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Tokina AT-X 124 AF Pro DX 12-24mm f/4 Lens Review

by Jim Strutz, 2005


With the increasing popularity of digital SLRs with smaller than full frame digital sensors, there has come the demand for wide angle lenses specifically designed for this format. The Tokina AT-X 124 Pro DX 12-24mm is one of several new lenses intended to fit that need. It’s field of view when used on a Nikon Digital SLR and other 1.5x crop cameras, is equivalent to an 18-36mm lens on a 35mm film camera. Slightly longer when used on a 1.6x crop camera.

There are several other lenses that are currently being sold or have been recently announced. Sigma’s 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6 EX ASP HSM, Nikon’s 12-24mm f/4G DX, Canon’s 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5, and Tamron’s 11-18mm f/4.5-5.6 being the significant others. The Sigma is the only one of these that can be used on a full frame SLR at 12mm. This Tokina is a new lens, and doesn’t seem to be in stock anywhere, but after being on Adorama’s waiting list for over 2 months I finally received one. Most street prices are being quoted at just under $500, making the Tokina the lowest priced lens in this group.

I have to say that this looks and feels to be a very well built lens. It’s fairly hefty with a lot less plastic than any of my other autofocus lenses. The lens is a constant f/4 throughout its zoom range and uses 77mm filters. It doesn’t seem to need thin mount filters, even standard polarizers cause no vignetting. It comes with a well designed, sturdy bayonet mount lens hood that fits on rather stiff and should provide good collision protection.

In Canon mount, there is no separate AF/MF switch. To switch to autofocus just push the focus ring forward, and pull it back to reengage manual focus. Tokina has used this type of clutch mechanism for several years on other lenses, but it is the first one that I have owned. I’m still getting used to the idea, but it is faster & easier to use than a dedicated switch that you have to search for on the side of the lens. One of the positive features of this clutch system is that the manual focus ring is well dampened and feels great compared to many other autofocus lenses. However, I would still prefer to have a ring type USM focus motor with full time manual focusing.

Optical Performance

Included are several images of the church where I work. I wish I had used a more contrasty subject, but this one provided me with a clear parking lot that allowed me to back up to keep the field of view the same as I zoomed in or used other lenses for comparison. All crops are shown at 100%, and all are of the same field of view. Only the subject to camera distance changed to keep the size the same. Also shown are some examples of flare and CA.

I also did a resolution comparison with several other lenses I own, and found the Tokina to be quite good. I had seen several full sized images on the net, so I knew about what to expect, and wasn’t really surprised by my findings, but I am relieved that the lens is as good as others claimed. Specifically, I found that the lens is very sharp at 24mm, even wide open, and even in the corners. It improves slightly by stopping down to f/5.6, but I saw no additional improvement at f/8.

   24_center_1.jpg (30500 bytes)

24_corner_1.jpg (29447 bytes)

  Zooming out to 12mm, the center remains sharp, but the corners soften. Even this is not bad however, especially considering that this is at 12mm, and moving in just a bit from the far corners brings sharpness back up. So does stopping down to f/5.6, and the image is slightly more improved by f/8. Interestingly, I found the corners slightly less sharp at 18mm than 12mm, but again stopping down quickly improved things. This lens could easily and safely be used wide open for most images, but for critical work at the edges, stopping down to f/5.6, or even better, f/8 if at 12mm, will make for very sharp pictures.

12f4-1.jpg (29703 bytes)

12mm_corner_1.jpg (27457 bytes)

I found a little chromatic aberration at the corners and edges of the frame at 12mm as can be seen in the sample images. At 24mm, CA was significantly lower, though still detectable. I expected to see more since most of my other lenses display more CA. The only lens I have with less CA is a Canon 50mm f/1.8, which is also the only one I have that is sharper, but even that has to be stopped down to f/4 to be so. The lenses I compared the Tokina to are Canon 28-135mm USM IS, Canon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6, and Canon 50mm f/1.8.

