First, the plethora of (and seemingly ever-expanding) numbers and letters following a lens are amazing, aren’t they? TMV will now, in reviews, also explain those designations so when you jot down your remarks in some forum, you can show your knowledge and expand theirs.
Introducing the Tokina 12-24 f4
While I try to stay with the lenses of my body manufacturer, often those are very expensive. Sometimes, they are inferior to third-party (that is, not a camera body maker at all) offerings. And sometimes, they don’t exist at all. Of all the third party manufacturers, Tokina has my highest regard – although Sigma, particularly with their primes (fixed length) is catching up.
Tokina is part of a group that also makes filters and camera bags. Their actual website is a nightmare and I think it’s intended to keep you looking at their retailers instead of seeking answers from them. However, for the most part, Tokina makes absolutely wonderful lenses.
The Tokina 12-24 f4 AT-X Pro is one of a lineup of Tokina lenses designed for crop or DX cameras. The AT-X Pro designation means it’s one of Tokina’s top-of-the-line offerings – and it shows. Like most all Tokinas, it’s built like a tank. Heavy duty plastic and metal construction lend a heft that feels good in the hand, but doesn’t turn your camera into a boat anchor. It meets that middle ground between not-gonna-take-it-with-me-on-the-hike all-metal construction and won’t-survive-the-hike cheap plastic build. A metal mount along with high-strength plastic and metal components make for a solid feel and give confidence that it can make the trip.
The 12-24 f4 also features large, rubber focus and zoom rings. For those that use them, it also provides a distance scale. Like most modern autofocus lenses, it does not offer an aperture ring. One thing to be aware of with this lens is the differences based on mount: the Canon mount has a built in, quite fast and silent, motor and a hard stop at infinity. The Nikon mount comes in two versions: the older one without a built in motor and the newer, model II, with a built in motor. I’ve had two without the BIM and neither had hard stops at infinity. The BIM is important to Nikon owners as most of the consumer lines (3000 & 5000 among modern models) do not have the ability to auto-focus these lenses. You have to go up to the pro-sumer or professional lines (7000, 700, 600, D-whatever) to get that ability. ALL Canon lenses that fit Canon dslr’s have BIM’s.
Shooting with the 12-24/4
I like to swap in and out of lenses. This allows me to keep about the same money invested in photography equipment, but try a lot of different gear. Good quality gear loses very little during it’s life. A new lens for $800 might sell for $650 or more on the used market. Used ‘name brand’ like Nikon or Canon might lose a little less. 3rd party, like Sigma, Tokina or Tamron might lose a little more. Gear with great reputations lose even less. With that in mind, I’ve owned no less than four copies of this fine lens. Two each in Nikon and Canon. Why? Simple – you always think the grass is greener. Personally, I can think of no better recommendation for a lens than to say I bought it, sold it for another lens, sold THAT and bought the Tokina again. If you’re losing 10-20% on every sale, that says something
Shooting with the 12-24 is a very pleasant experience. No matter the mount of lack/inclusion of a BIM, the lens focuses fast and quiet – and most importantly, accurate. It’s a light and short lens that balances well with low-mid range equipment. Balance is something many folks don’t take into account when buying and it’s important. Naturally, it isn’t something you can always manage. Say, if you’re shooting with a consumer-range body and a 300mm lens, the lens is not going to balance well! The 12-24 also just feels good in the hand. You feel like you’re shooting with a well-made, quality lens.
Have you ever bought one of those off-brands, the Promatic or similar? It feels cheap, you miss focus or never achieve focus. The colors seem washed 0ut, perhaps you have lots of purple fringing. Yet you might have saved $100 or $200. Not worth it.
Along with great results and good handling, the lens is small. Reverse the quality hood and you can slip it in your pocket. Just make sure you zip that pocket up! You never want to hear the sound of a $500 lens hitting concrete. I use and carry some [amazon_link id=”B00009R9BH” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]large OpTech Hood Hat[/amazon_link] to slip my lenses into. This protects them from little bumps and scrapes and gives it a tiny bit of protection if it were to fall. It’s nice to carry your three lens setup with two in your pockets, leaving your bag in the car.
Final Thoughts and Recommendation
I’m sure, if you’ve read through this review, that you can guess my recommendation already. I give this lens a complete thumbs up. It’s light, small(ish), well-made and produces terrific results. Of course, a lens is only as good as the wet-ware behind the viewfinder, but there is a lot of glass out there that can’t measure up, no matter the skill of the photographer. That won’t be your problem here.
When I last shot Canon, I would typically go out with a kit consisting of a 40D, a [amazon_link id=”B001LD51H2″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]12-24/4 Tokina[/amazon_link], a [amazon_link id=”B000AZ57M6″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]24-105/4 Canon[/amazon_link], and a [amazon_link id=”B00007GQLS” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]100-400/3.5-5.6 Canon[/amazon_link]. I usually also carried a [amazon_link id=”B000K7UCME” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Tokina 10-17 fisheye[/amazon_link], just for those special shots. If I was shooting a car show, indoor event or a festival, I’d leave the big Canon home. That means I could carry the 10-17 in one pocket, the 12-24 in another and have the 24-105 mounted. No doubt, the 24-105 is a bit more than a pocket lens, but I could carry a small bag for that. This is a terrific lineup.
Now that I shoot Nikon, the car show grouping is the [amazon_link id=”B0007U00XK” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Sigma 10-20/4-5.6[/amazon_link], [amazon_link id=”B004V4IWKG” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Nikon D7000[/amazon_link] mounting my [amazon_link id=”B003ZSHNEK” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Nikon 24-120/4 IS[/amazon_link], and the Tokina 10-17 fisheye. If I’m going to the lake or to do travel, I’d add the Nikon 70-300VR. A terrific lineup as well.
There are, of course, near or direct ‘brand’ competitors. [amazon_link id=”B000092M1T” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Nikon makes a 12-24/4[/amazon_link] and it’s a good lens, no doubt. But it is not well-loved. You will part with somewhere in neighborhood of $1000 for a new copy of the Nikon and I see them sell on fredmiranda.com for $5-600 all the time. While camera gear, unless you are a pro, is never an investment, that’s a bit more loss than I’m willing to take, especially since, like I started this post stating, I like to buy and sell a lot. Canon does NOT make a direct focal range competitor, but you have the very fine 17-40/4L or the even nicer (though much larger and heavier – and expensive-r) [amazon_link id=”B000NP46K2″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]16-35/2.8[/amazon_link]. Given the size and price difference, I don’t consider that to be a real distraction. The 17-40, which is also reviewed here, doesn’t offer the 12-16 wide angel range, which limits your choices there and is heavier and more expensive. It also duplicates a good part of the range of the next focal-length zoom that I would carry, the 24-105 (for Canon) or 24-120 (for Nikon). No need to do that.
If you’re building a lens group for travel, car show, casual people shooting or just to carry to the park for fall foliage, there’s hardly a better starting point than the Tokina 12-24/4. It’s inexpensive, retains value well, is light and can produce excellent results. Highly recommended.