Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tokina 17mm f/3.5 AT-X Pro Ultrawide

When I began making photos, some years back, I remember finding myself always trying to pull back from my composition. I couldn't get enough in the frame. My first lens was actually a cheap-o kit lens made by Quantaray, a 28-90mm. I recall vividly looking at images made with true wide-angle lenses such as a 24 or even a 20mm. Well I didn't have any money so I worked with what I had for some time. I did however decide on two variables by which I would choose my next lenses. I wanted a wide lens, and I wanted a fast lens (no surpise there!).

I love a good 17mm perspective. 20mm isn't bad, but I can't help but want that little extra "zing". For my first 17mm lens, I was fed up with subpar optics, was now majoring in photography and decided to go big. The Nikon AF-S 17-35mm f/2.8 made all the sense to me. According to all the reviews, it was the tried-and-true choice of the nikon photojournalists and photographers world-wide. I also liked that it was a full frame optic, able to be used on my film cameras as well as a full frame digital (though at the time I was using a D200). Actually I struggled with the decision because I wanted a really wide lens but didn't want to buy into the DX lenses because then (and even now) I just didn't forsee myself staying with an APS-C size sensor forever. My DX lenses would then be useless. I still wouldn't buy a DX lens even if I wasn't shooting a FF camera. So basically, I picked up the Nikon 17-35mm and its been an excellent performer.

So why the Tokina 17mm? What the heck do you need another 17mm for? Well to be completely truthful, my only complaint about the 17-35mm is it is a HUGE piece of glass. Especially when, after a few years of use, I notice I really only tend to use the 17mm end of the lens. So I began wondering if there might be another option. A lighter, perhaps more inexpensive lens which could serve the same purpose and be a tad more convenient. Tokina has always been a go-to company for me, in terms of third-party manufacturers, and wouldn't you know it, they make an auto-focus 17mm lens!

Tokina 17mm f/3.5 AT-X Pro

Mount availability: Canon EOS, Minolta AF, Nikon-D,
Maximum aperture: f/3.5
Minimum aperture: f/22
Optical construction: 11 Elements / 9 Groups
Coatings: Multi-layer
Angle of view: 103°40'
Minimum focus distance: 0.25m (0.82ft)
Focusing system: Internal Focusing System
Number of diaphragm blades: 8
Filter size: 77mm
Maximum outer diameter: 88mm (3.3")
Overall length: 65mm (2.6")
Weight: 440g (15.5oz)
Accessories, included: Dedicated lens hood, fitted soft case
Lens Hood BH773

Specifications directly from Tokina's website.

Physical Attributes

Like Tokina's other AT-X Pro line lenses, such as the 28-70mm f/2.8 reviewed here, this lens bears the same crinkle finish covering the exterior of the lens. Love this. All around, it feels like a solid tool. This truly is one of Tokina's most popular aspects, the build quality. Being part of the older AT-X pro (this lens has since been discontinued), the manual focus is enabled through a clutch mechanism within the focusing ring. Probably one of the biggest complaints about these lenses has to do with the fact that even after you successully align the focus ring to the right orientation, so you can pull it back into the MF position, you still have to switch your camera to MF as well. A relatively inconvenient method. On newer AT-X lenses (such as the 100mm f/2.8 macro), I believe Tokina has addressed part of this issue by allowing the user to pull back the focus ring at any point in its rotation. MF issues aside, the 17mm is a solidly built, all metal lens. P.S. the 17mm takes Tokina's BH-773 hood (so does the Tokina 28-70mm). It's a fairly rare hood. Be sure if you're picking one of these up, you try to get one with the hood because "good luck finding one".


To discuss performance, I did a comparison between the Spiratone 18mm f/3.5 (Tokina made), Nikon AF-S 17-35mm f/2.8, and this Tokina 17mm f/3.5. I think it provides a pretty clear and concise visual of the capabilities of this lens, relative to something 1/3 its cost as well as something 3x its cost (that worked out nicely).

Wrap Up

Ok, so there is good reason why the Nikon costs what it does. It truly is a stellar performer. But the Tokina is no slouch. Despite some more than average CA the 17mm provides some sharp, contrasty images. As usual, the company has produced a solid piece of equipment especially considering the price point. (This lens will typically run you somewhere around $300+ I believe. Price may actually be on the rise as this lens is discontinued and FF cameras are becoming much more common.) I especially find the size to be most convenient. If you have a crack at one, I would recommend picking it up without a second thought! It certainly doesn't appear to lose its value.


A very good in-depth look at the Tokina 17mm
Photozone's review with great info on the MTF and CA performance of the Tokina 17mm AT-X
Shashinki Review of the Tokina 17mm

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