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Tokina AT-X 116 PRO DX : Review "ish"

Tokina 11-16mm F2.8 At-X 116 Pro Dx - Unboxing - Image 9/11The very long overdue post about my birthday present lens….  (and by birthday present I mean not only Mrs Wolfcat but the rest of the family all chipped in for this…)

I had been looking for a wide lens for quite some time… esp since my road trip last Xmas where I spent a week in outback NSW. A place where I shot so much at 18mm (the widest I could go with my kit lenses) I knew that a wide angle would be one lens that would get a lot of use on the camera.

Express on the Caufield LineSo why the Tokina and not say the new Nikon 10-24mm which has an even bigger range.  Two things…  firstly range isn’t that important with a wide angle lens.  Most of the shots I take with this lens are done purely at the 11mm mark.  Occasionally at the some where in-between… but rarely so.  I often try and use foot zoom. (the old step back or forward).  Secondly the speed of the lens.  The Tokina is a constant F2.8 lens… which means it sucks in light.  The Nikon wides are F3.5 to 4.5 and still don’t have optical stabilisation.  So the Tokina has most of the wide part of the range I wanted and works much better in low light.  (Also there is the small issue of cost… the Tokina is a LOT cheaper, and IMO a much better lens)

The Last of The FireNow owning the Nikon D90 also meant that I can autofocus with this lens. A point to remember about cheaper Nikon DSLR’s is that they drop the autofocus motor on models such as the D40, D60 and  D5000. So whilst you could use this lens you will need to manually focus.  Manual focus on this lens though is a thing of pure beauty.  It has the nicest autofocus/manual focus mechanism that you can play with.  Your hand is usually already on the barrel of the lens, just pull the focus ring forward and you are in manual focus.  No fiddly switches on the camera body or on the lens.

One thing to realise about this lens is that it is really WIDE.  And because of this… that nice little inbuilt flash on your camera is a big fat no go.  The lens casts such a shadow that it shows up in any photo with the inbuilt flash.  You might be lucky and crop it out of a shot… but don’t bother… just get a real flash (PS can someone please buy me a real flash 🙂 as I don’t have one yet). The other thing to watch with the wideness of the lens is when doing macro work is the same shadowing comes into play.

Food Pron....There are going to be some people that think… what macro work, wide angle lens…   but then the are missing the point.  A wide lens is not just for getting it all in, but is great for throwing out perspectives and getting nice and close as well. Being a very fast F2.8 lens it works very well indoors with soft ambient lighting.  This means you can get some great naturally lit hand held shots with no distracting flash calling peoples attention to your photography.

Red and Yellow Stair wellOne thing you will notice straight away over a kit lens is that it’s a very heavy lens at just over 1/2kg you will notice the weight when carrying it around all day. But I prefer to measure by the on camera weight.  With my Sigma 18-200 F3.5-6.5 lens I am holding 1.2kg in my hand, with the Tokina it is 1.35kg.  Those extra grams all start to add up especially after shooting for a couple of hours.  (Note I don’t have a battery grip either so this weight is the D90 + internal battery only).

So here is the technical info for those that just care about the numbers….

Mount availability: Canon and Nikon APS-C
Focal length: 11 – 16mm
Maximum aperture: f/2.8
Minimum aperture: f/22
Optical construction: 13 elements in 11 groups.
Coatings: Multi-layer
Angle of view: 104°~82°
Minimum focus distance: 0.3m
Reproduction Ratio: 1:11.6
Focusing Mode: Internal Focusing
Zoom Mode: Rotary Zoom
No. Aperture blades: 9
Filter Size: 77mm
Lens length : 89.2mm
Lens Hood: BH-777
Weight: 560g
Accessories: Flower design Bayonet lens hood (BH77A)

I purchased this lens from D-D Photographics by phoning them at 1:30 on a Thursday to check that they had it in stock and it was sitting on my desk in Melbourne less that 24 hours later.  The other great advantage was that they had just dropped the price a few days before so I also managed to buy a Hoya Super Pro Filter (Super MHC Pro1 UV) for the lens and with shipping it still came in under 1k.

I’ve had this lens for over a month now and it easily spends 60% of its time sitting on my camera.  If you are thinking about a wide lens… do try and track one of these down just to have a play, you might, like I did come away having brought one.

Sitting on the Dock of the Bay

Using the radar to take good weather photos

Weather RadarLast weekend I finally got one of the great weather shots that I had always wanted to get…

That of a gust front.

So I thought I would share with you one of the tricks of how I got this…  Shots of weather are are all about timing… and your best friend is the weather radar.

I could stay at home until just 20 min before the storm front passed over the place I wanted to go to.

This radar capture from the day…  shows the progression of the line of storms across Port Phillip Bay.  After watching this for a few loops I could even work out an approximate speed for the line of storms moving through.

Once I had the speed… I knew how long to wait before heading down to the beach. So I grabbed the D90 and had the Tokina 11-16mm on the camera before I got out of the car.  This way I didn’t have to change the lens on the beach in the wind and salt.

I was at the beach for less than 30 min and got a couple of my keeper shots within 5 min of getting out of the car.

So every once and awhile do take the time to look at the weather radars (I use prefer the Weatherzone one – because it has a lightning tracker as well)

And here is the shot….  enjoy.

Gust Front

First stage planning for my new #wtrip09

yes… I have already used the hashtag #wtrip09 once this year… but I am planning another road trip at the end of the year…

So here is the new trip, and like #wtrip08 I shall be on the road by myself for a week with to many toys….

remember if you know of something along the way that I should see (or even out of the way on the way…) leave me a comment below.

