In the Field: The New Tokina opera 16-28mm F2.8 FF Ultra-Wide Zoom Lens

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Having previous experience reviewing the Tokina 20mm f/2 FiRIN FE AF and MF Sony-mount lenses, I was looking forward to test-driving the new Tokina opera 16-28mm f/2.8 FF, which follows Tokina’s opera 50mm f/1.4 FF as the second lens—and first zoom—in Tokina’s opera-series lens lineup for full-frame Canon EF- and Nikon F-mount DSLRs.

Tokina’s FiRIN and opera-series lenses have greatly elevated the company’s standing as a first-class lens manufacturer, and based on the results I got with the new 16-28mm f/2.8 zoom, Tokina seems to have knocked yet another ball clear out of the stadium.

Photographs © 2019 Allan Weitz

An AoV range of 107.1° - 76.87° makes for interesting perspectives when shooting in the streets.

The color, contrast, saturation, and resolving power of the image files captured with Tokina’s new zoom are, in a word, outstanding. Distortion, the bugaboo of many wide-angle lenses, is well under control. Vignetting, another bugaboo of wide-angle lenses, was minimally perceptible wide open and all-but-nil once I stopped down past f/4.

This photo illustrates how well Tokina’s opera 16-28mm F2.8 FF captures dead-on levels of detail, color, contrast, and saturation.

Spec-wise, the Tokina opera 16-28mm F2.8 FF contains 15 elements in 13 groups, including a single aspherical P-MO element and a trio of glass molded Low-Dispersion (SD) elements, which together put the kibosh on chromatic and spherical aberrations. Lens construction is a combination of aluminum inner components enclosed in a moisture- and dust-resistant polycarbonate outer casing.

If you incorporate filters in your workflow, be advised: the front element is too bulbous for use with threaded filters, which means you will require a filter holder system if you plan on filtering the lens.

A beam of sunlight across a bundle of red Valentine balloons causes the balloons to explode visually from the surrounding shadows.

The design formula of Tokina’s newest zoom is similar to the Tokina AT-X 16-28mm F2.8 PRO FX, the differences being the incorporation of a new Silent Drive module using new GMR magnetic autofocus sensors for faster, smoother, and quieter AF than previous generation Tokina autofocus systems. Though I did not have an opportunity to compare the performance differences between the old and new autofocus systems, in use, Tokina’s new 16-28mm opera zoom was invariably quick and on the mark.

The background on the left side of the photo above illustrates the truly natural-looking bokeh this lens produces.

Switching between MF and AF on the fly is simply a matter of engaging the lens’s One-Touch Focus Clutch mechanism by snapping the lens’s focus ring forward to engage AF mode, or backward to engage MF mode. Though I kept the lens in AF mode most of the time, when the autofocus system would occasionally become squirrelly, all I needed to do was snap the focus ring back and instantly shift into manual mode.

The extreme AoV of Tokina’s opera 16-28mm F2.8 FF makes it a valuable tool for architectural photography

To eliminate confusion when switching between native Canon and Nikon lenses and Tokina’s opera-series lenses, the focus rings of opera-series lenses rotate in the same direction as the proprietary focus rotation of Nikon and Canon lenses.

Other features found on Tokina’s opera 16-28mm F2.8 FF include a minimum focusing distance of 11" (1:5.26), a 9-bladed aperture, and a fixed lens hood. The lens is currently available in a choice of Nikon F or Canon EF lens mounts.

The accompanying photographs here were captured using a Canon EOS 6D and a Tokina opera 16-28mm F2.8 FF lens with a Canon mount.

Capturing extremely detailed, color-saturated photographs with this lens is like shooting fish in a barrel.

The applications for lenses featuring 107.1° - 76.87° angles of view include editorial, landscape, interior, and exterior architecture, documentary, environmental portraiture, and astrophotography. The truth is, I have little doubt you’d find novel applications for this lovely lens, no matter what type of photography you practice.

Sun stars anybody? Tokina’s opera 16-28mm F2.8 FF features a 9-bladed aperture that creates stars well before f/16.

Are you an ultra-wide shooter? If so, what kind of pictures would you shoot if had an opportunity to use this lens for a few days? We’d really like to read your thoughts in the Comments field, below. Talk to us!

2 Comments

(1) Night sky! Pair with one of these EQ mounts (https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/buy/Astrophotography/ci/3387/N/4100994440) and point it at the middle of the Milky Way.

(2) Large indoor spaces (airport atriums, train stations, museums)

Have you been able to use this on a Z body + adapter with AF? Thanks.

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