Tokina 12-24mm f/4 AT-X Pro DX II LENS - bargain ultra-wide?

Tokina 12-24mm f/4 AT-X Pro DX II LENS – bargain ultra-wide?


If you’re looking for an affordable ultra-wide angle lens for your APS-C cropped sensor Canon, Nikon, Sony or Pentax DSLR in 2010, you have quite a few choices. In the last year or two, most lens makers have updated their ultra-wide offerings: Tamron replaced its 11-18mm model with a new 10-24mm (available for Nikon, Canon, Pentax and Sony), Sigma produced a new, faster 10-20mm (Canon, Nikon, Pentax and Sony), Nikon replaced its 12-24 with a 10-24mm and Olympus added a more affordable 9-18mm model to the existing 7-14 mm f/4.0.

Canon didn’t do anything but, by all accounts, the current EF-S 10-22mm is a great lens worth every dollar of its reasonable asking price. Even Ken Rockwell says it’s better than Nikon’s dearer ultra-wide. This is an EF-S lens and will only fit on APS-C (cropped) sensor Canons. All the lenses listed below are designed for cropped sensors. The list includes recently updated/replaced lenses which are still on the market:


1)     The Tamron 10-24mm is available with an inbuilt AF motor for small Nikon DSLRs – D40/60/3000/5000.

2)     The Tokina 124 AT-X Pro 12-24mm is the obvious bargain here at US$400, but the inbuilt AF-motor for small Nikon DSLRs costs another $100.

3)     The Tokina AT-X 116 Pro DX is faster but dearer and offers no inbuilt AF motor for Nikon.

4)     The new Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 takes the lens diameter from 77mm to 82mm. That’s a pain if you’ve invested in 77mm filters.

5)     The Pentax lens listed here looks like a Tokina 12-24mm in a different suit. It is indeed a close relative as Pentax and Tokina are both owned by Hoya. There’s no Pentax version of this Tokina.

Choosing and buying – second time around

I owned the cheaper Sigma (10-20mm f/4-5.6) not long ago but sold it on eBay a while back, mostly because it turned out fewer keepers than all the other lenses I’ve used. Still, I missed not having an ultra-wide and decided to buy the Tokina since all the reviews said that it was the sharpest and the best built, and the 12-24mm comes with an inbuilt AF motor for my trusty old Nikon D40.

The Sigma goes to 10mm, which gives almost 10 degrees more Angle of View (roughly 100 vs 110°), so it’s well worth considering if 12mm is wide enough for you. It’s 50% wider than a kit zoom, to be sure, and bear in mind that more width brings more distortion. With ultra-wide lenses, that’s the nature of the beast.

With the Sigma, sharpness was often difficult to achieve without a lot of post-processing, which I tend to avoid. Still, every once in a while, the Sigma would produce a stunning shot like this one:

These lenses need a fair bit of concentration and good technique to get the best out of, something I’ll explore in a future article. Their optics are stretched to the ragged edge and it shows when you work on the super-wide end of their zoom range. Away from the centre of the images, things tend to go a bit squishy, and the Tokina is no different from the Sigma in that regard.


The Tokina AT-X 124 Pro uses a chrome-plated brass mount plate and features an all-metal zoom unit, with polycarbonate covering the outer lens barrels. The optics include 13 elements in 11 groups, including 2 aspherical elements and an SD element. The minimum focus distance is 0.30m, and the lens features 9 aperture blades.

The lens does not extend during zooming and the non-rotating 77mm filter threads mean that filters are not affected by changing focus. It’s possible to change filters without removing the petal shaped hood. The lens uses an inbuilt micro-motor for auto-focusing, which is fast and not noisy.

Switching between auto-focus and manual is a simple matter of sliding the focus ring back and forth, which can be done in any focus position. A constant f/4 across the zoom range makes the lens useful in imperfect light conditions. Tokina offers the 11-16mm f/2.8 if you need a faster lens. A flimsy user guide that comes in Japanese, Japanese or Japanese is the only letdown.


