Hands-On Review: Tokina Cinema 16-28mm T3.0 Lens
With the rise of large-sensor, high-resolution digital cinema cameras, there is a growing demand for video-friendly lenses designed to meet the needs of professional cinematographers. To address this need, Tokina has re-engineered some of its popular DSLR lenses for cinema use, complete with all-metal housings, lens gearing, and de-clicked aperture rings. In this review, we’ll take a look at the Cinema 16-28mm T3.0 Lens, a 4K-ready ultra-wide zoom that covers not only Super 35/APS-C sized sensors, but full-frame sensors, as well.
The lens uses the same optical formula as Tokina’s well-respected 16-28mm f/2.8 Pro FX lens, and comes available to fit Canon EF or ARRI PL lens mounts. An ultra-wide zoom is an important lens to have in your kit. Besides the obvious landscape or establishing shot, wide-angle lenses are often used to exaggerate the distance between subjects, to emphasize and separate a character in the foreground from the world behind them, and to give a room or location a sense of presence. Typically, you don't shoot close-ups with wide-angle lenses, but when you do it can be used to distort the face, often creating a disorienting or uncomfortable feeling.
For this review, I had the pleasure of working with the Tokina Cinema 16-28 T3.0 lens during the past couple of weeks, testing the EF-mount version on my Sony a7S using a Sony-E-Mount-to-Canon-EF adapter. The a7S proved a good option for testing the lens, as it let me judge the lens where it truly shines—on a full-frame sensor. Additionally, I was able to use the APS-C mode to gauge how the lens performs on cameras with Super 35/APS-C-sized sensors, and take still photos using the native 12MP sensor to judge 4K performance. In all of these areas, the lens did not disappoint.
Out of the box, one of the first things you’ll notice is that this isn’t a small lens. For shooters accustomed to DSLR lenses, the 114mm front diameter may seem enormous. However, for cinematographers used to working with professional cinema lenses, the size will be quite familiar, and allows the lens to easily slot into an existing lens package and be used with professional matte boxes. For its size, the lens is fairly light at only 3.3 pounds. Cinema cameras shouldn’t have any problem supporting the lens, but if you’re using a smaller DSLR or mirrorless camera, like the a7S, you may want to consider adding a lens support to your rig. The lens adapter I used had a tripod foot, which let the adapter support the weight of the lens, rather than the mount on my camera.
The all-metal housing of the lens seemed sufficiently durable when I held it in my hands. Incorporated into its construction are standard 0.8 pitch geared manual zoom, focus, and aperture rings for use with a follow focus. I found the focus ring to have just the right amount of damping to provide smooth and precise movements. For use without a follow focus, there is a textured rubber grip on the focus ring, as well as several screw holes on the focus and zoom rings for adding small levers for smooth operation. Lens markings are painted on in a bright yellow-orange, making them easy to see against the black body. As is the norm for cinema lenses, markings are placed on both sides of the lens, to facilitate focus pulling from either the smart/operator or the dumb side of the camera.
The lens has a maximum aperture of T/3.0 through the zoom range, which for an ultra-wide zoom, is quite respectable. For those unfamiliar with T-Stops, let me give a brief explanation. Rather than using f-stops on the aperture ring like photo lenses, cinema lenses use T-stop measurements, which is an adjusted setting to account for light transmission efficiency—in other words, how much light is passed through the lens to the sensor. This is important in cinema production, as it prevents exposure variations when switching between lenses in a given scene. The aperture ring is “de-clicked” for smooth iris pulls while filming, and has 1/3-stops denoted between each T-stop marking to find your desired exposure easily.
When judging the performance of a lens, there are three main areas that I like to look at: image sharpness, distortion, and falloff. Examining the photos I took with the a7S, it was easy to tell that the lens resolves plenty of detail for 4K video recording. Even shooting wide open, the lens showed good center sharpness, though the edges/corners are noticeably softer. Stopping down to T/4 sees the edge sharpness improve, with optimal sharpness across the entire image peaking from T/8 to T/11.
Thanks to a 15-element / 13-group design that includes aspherical and super-low dispersion glass elements, the lens does a great job of handling distortion. In full-frame mode on the a7S, I did notice some moderate barrel distortion at 16mm, but that is to be expected for such a wide focal length. By 20mm, the distortion is well under control, with 22mm onward showing no real visible signs.