Barrel12mm.JPG (37485 bytes)
Distortion at 12mm

Lack of overly significant distortion is another pleasant finding. I’m sure that this lens would not satisfy an architect, but for normal photography most of us will be satisfied. I found some barrel distortion at 12mm, very little at 18mm, and none at 24mm. This has never been a critical item to me, and is even less so since that advent of digital manipulation.

There is a small amount of light falloff at the edges at f/4 at 12mm & 18mm. It is gone by f/5.6 and is not a significant amount even when wide open. If I had not been flipping images one on top of the other, I would not have noticed it at all.

Flare12mmf4.JPG (35795 bytes)
Flare at 12mm f4

Flare24mmf4.JPG (37175 bytes)
Flare at 24mm f4

Finally, there is flare. And, yes, there is some. This is a wide zoom lens after all, and it kind of goes with the territory. The lens hood helps, but mostly, you just want to keep the Sun from shining on the front of your lens. Sometimes a hand or hat is better than the hood. Also, stopping down helps, but doesn’t cure the problem. It also seems most prone to flare at 24mm, and when it occurs my primary complaint is lack of contrast.

Note that this is a Canon EF mount and not an EF-S mount, so it can be used on all Canon 1.6x crop DSLRs, and also on all EOS cameras, digital or film. Zooming wider than about 16mm when used on a full frame SLR will result in severe vignetting, but up to that should work fine. The edges of this image circle being outside the normal image area of the Canon 20D, I would expect additional softening of the image at the corners. Also, the lens hood has to be removed for settings wider than about 18mm when the lens is used on a full frame camera.

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Copyright 2005 Jim Strutz

Readers' Comments


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Ralph Jensen , March 22, 2005; 03:09 P.M.

Peter, I believe the reviewer was referring to "pincushion" and "barrel" distortion -- which few architectural photographers find acceptable -- and not to "wide-angle distortion" (actually "perspective exaggeration") which, as you note, can be a useful creative tool. Good review!

Yuk Fai Lo , March 23, 2005; 12:01 P.M.

Besides the other wide angle lens mentioned by the author, Sigma actually announced a 10-20mm f/4-5.6 for APS-C DSLR just a while ago, though it's not available yet. Details can be found at the following webpage:

http://www.sigmaphoto.com/lenses/lenses_all_details.asp?id=3301&navigator=6

Also, among the lens mentioned, the newer ones (Sigma 10-20mm, Tokina 12-24mm, Tamron's 11-18mm and Canon's 10-22mm) take screw-in filters instead of Gelatin ones like the Sigma and Nikon's 12-24mm.

Aaron Falkenberg , March 23, 2005; 12:11 P.M.

Yuk: The Nikon 12-24mm takes 77mm filters, not gelatin.

Yuk Fai Lo , March 24, 2005; 08:48 A.M.

Thanks Aaron, my bad. I mixed up the 12-24mm f/4 DX with the 14mm f/2.8.

Eric Pollinger , March 25, 2005; 02:19 P.M.

I appreciated your review as this lens is on my short list as I try to recapture the wide angle I enjoyed with film. I do wonder, however, how much this lens (or any lens) has to do with chromatic aberration in a digital SLR and whether it is fair to compare lenses on how they handle CA when not using film? My understanding is that, since the focal point is so close to the sensor plane, that most of the CA is caused by the high angle of the light hitting the sensor holes on the edge of the image and so CA is really a product of how the sensor interacts with any lens at a particular focal length value.

Also, I have the Tokina 28-70mm f/2.8 ATX Pro and I'm very happy with its image performance but find that the biggest failure in the design is the lack of a metal filter ring. The first time I put on a metal filter it regrooved the plastic and now it is difficult to work with. Does this lens have a metal ring?

Thanks -Eric

Jim Strutz - Anchorage, AK , March 25, 2005; 02:58 P.M.

Nope, it has plastic filter threads. I hadn't noticed that before. I'll have to be careful with that.

I should also have noted that the filter threads do not rotate, nor does the lens "grow," while zooming or focusing. And BTW, the AF is very quiet for a non USM lens and fairly quick too.

Aaron Falkenberg , March 25, 2005; 09:28 P.M.

