art 20mm f1.4. I like the idea of one prime but....there's that whole "give me wider so I can crop" argument. For similar reasons I also rejected the Nikon 20mm f1.8. I looked hard at the Sigma Art series 14-24mm f2.8 and, to be truthful, it's still on my radar. Every test I've read gushes about it and the idea of a zoom in that range with high sharpness and minimal distortion is tempting; even at a price of $1299. 
I rejected the Nikon 14-24mm out of hand because it's getting long in the tooth and the value proposition just isn't there. It would be the most expensive of the lenses I'm considering...

A strong contender at a (somewhat) reasonable price was/is the Tamron 15-30mm and I may yet test it. 

In the middle of all this someone suggested that I look at the Tokina 16-28mm f2.8 ATX Pro lens. Apparently lots of people think it goes toe-to-toe with the Nikon 14-24 but at nearly 1/4 of the price. I added it to the reading list and eventually tracked down a bunch of conflicting reviews. "Sharp in the middle but not in the corners...." "Wild and crazy flare!!!" "A great lens at 1/3 the price of...." "bad QC." "Great results." I priced a new one at Precision Camera and at Amazon and found I'd spend about $629 to get one brand new. I filed the information in some unused part of my brain and went back to my "research." 

Earlier today a friend called me to let me know he'd been up to Precision Camera, scrounging around, and had seen a used 16-28mm Tokina in mint shape languishing on the Nikon used shelf. I called and asked the salespeople to put a "hold" tag on it and made the hot journey north to check it out. The sales person reflexively dropped the price for me and I walked out with the lens having spent less than $400. 

Even though we hit the century mark this afternoon for the high temperature I was anxious to check out the lens and see for myself just how good or bad it would be for the work I want to do. I shot it either at f5.6 or f8.0 for everything today because that's where it's sharpest and there's no reason for me to try shooting wide open if I'm always going to be on a tripod. By the same token there's no reason to stop down past f11 because any sharpness I might gain from depth of field I'll probably lose to diffraction. 

The center of the image in the focal lengths I am interested in (16-21mm) is nicely sharp and very, very presentable. The corners are a bit soft at 5.6 but get better at f8.0. Of course it takes pixel peeping at 100% on the 36 megapixel files for me to really see this. At normal sizes it's all fine. 

There is also a conundrum involved in shooting super wide with bigger and bigger formats. The corners are much further from the exact point of focus than the centers of the frame and, even with the extensive depth of field provided by the focal length, there is always going to be a discrepancy between the furthest point in the frame and the focus at the center. 

I need a point of comparison so I'll borrow the Sigma Art 14-24mm and shoot them side by side to see what I'm missing. If the results from the Sigma don't beat me over the head I'll be keeping the Tokina. It's fun. And it seems sharp enough for the kind of work I'm imagining for it. Even in those pesky corners. 

You could say the corners are not as sharp in the photo just above but the bottom corners are so much closer to the camera than the point of focus on the middle walkway that you can't discount a certain differential in focus coverage. 

Sharp? yes. 

So. Here's the flare test. Direct Texas sun in the frame. Minimal ghosting flare overall. But look in the bottom right hand corner and see the "prismatic" flare presenting itself as curved rainbows. Kind of fun but not what most architects are looking for. Perhaps a good reason not to shoot directly into the sun.............

The hoary and dated "brick wall test."

And what camera/lens test would be complete without the obligatory self portrait in reflective window? 

Your thoughts on wide angle zooms?

Am I missing something vital?

Should I just buy a bag full of Zeiss primes?

What if I decide I really do hate photographing buildings?

Then what?


  1. Man, that’s some wide angle hat.

  2. "Your thoughts on wide angle zooms?"

    I have just one FF system, Sony, and I've been elated with the FE 4/12-24 G. Some of my architecture photographs here:




  3. I've got three and consider two workhorse lenses and the third a "luxury" lens that doesn't get as much use as the other.

    Since the mid 1970s, I've been an 18-20mm fixed w/a user, especially for landscape work. Started with the Spiratone 18mm (Sigma) then graduated to the Nikkor 20mm f/4 then the f/2.8 and still have a f/3.5 stashed away. I've had both the mf 18mm Nikkor lenses, the f/4 and the f/3.5 but when the 17-35mm f/2.8 came out at the end of my film days.... I still have it and use it when I've got to shoot my my D800 and other FX Nikons. IMO, it still makes the grade and size/weight wise, it beats packing my "luxury" 14-24mm... In most cases, it does the job and does it well now for nearly 20 years.

