Tokina AF 16-50mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro DX (Nikon) - Review / Test Report
Lens Reviews - Nikon / Nikkor (APS-C)

Lens kindly provided by Karsten Scheidel!

Introduction

The Tokina AF 16-50mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro DX has been announced at the PMA ... not 2007 but 2006. Ever since then it was and still is a phantom lens for users in many countries. At the time of this review the Tokina is available in some parts of Asia and there are the first few sightings in the USA just right now. So what is so special about this lens ? Well, obviously it offers a little extra kick at the wide end of the zoom range. The dedicated APS-C lens has a field-of-view equivalent to 24-75mm (full format) so many (Nikon-)users may survive without an additional ultra-wide lens. Another potential advantage is promised by the AT-X Pro (Advanced Technology - Extra Professional) portion in the name - these lenses are part of Tokina's pro grade lens lineup which is renowned for superb build quality. A lesser known aspect is the design background of the lens. It has been co-developed with Pentax where we'll seen a slightly different incarnation later this year (Pentax SMC DA* 16-50mm f/2.8 AL ED [IF] SDM). The Pentax-Tokina relationship is not a new one actually - e.g. the Tokina AF 12-24mm f/4 AT-X Pro DX and Tokina AF 50-135mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro DX, both highly regarded lenses, have the same origins so what we have here is a third-party lens with a little spice and glory from a genuine manufacturer. As of time of this review the pricing is still a bit fuzzy but it seems to head towards a street price around 600€/US$ which is quite a bit more than the Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 or Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 but still significantly less than the for Nikkor/Canon 17-55mm f/2.8.

As already hinted above the build quality of the lens is excellent although it's not perfect because the Tokina uses a so-called duo-cam system (two inner lens tubes) to extend the lens when zooming towards the long end of the zoom range. At 50mm you can move the inner tube a little but the lens system does not "rattle" at this setting. The lens body is made of a combination of "armalite" (Tokina's metal alloy) and very high quality plastics. The applied crinkle finish is pretty similar to the one used in some of the pro-grade Nikkors like the AF 80-200mm f/2.8ED. Due to the large front element (77mm filter thread) and the high quality materials the Tokina is a comparatively big and heavy standard zoom lens (although still smaller than the massive Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8). The zoom and focus control rings operate both smooth and slightly damped - a rare characteristic these days. Thanks to an inner focusing (IF) group the lens does not extend during focusing and the front element does not rotate - using a polarizer remains easily possible. The front element has also a special WP ("Water Proof") coating which is supposed to allow an easier cleaning from water drops or finger prints (it feels more "silky").

The Tokina offers a one-touch focus clutch mechanism to switch between manual- and auto-focus by moving the focus ring back and forth. This can be done in any focus position (unlike on older implementations of the system). The lens has no internal AF motor and relies on a slotted drive screw operated by the camera. This generates some noise during AF operations but the AF speed is actually pretty fast - also a side-effect of the very short focus path (~50 degrees). The AF accuracy of the tested sample was very good.

Specifications
Equiv. focal length24-75 mm (full format equivalent)
Equiv. aperturef/4.2 (full format equivalent, in terms of depth-of-field)
Optical construction15 elements in 12 groups inc. 2? aspherical elements and 1 SD element
Number of aperture blades9
min. focus distance0.30 m (max. magnification ratio ~1:4.88)
Dimensions84 x 97 mm
Weight610 g
Filter size77 mm (non-rotating)
Hoodsupplied, petal-shaped
Other featuresfocus-clutch AF/MF switch




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