Jim,

though it seems from the review you're a Canon man, have you any idea how the CA compares to the Nikon 12-24mm?

cheers, Aaron

Jim Strutz - Anchorage, AK , March 28, 2005; 01:05 A.M.

Not a clue.

Fu Ren , March 28, 2005; 03:36 P.M.

A comparative study of the Nikon 12-24mm F4 and the Tokina 12-24 mm would be most helpful. This would help many to make a decision. Please anyone? Thanks.

Jim Strutz - Anchorage, AK , March 28, 2005; 10:02 P.M.

Okay, here's a comparative review:

Nikon 12-24mm: $1100 ---- Tokina 12-24mm: $500 ---- Both are nice.

Probably not what you were looking for, huh? :~)

Actually, I'd like to know too. BTW, there is a brief review of the Tokina in this months Popular Photography & Imaging magazine. Anybody know what they've said about the Nikon 12-24mm?

Bill Tuthill , March 29, 2005; 01:11 P.M.

If you believe in the Tooth Fairy and Pop Photo SQF, here are numbers culled from back issues comparing the Nikon and Tokina 12-24/4 lenses. Unlike Jim, Pop Photo found .45% barrel at 18mm and .33% at 24mm, but the Nikon's distortion was worse, .56% and .57% pincushion.

Nikon 12 18 24 Tokina 12 18 24
f/4 B+ B B+ B B+ B A B+ B+ B A B+
5.6 B+ B+ B+ B B+ B A B+ A B+ A B+
8 B+ B B+ B+ A B+ A B+ A B+ A B+
11 B+ B B+ B B+ B B+ B A B+ A B+
16 B+ B B+ B B+ B B+ B B+ B B+ B
22 B C+ B C+ B+ C+ B+ C+ B+ B B+ B

Clint Dunn , March 30, 2005; 01:01 A.M.

It seems like a no brainer to me to buy the Tokina over the Nikon (or in my case Canon) equivalent. Whether or not Popular Photography's subjective tests for the two lenses are correct is a bit of a mute point.

The Tokina lens is at least half the price of the other, this I think we can all agree on. The performance of the two compared seems to be up for debate; depending on whether or not you are a Nikon brand snob or Popular Photography who rated the Tokina higher.

If people have to actually argue over which produces better images (ie: it isn't obvious to all)than I will save the $500 and buy the Tokina. For that price I can buy another lens like the Macro I want.

I think people spend too much time arguing about MTF charts instead of taking pictures. You can take great photos with almost any lens if you take time and care in the image taking process. Just my two cents.

John Rhone , March 30, 2005; 11:55 A.M.

I have this lens, and I HAD the Nikon 12-24/4. I returned the Nikon after 2 days and got the Tokina. I ahve to say that the only difference I find is the silent focusing of the Nikon....I cannot tell the difference in the images. So if it were my money, and it was, I saved the $500 and bought the Tokina....

Philippe Wiget , April 03, 2005; 06:47 P.M.

I am a bit curious about the interpretation of the images by Jim: To me, the image that illustrates the distortion also shows a color cast in the images corners. This cyan cast was also reported in a discussion on photozone.de. In addition the images do seem to show quite a bit of CA, actually I would say rather strong CA. What do others think about this?

Jim, I would not conclude as positive as you did, even though I hoped for the more positive result, since this is a candidate lens for my EOS 10D.

Thanks for your work! Philippe

Eric H. Peterson , April 11, 2005; 08:01 P.M.

I used this Lens at the beach on Sat. My mini report. Its pretty sharp not at sharp at my 17-40 L or 28-75 Tamron Di. It looks good and feels sturdy and focus is quick enough. Thats the good part. CA is Horrid. I shot mostly noonday bright sunshine and CA showed up on anything with a brigh color in it and the CA around trees was awful. Nearly every photo I took had a blusih tinge to it.(no filter was used, camera rebel XT)I am returning it today and getting the canon 10-22. I may have just had a bad copy?

Tommy Lee , April 16, 2005; 02:34 A.M.

