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Review: Tokina AF 12-28mm f/4 AT-X 124 Pro DX II (Nikon F)

by Chris Gampat on 08/13/2013

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tokina 12-28mm f4 review lead image (1 of 1)ISO 4001-20 sec at f - 2.8

Tokina’s 12-28mm f4 II lens is amongst their excellent lineup of zoom lenses. Since our first impressions post, we’ve been playing with the lens a lot and getting up close and personal to many scenes. Due to Nikon’s 1.5x crop factor, the lens offers an 18 to 42mm field of view–which is plenty wide enough for many architectural and street photography applications. Additionally, many landscape photographers looking for an ultra wide to semi-wide option can take pride in knowing that they’ve got it all handled with one zoom lens.

But a convenient focal length range isn’t enough to create an awesome lens. Does it stack up?


Pros and Cons

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tokina 12-28mm f4 review images others (8 of 23)ISO 2001-250 sec at f - 4.0

Pros

– Excellent focal length range

– Sharp optics

– Pump focus mechanism is convenient

– Internal zooming

– Great feel in the hands

Cons

– We wish the focusing ring was a tad stiffer

– Otherwise, we could barely find any problems with this lens

Gear Used

For this review, we used the Tokina 12-28mm f4 with the Nikon D5200.

Tech Specs

Specs taken from our announcement post.

Focal length (35mm-equivalent) 12-28mm (18-42mm)
Max./Min. aperture f4 / f22
Lens elements / groups 14 / 12
Min. focusing distance 9.8″ (25 cm)
Filter size 77mm
Size and weight D / L: 3.3″ (84 mm) / 3.54″ (90 mm); W: 18.7 oz (530 g)
Mount Canon, Nikon

Ergonomics

Taken from our first impressions post

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tokina 12-28mm f4 first impressions (2 of 14)ISO 1001-200 sec at f - 4.5

When we first unboxed the Tokina 12-28mm f4, we were pleasantly shocked. It is quite a lens to be honest and would be better suited ergonomically with a Nikon D7100 than the D5200 that we are currently testing it with.

The lens has a particular character to it that makes it look very Nikon-like. This is because of Tokina’s use of black and gold trimmings on the lens.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tokina 12-28mm f4 first impressions (5 of 14)ISO 1001-200 sec at f - 3.2

When you look at the lens, you’ll notice the major controls: the focusing ring and the zooming ring. And in between that, you’ll notice the focusing range scale.

The exterior of this lens feels very Nikon-like in the texture of the finish–and Nikonians will really appreciate this.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tokina 12-28mm f4 first impressions (4 of 14)ISO 1001-200 sec at f - 3.2

That front element is a massive 77mm thread for your filters. Better yet, if you put a filter on this lens, you’ll fully protect it from nearly any bump you might throw at it. The front element moves a bit when zooming, but for the most part it is still internally.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tokina 12-28mm f4 first impressions (6 of 14)ISO 1001-200 sec at f - 3.2

While other manufacturers might have a dedicated switch on the side to activate manual focusing, Tokina has usually opted for the pump action option. If you pull the focusing ring back, it will be in manual focusing mode.

Sound familiar? Olympus and Fujifilm adopted this method with some of their lenses.

Build Quality

Tokina’s 12-28mm f4 is extremely solid feeling. Nothing about it feels cheap and everything about it only feels great the in the hand and perfectly placed. In addition, the way that the rubber grip on the zoom and focusing rings feel is top notch. When you go to hold the lens, your thumb and other fingers naturally react to move backwards a bit towards the zoom ring. Twisting it is a pleasure and it moves quite smoothly.

Ease of Use

For the most part, this is a lens that you just need to point, shoot, and enjoy. When it comes to shooting videos, we recommend moving the pump action autofocus ring towards the back to make it a manual focus optic. The distance scale is only useful then–otherwise don’t even bother using it.

Autofocus

Autofocusing with this lens is speedy and quiet–except when focusing up close and personal. Then it can hunt a bit and even sound very noisy. Keep this in mind when shooting macro subjects or just trying to get unusually close to something. The minimum focusing is about 10 inches and we’re positive that most folks will almost never using this lens to focus on something that close. Instead, we imagine folks using this lens for vast subjects.

Image Quality

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tokina 12-28mm f4 review images others (13 of 23)ISO 2001-1000 sec at f - 4.0

If you’re looking for a wide angle zoom for an APS-C sensor camera, you can take relief in that this lens from Tokina has you covered in the image quality arena. While the out of camera color rendition could be better, we thought that it has some excellent sharpness to the point where we almost never wanted to stop it down.

If you want bokeh, you’ll need to get super close to your subject due to the nature of the focal lengths. But this isn’t really a lens to get bokeh out of. Instead, you’ll be using it for wide scenes and architecture. And for that, you’ll really enjoy the performance.