The AT-X 124 Pro looks like pro lens costing two or three times as much, with a subtle, classy-looking crinkle finish and a quality lens cap. It feels nice as well, with none of that cheap plastic stickiness. If you dropped the 570g AT-X 124 Pro on your foot, I suspect that your toes would break before the lens. It feels a bit hefty on a small Nikon or Canon body but the barrel is only 8cm long without the hood.

Tokina’s one-touch focus clutch mechanism is pretty slick, and there is a distance scale for manual focusing. Both the zoom and focus rings move smoothly with just the right degree of resistance. Getting the lens hood on and off takes a bit of effort, as the slot is very positive. The hood is pretty substantial too and won’t come loose once it’s locked in.

Image Quality

The biggest issue with ultra-wide lenses is flare, the white-out caused by bright light in the frame. Their wide angles catch a lot more light than normal lenses, and the Tokina performs no better in this area than the Sigma despite claims of improvements for this DX II version of the lens.  You’ll see what I mean about the light in the next image – and the sun’s a long way to the left here.

On the positive side, AF is accurate and colours are realistic. The Tokina is a little sharper than the Sigma, but not to the extent the reviews suggest. The problem is worst at the 12mm end but, even at 18mm the Tokina isn’t as sharp as my Nikon kit lens. Not in a long shot, any way.

Getting right in close to the subject is often a better idea with these lenses than trying to grab an armful of landscape, and then sharpness is not such an issue.

If you want to get technical, there’s a fair amount of barrel distortion at the wide end, and a some vignetting (darkening of the image corners) but these problems are not hard to solve with a good editor. Colour fringing is much harder to correct but happens less often. The most frequent problem is flare, and it rears its head as soon as you aim the lens anywhere near bright light (the hood makes little difference).

I’ve posted a gallery of more test shot on my blog. There are some decent shots but I threw out more than ten for every I kept.

Summing up

I’m a bit disappointed by the Tokina, mostly because so many positive reviews led me to expect more. Yes, the build quality is tremendous for the money (or any money) and yes, the price is great, but the performance is not convincing where it counts most: at the wide end of the spectrum. Lenses like this really have few other uses.

The Tokina is good for dramatic shots when you’re right in the middle of things, or in cities or buildings or rooms as long as you watch the light. And it’s good for motorbikes and cars, of course, as long as you lie on the ground.

Spending more money may not improve things – Ken Rockwell who is no fan of third-party lenses says there’s little difference in Image Quality between the Nikon 12-24mm and the Tokina (the older version without the in-built motor).

Get a Price on the Tokina 12-24mm f/4 AT-X Pro DX II LENS

Ultra-wide lenses aren’t easy beasts to use or live with and, as I hinted above, I’m planning an article on how to get the best out of them in the near future. Meanwhile, here some other views and resources:

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Kim Brebach is a marketing professional whose experience spans over 3 decades in the IT industry. His interests include photography, cool technology, great music, theatre and books, wine and food, tennis and chess. You can find his photo blog at Get the Picture.

Some Older Comments

  • Ryan December 27, 2012 04:19 pm

    Why does ken Rockwell always have to be mentioned? I do read some of his reviews but he's not a lens god or something.

  • Mark May 9, 2012 05:25 am

    A couple of posters ask about full frame (FX). My 1st rule of gear is "how likely is it to work after I've dropped it, because I probably will?" and 3rd party lenses tend to fare worse than Nikon & Canon (the old FD lenses were the most bounceable). For almost ultrawide FX the old Nikon 20-35mm f2.8 is fantastic and requires much less distortion correction than the modern 17-35 and is also much more substantial. Because the distortion is better it's good for film for those of us shooting for fine print.

  • Quazi Ahmed Hussain June 22, 2010 03:25 pm

    If a hobbyist is going to Africa for safari with a crop body; the cheapest option is the EFs 18-55mm kit lens and EFs 55-250mm telezoom both from Canon. I don't know of anything cheaper and of good quality than this. Of course quality will go up with corresponding increase in expenditure.