Melbourne to Brisbane… 6 Days on the Road… and 2,185 km

Day 1: Melbourne to Barmah – 253k

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Day2: Barmah to Hillston – 384k

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Day3: Hillston to Gundaooka National Park – 362k

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Day4: Gundaooka National Park to Charleville – 506k

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Day5: Charleville to Miles – 407k

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Day6: Miles to Brisbane – 335k

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Tone Dropping in Photoshop in 7 easy steps

Rushing home on the Tram - ColourSomeone asked me how I do the tone dropping on images…  That effect where you have just one primary colour showing whilst the rest of the image is black and white.

Well here is the simple way I have found to do it.

This is done using Photoshop CS4 (Win Version)  (but the principal is the same for all graphic editing software, just the keystrokes are different)

There are two main ways of doing this tone dropping effect.  The easy way for a single object is simply to duplicate the image three times (always have a backup layer)  Then de saturate the middle layer, that is make it black and white.  The shortcut for this is CTRL+SHIFT+U.  Or if you want fine control… then you go to the Image Tool Bar (Alt I), Adjustments, then Choose Black and White (or just ALT+SHIFT+CTRL+B) .  I tend to only do the quick desaturation option 🙂

Once you have this black and white layer and you have a simple area you wish to keep in colour… you erase the top layer leaving only the single colour area.  This will only work it you are doing something really simple.  More complicated colour and shapes… is what I am really talking about…

So here goes.

Step 0. – Choose an  Image

You are looking for an image that has a striking colour in it.  When taking the shot, you might even want to look for a colour that will stand out and ensure that you capture as much (or as little) as you want.  The image I have chosen to show you is based around a long exposure of car and tram rear lights.  But you will see on my Selective Colouring Flickr set that I use lots of different objects and colours.

Step 1. – Import your Image

This is the image as it appears imported from the NEF file from my Nikon D90 into Camera Raw.  Here you can tweak all the exposure and vibrancy settings, it also helps to give a slight nudge to the Saturation, just to help bring out some of the primary colours.


Step 2.  – Make some layers to play with.

stage2 Now in the layers palette make a duplicate of the background (drag the background onto the new layer icon, next to the trash).  This way you have a nice original layer to return to if you make a mistake and don’t want to reimport everything.

Step 3. – Get the Colour.

In this image I am after the red.  Remember primary colours are the easiest to work with and make for the strongest images as well.  You can of course use the colour selection tool to choose a different colour, but oh that gets tedious.

To bring up the Colour Selector…  Choose Select from the Menu Bar (ALT-S) then Colour Range.

It will default to Sampled Colours.  Click on that to bring up the following menu.


In this case we are after the reds…  so choose red.  You will then see a sample of the selection on the preview window.  At this point you may get a screen that says.
” Warning: No pxiels are more than 50% selected.  The selection edges will not be visible.”
All this means is that you will not see the marque on the screen showing you a selection.

Step 4. – Processing the Selection.
You will see in this screen grab that the marque lines are showing.  But like the warning dialogue box you might get… not all of the red is showing as selected.  Don’t panic it is…  Now do a copy of the marque  CTRL+C to store it.

Step 5 – Making the Red and the Black and white.
Now we have a copy of only our red channel in the clipboard.  We need to put it into a new layer.  Either select the new layer command in the layer window or just press  CTRL+SHIFT+N to create this layer.

stage5 Once the layer is created, simple Paste (CTRL+V) the colour layer into the new Layer 1.  Now you have a in this case Red only channel to play with.

Now we take the Background Copy Layer, select that and Desaturate it.  Either via the CTRL_SHIFT+U or the ALT+SHIFT+CTRL+B methods.

Hey presto you have a rough cut to work with.

Step 6 – Not Strong Enough?
stage6 Perhaps at this point you are thinking that really it is all wishy washy and not worth the effort so far.  Yes you are right.  Often at this point the colour is not that intense.  The easy fix at this point is to duplicate the colour layer one or two times (sometimes more) until you get the desired strength of the output you are after. In this case it was only two layers.

Step 7 – The Final Touches.
stage7 Now this image was easy.  Here you can see the isolated red layer and the placement of colour across the image.  But say there was a red light at the top of the image, that  you really didn’t need.  On this layer (making sure you merge down all your duplicates if you have created them) you get the eraser tool and delete the areas of colour you don’t want.  If I was being really fussy I could have deleted a few spots of red around the place just to clean the image up.  (another tip… before you start erasing stuff, duplicate this final colour layer, turn it off…  that way you don’t have to worry about the history buffer going to far when doing fine erasing)

And here is the final image…
Rushing home on the Tram - B&W

Technical Data on the Shot.

Gorilla Pod in action for taking the Rushing Home Shot.Camera: Nikon D90
Exposure: 20seconds
Aperture: f/22.0
Focal Length: 11 mm
ISO Speed: 200
Flash: No Flash
Orientation: Horizontal (normal)
Software: Adobe Photoshop CS4 Windows
Exposure Program: Manual
Date and Time (Original): 2009:09:01 18:50:24.00+10:00
Max Aperture Value: 2.8
Exposure Mode: Manual
White Balance: Auto
Focal Length In35mm Format: 16 mm
Lens: Tokina AT-X 116 Pro DX – 11.0-16.0 mm f/2.8
White Balance: As Shot

Remember in the digital world… if you make a mistake it doesn’t matter… you can just start again…  So go out take photos and play.