The graphic below gives you a general idea of light falloff toward the corners of the image at different focal lengths. Considering the wide focal length and fast aperture, falloff is well controlled. You’ll notice it most at wider focal lengths with the iris wide open. Stopping down to T/4 improves it greatly, and by T/8 at 16mm and T/5.6 at 20-28mm, any falloff is negligible. When used on APS-C or Super 35 sensors, falloff isn't really an issue at any focal length or T-stop, since you're only recording the center of the image circle.
It's not too often that I look at bokeh performance on an ultra-wide lens, as more often than not most of the frame will be in focus. But, with the fast maximum aperture and minimum focusing distance of 11.04" (from the sensor place), there are definitely times when you can render the background out of focus, especially at 28mm. I found that the nine-bladed iris delivered smooth, pleasing bokeh, especially for a wide-angle zoom.
When shooting video, another important thing to consider is focus breathing, or how much the angle of view shifts when changing focus. Because the optical construction of the lens was originally designed for still photography, you will notice some focus breathing on this lens. At the closest focusing distance, the angle of view becomes slightly wider than at infinity focus. The effect is not overly dramatic, but it is there.
Another important factor for cinema zooms is whether or not they are parfocal. A parfocal lens will hold its focus on a subject as you zoom. As part of the re-engineering of the lens from its DSLR counterpart, I’m pleased to say that the lens is now sufficiently parfocal. The real benefit, as it applies to cinematographers, is that you can perform short zooms during a shot and not worry about your focus shifting. As a word of caution, when using this lens with a non-EF-mount with an adapter, if the adapter is even the slightest bit too short or long, it could, through collimation, be off enough where you could see some focus shifting between focal lengths. This was an issue that I ran into with my adapter.
In the field, I thought the lens performed and handled admirably. The front of the lens housing doesn't move as you zoom or focus, so throwing a matte box in front of the lens is never going to be an issue. The optics themselves do move, but it happens within the housing. I found that through 16mm to 24mm, the lens did a good job at suppressing flares, but at around 26mm to 28mm, it becomes susceptible to veiling flares, which can give your image a washed-out look. Using a matte box is always a good idea, and is particularly important at these focal lengths.
|16mm, T/11||28mm, T/11||24mm, T/4|
|16mm, T/4||28mm, T/4||16mm, T/5.6|
In addition to preventing glare and reflections, a matte box will let you use common 4 x 4" filters. The front of the lens itself does have 112mm filter threads, so if you happen to have any 112mm filters lying around, you can certainly use them. However, for productions where you'll be switching between lenses, slotting filters in and out of a matte box is easier and less time consuming than screwing filters on and off. You also don't have to worry about lenses having different front filter threads.
A nice feature of the lens that I wasn't able to test was its ARRI LDS (Lens Data System) support on the PL-mount version with compatible cameras. LDS contacts pass lens and camera information related to lens-data displays, which is especially useful for camera assistants who are setting up shots, gauging depth of field, or pulling focus on-camera or remotely.
Overall, Tokina’s Cinema 16-26mm was everything I wanted in an ultra-wide-angle zoom. It is relatively fast, with a constant T/3.0 maximum aperture, has good handling on distortion and falloff, and shows excellent center and edge sharpness from T/5.6 onward. The housing is robust, and the gearing on the lens rings offers smooth and precise control of focus, zoom, and iris. The icing on the cake for me is that the lens covers full-frame sensors. Using the lens on a camera with a full-frame sensor lets you take full advantage of the wide angle of view; whether it be a wide vista or establishing shot, or a jarring and uncomfortable close-up. For any cinematographer looking to add an ultra-wide-angle zoom to their cinema lens kit, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this lens.
|Lens Mount||Canon EF / PL|
|Focal Length||16 to 28mm|
|Maximum Aperture||T3.0 (f/2.8)|
|Angle of View||107.11 to 76.87° (with 35mm Full-Frame image sensor)|
|Minimum Focus Distance||11.03" (28 cm)|
|Optical Construction||15 Elements / 13 Groups|
|Dimensions (Ø x L) - PL Mount||4.49 x 5.67" (114 x 144mm)|
|Dimensions (Ø x L) - EF Mount||4.49 x 5.67" (114 x 140.5mm)|
|Weight||3.3 lb (1.5 kg)|