    I had been there last year and visited the famous Masai Mara. My equipment were EOS 450D, the kit lens and EF 70-300mm IS USM. I am fully convinced the 55-250mm telezoom can sufficiently do the job of 70-300mm on these safaris. However, if the shooter is after birds, a longer telephoto lens will be necessary. I do birding with EF 400mm f/5.6L USM. This is the best affordable birding lens. Lack of IS on this lens is not an issue if used skillfully.

  • bob June 22, 2010 02:35 pm

    The problem with carrying only two lenses is that the 18-200 will have significantly poorer IQ than the 11-16, especially at the 200 end which is the only real reason to have it. Also, with the11-16 one gets really, really spoiled with f2.8 -- also missing on the 18-200, and I did not find that VR made up for a slow lens, which I had -- it really gets slow in the middle range at 55+mm.

    I don't necessarily want to recommend, only say what I have: the Tokina 11-16, the Nikon 17-55 2.8 (Tamron makes a highly regarded one too) and the older Nikon 80-200 2.8 (not the AF-S version which is no longer in production). Three lenses, entire range.

    None of these are VR, but they are super fast and produce incredibly sharp images, way beyond the 18-200 capability. As for the criticism that the 80-200 focuses slowly, we recently attended a rodeo. I set my d300 on continuous mode and didn't miss one shot of continuous action. If this lens is too heavy, sigma makes a well reviewed 50-150 and tokina makes a well reviewed 50-135, each of which replicates approximate 70-200 on the DX sensor.

  • nate June 22, 2010 02:07 pm

    if you're going to get only 2 lenses, then i would highly recommend the nikkon's 18-200 mm and tokina's 11-16. unless you were going to africa to take photos of lions, then these 2 lenses will serve you more than supremely well for just about EVERYTHING your photographic heart needs and desires! i'm sure most of my knowledgeable peers here will agree...

  • Bob June 20, 2010 01:46 pm

    If you're in the market for one of these for Nikon, get the Tokina 11-16. There is simply no better lens. Even Rockwell says its the best ultra wide for Nikon. Won't work on full frame. Early on there was some reported sample problems but it appears those have all been worked out. The IQ is stunning. I took some Arizona wildflowers and printed out 13x19 for my office. Absolutely perfect.

  • will June 18, 2010 09:24 am

    Why are we listening to Ken Rockwell?

  • Kim Brebach June 18, 2010 06:03 am

    Sorry, posted the wrong link for the Tamron review. Here's the right one

  • Kim Brebach June 18, 2010 06:01 am

    Apologies for getting it wrong about the Sony version, Fred.
    JD, the bargain for FF sensor cameras is the Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8 - 4. Tamron stopped making it last year but you can get a second hand one for about $350 - $400. It's still listed on Tamron's website
    And here's a review:
    Yes, I wish I'd bought the 11-16 for a few dollars more. It doesn't AF with my fave D40, that's why I went the other way.

  • Quazi Ahmed Hussain June 18, 2010 04:08 am

    Ken Rockwell heavily praised the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 ultra wide lens. Some of my photographer friends have also bought this lens and are very happy users. The only problem with this lens is; it's an ultra wide lens all the way. However, its superb IQ is considered enough reason by users to retain it.

    May I request some users' comments on this lens in this thread?

    Thanks in advance.

  • Richard Crowe June 18, 2010 02:47 am

    I love my 12-24mm f/4 Tokina Mark-I model. I have not been troubled with flare but, I always use the lens hood and seldom shoot into the sun with a UWA lens. I do like the image quality of this lens because it seems to be three dimensional to me.

    The Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 would mesh better with my 17-55mm f/2.8 IS lens but, the 12-24mm has one advantage over the 11-16mm: the approximate 19-38mm equivalency of the 12-24mm (on a 1.6x camera) can fill in as a medium range zoom lens if my 17-55mm should ever go down. I carried the 12-24mm along with a 17-55mm f/2.8 IS and 70-200mm f/4L IS lenses to China for a two week trip in April of this year. Luckily, the 17-55mm came through with flying colors and I only used the 12-24mm sparingly (note: the 28mm equivalent of the wide side of the 17-55mm provides a wide enough view for most of my images).

