Updated: Dec 16, 2019
Tokina AT-X 107 DX NH Fisheye 10-17mm F3.5-4.5
A Non-too-technical Review
Levels: Enthusiast and Professional Photographers
About Fish, Husbands, and Snoring:
There are much fish in the ocean. Many of them look bizarre. Some of them can spot distant objects in a clear view, while to others there is always some sort of an obstruction that limits the view.
In a similar way, the photographers all around the world tend to have some characteristics of fish. There is a myriad of lenses to choose from these days, for any camera system. Lenses are weird fish. We, photographers, have always been whining about the disadvantages of lenses. Silly habit, if you ask me!
Why? Because nothing in this world is perfect. Yes, I know, I know, I know, now you’d argue, “my wife/husband/partner is PERFECT”. Well, they are not. If they snore at night but make it up to you with a breakfast to the bed, it still does not mean they are perfect, does it? So, lenses, like our companion sweethearts, are sadly never really going to be perfect (except for a handful, perhaps!) We need to live with the good and disregard the hard-to-find in fewer unappealing areas. Just remember that, and please try to really enjoy what each lens has to offer to you. And this really does not matter if the lens comes from Nikkor, Tokina, or other manufacturers.
Hence, I am not going to seed here in this article the disadvantages; rather, as a responsible professional photographer with vast audience in front of me all around this world, I am mainly going to write the really important info so you can decide for yourselves whether you are in to use such lens or not. And if you wonder, I am not going to be pushy or leave an affiliate links, as I do not make money out of it. Kapish?
In the past few weeks I have mounted on my full-frame Nikon cameras a unique lens. I used it(almost) for everything during my work, and especially for artistic productions. I mentioned above that lenses are like fish. This verdict is no different to this specific lens. It IS, actually, a fish…ahhmm… I mean this is a Fisheye lens. This lens has been already a few years on the market, but the so-called “perfectionists” among us, for some reason, tend to be afraid to shoot through a fisheye glass. Except for some brilliant photos taken by free-divers and of course obviously by underwater "blokes", such lens poses some challenges to the users. Why is that?!
“Talk to me, mate!”
Let’s be truthful to ourselves guys (and ladies), Fisheye lenses are unique. Perfectionists (and I admit that I also tend to be so in certain things in photography,) do not like curves on the frame. Curved objects on the frame make perfectionists
make strange clicking noises with their teeth
peel their hair off their head, and –
Those individuals may say that the Gods of photography can hardly forgive for producing some curvy lines. Can I blame them for feeling so? Not really. Because this is what they were taught by others, and especially by the crowd who hear half-stories on how to do the art of photography.
So, curves. Yes, we talk about curves. You were told to hate them, but curves are the exact point where Fisheye lenses absolutely shine and succeed. As opposed to all sorts of undesired curves (in other word – “distortions”) that lenses tend to have, Fisheye lenses (well… not all of them though,) are a tool that is useful by those photographers who are doing Art or wanting to accentuate the look of the frame in order to transfer much stronger ideas. It is true that almost every lens can do art, but Fisheye lenses are truly brilliant in this regard. Those lenses are specialty lenses. And no, you do not have to call yourself an “Artist” in order to get the ‘green light’ to use it.
When they are mounted, the world happens to be so much different with each and every movement of the camera. The horizon line becomes elastic, and the meaning of what we see can change immensely with the slightest movement of the camera. If you would like to either improve, hone-up, or test yourself in building strong compositions while eventually getting a wonderful result, then you get here the best and probably the most challenging and rewarding tool to do so. But fear not. Once you nailed it in this lens, the whole composition building works when you are going to be using non-Fisheye lenses maybe a walk in the park! I do teach it in my workshops.
A known and unique character of photographs made by Fisheye lenses is the extreme, black fall-off (AKA Vignette). The frame is basically a complete, perfect circle that traps inside of it so much visual information from a very wide angle of view. However, the infamous fall-off indeed puts off photographers from using this tool.
This Tokina Fisheye is different, and I mean for the better! With this lens, the fall-off is not existent at all. You get the world that you have in front of you on ALL around the camera sensor. Gladly, nothing is blackened. The photos have a perfect rectangular frame, just like any other lens you shoot with. This is an amazing feature. The lens is good for both APS-C (cropped-sensor/enthusiast photographers’ cameras) and Full-Frame cameras.
