A Look At: Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 Super-Wide Lens

As I mentioned earlier, my first usable “walk-around” lens is my Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8. This is actually still my favorite lens due to the super-wide recti-linear perspective. This means that straight lines stay straight even though the perspective is wider than the normal eye can see***. Lines get exaggerated especially at the corners, so its important to keep that in mind – and keeping the horizon level!

The alternative to a super-wide is a fisheye lens.They are similar in terms of what you can see (sometimes fisheyes are even wider), but straight lines tend to not be so straight outside the center of the frame. This signature curve is pretty common in skate videos and when creating exaggerated distortions – not good for portraits as you can imagine.

The advantage to the Tokina 11-16mm lens is that it has a huge viewing angle, so you can see a lot, and it is really useful in crowded situations (elevators, cars, etc) where you can’t really take a step back to fit things into the frame. The biggest disadvantage is that the lens can see so much that it makes framing and composition somewhat of a challenge. It forces me to change my perspective, sometimes going extremely high angle, low angle, up close, farther away, etc. This really helps me get an idea what makes a “good photo” because it forces me to find things to put in the foreground to give some perspective, as well as keeping in mind what to put in frame and what to omit. This lens has helped me keep in mind the negative space in photos to create more visual interest, like with leading photos.

This lens, like all super-wides, allows for you to get some otherwise impossible shots with your typical walk-arounds – like in tight spaces:

The other thing to keep in mind is that this lens is f/2.8 AND super-wide – so there is a tendency to stop the lens down to f/5.6-11 to prevent overexposures. It’s kind of difficult to get some good bokeh in the backgrounds – but this can be fixed by added a close-up filter to the lens – essentially “forcing” a shallow depth of field.

*** UPDATE: so after doing some extensive Aperture-ing, it turns out that this “rectilinear lens” should be renamed to be a “near rectilinear lens”. About the outer 10-15% of the frame gets a slight curvature in it, but not nearly as bad as a fisheye. I assume all rectilinear super-wide angle lenses have this problem – but please let me know otherwise.

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