My copy just came in. The Tokina has very high contrast from wide open f4 to stop down f16. Contrast remains fairly high even near the resolution limit of my 6MP 300D sensor. At f4, same as the reviewer observed, is very useable but f5.6 is better. For my copy, it is just as sharp from f5.6 to f11. Unlike the reviewer's copy, my copy seems to be better at 12mm than at 24mm. However, at 24mm it still out perform my EF24/2.8(at f4 and f5.6). From f8 on, it seems about same with the Tokina having a bit better contrast. My Tokina has low mileage so far. It is already feeling very much like the Tamron 28-75/2.8, a bargain performer. IMHO Tokina has a winner.

John Souleles , April 22, 2005; 04:17 P.M.

How bad is the CA really,...?

Does anyone have posted examples?

In a practical sense, does this mean the pictures unusable at 5x7 8x10 magazine quality,....?

Are the pictures publishable?

You see where I'm going with this,...., Although they (these quirks if you will) are reasons for concern, both the cyan cast and the CA can be mitigated, corrected in PS-CS, especially in RAW. The question is whether eliminating the peculiarities of this lens is worth 500 extra bones.

Ted Marcus , May 01, 2005; 02:52 P.M.

I got a Tokina 12-24 with my 350D. It had very noticeable purple fringing, as well as severe front focusing at settings shorter than 15mm. I exchanged it for another copy. The second copy is much better in both regards. It's very sharp even wide-open; at f/8 it's possibly sharper than the camera sensor's resolution since my test shots remain sharp under "pixel peeping" magnification even when the image breaks down into pixels. That suggests it's likely to be sharp enough for any APS-C camera (as long as you get a good copy). My experience just proves that it's best to buy lenses locally whenever possible to make exchanging a bad copy less of a hassle (and the price was identical to B&H and Adorama, which surprised me).

Clint Dunn , August 18, 2005; 07:15 P.M.

Ok..I bought this lens in Hong Kong back in May, and it is awesome. I find it to be very sharp and have never had any noticeable purple fringing that would show up in a print.

Great lens at $500, I seriously doubt that the Canon or Nikon equivalent could be worth twice as much.

The lens is also built superb, with a very nice finish and no 'cheap plasticky' feel to it. It is quite hefty and well built. My only complaint if I had to nitpick, is that the zoom ring is a little stiff to turn....but that is not a big deal to me.

Check out some of my pics taken with this lens in my 'Larissa' folder, they are the wide angle shots (obviously), the rest of the folder was done with a 70-200.

Mike Strong , September 08, 2005; 11:43 A.M.


Groom and Bride dance in this crop from the middle. It is hard to see in this size but in a full-size image every hair shows distinctly.

Just buy this guy. I got it a couple of weeks ago and finally feel at home again, after hardly using my 20mm (on film) for the last several years after going to digital. More than that, this thing is razor sharp. I used it for a group photo in a wedding this last weekend (backing up with film pictures taken on my Bronica). I decided I wouldn't even bother developing the film. The color and resolution are beyond my expectations. The reception, the dance shots, the cake and tequila (no champagne) shots (groaner alert) were so good. I love to move in close and this lens is a perfect fit for me. The bride and groom example is cropped and was shot at 12mm, 1/13th second, f/8, ISO-200 using flash as main light. Mike Strong

Zachary Valdez , January 03, 2006; 08:21 P.M.

I love mine and would suggest this lens to anyone looking for a wide angle lens

Supri Suharjoto , April 23, 2006; 11:52 A.M.

I just got this lens and I'm wondering what UV filter do you guys use? Do I need to get the "ultra-thin" kind for this lens?

Thanks.

Roy Mac , February 01, 2007; 12:23 P.M.

I just want to say that after all is said and done the Nikon lens will still be a Nikon lens and if you take care of them you will get most of your investment back if you sell it. Try getting 25% back from the other brands and you will be lucky to do so even 2 months later. I could nit pick about everything but to me using an off brand lens on a Nikon Camera is like putting a Ford engine in a Corvette. It's just not a Corvette anymore . That's why I use all Nikon or Nikkor Lenses because if they cost me $10000.00 new I can usually sell them for $750.00 etc.,so the nikon lens cost me $250.00 !! try that with the others.,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,Cheers,,,,,,,Roy

Colin W , February 08, 2007; 12:09 P.M.