    The Tokina UWA lenses have another advantage for me. I use a Canon D60 which has been converted to full-time infrared photography. I can use the 12-24mm Tokina on that camera since, although it is designed for the 1.6x format, the Tokina is not an EFS lens.

    All that said, I am not a great fan of many UWA shots so I use the Tokina sparingly. I really thought I would use it more often than I did in China.

  • JD June 18, 2010 01:53 am

    And what about some bargain for full frame sensor? What can you suggest?

  • Fred June 17, 2010 09:12 pm

    Your article states this lens is available for Sony mount. I can't find it for sale and the manufacturer's site does not state it is available for Sony.

  • Rick June 16, 2010 05:56 am

    I use the Tokina 12-24 with my 40D and am very happy with the results. Maybe if I were a pro I'd feel differeently, but this lens gives me everything that I can get out of it anyway. At this point I'm more limited by my mind rather than my equipment! (PLUS, I dropped the lens onto the granite steps at Karnak Temple and while it still fit the camera I had the metal mounting ring changed out for short money and it's good as new!)

    [eimg link='' title='Columns at Luxor Temple' url='']

  • dan foy June 16, 2010 04:14 am

    +1 on completely disregarding anything ken rockwell says - he's a troll that doesn't need to be fed and makes broad, unqualified statements based on a mixture of his gut reactions to something and whatever he thinks will create the most controversial reaction and drive visitors to his site. You'd do much better to read reviews written by people who actually know what they're talking about, such as dpreview, the digital picture, or luminous landscapes.

    apart from that excellent review, never really took tokina seriously before this.

  • Geoff June 16, 2010 12:26 am


    Not at all! If staying with DX, definitely go with the Tokina, as a previous owner of one, I can guarantee there is nowhere the difference between it and the Nikon 12-24.

  • alan June 16, 2010 12:06 am

    i'm surprised at all the hate on this lens. every single review i've read about it (and i was OCD for a few weeks prior to getting it) has been very positive. though i'm not sure if this is so much hate on the lens or the low price point; as most of you seem to be saying you need to buy the most expensive lens you can (which contradicts what everyone says about not needing the best equipment to produce the best photos). i got this lens for under $400. nikon's version would run me $1000. would i really be able to see a $600 difference on my D90?

  • David June 16, 2010 12:05 am

    Oh I forgot to add earlier that I acquired second hand a Tokina 100mmm macro and that's also a joy of a lens and one of the reasons I bought the D90 so I could auto focus the was tricky close in on the D40. Considering the price of these lenses the quality is awesome! I haven't used the 100mm much on the D90 yet but I intend to, but of course weight is again a downside with metal and glass lenses although the 100mm is quite compact overall. Since I found the Nikon 35mm AFS f1.8 a bit of a dog in most respects and aren't overly impressed with the D90's metering performance, it falls apart in bright light, I am less committed to Nikon than I would otherwise be, Tokina is a breath of fresh air and a third of the price for nearly the same thing!

  • David June 15, 2010 11:56 pm

    I've got the 11-16 and on the Nikon D40 even when I forgot to focus it I got good and often fabulous results. On my new D90 I was less impressed until I realised the D90 overexposes and needs exposure correction. Then it performs as well as ever and frankly its a joy. The only downside is the weight when you carry it but on the D90 its a great balance. At f2.8 its also very useful and with the D90's excellent low light performance (leave it, the D90, at home, use the D40 in bright sunlight) its again fabulous, my second most favourite lens ever, the 55-200mm VR is that, although for shear convenience the kit 18-105mm comes close even though it has obvious draw backs, like distortion and is not so out of the camera sharp! On the D40 the Tokina often needs no post sharpening ditto the 55-200, the D90 seems a bit softer or applies less in camera sharpening to its jpegs.

