For the last 8 months or so I have been testing out a new piece of gear, the Tokina Opera 16-28mm f2.8 lens. I’ve had the opportunity to really push this lens in many different locations all along the east coast of the US from Florida to Maine and I’m going to show you some of the highlights of my time with this lens.
I want to preface this article by saying a few things. While I am an ambassador for Tokina USA, I would never put my name or reputation on the line by stating things I don’t believe are true nor am I required to say any of this!
First a little about the lens. This is a 16-28mm full frame lens with a constant 2.8 aperture. The lens is an update to the prior 16-28mm model. This newer “Opera” model has improved sharpness and faster auto-focus over the prior model. The lens has a bulbous front element so keep that in mind when in comes to filters. It also has a clutch mechanism to allow for fast switching between auto and manual focus. This lens weighs 33.5 oz, has a max aperture of f22 and a minimum focus distance of 11.02″. Compared to other manufacturers, this lens retails for a very reasonable price. At the time of this article it is selling for $699 usd. It does not have VR/IS/VC/OS or whatever else you want to call vibration reduction. I did not find this to be a big deal because I mostly photograph landscapes and night skies. This also keeps the price down.
What was really important to me when testing this lens was not just seeing how it performed but also comparing to the other lenses I have been using for many years. Almost every photo I took with the Tokina during testing, I also took identical shots with one or more of my lenses. It’s easy to think a photo looks good when you have nothing to compare it to so this was crucial for testing properly.
My first test with the lens was in southern Florida. Though conditions were not ideal for landscapes or night shooting most of the week I was there, I did have one night with a pretty sunset in a swamp. I was very impressed with the way the lens handled shooting directly into the sun. There was very minimal lens flare which made me happy as that can easily ruin a photo. Since the landscape conditions were not cooperating and desperate for something to photograph, I decided to head underwater and try something different.
I made the drive over to Jupiter, Florida and went by boat roughly 40 minutes off the coast to a spot where sharks are known to be. Luckily for me I finally had a chance to try the lens. I was (cage free) swimming with 30 bull sharks! This for me was a shot of a lifetime as I have loved sharks since I was a child. The lens had zero issues and performed perfectly! I had no issues with fogging both in the swamps and underwater (inside a housing). The 2.8 aperture also was perfect for the dark water helping keep the ISO down.
My next stop was in Oak Island, NC. This was a family vacation so it gave me a chance to try the lens out for portraits. My son, niece and nephew posed for me as the sun set over the lighthouse. Again, no issues with lens flare and the details were nice and sharp even during a shot that I would typically have to bracket. I was able to get this in one shot.
Next I made a quick stop at Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland. I was very anxious to use the lens at night. The milky way is one of my favorite subjects to photograph. I set up by this shack and took identical shots with all of my lenses. To say I was pleased with the Tokina lens would be an understatement. I think you can see from the photo, the results speak for themselves. The details in both the shack and the milky way are tremendous! The color rendering was also spot on. I was even more anxious to do more night shooting…
The next stop for me would be Bushkill Falls in Pennsylvania. To spare the repetition, I’ll sum up to say I had all the same thoughts as before. I had still yet to find a flaw. This shot was taken without a filter. I would have liked to have filters here but I did not have the lens adapter to hold them, but it came out nice regardless.
The next place I arrived at was Acadia National Park in Maine. I spent several weeks here both running workshops and testing the lens some more. This was where I really fell in love with it. The lens was super sharp corner to corner and most impressively, there was almost no distortion. I have had to warp/straighten that horizon line in the ocean countless times here. This was awesome to see!
I spent several more nights photographing the night sky as well. My photos seemed to keep getting better and better as I got used to using this lens. I had used the Tamron 15-30mm for years and it has been my go to night lens. Well, not anymore. I have listed it for sale.
The fact that this lens performs the way it does for the price blows me away. I would definitely consider this a “pro” lens after using it for this long. Try one for yourself and you won’t be disappointed!
Harry Collins is a professional wildlife and nature photographer based in Pennsylvania. Please visit http://www.harrycollinsphoto.com for more photos, videos and workshops. Also follow Harry on Instagram @harrycollinsphotography.