Great Bang For Your Buck | Tokina opera 16–28mm f/2.8 FF

 

Nilofer Khan tests the Tokina opera 16–28mm f/2.8 FF, a significantly more budget-friendly, promising super-wide zoom lens, to see what all it has to offer.

This review was originally published in May 2019.

Since its inception, Tokina has become popular for making affordable lenses. Recently, the company introduced the opera series, succeeding their older lineup of AT-X Pro lenses, and described as ‘premium full-frame lenses for high-end DSLR cameras’. The opera 16–28mm f/2.8 FF replaces the AT-X 16–28mm f/2.8 PRO FX, and follows the opera 50mm f/1.4 FF (reviewed and rated very highly by us in the January 2019 issue of Better Photography). Earlier this month, the TIPA World Awards 2019 awarded the opera 16–28mm as the ‘Best DSLR Wide Angle Zoom Lens’ (full coverage on the TIPA awards on page 52).

Features
The opera 16–28mm is non-retractable, and features 15 elements in 13 groups, three of which are of aspherical with another three Low-Dispersion (SD) elements. The lens has nine aperture blades, and minimum focusing distance of 28cm (max. magnification 0.19x).

The 16–28mm features the familiar One- Touch Focus Clutch mechanism to switch between manual and autofocus. Users have to pull the ring to activate manual focus. There is no MF override during AF. It utilises a Silent Drive module and a GMR magnetic AF sensor for improving AF speed and accuracy. The lens hood is built-in, which means threaded filters cannot be used. You also cannot attach a drop in the filter at the back. It does not feature image stabilisation.

Handling
Weighing almost a kilo, the opera 16–28mm is somewhat heavy, but well built, sealed against dust and moisture, and ergonomically designed so you don’t really feel the weight. Matte black metal, polycarbonate and finely ridged rubber, come together quite nicely to give the lens an impressive finish.

The zoom ring is closer to the camera, with the focus towards the outer end. The direction of the rotation on the focus ring is customised to the mount, making it familiar for Nikon and Canon users. The push-pull mechanism to switch between AF and MF is refreshingly simple to use, allowing the quick setting of hyperfocal distances. The rotation of the rings are silky smooth. However, the degree of rotation of the MF ring is rather limited between near and far distances, and the focus scale is not as detailed as I would have liked, but this is a problem that afflicts all competing lenses in this category.

This is a cropped version of the image. I liked how accurate the colour rendition of the lens is. Moreover, the autofocus was extremely quick to respond to the scene. Exposure: 1/2500 sec at f/5.6 (ISO 250). Photograph/Nilofer Khan

Performance
AF is reasonably quick, near silent, and locks on conclusively, even in very low light. Overall, the image quality of the lens is very good, and the colour rendition is quite neutral. There is the inevitable light fall-off and loss of sharpness at the edges and corners at widest angles and apertures. This improves towards 28mm. Stopping down progressively reduces vignetting and improves sharpness, with f/8 being the sweet spot, where the lens is brilliantly sharp, across the frame. The wider you get, perspective distortions are expectedly more pronounced, but there is barely any perceivable barrel distortion, and lines at the edges are quite straight. The lens shows superb control over flare and ghosting. Bokeh and blurs are pleasingly rendered too. Chromatic aberrations are very well controlled, visible very slightly at the corners only if you view images at 100 percent.

I did face some problems with the Canon mount version of the lens, on the 6D. The JPEG files appeared quite soft, making images seem almost out of focus. But when I checked the RAW files, the image appeared perfectly sharp. On consulting with Tokina, I realised that turning off all in-camera corrections (vignetting and distortion) provided me with perfectly sharp JPEGs. There were no such issues with the D850, suggesting that the in-camera lens corrections on older models of Canon may not function as expected with the opera lenses.

Conclusion
The Tokina opera 16–28mm f/2.8 FF is quite a catch. The image quality is excellent. It has an extremely fast AF, and produces very good results. At a price of Rs. 59,990, it is a lot less than half the cost of its equivalent from Canon, Nikon, and Sigma, and about half of Tamron’s offering. Even considering its slight lacunae, this is simply exceptional value for money. The Tokina opera 16–28mm f/2.8 FF fills a rather glaring price gap. I, for one, am glad that Tokina is keeping things ‘real’ for us. It is well recommended.

FINAL RATINGS
Features
One-Touch Focus Clutch mechanism, near
silent ultrasonic AF motor
17/20
Performance
Sharpness at f/2.8, quick autofocus
32/35
Build Quality
Weathersealed and sturdy build
23/25
Ergonomics
Smooth zoom and MF ring, MF rotation
based on mount, built-in hood, well designed
14/15
Warranty & Support
Limited service network, 2 year warranty
3/5
MRP Rs. 59,990
OVERALL 89%
VALUE FOR MONEY 4.5/5
Who should buy it? It is a multipurpose lens.
Users can shoot landscape, interior architecture,
environmental style portraits, and astrophotography.
Why? Excellent build and optical quality, One-Touch Focus
Clutch mechanism, and overall superb value for money.
Tags: Great Bang For Your Buck, Lens test, Nilofer Khan, Review, Test, Tokina opera 16, Tokina opera 16–28mm f/2.8 FF