    Though I love the IQ of the 14-24, it's big, heavy and even with the sun at my back, it ghosts like mad at times. If I'm working from my car, it's a great lens.

    But much of my work today requires me to pack it myself and I'm no longer a spring chicken. My wide-angle of choice for both documentary, travel and even travel architectural work is the Panasonic 7-14 f/4. On my Oly 5-II body, the camera and lens is smaller and lighter than the Nikkor 14-24mm. It doesn't ghost/flare with the sun to my back though it does have an issue with the purple flare though you do see it in the VF.

    I love the size and weight of that combo and though slower than both the Nikkor lenses, holds its own nonetheless.

    Even with the Oly 5-II in high-res mode, there's still nice IQ in the field since you've got to use a tripod to make it work.

    The combo is almost as good as shooting with my D800 and my Nikkor w/a pairing, though I really love the IQ from the Nikon files and the files are simply better once downloaded. In other words, the files from the Nikon just take less work to process.

    I shot a job last week where I needed to light and knew the Nikon was the right camera for the job (head shots and a group), but packing two bodies and two lenses up the stairs to my truck, wow, what a boat anchor I was dragging!

    And even though I have a T-S lens in my collection and it's great for tripod-studio use, it's simply not wide enough for much of my work, and that much more weight and size to pack. I definitely dig the geometry correction in ACR and use it regularly. It's jut a matter of shooting wider than you need as you said then tweaking it in post. Not quite as fun or as technically correct as with shooting it correctly to begin with, but faster and easier. Besides, there still isn't a T-S zoom lens that I know of, yet. Maybe Sigma will bring out a T-S zoom Art lens at Photokina someday (but I'll bet it will be a beast of a lens like their "Bigma" :-)

  4. At $400, there is a lot to like. But how did your brick wall test come out a bit overcorrected? Unless it's the wall's fault, the top lines of bricks are curving up in a pincushiony fashion. Is there an Adobe profile in the pathway?

  5. Get a zoom
    Decide how wide you want to go and stick to that decision
    Wide angle zooms are best at their widest angle and up to a half or two-thirds the rest of the zoom range
    Decide how much you want to pay

  6. The Nikon 18-36 is very fine lens which I like very much. But I guess 18mm aren't wide enough for your purpose?

  7. If you want the best value in a wide prime look at the Irix 15mm. I compared it to the Zeiss 15mm and frankly the irix was better, more uniformly sharp across the frame.
    It vignettes a bit but stopped down it's not a problem but its most impressive attribute is the very low distortion, you'd get away with not distortion correction! Very impressive lens for a very reasonable price.
    Aaron L.

  8. Every millimeter makes a visible difference in field of view at the wide end. If you get a 14, or even a 12, you will find useful images that you have not thought of from shooting with wider lenses. This was a walk around the French Quarter in New Orleans, all at 12mm with an ancient 12-24 Sigma:


    If you need extreme corrections or resolution, you can also do a 2x2 or larger matrix of overlapping shots from the tripod with a longer lens and stitch them. This gives you a big, very high resolution canvas, with the best part of the lens on what will be edges in the finished image. Great for the occasional cathedral interior or really tall building.

  9. Good golfers do not need "game improvement" clubs. Good photographers like you don't need image Improvement lenses.

  10. Hi Scott, You are correct. I think the profile in Lightroom over-corrected the barrel distortion. I'll go back and do it manually and see how much closer I can get.

  11. Mike, Gotta get the whole image in the frame if you're going to play the game. The widest lens I had was the 24mm. I had a 20mm but it finally fell apart.... There are some exteriors and interiors where my beloved 50mm just....isn't wide enough...

  12. Edward. Lovely pics and good suggestions. I like composites when necessary. My friend, Ellis Vener, did a bunch of images a while back with dozens of frames from the D800e and ended up with a bunch of gigabyte sized files. Amazing detail everywhere.