On that argument, the best buy would be a second hand Tokina - 25% of the price of a new or second hand Nikon - What a bargain.

Glenn White , February 08, 2007; 06:51 P.M.

I was an idealistic hippie and missionary for too much of my life to afford a Nikkor in every focal length that I need. Fortunately I life near a major metropolitan area. So I can rent a $7,000.00 400mm f2.8 when I want to have that kind of fun. Otherwise, I appreciate the quality and value that certain Tokina and Tamron lenses sometimes bring to the table. And I can tell you, in my opinion, given the specification, performance and quality of the Tokima 12-24mm, I don't see much change I'll want to sell it in future. It's a very fast focusing, smooth and quiet lens as well.

Glenn White , February 09, 2007; 01:26 P.M.

Many of you may already be familliar with the (German) website, Photozone. Nonetheless here are its reviews, which will provide a comparative metrics for CA numbers of on the Tokina AT-X124 Pro DX 12-24mm f4 and the Nikon 12-24mm f4. I like the fact that the Nikon has the motor drive, but otherwise the Tokina comes across as a more solid lens with very approximate performance. You will each decide for yourselves of course:

http://www.photozone.de/8Reviews/lenses/nikkor_1224_4/index.htm

http://www.photozone.de/8Reviews/lenses/tokina_1224_4_nikon/index.htm

anthony asael , May 05, 2007; 11:42 A.M.

I bought a Tokina 12-24 for my Nikon D200 last year, and I am very disappointed by the results. The pictures are not sharp, colors are very dump?. And worse of all , the metering is lacking precision. In all contrasted situations (most of the time in the case of wide angle pictures), it got lost. I need to use exposure compensation of +1,3 or +1,7?. Or -1,3 for the desired effect. Strange enough compensation is less (+,7 or -,3)with my D70 ??? I cannot understand why ? My D200 does that only with that lens? so I don?t think it has to do with the camera?. Maybe the lens is defective ? I tried to write to Tokina, but never got an answer ;-(( Any suggestion or help ??? Anyone experienced something similar ?

Thx for your advices !

Anthony

ANDREW COLE , July 02, 2007; 01:39 P.M.

Anthony. there are some serious issues with the D200 and independent lenses. I have a problem with the wider Sigma and Tokina..the problems are with focus and exposure. you will not get a straight answer from Tokina but Sigma have stated that they have to re-chip some of their lenses when used with the D200. My Tokina 20-35 ATX would not focus at the 20 end and I had to switch to continuous focus mode for it to work...however it worked perfectly with my D100..There are also 'back focus' problems with my Nikkor 20-35 at the 20 end on f2.8..so I would say the problem lies with the D200...shoot the net and you will find plenty of others saying the same thing..some Nikon anoraks will say the problem is with the user but I suspect they use 'snap all in auto mode' and really don't understand the DOF issues associated with open aperture and AF accuracy.

CL Hor , July 25, 2007; 05:21 A.M.

Would this Tokina 12-24mm lens be compatible with Nikon D80? How about the quality of Tokina 10-17mm?

Eric Arnold , November 01, 2007; 06:32 P.M.


uc berkeley botanical gardens, tokina 12-24

hi, i've had the tokina 12-24 f/4 for almost a year now. i use it with a Nikon D80. the tokina was my first "serious" lens. this one opened up a much wider perspective for me (no, seriously). have to say it goes well with the d80, no major performance issues. it lives up to its billing. my experience is that it's a bit sharper at 24mm than at 12mm, which is normal, but the 12mm POV can be breathtaking. no vignetting with a polarizer or uv filter at 12mm. havent noticed much CA, which seems to be rare among tokinas. build quality is impressive. usable wide open, and pretty sharp from f/5.6-f/8. actually produces some nice bokeh when close-focusing, which i discovered inadvertantly; most of the time, you would want to stop it down to get more DoF when shooting landscapes.

nikkor snobs might disagree, but the main difference between the tokina 12-24 and the nikon version seems to be the SWM (and $500); fast AF isn't something especially needed for a lens of this type, since you wouldn't use it for sports or action. recently the sigma 10-20 has sort of become the in-vogue w/a lens for nikon users (this might have something to with the d40's popularity since the sigma has HSM), but i don't regret having the tokina for a minute. in real-world usage, the long end comes into play often.

in short, stop reading about it and just go get one.

