Tag Archives: nikon

Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 Nikon and Canon lens Review

Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X116 Pro DX for Nikon and for Canon

Nikon’s DX zoom lenses like the 18-55mm start at 18mm (27mm after crop factor) which is just starting to get into the wide angle arena. Most of the time this gives you a wide enough field of view (FOV) and if you need to get more in then you can just back up. There are times though when you can’t or don’t want to back up. Sometimes you might want a wider FOV to get a different perspective in a shot. It’s not just about “getting it all in”, but rather looking at a shot differently and getting the composition you want.

I had never shot a DX lens wider than 17mm or one with a constant f/2.8 lens. We can see the difference in FOV between the Tokina 11-16mm, Nikon 18-200mm and Nikon 35mm:

11mm is wide, really wide. The test shots above were taken at about 5 feet from the TV. The first thing I notice in the 11mm shot is the perspective distortion, but that isn’t necessarily bad. The Nikon 18-200mm presents quite a bit of barrel distortion at 18mm. The Tokina gives nice straight lines, but going so wide starts to affect perspective. Things at the edge of the frame in this situation look stretched because of perspective distortion.

The best way I can describe perspective distortion is that the ultra-wide focal length allows you to move the camera forward into the scene. This has a large impact on the size of subjects depending on their distance from the camera. Subjects in the foreground will appear larger in size than subjects in the background. You can see this in the shot of Mt. Shasta below, the foreground right in front of my feet is balanced against the huge volcano in the distance. You have to use that foreground emphasis to your advantage and it is surprisingly hard to do. That’s about the best I can explain it, but you can read more about perspective distortion on Wikipedia.

The Tokina 11-16mm is a very interesting lens and can be considered special purpose. It’s definitely not for close up portraits as the perspective distortion can wreak havoc on your subjects’ faces if you aren’t careful. For a more distant portrait like my wife in front of Haystack Rock you can get away with it. Keeping the subject in the very middle of the frame helps avoid unflattering distortion like me with the moose in Coeur d’Alene.

The lens itself is very solid and well built. The focus ring pulls in and out to switch between autofocus and manual focus. I’m very happy with the lens and has whetted my appetite for more “pro” lenses, especially with a constant f/2.8. Overall this lens is a very good value.

For Nikon users, depending on your camera you might want to look at the comparable Nikon 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5. The Tokina does not have a built in autofocus motor so it will not be able to autofocus on bodies missing the motor to drive non AF-S lenses. The lower end bodies like the D5000, D3000, D3100, D40, D50, and D60 do not have the motor so the Nikon 10-24mm becomes your best option. The D70, D80, D90, D200, D300, and D7000 are all good to go.

Canon users will run into a similar situation if your body does not include an autofocus motor then you’ll want to consider the Canon 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5. The only problem with the Nikon and Canon versions is the higher cost, slower apertures and more distortion.

The Nikon version is about $600 from Amazon and the Canon version is about $700

Nikon D7000: The D90 meets the D300

Nikon D7000 at Amazon

The Nikon D90 was released about 2 year ago and the D300 almost 3 years ago (D300s replaced it about a year ago). There’s a pretty big gap between these two price points. The D90 was an incremental upgrade from the D80 and lacked most of the “professional” features of the D300s. The D300s is a beast and has more in common with the D700 then any of the lower priced models. Now we have the D7000 thrown into the mix and boy does it mix things up.

I honestly think the D7000 is one of Nikon’s most significant releases in recent years. The big step in price between the D90 and D300s really priced out amateurs and hobbyists who might have wanted a little bit more than what the D90 offered. The D7000 is priced smack dab in the middle of that gap. As amateurs like myself delve further into photography and hone or skills we become more demanding of our equipment. The D7000 represents an opportunity for shooters like me to get access to professional features for $500 less than previously possible.

So for an extra $300-400 over the D90, what are we actually getting (in my approximate order of importance):

  • 39 AF sensors and 11 cross type (compared to 11 and 1 on the D90)
  • 2016 pixel meter sensor (twice that of the D300s and 4 times that of the D90)
  • Magnesium alloy body
  • U1 and U2 recall modes
  • Ai indexing tab for use with older Ai lenses
  • Improved rubber grip
  • 1/250 flash sync speed (up from 1/200 on D90)
  • Double the minimum shutter speed (1/8000 vs 1/4000 on D90)
  • Quiet single frame advance mode
  • Ambient white balance option for AUTO WB (suppose to handle warm lighting better or at least not try to correct to white)
  • 100% viewfinder coverage
  • 6fps (up from 4.5fps on the D90)
  • 4 more megapixels (16.2 up from 12.3)
  • Full 1080p video at 24fps
  • Dual SD card slots
  • Lower ISO 100 now available
  • External mic input
  • 14-bit A/D converter from the D300s

Odds are if you are looking at the D7000 then you have lenses already and just want to get the body, but it is available with the 18-105mm as a kit. Another option is to get the body only and then add on the very nice Nikon 18-200mm VR instead.

Nikon D7000 at Amazon

The new Nikon D3100 vs D3000 vs D5000

Price Comparison (as of 9/26/11): D3100 is $529 (big drop from $600) at Amazon and the D5100 is $759


Update 5/09/2011: D5100 was announced at the beginning of April. See what’s new and some of my thoughts at this post: Nikon D5100 DSLR – What’s New and Impressions

The new D3100 really shakes up Nikon’s lineup of lower priced DSLRs. In my previous comparison between the D90, D5000 and D3000 I had a hard time recommending the D3000 and the extra money was well spent on the D5000. The D3100 changes this recommendation.

