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Tokina 14-20mm for Nikon?

Someone from Tokina in Japan emailed a press release the other day about the Tokina 14-20mm that will be on Nikon (and Canon). What I have is specs on paper, I have not seen the camera but I did use to own a Tokina 11-16mm. What I expect is a lens for begginners that has serious sharpness issues; sorry, Tokina, you have a history of being soft.

Before we start, let me be clear: I believe that Samyang will mop the floor against the Tokina. The Koreans really have their shit together and I think a solid copy of the Samyang 14mm can hold its’ own against the very pricy offering of Carl Zeiss. Tokina can not even think of doing that.

What they can say that Samyang or Carl Zuiss can’t is they do have auto-focus. I am not sure why you need to AF at 14mm but it is nice to have for a really wide portrait I guess. Personally, I think the obsession with Auto Focus is a little misplaced and I end up having to manually focus after the camera tries and find focus.

Simply put, I think the whole selling point of having it as a feature on wide angle lens is not a strength. It is far more important that the lens is tack sharp than its’ focusing system. Shooting landscape, I will still have to fine tune the focusing it tries anyways.

What we do know about the Tokina 14-20mm?

According to the press release, it has an updated and re-engineered aspherical lens that is going to mean “improved surface accuracy.” What does this mean? No one is quite sure but I am hoping it means sharper images for the photographer. As I said, images being too soft has been a major problem with Tokina historically.

There is also a special coating of some type that is suppose to reduce reflection. I am not sure how this works and my question would be at what cost to image quality does it create? Normally the more coating that you have, the less quality you have in the image recorded. Simply put, I would much prefer to fix the problem in Lightroom and keep a higher image quality. We will see how it works out.

The lens also has “low-dispersion aspherical glass elements” on both the front and rear elements to reduce “aberration.” Again, my question remain at what cost? I hope they can do it and not create problems for the photographer later. I have my doubts.

It also have some special focusing technology that just moving the ring will switch it from auto focus to manual focus and I guess moving it again will change it back. I am not sure nor do I really care much. I am not a fan of auto focus on the wide end of lens.

It does have 13 elements in 11 groups which sounds great (at least on paper), nine blade aperture ring, weights about a pound and a half, and is about 5 inches long.

What about macro photography

Some would like to use this for close up (environmental shots) and marco photography. Well, it does claim to have focus (manually I assume) at 11 inches. This would work great for wide shots for your kids and things but I am not sure how good it would be for the macro crowd.

In the end, you could do the old “put the lens on backwards” thing but who wants to buy a new lens just to put it on the wrong way. I have a reverse adapter that I have an old 50mm (1.4) that I use if I need to get really close. However, doing that to brand new lens? No, thank you.

My suggestion: Get a Samyang

I still hold that only Nikon is on the level of Samyang when it comes to the wide lens. I know that Carl Zeiss has some amazing lens but they have some less than amazing prices for them. I own a few of them but they are not in the budget of the average shooters. Who wants to spend $5,000 on a lens to walk around doing street photography or taking pictures of their dinner at White Castle?

The good news is that Tokina seems to have a better disbritation system and easier to get, at least here in the Philippines. They will sell a crap load of them to people that think they need auto-focus.

I could be wrong about the Tokina 14-20mm being over-rated and an under preformer. If they want to send me one to do a honest review on it, I would be more than happy to do that. I have no problem with changing my opinion if I am wrong back by data. It has happened before.

Why I use 500px instead of Flickr

Alot of people love Flickr, the photography platform by Yahoo! I have no issue with that and I think it has its place in the industry. However, I am concern what will happen to it if (or more likely when) Yahoo! closes its door. All in all, I still use it a little but for professional reasons, I think 500px is the better platform at this point.

Before I get some crazy comments, Facebook is great for likes but it is not a serious platform for professional photographers. If someone told me “check out my Facebook Photos” I would laugh. They are great for getting views but the compression is crazy and it just is not professional. I would not respond that way to a 500px account. It is legit.

What I do know is they are very serious about building their platform and with that, their brand. It is like FLickr, “we are here but we really don’t care about it.” 500px just redid their Android app and they have worked on the website refreshing a few times a year. These guys are taking their startup pretty serious if you ask me.

An example of this would be the Apple TV deal. I am not an Apple guy (Alienware please) but I know the power of the community behind the products. 500px does as well as they have worked very hard to get their stuff up on Apple TV.

What I love about 500px

The photography online communities have several options. I like SmugMug and Photoshelter as well. However, I have to say that for now; using 500px is my weapon of choice. The other two I named seem to be made for the client, not the community. I am a supporter of people using all of them actually. I still have my account on Flickr and Google Photo. That is not changing in the near future either.

One thing I really like about it is their discoverability bar. It tells you how good you are doing from an SEO point of view with keywords, title, location, etc. That is very useful if you want people to actually find and see your images. If you don’t, what is the point of posting on the internet for?