  • giry June 15, 2010 11:37 pm

    I used to have this lens. It is an OK lens. My major concern was sharpness. I almost have to use f/8 everytime when I want to get decent corner to corner sharpness, making the lens become 12-24mm f/8 :-) I am not sure about Tokina 11-16mm, I heard some bad copies are around. So better be careful and test it properly when you buy one. BTW, a bit OOT, in the end I bought Nikon 14-24mm to replace my Tokina 12-24mm. Never regret at all. Eventhough I am only using D90 at the moment.

  • Radityo Pradipto June 15, 2010 10:01 pm

    I use Tokina 11-16 for for about a year already and I can promise you that this lens is awesome (except for the flare performance and a bit noisy AF). Build quality is superb. It was accidentally dropped from my tripod with the lens with the ground head on, but no damage to the elements or mechanical issues at all other than the filter...
    check for the reviews!

  • nate June 15, 2010 06:52 pm

    i've got a tokina 11-16mm...i agree that it is very well built and the results obtained have been impressive to me. also, this fast lens (f/2.8) is great for night shots! i'm really glad i got this and happy with what it does. i have tried the sigma & tamron wide lenses and was thinking of getting one of these but they didnt feel right and the reviews were not i'm glad i didnt but i'm lovin my tokina!

  • dogwatcher June 15, 2010 04:58 pm

    It's always the same discussion.. get a "good" lens in the first place or start with a cheap one?

    Well, you never know if you really like that lens-type at all.. in this case wide angle lenses.

    Same applied for me, I got myself the Tamron and given the fact that I will use it not THAT often (such wide angles or for special purposes, at least this is my point of view) I'm happy now for a while.. especially given the fact that the Pentax wide-angle lens costs more than double.

    (The Tamron lens of the review here isn't available for Pentax.. )

    I think there is no "right" way. It depends.

  • jamesdon June 15, 2010 04:06 pm

    What the heck!!!!!!!!!!!
    I've been coveting the Tokina 116 for the last 3 months but no one reputable has it in stock! Get it together Tokina!!!

  • Kim Brebach June 15, 2010 02:33 pm

    Thanks for the feedback, guys. Yes, these lenses are tricky, and I suspect that even applies to those from Nikon. Good to hear that many of you have issues with these things, and yes I'll put my thoughts on paper about ultra-wide shooting technique in the next week or two.

    Yes, the D700 and 14-24mm is an awesome combo - a friend has both and I've played with his toys - but this article was about consumer ultra-wides for DX format cameras at reasonable prices. The 14-24 is an FX lens so it's not ultra-wide on a D90. I have a Tamron 17-35mm on my F80 and it's the best Ultra I've used but it's not so ultra on a DX sensor body.

    Sure, it's always good advice to save up until you have enough to buy the best piece of kit, that's what the saying is about that goes: poor people pay twice for everything (first for the cheap product, then for the right one). But some of us just want good kit we can afford, now, and that was the POV from which I wrote this piece.

    Love the piece from TOP, thanks Dave. Thanks for all the advice - I can use most of it.

  • Dave Hodgkinson June 15, 2010 02:12 pm

    The "get the best you can afford at the outset" argument was done amusingly here:

    I can see his point but I'd rather get kit that's on a level with where I am now rather than something expensive I'm likely to destroy. How often do we hear the argument that it's not the hardware but the photographer who makes the picture?

    That said, some shiny primes are on my wishlist now... :)

  • Dennis June 15, 2010 02:06 pm

    and I am a proud owner of a Tokina 11-16.

  • Dennis June 15, 2010 02:05 pm

    The best bang of the buck is definitely the tokina 11-16. It does has prime lens quality, and even on the edges the IQ and sharpness is by far the best I've ever seen.

  • Matthew Dutile June 15, 2010 01:58 pm

    If you're on a crop sensor, throw in a bit more and get the Nikon 12-24 (if you don't mind a flat f/4). Personally if you're going wide and want fast as well the 14-24mm f/2.8 is the way to go, but you'll shell out for it. Also staying on the crop side the Tokina 11-16 gets some good reviews. Put down a bit more and get that as a decent quality at affordable price. Otherwise as stated by others, you'll buy a crappy lens, sell it for a loss and then buy the good one you should have.

