Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Tokina AF 17mm AT-X f/3.5 Ultrawide
While looking for an auto-focus ultrawide some time back, I remember coming across this Tokina AF 17mm AT-X f/3.5. It is indeed the precursor to the AT-X Pro model I previously reviewed here on this blog (Consequently, I will refer to it as version 1 from time to time). Well I just got a crack at one and thought, since often lenses such as this have very little information out there, I would give it a quick whirl for my own curiosity's sake.
First impression, solid built little lens. Although it isn't very much smaller than the AT-X Pro model, for some reason it "seems" considerably smaller. Even despite the fact that the hood is built-in (non-removable).
Focal range: 17 mm
Filter diameter: 72mm
Max. aperture: 3.5
Min. aperture: 22
Angle of view: 103°
Aperture blades: 7
Minimum focus distance: 250mm
Hood: Fixed metal
Weight: 400 g
Honestly, I haven't spent a whole lot of time with this lens. I don't believe the performance will be all that different from the Pro version. Only optical difference it seems is the addition of Super Low Dispersion glass in the Pro. The hood of the newer Pro also appears to have a bit more coverage than the metal build-in of the first AF version.
Below is a quick comparison between the two versions at the extreme. Wide open and far edge.
I really only saw a difference worth mentioning here. It seems the Pro version is a hair sharper wide open. CA is apparent in both and for all intents and purposes appears to be the same. The difference in color rendering between these lenses is so minute, it would hardly show up through the various processing of a web uploaded image, but I will just say, the Pro version puts out a slightly more saturated image. I like the look and feel of the Pro's images just a hair better than the older version 1.
Visually the coatings of the version 1 lens appear more saturated (on the right) but as stated above, I would believe the coatings of the Pro are more advanced based on the output.
The version 1 Tokina AF 17mm lens feels solid. It appears to be an all metal construction, including the hood. The hood is non-removable but that shouldn't be an issue since anyone shooting an ultrawide should have the hood on at all times. The only reason one might want to take the hood off is during storage. Still, the hood isn't all that obtrusive. There is no AF/MF switch or clutch mechanism as on the Pro. Seeing as how the user must engage the MF clutch as well as switch the camera to MF using the Pro version, this isn't any disadvantage. The focus ring and autofocus is a hint noisier than that of the Pro but nothing to worry about. This version 1 also has one of those clear plastic windows to view the distance scale printed on the inner barrel.
One more thing. The AF 17mm AT-X originally came with that signature dark red rectangular leather hard case whereas the newer Pro came with an ugly grey leather sack/thing. Both models have since been discontinued.
Overall, this first version is a reliable, robust ultrawide lens. If given the choice between this version and the Pro, go for the Pro. Slightly sharper performance, SD (Super-low Dispersion) glass, and (I'm gonna state an opinion here...) a more aesthetic build. I'm a huge fan of the Tokina "armalite" finish. Other than that, the Tokina AF 17mm f/3.5 is an excellent little ultrawide and is capable of making beautiful images, especially on newer full-frame DSLRs.