In comparing Flickr, this is much more advanced and it makes doing the tagging much easier and powerful. I do not know to spend hours doing research into meta tags. Thank you, 500px.

Another awesome thing about their platform is how easy it is to embed your images on the website. I really do not want to host all my images on Nikon Dojo. If I can load them from 500px; that’s awesome.

All I have to do is go to the forward looking icon and the dropdown bar looks goes down to Embed.

The next thing you do is just copy the code from the popup and paste in your article. It really does work that well. I am very impressed with the way they coded the system. They have locked down the right click issue but still empowering embeding. Pretty slick if you ask me.

I am a firm supporter in making sure communities can be used cross-platform and it seems that 500px has made the grade so to speak. They understand the concerns of many Nikon users about “picture stealing” but know we like to use their platform to have the pressure off our servers. Glad to see them give a thump up to both crowds.

This image of me testing the camera at the hanging coffins in Sagada, Philippines is being fed into the website from my 500px doing what I just showed you. It works very well and only the featured image needs to be loaded locally.

Peter Vandever by Peter Vandever on


500px also has a marketplace

Another interesting thing they can do is market your image to magazines and newspaper globally. If New York Times wants to use your image of a riot in Dallas; they can buy the commercial rights to do that on the 500px marketplace.

It is not the power of Getty Images but it working great for some people. The good news is while Getty Images is paying the people 20%, 500px is paying out an unheard of 70% commission. That pretty damn good if you ask me!

I have a friend that has made over $1,600 in a few months selling images on their marketplace. You might say you can’t live on that and I agree. However, he could (and did) fund his next photography trip to Hawaii using it. He could have also picked up a new ultra-wide lens with that as well.

Is using Flickr wrong?

Not at all.

I think Flickr has a place and let’s admit it, they started the whole concept. They were picked up by Yahoo! and they took it to a new level. Every photography community started on Flickr in some way. They are still used by thousands of people. In fact, I would say that it has a much larger market share than 500px will have for many reasons.

I still have a Flickr account and will continue to have it up, even if I hardly use it. I am not telling anyone that using flickr is wrong or bad; I am just saying that I think using 500px is better for serious photographer and for photo bloggers.

I am also very concerned about the fact that Yahoo! is having regular problems on the Stock Exchange floor. I believe they are heading for serious trouble in the next few years. The search engine is dead and I am not sure if they take other properties like Flickr and make themselves into an app business or not.

My concern is one day, we will wake up and there will be no Yahoo! or Flickr. They will be offline and the  company will be filing Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

As a photographer, losing years of images should be very concerning. That is all I am saying.

10 reasons I sold my Sony mirrorless camera!

I use to have some Sony mirrorless cameras. In fact, I have four of them and was seriously considering a more to the mirrorless market. The concept behind them is amazing. A smaller, lighter, more flexible system with the same sensors and image quality of a Nikon DSLR. It looks amazing…. on paper.

It is really sad because they could really be a mover and shaker in the photography world but they probably wont. One reason I question that is Sony sees their sensor business as the silver bullet to save the Sony Corporation. I do not think that the camera market will save the whole empire. Just won’t happen.

In reality, the very things that photographers go to Sony mirrorless cameras for, they find when they get there…. just marketed better. People are upset that Nikon or Canon does not innovate fast enough and we are just string along. Guess what? Sony does it just as much. They just are much better at marketing their process and not as open about it.

Simply put, I think alot of people (I was) are in love with the idea of Sony mirrorless; not really the actual shooting with them. There is just too many problems in the end. I will take a heavier but trustworthy Nikon DSLR anyday!

10. Sony is not stable

One of the major issues to look at is that Sony could go under any time. They have sold off things, quit making laptops, reduced their television footprint and basically just have cameras and phones now. They have even made their sensor business completely apart from the rest of Sony. I believe, as does others, this was to save it when (not if) Sony has to file bankruptcy in Japan. I hope the Toshiba move is not the nail in the coffin for what is now known as Sony Semiconductor Solutions.

If you want a camera system for a brand that use to exist, just go get a Kodak (that developed the DSLR) and you will have the same thing. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

9. Build Problems

The cameras themselves are build very cheaply in Ayutthaya, Thailand. I do not think I have seen such poorly made professional grade camera body in my life. They are basically made of pop medal. A small drop can completely destroy the system. This is not what you expect out of a higher end camera that professionals could use.

I was walking in Quezon City, Philippines and the Sony NEX 6 dropped out of my hand the second day I had it. It destroyed the pancake lens, shattered the EVR, broke the flash, offset the shutter assembly and cause the battery to not connect. All because of a 12-15 inch drop. To be fair, I have dropped the Nikon D7000 from 10 feet in the air and it lived to tell about it.