Color Rendition

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tokina 12-28mm f4 review images others (16 of 23)ISO 2001-800 sec at f - 4.0

Color rendition is the real only flaw that this lens has in terms of image quality, but we wouldn’t really consider it a major flaw. If you’re shooting in RAW (like you should be) you’ll notice that Nikon’s raw files can render excellent colors when tweaked. This lens’s color rendition will just mean that you’ll need to do some extra work in the post-production phase–and that’s no real biggie.

As it stands, the colors aren’t bad per se–but we love the contrasty vibrant look that many other modern lenses render these days.

Color Fringing

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tokina 12-28mm f4 review images others (17 of 23)ISO 2001-1600 sec at f - 4.0

Color fringing with this lens is non-existent and any that might be seen is due to the fact that we dialed up the contrast in the images. Indeed, the lens lacks enough contrast to make the images that much punchier, and so in a case like that, you won’t see very much fringing to begin with.

Okay guys in the forums that are looking for something to complain about–you can breathe now.

Bokeh

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tokina 12-28mm f4 review images others (19 of 23)ISO 1001-500 sec at f - 4.0

Bokeh is very tough to get with a lens like this, but when it’s there it is more characteristically hazy than creamy. The reason for this has to do with the f4 aperture and the fact that it is working at such wide angles. If you really want bokeh at a focal length like these, you’ll need to spring for something like Sigma’s 18-35mm f1.8 instead, or a prime. But as it is, that lens doesn’t give the convenience of an ultra-wide to semi-wide field of view.

If you want to go with primes, you’ll undoubtedly get better image quality and more bokeh, but most users will be more than satisfied with what the Tokina 12-28mm f4 can deliver.

Sharpness

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tokina 12-28mm f4 review images others (23 of 23)ISO 1001-125 sec at f - 4.0

Holy crap this lens is sharp.

No, really. It’s damned sharp wide open and as stated before, we almost never wanted to stop it down. If anything, we mostly shot at f4 or f5.6. Anyone that buys this lens should not be complaining about the sharpness at all. With this in mind, we think that it would have performed even better on the Nikon D7100 than the D5200. The reason for this is due to the lack of an AA filter. That means that you’ll get much more sharpness from the image.

Extra Image Samples

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tokina 12-28mm f4 review images others (22 of 23)ISO 1001-250 sec at f - 4.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tokina 12-28mm f4 review images others (20 of 23)ISO 1001-125 sec at f - 4.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tokina 12-28mm f4 review images others (18 of 23)ISO 1001-250 sec at f - 4.0

 

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tokina 12-28mm f4 review images others (16 of 23)ISO 2001-800 sec at f - 4.0

 

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tokina 12-28mm f4 review images others (21 of 23)ISO 1001-200 sec at f - 4.0

 

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tokina 12-28mm f4 review images others (15 of 23)ISO 2001-640 sec at f - 4.0

 

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tokina 12-28mm f4 review images others (14 of 23)ISO 2001-160 sec at f - 4.0

 

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tokina 12-28mm f4 review images others (12 of 23)ISO 2001-1600 sec at f - 4.0

 

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tokina 12-28mm f4 review images others (11 of 23)ISO 2001-2000 sec at f - 4.0

 

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tokina 12-28mm f4 review images others (10 of 23)ISO 2001-640 sec at f - 4.0

 

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tokina 12-28mm f4 review images others (9 of 23)ISO 2001-100 sec at f - 4.0

 

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tokina 12-28mm f4 review images others (7 of 23)ISO 2001-200 sec at f - 4.0

 

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tokina 12-28mm f4 review images others (6 of 23)ISO 2001-400 sec at f - 4.0

 

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tokina 12-28mm f4 review images others (5 of 23)ISO 2001-1250 sec at f - 4.0

 

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tokina 12-28mm f4 review images others (3 of 23)ISO 2001-2500 sec at f - 4.0

 

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tokina 12-28mm f4 review images others (2 of 23)ISO 2001-1250 sec at f - 4.0

 

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tokina 12-28mm f4 review images others (1 of 23)ISO 2001-640 sec at f - 5.6

 

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tokina 12-28mm f4 review images (10 of 10)ISO 1001-160 sec at f - 5.6

 

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tokina 12-28mm f4 review images (9 of 10)ISO 1001-160 sec at f - 4.0

 

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tokina 12-28mm f4 review images (8 of 10)ISO 2001-2500 sec at f - 4.0

 

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tokina 12-28mm f4 review images (5 of 10)ISO 2001-100 sec at f - 4.0

 

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tokina 12-28mm f4 review images (2 of 10)ISO 2001-160 sec at f - 4.0

Conclusions

Tokina has created an excellent lens in the form of the 12-28mm f4 II. Not only are you getting exceptional build quality and even better image quality, but you’re getting it at a damned good price. The feel and look of this lens beckons that it be attached to your high end APS-C DSLR. Sure, folks might complain about it not being full frame, but this isn’t the lens for that crowd. If you attach this lens to the D7100, it may even beat out some full frame DSLRs to the point of where you’ll be totally okay with APS-C performance.

We think that this is an awesome lens. We think you will too. It is available for purchase at Amazon and B&H Photo.

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