Ultra-wide zoom shoot-out

11 02 2009

I am looking for an ultra-wide angle lens for my Nikon D60 to complement my current collection of lenses. I currently own the 18-55mm VR kit lens and the 55-200mm VR as well, so I am pretty well covered above 18mm. I also have a collection of old, pre-AI, prime lenses, including a 50mm f/1.4 which is great for low-light situations, despite being fully manual and no metering.

I wouldn’t mind also getting the just announced 35mm f/1.8 AF-S lens. At a list price of $200 (or a little more than 200€) it’s going to be the best choice for D40/D40x/D60 owners wanting a fast prime which auto-focuses on their bodies. I will buy it, eventually, but not now.

What I want now is wide, very wide. I want something that goes much wider than the 18 mm of the kit lens to take some extreme shots meant to totally draw the viewer into the picture. Also, I don’t want a fisheye.

Sigma_10-20.jpgFor a while, I was eyeing the venerable Sigma 10-20mm. This has long been the default choice for people looking for an ultra-wide angle zoom to put on their low-range DSLRs. It was until recently the only one going down to 10 mm, it has an internal focusing motor, decent image quality, and an affordable price. Therefore I started saving pennies and planning to buy one as a Christmas or birthday present to myself.

Tokina_11-16.jpgBut just when I was about to grab it from a shelf or order it online, there came the Tokina ATX 116 PRO onto my radar. This lens has got some truly excellent reviews. Looks like its sharpness and image quality are top-notch and its maximum aperture is 2.8 all over the range, which is unmatched and great for low-light situations.

Its main drawbacks are the lack of an on-board focusing motor (but depth of field is so large at these focal lengths that this should not be a problem in practice) and its slightly higher price compared to the Sigma. Anyway, after reading reviews like Ken Rockwell’s, the decision was made, but I soon discovered that this lens is very hard to find, unless you are prepared to spend much more than the price it would have if it weren’t in such a demand. To put it bluntly, I don’t want to spend more than 500€ on it and I have a couple of local shops who would sell it to me at less than that…if only they had one in stock!

Tamron_10-24.jpgSo, while I am here hoping a Tokina turns up on a nearby shelf soon, I notice a review of the Tamron 10-24mm on dpreview.com. This looks like a sweet lens also, it has a focusing motor, the largest zoom range of them all, a decent price and shouldn’t be hard to procure. The reviewer points out that it’s a bit too soft in the corners and maximum aperture is only f/3.5-4.5, but it’s a step above the Sigma anyway. On the other hand, the luminosity and sharpness of the Tokina still make it my preferred choice, but if I have to wait too much, the pendulum might swing once again.

What would you do, dear readers, if you were me?

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6 responses

11 02 2009
david

I have the Nikon 10.5mm fisheye and it’s a great lens. Not sure if it’s a little too wide for you though 🙂

11 02 2009
ugo

David, I am after a wide lens, not a fisheye. I want my straight lines to remain as straight as possible, not curved.

With this in mind, I think the 10.5mm is a very fine lens, just not what I’m looking for.

15 02 2009
Nicole Caverta

Is there a way to linkback to this post?

23 03 2009
philou

I own a Tokina 116, it is a great lens, but, as you said, it will not focus with your D60.

Even if the depth of field can be easily controlled at small aperture (it is very easy to use hyperfocal charts at f/8 or f/11). at f/4 or f/2.8 you must have a

23 03 2009
philou

Ouch, my post has been submitted to early 😉

… at f/4 or f/2.8 you must have an autofocus : the depth of field can be shallow and it will be very difficult to do the focus manually with such a lens.

Have a look at the new Sigma 10-20 f/3.5 DC HSM it might worth a look. But I’m not sure of the availability of this lens in Europe.

28 08 2009
Brian Chew

A suggestion from me… but first a question. How urgent is your wide angle use? If you can wait, then suggestion is to wait. It seems that you’re not sure which one to buy at the moment but if you can wait…then why not? If it is urgent, you can try renting one (a small price to pay for a lens that you may regret paying for the whole thing in future). I’m sure by now you’ve asked your friends or your friend’s friend for a “feel” or test run. Anyway, that’s my suggestion.

Which ever it is, I’m sure pictures, for the most part, is good (otherwise, they may have taken off the shelves)..just which one is better. Of course, Nikon would have the best for its own camera but how much do you want to pay for it versus is the accurateness of the picture THAT important? I mean, if you’re using your pictures to get some extra money, then it is something to consider. If not, does it matter to you?

Remember, if you do purchase it, you can resell it. After all, the difference in quality of pictures taken from either one should be a few percentage difference at most. So is it worth the price difference to you? If the answer is ‘yes’, then spend some extra…. or wait for extra cash. If answer is ‘no’, then you can wait further…or just get one and have fun with it.

🙂

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