  13. billpearce@hughes.netJune 3, 2018 at 1:16 PM

    Back in the dark ages, I finally jumped into digital all the way. I got a Nikon D3. For a lens, I went to a nearby small mostly Mennonite town, where my faithful camera repairman worked. Bernie was a genius. He was factory authorized by Nikon, and could keep my halsselblads tic king. He had a Nikon zoom for sale, the then current 17-35. It had been dropped face down by its owner, a KU photojournalism student. Alas, he never picked it up. As the repairman didn't buy the special calibration electronics for the AF-S system, he sent it back to Nikon for final repair. He then offered it for sale for the price he paid for the repair, something around 800. I snapped it up.

    At that time I was shooting for a heavy industrial contractor, of projects in refineries and chemical plants. I used this lens almost exclusively, and it never failed me. Don't discount its goodness.

  14. Could stick with the 8-18 and get a Lumix G9 and have 80mp raw files with the high-res composite mode. I have used it and it works quite well. However I haven't done any comparison shots with any other camera.

    Of course, someone did: https://www.lumixgexperience.panasonic.co.uk/learn/expert-advice/working-in-high-resolution-mode-with-the-lumix-g9/2/#.WxRcslMvzRZ

    However a G9 is much more expensive than the lens you're looking at.

  15. Why not a used em5.2? The high res mode works very well for architecture.

    Then you get the superb 8-18 to work with.

  16. Kirk,
    I must apologize for my earlier comment. I should have waited until this evening to comment, when I would have a pesky eye patch taken away so that I could actually use my reading glasses and read your entire post. (Retinal detachment. Urgent call from ophthalmologist Thursday, hastily arranged appointment with retina specialist Friday, surgery at Wills Eye Hospital in Philly Saturday, 24-hour followup again at Wills eye today. Prognosis is favorable, but for a few weeks my left eye is legally blind.)

    Anyway - what I did was glance at the title and the first few lines, then skimmed through the pictures, all the while thinking, this guy can make any lens and/or camera look good, because they were all as good looking as so many others you have posted, and I thus made a jump to conclusions. (I, who am wont to lecture others, "If there were an Olympic event for conclusion jumping ...")

    So, again, I'm sorry. It wasn't tl;dr. It was cs;cr - couldn't see, couldn't read, and now that I've read, I understand.

  17. Hi Mike, I didn't interpret any malice or censure. I love having you comment here! I hope your eye recovers quickly. To respond to the rest: I wish I was as good as you think I might be. Thanks for the good vote of confidence. Now that it's 100 here what's the temp in the Calgary area and how soon can I get up there? All the best and my best wishes for a quick recover. KT

  18. Kirk,
    Can't help with Calgary. Here in a NW exurb of Philadelphia it should be low 70's today after a windy and chilly and gray Sunday. NOT our typical early June weather. My wife is going to Dallas in a few weeks. I'll ask her to pack some of our current weather, to give y'all some relief.

  19. Kirk,
    It seems there is much to like about your trial-basis Tokina, particularly at the price-point you paid. I was seriously looking at this lens, too, but then found the Nikkor 16-24 f/4 for $300 off list so bought it instead. I shoot architecture and landscape so the f/4 works fine for me, but to be honest the f/2.8 of the Tokina is very attractive as well. Looking at your images I think you found a keeper! I always enjoy and appreciate your insight.


  20. Kirk, I've got the same lens and am loath to point it anywhere near the sun because of the same issue you have seen. I just don't want to keep working in photoshop to clean up its messes! I don't know if the Nikon or the Sigma 14-24 is any better, perhaps they are.. Another reason it doesn't get as much luv is the necessity of using oddball adaptors in order to use ND or polarizing filters.

    Good luck with your quest! Doug

  21. Kirk, My wife and I were in a 'get out of Chicago' visit to Austin a week ago- y'all have some amazingly hot and humid weather down there! Also a beautiful city... I was amazed by the hundreds of people on kayaks, paddleboards inner-tubes and any other flotation device that would carry a cooler and (so it appeared) a dog. I used some of your older posts as an informal guide around town (the grafitti park is amazing) and actually recognize some of the more obscure locations in this posts photographs (the bike shop wall of stickers for one). We seem to have a talent for finding places that are -er- challenging weatherwise. Our early February trip was, for some reason, Quebec City- The canoe race across the frozen St. Lawrence was not to be missed, but the -10F temperature was, again, challenging. Equipment worked fine at both extremes of temperature, so all was good. Thought about touching base with you to say howdy, but decided not to presume...

    Keep up the good work! Bob


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