Major revisions to the D3100:

  • New 14MP CMOS sensor – big improvement over the D3000’s ancient CCD sensor
  • 1080p24 video – nonexistent on the D3000 and better than the D5000 and D90
  • Autofocus while recording a movie – a first on any Nikon DSLR, before you had to lock focus before recording and tweak it manually
  • Live view mode – brought over with the video features
  • Automatic chromatic aberration correction – This is big, fixes fringing in your pictures before they are saved, previously only on the D90 and D5000
  • Customizable function button

The D5000 is essentially obsolete now. The D3100 and D5000 have comparable sensors now and the inclusion of better video capability makes the decision between the D3100 and D5000 simple; until the D5000 is updated just get the D3100.

A lot of features from the D90 have been pushed down to the lower price points and the one thing that really sets the two consumer segments apart is the inclusion of an AF motor on D90. If you are going to use lenses without built in AF motors then the D90 (or it’s soon to be announced replacement) is still your only choice. If I was just starting out though, I wouldn’t hesitate to get the D3100 which beats the D5000 in bang for your buck.

You can get the Nikon D3100 from Amazon at a very competitive price.

AUTO ISO on the Nikon D90

I usually leave the main ISO at 200, AUTO ISO on with a minimum shutter of 1/15 and MAX ISO of 1600. That means the camera will raise the ISO to 1600 to try and maintain a 1/15 second shutter. If it reaches ISO 1600 and there still isn’t enough light to maintain the minimum shutter, then it allows the shutter to fall below that setting. If you need to raise the shutter to avoid blur then you either have to lower your f-stop (if you aren’t wide open already) or add more light to your scene (i.e. flash).

If you have the minimum shutter set to something faster like 1/60, it will start bumping the ISO once your light drops off a little, especially with slower apertures like f/5.6. What’s your minimum shutter setting at? Which lenses are you using? The consumer lenses with f/3.5-5.6 apertures are fairly slow even wide open. In falling afternoon light this combination of slower aperture and high minimum shutter could cause AUTO ISO to kick in unexpectedly.

To complicate things a little further, if the flash is on, it ignores AUTO ISO and sets the ISO to the normal ISO setting (200 in my case) and it uses the “Flash shutter speed” (custom menu e1) as the minimum shutter. I have that set to 1/30 most of the time.

Nikon D90 vs D5000 vs D3000: Which one is right for you?

If you’re reading this post then you’re probably looking at one of Nikon’s consumer DSLRs. I’ve been shooting with a D70 and now a D90 for 5 years and recently walked several co-workers through buying a DSLR. I thought I’d share how I laid things out for them. As of February 2010 Nikon has three offerings in the consumer DSLR market: the D3000, D5000 and D90. Nikon has placed each of the cameras about $200-300 apart from each other.

D3000

When the D5000 came out Nikon needed something new to fill in the low end of their line up. The D3000 is pretty much the exact same camera as the D40x and D60 that previously held this spot. Aside from a .5″ larger LCD screen, there’s not going to be much difference between them. If you’ve never touched a DSLR before and your budget is tight, then this is a good place to start. It will be a good solid camera, but until Nikon refreshes it with a new model I don’t think the D3000 offers the best bang for your buck.

Amazon has the D3000 with 18-55mm VR kit lens for about $465.

D5000

Nikon D5000The D5000 is a big step up from the D3000 in terms of technology and functionality. The most visible difference is the tilt and swing LCD screen, but I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. Internally, the D5000 has a much newer CMOS sensor than the D3000. This is the same sensor in the D90 and it provides much better performance at higher ISO settings. It also inherited built in chromatic aberration correction from the D90 which removes fringing that can appear in brightly lit shots. You also get the ability to take video.

At this point, features are starting to trickle down from improvements being made on more expensive models. If you are more serious about photography, but still relatively new to the DSLR world then this is a good option. The added features are well worth the extra money.

Amazon has the D5000 with 18-55mm VR kit lens for about $685.

D90

Nikon D90The D90 sits at the top of Nikon’s consumer DSLR line up. From here there’s a fairly big jump to the prosumer D300. There’s two things that really set the D90 above the D5000: controls and lens compatibility.

Without getting into every little difference in controls I’ll just highlight two. The first is the D90’s front scroll wheel. The D5000 and D3000 both have one on the back for your thumb, but the second wheel on the D90 gives you quick access to changing other settings. In manual mode for example, one wheel controls the aperture and one controls the shutter. On the D5000 and D3000 you’d have to fiddle with menus to set one of them. In Program mode, which I shoot 95% of the time, the back wheel can tweak the shutter/aperture ratio, but I configured the front wheel to set exposure compensation which normally requires a simultaneous button press.

The next control difference is the inclusion of a customizable shortcut button on the front of the camera next to the lens mount. This can be hit with your index or middle finger to bring up a menu of shortcuts to the menu items you use most. I have a couple things like ISO and White Balance menus on there that I access frequently enough to not want to dig through the entire menu system. Both of these additional controls are big for me and I don’t think I’d want to move to a camera without them.

The other thing to consider when comparing the D90 and it’s D5000/D3000 counterparts is lens compatibility. The D90 includes a built in AF motor which means it is compatible with older AF lenses; the other two do not. On the D5000 and D3000, the only lenses that will autofocus are the ones with AF-S built in which isn’t a big deal if you plan to stick with the 18-55mm or other newer lenses. If you wanted to shoot something like the older but excellent 50mm f/1.8 then the D90 is your best option.

If my discussion of the D90 went over your head then that’s a good indication the D5000 is more than enough camera for you. The D90 provides good bang for your buck if you are going to get serious about photography. The kit includes an 18-105mm VR lens which will give you more reach than the 18-55mm. You also have the option of getting the D90 body by itself and then adding on whichever lens fits your needs the best.

Amazon has the D90 with 18-105mm VR kit lens for about $1035. The D90 Body is about $780 by itself.