When I mounted the lens on the latter type, I was overwhelmed by the picture quality and the extreme focal length. To note, Tokina has a similar lens, also in focal lengths of 10-17mm, that fits mainly for APS-C sensors. That latter has a small hood at the front part of the lens. The hood cannot be taken out.
However, this lens that I got is the “NH” type, which means “No Hood”. In the language of Nikon, “DX” means APS-C sensors. The name of the lens is a bit tricky, due to the fact that it contains the mark “DX”. So, before purchasing the wrong lens, in order for you to get the lens that fits both the cropped sensor and FX (full-frame), seek the letters “NH”.
This one is indeed good as gold for the full-frame sensors, too. Be simply aware that a full-frame sensor is MUCH wider than an APS-C sensor type, and hence the fall-off does appear but only just when I have shot in 14mm focal length or wider. Otherwise, no fall-off whosoever! Brilliant!
Everyone who starts photography, let alone those of you who are enthusiasts and obviously the pro blokes always ask about the (aperture) speed. After all, the speed the lens has dictates its usage. As a rule of thumb, the faster the lens is – the wider the set of opportunities one may do with it. For instance, if you try to shoot wildlife (for instance flying birds), it is obvious that you would probably prepare yourself mentally to open up your wallet and say goodbye to some substantial amount of money for some fast telephoto lenses. After all, you would not tell the eagle to keep on staying up in the air at the same position just because you need to crank down your shutter speed to compensate for slower aperture, right?! Does it make sense to you guys?
Coming back to our hero of the article, this Fisheye lens has a splendid speed to shoot with. I also need to be fully frank with you because the aperture is not as wide as the brilliant 100mm ATX PRO D Macro F/2.8, but on the other hand, I suspect that neither I nor do you seek the shallow depth of field with a Fisheye lens.
So, I managed to go on f/4.5 when the sun was nowhere in the view. Lifted only a bit the ISO to 250 and the shutter on 1/60sec. I was amazed. The super wide-angle of the lens gathered so much light that it looked like a midday hour. I repeated the shot, just to actually test the performance, this time in f/6.3 and the results were superb, too!
I repeated the shoot in several areas, both urban and rural settings. This lens is fast enough to freeze slower subject movements, even on a cloudy day. I would not try to stop the movement of a 100-meter sprinter with this lens, however, I got the feeling that neither the manufacturer nor do you have any intention to capture such high-speed stuff in such an extremely wide-angle piece of glass. To wrap the point up, this lens is fast for landscapes, architecture, slow-moving objects (like boats, ships, etc.), flowers and clouds.
Well, people asked me probably more than 1000 times, why I love Tokina lenses. The primary answer was that I love Tokina’s optics. I have been shooting with a myriad of lenses in my life from a myriad of manufacturers and camera systems. I do respect other manufacturers for sure, and certainly have to say good things on some lenses made by Nikkor, Tamron, Sigma, and other manufacturers. But there is something that Tokina has always been brilliant in and it was hard to compete with; that is a great colour rendition.
Why colour rendition is so important to me then? After all, the digital era we live in has yielded such nice post-processing software options that can work out imperfections. That is true to some measure. The fact that to me, as a professional photographer, sessions can sometimes be overwhelming in the number of shots taken, correcting so many shots for the clients can be so much of time-consuming. Despite the general options to work on a bunch of photos on the processing software – all in one single set-up – is not always an option, especially when I find that the shots were taken in different exposures, sun-clouds, indoor-outdoors, etc.
Hence, for me, one of the most important things that I look at before I open my wallet to purchase a new lens is the colour rendition. If you want to keep your days for hours in front of the computer in correcting colours, be my guest. Gladly, this Fisheye lens general rendering capabilities are not different from the rest of my Tokina lenses. I truly love the brilliant and vivid shades it yields. I guess that whatever I say in this regard will be a bit weird since you guys really need to experience the lens and apprehend my words per-se.
Some physical features:
The lens is so small!! We lately got a new puppy in our family. The puppy is so small and cute. Lifting her up is like lifting virtually nothing. This Tokina Fisheye lens is pretty much like that puppy. Very, very, very lightweight. On my trusty D810 it feels like I have no lens at all. It is amazing especially because that allows me to shoot with minimal shakes when I shoot hand-held.