  • Chris Breidenbaugh June 15, 2010 01:37 pm

    I don't own any ultra wides lenses, but I must agree with Mr. Hoffman's reasoning. I you can spend $400+ for a lower quality lens, it would seem to me that the thing to do would be to say a few more weeks and get the best.

    Cost=amount of money it takes to own something
    Price=the amount you pay to purchase

    Don't confuse the two.

  • Syd June 15, 2010 12:19 pm

    Although my experience was with the 11-16/2.8 version, information seems to indicate the 116 and 124 models are quite similar in many respects. I really wanted to like it, but ended up returning it. The build quality and image quality were okay, but not as good as I expected from so many positive reviews. It actually seems that the low prices of these lenses, ultra wide angle along with constant and fast-ish aperture, create enough "sex" appeal to attract a lot of budget minded shutterbugs, mostly those who just find the better quality OEM glass to be grossly overpriced... I was one of those people, but now I've changed my tune. The bigger problem was that my copy was seriously defective, and I didn't feel like waiting for more stock to arrive and taking another chance. It pretty much turned me off 3rd party glass. Every brand can have it's lemons, but I do believe that OEM glass is for the most part better designed, better quality controlled, just better all around, and I'm willing to pay a premium for that. Oh God help me I've become a lens snob!

  • geoff June 15, 2010 08:20 am

    "That’s what I did. The Nikkor 14 -24 on the D700 is a thing of beauty."

    I'm with Brian. use to have the Tokina on a d300, but got serious with my paying architectural shoots and stepped up both. The CA was driving me crazy on the lower end lenses.

  • Bjorn June 15, 2010 07:55 am

    Interesting article.

    I shoot the older Sigma 10-20 and have been pleased with the results. As well, you mention KR in your review, he tends to write more for reaction and should be taking with not a grain of salt, but 2 or 3 pounds worth. Check Thom Hogan instead for a review (

  • alan June 15, 2010 05:25 am

    i just picked one of these up the other day and have been very happy with it. for less than $400, i just can't complain. both the sharpness and the CA leave a little to be desired but at half the cost of Nikon's offering, and the fact that i'm not a pro, i am very happy with it.

  • Brian Hoffman June 15, 2010 04:24 am

    You can buy a cheap lens, become unhappy, then buy a really good one. This guarantees you will pay the most possible. If you are a serious photographer, save up and buy the best which is usually made by the same manufacturer as your camera body.

    That's what I did. The Nikkor 14 -24 on the D700 is a thing of beauty.

  • dogwatcher June 15, 2010 12:52 am

    I'm looking forward to your article regarding the handling of ultra-wide lenses.. I own a Tamron 10-24 and boy, this lens is such a diva! Sometimes I think the lens is just broken, not kidding. Another shot later with the same settings... well, at least good results. The lens keeps me wondering.

  • Scottyea June 15, 2010 12:52 am

    I have that Tamron 11-18 that's mentioned above. IA good lens, but needs attention to use because of its tendency to underexpose on my 10D. I was glad to read above that wides take extra learnin'.

    [eimg url='' title='normal_IMG_8364.JPG']

  • Spencer June 15, 2010 12:44 am

    I have a Sigma 10-20, and absolutely love the wide angle!
    This lens looks quite similar! Wide angle lenses are a must for anybody doing some landscape work!

  • Scottyea June 15, 2010 12:41 am

    Mine is the Tamron 11-18.
    I haven't really come to terms with it - it seems to underexpose a bit on my old Canon 10D - bit it is fun to have something so wide and I'll keep practicing. . [eimg url='' title='normal_IMG_8364.JPG']

  • Dave Hodgkinson June 15, 2010 12:22 am

    I have the plain old DX version (what's the difference?!!!) for use on my Nikon D300 body. It's served me well for nearly 2 years with a lot of travel. It's also taken a lot of wear and tear. Recently I've not been happy with the sharpness and chromatic aberration. Still, it's been a great lens.

    [eimg link='' title='Random Amsterdam' url='']