First impressions – Tokina 10-17mm ‘Fisheye Zoom’ Lens in Nikon AF Mount.

23 01 2012

It’s been around 20 years since I owned a fisheye lens, but I’m increasingly finding uses for one. Being a crop-sensor shooter my options are Nikon 10.5mm, Samyang 8mm, or Sigma 10mm. These are all full frame fisheye, on DX format bodies, ie they fill the entire frame with the image, rather than giving a circular cropped image within the image area.

The Tokina struck me as a bit of an oddity but in fact it’s still capable of use on an FX or fullframe camera, like the D700 or D800, that is next on the shopping list. At 15mm on the D700 it still gives a 180 degree angle of view; all that is sacrificed is the ‘ultrawide view’ that 17mm gives on a crop sensor. Still works as a fisheye and I’ll be keeping the D300 as body #2 in any case.

I shoot live bands, and more often than not the stage is about the size of a matchbox, in the more intimate venues of the Tokyo music scene. This lens is invaluable! Turns the tiniest venue into a Hollywood Bowl-sized stadium!

Wide open, 10mm at F3.5, 1/100th sec.

Tokina’s usual substantial build quality is evident. The lens feels solid but not particularly bulky, about the size of a 50mm F1.4 lens. There is no filter thread, due to the extreme angle of coverage, but I’ve yet to have a foreign body/lens surface interface issue.  Tokina claim that the ‘WP’ coating on the front element is more resistant to accidental coating damage; I’ve resisted any temptation to put this to the test.

At 17mm it’s a stop slower, which is a pain, but then the overall size is extremely convenient. Although I wouldn’t perhaps pack a fisheye for every job, quite often it is left in the bag as it occupies minimal space. At a pinch I’ve shot group portraits at 17mm; having used Tokina’s older prime 17mm F3.5, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that the perspective of the prime is a lot punchier, but perhaps not the lens of choice for group shots. Zooms are always compromises, but in this case it’s a happy compromise.

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