Christine Friberg , June 14, 2008; 02:23 P.M.

I don't have a comment, I have a question. I am seriously looking into an ultra wide angle zoom (12-24mm) and can't afford the Nikon. I am on the verge of purchasing the Tokina 12-24mm but now I'm worried. I have a Nikon D200. Should I not make this purchase? Or is there a way around the problems mentioned on previous posts?

Jason Yip , June 18, 2008; 12:40 A.M.

I've just ordered my copy from eBay. I have a Nikon D2Hs and D70s, so I'll give my views once I've used it a few times!

~ squodge ~

Mark Williams , July 18, 2008; 03:50 P.M.

This is a seriously good lens, no matter what the price. The Nikon is smaller and a great performer. This is bigger, but still superb, with edge-to-edge sharpness, virtually no distortion and great contrast. Just get one.

Art X , March 22, 2009; 10:22 P.M.

No doubt the Nikon and sigma options (in 12-24mm) are almost as good as the Tokina but I have to say for the price of the Tokina you cannot beat it. Yes the sigma is the widest in this range and the Nikon might prove a little sharper, but who are we kidding, I think it would be somewhat irrelevant (to the "average" photographer) when looking at these lenses as a complete package. I'm as much a Nikon purist as the next person (when it comes to mixing and matching lenses with camera bodies) but I think with this lens, I would make an exception

nicole revello , November 07, 2009; 10:11 A.M.

I just bought this lens for my Nikon D300 and have been experiencing many of the problems mentioned above (bad CA and lack of sharpness are the most notable). Another thing I'm seeing is severe sharpness fall off on one side of the lens (!?!?). Honestly, the comments in this post are the first bad reviews I've seen of this lens. What is the deal with "bad copies"? I didn't realize that was even possible!! Is it possible that my camera is incompatible such as some suggest with the D200?

Peter Chinnici , February 07, 2010; 11:17 A.M.

I am going to buy a tokina super wide angle, but i dont know if i should get the 12-24 f/4 or the 11-16 f/2.8. I will mostly do landscape, but is the optics better on the 2.8?

G. V. , March 01, 2010; 05:25 P.M.

Nicole, send the lens to Tokina for adjustment; it should be covered under warranty. Be specific about what is wrong with the lens; you can even enclose a sample print and/or a CD of JPEG images where the defects show up. That will help the tech determine whether or not there is a problem and how best to fix it.

My Tokina 12-24 wasn't up to par either; the major problem was an out-of-focus area on one side and a general lack of acceptable sharpness at 5.6 and 4.0. It took around five days for the repair and when it came back the problems were fixed.

I've been using the Tokina 12-24 as my primary lens for over three years and I am very happy with the quality of the images made with the lens. BTW, I use it with a D200 and if it is incompatible I sure haven't noticed it!

Antonio Franco , August 22, 2010; 12:11 P.M.

I like this lens very much, It's solid, well constructed & sharp. I have it on my Nikon D90 most of the time. But one thing that really annoys me is the TTL flash metering, it's very unaccurate with this lens. Near 12mm it's fine, but when going up to  24mm, all pictures get overexposed by flash (I use a SB-600) and I need ALWAYS to make flash compensation. Have some one else experienced this?

Patricio Murphy , November 28, 2010; 05:37 P.M.

I think everything was already said. I'll only add I got one by trading my Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 a while back, and it's sort of stuck on my camera.  I mean stuck as "I won't take it", not that something went wrong, of course. It's a terrific lens, with flare as the only drawback I can find. Amazing, specially considering the money.

Patricio Murphy , November 28, 2010; 05:37 P.M.

I think everything was already said. I'll only add I got one by trading my Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 a while back, and it's sort of stuck on my camera.  I mean stuck as "I won't take it", not that something went wrong, of course. It's a terrific lens, with flare as the only drawback I can find. Amazing, specially considering the money.


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