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Lens review

Tokina AT-X 165 PRO DX AF 16-50 mm f/2.8

9 June 2010
Arkadiusz Olech

11. Summary


Nikon D200

Pros:

  • very solid barrel,
  • excellent image quality at all focal lengths by f/4.0 and bigger,
  • slight astigmatism,
  • efficient autofocus.

Cons:

  • very weak performance at the maximum relative aperture,
  • huge chromatic aberration at 16 mm,
  • very high vignetting,
  • noticeable coma.


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I must admit my expectations of the Tokina 16-50 f/2.8 were high. At the very beginning it promised to be a very interesting instrument. My appetite was more whetted after the announcement that the lens was withdrawn for further improvement to make it even better than the much-praised Tamron 17-50 f/2.8. I was glad that a kit lens substitute which would be solidly made, optically good and fast was going to be launched. The performance the Tokina presented in our test was for me a blow all the more painful. It’s scary to think how the 16-50 mm model would have fared before those improvements when you take into account the fact that afterwards it is still optically worse than the Tamron in almost all categories. The only Tokina’s advantage is a better build quality and a more solid barrel. On the other hand, the Tamron is smaller, more handy, needs smaller filters and has a smaller minimum focus distance; it is also cheaper than the Tokina and it is perhaps the most important factor on our market.

Why Tokina was so hell-bent on having have these 16 mm instead of 17 or even 18 mm in this instrument? Perhaps it wasn’t such a good idea. Adding these 1-2 mm on the wide angle raised the standards and the costs significantly, and most probably it will result in losses. With the current price tag the Tokina 16-50 mm won’t be a bestseller on the market. This is also bad news for amateur photographers – if you want to have a solid and fast kit lens substitute you must pay through your nose or even take out a loan to buy such instruments as the 17-55 mm f/2.8 lenses from Canon or Nikon.

Canon 20D

Pros:

  • very solid barrel,
  • excellent image quality at the beginning and in the middle of the focal lengths range ; good at the longest focal length,
  • slight astigmatism,
  • relatively efficient autofocus.

Cons:

  • weak performance by f/2.8 and at 50 mm focal length,
  • enormous chromatic aberration at 16 mm,
  • high vignetting,
  • noticeable coma.

The test conducted on the Canon 20D brought a lot of changes - so many that I can hardly believe we deal with the same lens here. Firstly the 16 mm and f/2.8 combination result underwent a radical change – on the Nikon the image quality was horrible, on the Canon it is excellent. It is also difficult not to comment on big differences in vignetting.

How could you explain such a change? Although I will be toying with formulating unverifiable hypothesis now, it seems to me we don’t deal with exactly the same instrument. Certainly it was easier for Tokina to construct this lens in a Canon mount than in a Nikon mount. No matter where you look, in the case of the Canon the standards are lower – the Canon camera features a smaller and differently positioned sensor and a bigger size of a mount. It is not enough, though, because you can explain lower vignetting and a tad lower chromatic aberration this way but not the drastic change in the image quality by f/2.8 and at 16 mm focal length. As the version in a Canon mount was launched much later than the version in a Nikon mount, it seems Tokina, aware of the Nikon version shortcomings and its bad reviews, decided to improve its lens a bit more and with the right result.

In conclusion, the Canon fans get a quite interesting lens – solidly build, optically good, with a unique focal range and decent fastness. Of course the Canon 17-55 f/2.8 IS USM is practically better in every aspect but also 500 $ more expensive because the suggested Tokina price is now 550 $.


Sample shots:

Tokina AT-X 165 PRO DX AF 16-50 mm f/2.8  - Summary Tokina AT-X 165 PRO DX AF 16-50 mm f/2.8  - Summary Tokina AT-X 165 PRO DX AF 16-50 mm f/2.8  - Summary
Camera: Nikon D200
Parameters: 50 mm, f/2.8, exp. 1/60 s, ISO 640
File: JPG, 3872x2592 pix, 4.0 MB
Camera: Nikon D200
Parameters: 16 mm, f/2.8, exp. 1/320 s, ISO 100
File: JPG, 3872x2592 pix, 7.1 MB
Camera: Nikon D200
Parameters: 50 mm, f/8.0, exp. 1/640 s, ISO 200
File: JPG, 3872x2592 pix, 5.0 MB
Tokina AT-X 165 PRO DX AF 16-50 mm f/2.8  - Summary Tokina AT-X 165 PRO DX AF 16-50 mm f/2.8  - Summary Tokina AT-X 165 PRO DX AF 16-50 mm f/2.8  - Summary
Camera:Nikon D200
Parameters: 16 mm, f/8.0, exp. 1/350 s, ISO 200
File: JPG, 3872x2592 pix, 5.2 MB
Camera:Nikon D200
Parameters: 50 mm, f/5.6, exp. 1/1250 s, ISO 200
File: JPG, 3872x2592 pix, 5.1 MB
Camera:Nikon D200
Parameters: 34 mm, f/2.8, exp. 1/4000 s, ISO 200
File: JPG, 3872x2592 pix, 4.9 MB
Tokina AT-X 165 PRO DX AF 16-50 mm f/2.8  - Summary Tokina AT-X 165 PRO DX AF 16-50 mm f/2.8  - Summary Tokina AT-X 165 PRO DX AF 16-50 mm f/2.8  - Summary
Camera:Nikon D200
Parameters: 48 mm, f/5.6, exp. 1/1000 s, ISO 160
File: JPG, 3872x2592 pix, 3.7 MB
Camera:Nikon D200
Parameters: 16 mm, f/4.0, exp. 1/2000 s, ISO 160
File: JPG, 3872x2592 pix, 4.5 MB
Camera:Nikon D200
Parameters: 50 mm, f/2.8, exp. 1/1600 s, ISO 160
File: JPG, 3872x2592 pix, 4.1 MB
Tokina AT-X 165 PRO DX AF 16-50 mm f/2.8  - Summary Tokina AT-X 165 PRO DX AF 16-50 mm f/2.8  - Summary Tokina AT-X 165 PRO DX AF 16-50 mm f/2.8  - Summary
Camera:Nikon D200
Parameters: 50 mm, f/5.6, exp. 1/750 s, ISO 160
File: JPG, 3872x2592 pix, 4.3 MB
Camera:Nikon D200
Parameters: 34 mm, f/5.6, exp. 1/640 s, ISO 160
File: JPG, 3872x2592 pix, 4.9 MB
Camera:Nikon D200
Parameters: 25 mm, f/5.6, exp. 1/1250 s, ISO 160
File: JPG, 3872x2592 pix, 4.3 MB
Tokina AT-X 165 PRO DX AF 16-50 mm f/2.8  - Summary Tokina AT-X 165 PRO DX AF 16-50 mm f/2.8  - Summary Tokina AT-X 165 PRO DX AF 16-50 mm f/2.8  - Summary
Camera:Nikon D200
Parameters: 16 mm, f/2.8, exp. 1/4000 s, ISO 160
File: JPG, 3872x2592 pix, 4.1 MB
Camera:Nikon D200
Parameters: 34 mm, f/4.0, exp. 1/200 s, ISO 100
File: JPG, 3872x2592 pix, 3.8 MB
Camera:Nikon D200
Parameters: 16 mm, f/8.0, exp. 1/500 s, ISO 160
File: JPG, 3872x2592 pix, 6.3 MB



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