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Going Wide With the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8

The Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 APS-C sensor lens is without a doubt my favorite lens in my camera bag and it also has some great reviews throughout the photography community. But is this lens for you? What are its strengths and weaknesses? Ultimately, what kind of photographs can you take with it?

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Who is the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 for?

On the surface this wide angle crop sensor lens is going to appeal to just about any landscape photographer using an APS-C sensor DSLR and particularly those who are on tighter budgets, as it can be found (at the time of this writing) for around $500 making it quite affordable for its quality.

The main strengths

The Tokina 11-16mm has been a popular lens for a few years with good reason. It is sharp throughout its focal range and has limited distortion and artifacts which can be easily corrected inside Lightroom or other post-production software.

The lens is built like a tank and can really take a beating in the wild.

The constant f/2.8 aperture is a great benefit if you plan on photographing in low light situations – for example – taking photos of the night sky.

Its weaknesses?

Of course, with every set of strengths, comes a set of weaknesses and the Tokina 11-16mm has a couple that are worth mentioning here.

The small focal length range does at times feel a bit limiting. You’re always going to be at a wide angle shot, whereas something like the Nikon 10-24 will get you closer to your subject without swapping lenses.

As I mentioned the Tokina is built like a tank, and as such, is quite large (550g) which does make it cumbersome to take with you on longer hikes. Not saying that it’s not doable, just that smaller is better when you’re packing for a trek and it’s worth considering.

Overall I haven’t noticed too many problems with the lens, but the one I have, does get a little finicky when trying to focus in low light situations. It’s not always a problem, and by no means a deal breaker for me, but it is something to be aware of.

So what kind of photographs can you take with this lens?

As with any lens the photographs you make are only limited by your creativity when it comes to subject matter. That said, dramatic sunset photographs, or dynamic seascape scenes are the bread and butter for this lens.

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ISO 100 | f/14 | 11mm | 2.5 seconds

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ISO 100 | f/11 | 11mm | 6 seconds

On top of these, if you’ve wanted to capture a silky smooth waterfall photograph, this lens will certainly get it done, and I’ve used it many times photographing the numerous waterfalls of New England.

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ISO 100 | f/14 | 16mm | 3 seconds

As mentioned above, having that constant f/2.8 aperture gives you the ability to capture great night sky photography. Pair it with a modern DSLR capable of shooting at relatively high ISOs and you’ll be able to capture some great shots of the stars, or create star-trails if that’s more your thing.

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ISO 800 | f/2.8 | 11mm | 30 seconds

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ISO 800 | f/2.8 | 11mm | 30 seconds (~150 exposures)

Finally, even though this is a wide angle lens, you don’t have to get caught up in capturing these massive scenes to get something out of it. Sometimes you can make it work for a subject as simple as a dragonfly watching the sunset. So it really is limited only by your creativity.

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ISO 3200 | f2.8 | 16mm | 1/1250

Do you already own the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8?

Tell us your own thoughts on the lens and share some of your favorite shots taken with it in the comments below. Do you have a different favorite lens? See what dPS writer Andrew S. Gibson considers his favorite here.


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John Davenport

John Davenport is the creator of PhoGro an online community that aims to help you grow your photography through engagement with other photographers. Join today! John also offers a free email course 6 Weeks to Better Photos. This course covers the most important techniques you need to learn when getting started with photography.