The lens body does feel like a tank, and I am so happy for that. It feels similar to when I received the Tokina opera 50mm (you can read HERE reviews I wrote on the latter) an awesome design and manufacturing processes indeed.
The front glass is curved, and that bulb is sticking outside of the lens barrel’s edge. Obviously, this needs some care as there is no physical protection against those rare knocks. However, Tokina, gladly, thought about this issue in advance and manufactured a special thick METAL cap to protect the lens when not in use. I am not entirely sure whether there is a magnet on either the cap or on the barrel’s edge, but the cap does not fall down, as opposed to those cheap plasticky lens caps. I mistakenly happened to knock the cap a few times, quite hard to be honest, and the cap stood like a Goliath. Wonderful.
As you know New Zealand is not just beautiful and green for nothing. Our Paradise country has a lot of rain and we are quite happy about it (as long as this does not rain during the Christmas Holidays, haha). In a typical session I find myself start shooting at 8am when it is summer and hot out here, but then at 9:37am it turns to the middle of the winter! Gosh, going with an umbrella or such water protective tools can be hard, and sometimes even If you have them with you, there is not much time to actually use them before you are all soaking wet.
I found in this Fisheye lens, although not formally said to be waterproof, to have the capability to get away with the wintry situation in the best possible way. I simply wiped it dry, took three-four shakes of the camera, and the lens got no water on it whatsoever. Tokina mentions that it has a special coating on the front element, and I guess that this one simply does the trick!
Who is the lens for:
If you got to this point on this article and you still ask the question, then I suggest to you to briefly re-read the above paragraphs. This lens is awesome for those who are arty, those who shoot landscapes and would like to catch as much as they can from the scene, without the odd need to do a panorama manipulation in Photoshop. Let alone, many times the panoramas go simply wrong and the work invested in producing a real (successful) panorama shot on the computer can be easily solved with one simple lens like this “puppy” one. Simple as that.
The lens also fits for those who are after Black-and-White photography, especially in architecture. The photos can be strikingly beautiful as the real-life straight lines of the buildings are being curved in the most pleasing way. Playing with the heights from where you take the shot will dictate the result and the meaning that you want to give to your hero subject. This is true to each and every type of lens, but especially this specific lens.
The entomological world can also get its representation with this lens. Now, please do not get me wrong. I do not expect anyone out there to think that they can shoot Macro with it. However, I was surprised to find that I could actually come very close to bugs and flowers and get such a detailed result. This opens up great photo opportunities to really accentuate the subject hero in your frame while keeping a substantial shallow depth of field and creating a wonderful, almost creamy bokeh at times!
The lens is also a MUST-HAVE for all of those who are after underwater photography. As I clearly mentioned above, the colour rendition is AMAZING, and the underwater world has a lot to benefit from such a lens.
Astro shooters will definitely love this tiny gem. The frame-space that the lens covers in 10mm focal length is simply immense. In better nights than those which I went to shoot on, the skydome will show up with all its glory. The Milky Way and the land features can absolutely make a great, dramatic scene. Even with light contamination, as you may view in the photo below, the lens keeps on gathering such beautiful shades. My piece was great on the infinite focus distance, and quite brilliantly there was no need in any further tune-ups whatsoever.
I reckon that the absolute noteworthy feature to repeat mentioning is that the lens allows us to shoot from one side of the sensor to another without the fall-off, in focal lengths of 14mm to 17mm in a full-frame and in any focal length in APS-C sensor. If that what puts off people from using such a specialized lens like Fisheye, this Tokina solved the problem altogether!
I am doing manual and digital Art, sketch, paint, and photography for a very long time. I am looking for those tools that help me to convey ideas in the best possible way. I love dramatic scenes, extreme differences in light and shadows, colour temperatures, features on the lands etc.
If you have gotten the urge to tell the world YOUR story, as opposed to a replication of other people's work, then this lens is probably one of your first starters in your path. Yes, this is a specialty lens, and because it is a specialty lens it WILL require you to adapt both mentally (to the idea that you are creating something very different from the crowd) and technically (since the lens gathers the light in a very different way to any other lens type there is).
My suggestion is to go and get it as long as it is on the market!!
© For all photos (whether with or without the logo imprinted on them) and the entire content of this article all rights are reserved to Collins Ryàn – L’artiste, 2019