8. Camera shops wont touch Sony mirrorless systems

After dropping it, I was off to the local camera repair shops to see how much work it would take to get it fixed. What I found out was no one will touch them with a ten foot pole. No one knows anything about the mirrorless cameras. This is an issue when you need it worked out for some reason.

The reason this matters, especially in the Philippines, is that you will be without your camera for 1-2 weeks (or more) while it is sent to Singapore, Japan or the United States to be worked on by the technicians. A month without your tools is alot of money you are losing.

7. Sony Service Centers suck

A trip to Sony Philippines and the Sony Service Center in Makati was even worse. They do not know crap about Sony mirrorless cameras and only care about television and smartphones. One of the people working there told me so. I had figure out exactly what was happening with it and asked to speak to a technician about. Sony Philippines will not allow them to speak directly with customers. When there is a language barrier, who knows what is being translated.

In the end, one of the major problems was the camera was switched to the EVF so the LCD wouldn’t come on. However, the EVF was broke so I had no way to see anything. They wanted to send it to Singapore. I asked a few Sony mirrorless users about it. We found out that just hooking up a HDMI to a television will give access to change the settings. Really surprising that Sony Philippines and the Sony Service Center couldn’t tell me this.

6. Sony Distribution is not much better

A walk into almost any camera shop in the Philippines and if you can find a Sony mirrorless camera, there is about 75% chance that is grey market and was bought here illegally by the stores from Hong Kong. Part of the reason is business related but part of it that distribution by Sony is just horrible.

I found the same to be true in the United States. Alot of local shops just do not have the cameras. It had to be ordered at B&H or Adorama. If they ever dream of competing with Nikon; they better get fix this problem pretty quickly.

5. The Electronic View Finder is annoying

The one good thing about Sony mirrorless systems is you can use the liveview without a monopod. You have to. The electronic viewfinder is just annoying and not even that close. I have used it a few times on shoots and I must say it just does not match up like they shoot. I have tried them on a few systems as well. Not impressive.

The Optical view finder in Nikon cameras might not let you see what you get but it much easier to use in reality. I could never get on with the EVF. However, to be fair, I normally use the liveview on the Nikon D800 and attach a monopod to it.

4. Battery life is a joke

If you really use the cameras for serious work, plan to carry about a dozen batteries with you. I took the Sony A6000 on a trip to Palawan last month and I had five batteries for it with me and had to charge them up every night as well. Five Sony batteries lasted about a little longer than one Nikon battery. This is just plain unacceptable.

Having to charge five batteries every evening when you are travel gets old really fast. It means you have to stay close to the batteries so you can unplug one and plug another one in. I have better things to do with my evenings. I perfer charge one while I go eat dinner and the another one when I come home.

3. Carl Zeiss lens are crazy expensive

I love their lenses and I have a few of them for the Nikon cameras but they are not priced for the guy that wants a great camera for vacation and street photography. People will not spend $1,500 on a lens to take photos of their dinner and cats. Sorry, they just wont.

A system without native glass to put in front of it is just worthless. While the Carl Zeiss partnership is the strength of the Sony mirrorless system; it is also the biggest weakness as well. If they want to be a legit system; they better get serious about the mid-range lens market quickly.

2. Sony Flash are not all that

After looking at the len problem or what Jason Lanier mocked calling it the Lensgate; you have a bigger flash with flashes. Sony just does not have decent flashes. I have yet to see anything that competes with the Nikon SB900 yet come out of Sony. It is all simple flashes and have serious limitations.

If you say that using flashes are old school (I agree), that is fine; however, some forms of photography still require a good flash. Sony does not have them. That is a problem. Period.

1. Sony Snobs

Speaking of Jason Lanier, he is a great example of the Sony Snobs, the gear heads that worship their cameras. When someone hand me a print that they got with their Nikon; they put emphasis on the image and the editing. However, a Sony Snob is more interested in telling me about the camera they used than the image itself. No one gives a damn that you shot it with a Sony mirrorless camera! Sorry to break the news to you, bro.

In many ways, the Sony Snobs are the main reason I sold my cameras. I just can’t stand brand whores that can’t enjoy photography without comparing how big of a @#$ they have. When you care more about what camera you use than what image it produced; you are a Sony Snob and a brand whore.

What am I using now?

Well, before I tried the Sony mirrorless, I was shooting using my old Nikon D7000 (that Jason Lanier told me to marry) and was using my Nikon D800 full frame camera for professional work. I never got rid of them and really never planned to. The Nikon system is far more advanced and I can find lens for them very cheaply and quickly.

Today, I am still using the Nikon D800 but sorry, Jason, I divorced the D7000 and married the Nikon D7100. I have plans to get the Nikon D7200 as well as the Nikon D750 but that is in the works right now. I am also wondering what the next generation in the Nikon D8xx line will look like.