Close Focus Wide Angle with Tokina 10-17mm Zoom



Like many other photographers I am considering an upgrade (some former film users may say return) to a full frame camera from my present DX equipment. Although I am probably waiting for the promised D700X I have been following the ideal lens debate with some interest. One of the FX problems is the performance of the rectilinear zoom lenses in particular the 14-24mm which seems to be very difficult to set up behind a dome. If you have been using the Tokina 10-17mm on DX then you will very disappointed at the prospect of losing the flexibility of this lens on full frame. However, one solution that some FX photographers are experimenting with is using this lens with a 1.4X teleconverter which produces a range similar to the 14-24mm zoom.

This started me thinking about how this lens would behave on a DX format with a teleconverter for close focus wide angle images and I was surprised to find that with a 2X teleconverter I could focus on something surprisingly small as well as medium sized subjects. So it was time for some experimentation in the water but first of all I needed a zoom gear with an extension in order to use the lens in my Subal housing. Being an obsessive horder, I have a box full of old zoom gears and assorted bits from numerous housings and lenses and I was delighted to find that a combination of an old Hugyfot aperture spacer ring (Nikon F2A!), a 105mm extension sleeve and a 60mm manual gear provided exactly what was needed.

One of the concerns that I had was the potential for poor auto focus performance as this lens is a f3.5-4.5 and adding a 2x converter could compromise this. On this score I was pleasantly surprised to find that even in low light the lens had little trouble in focussing and locking onto subjects either very close to the lens or at a distance of 1-2m. Another pleasant surprise was just how close I could focus on a subject and the level of magnification produced.

My subjects for this experiment were some small nudibranch species which are found in large numbers mating in spring and early summer on some of my local dive sites. These nudibranchs are only 12-24mm in length (1/2 to 1) and so were a good subject to test the theory on. As can be seen on the accompanying images the larger species are quite dominant in the frame and still leave enough of the wide background to include a sunburst or a reef background. Almost like a double exposure in the finished image.

You will of course need to use an extension ring and a small dome to take similar images. For these shots I used a 35mm extension ring and an old Subal DP54 which was originally designed for the Nikkor 20mm lens. You do not need a full fish eye dome as the angle of view of the lens has been reduced dramatically (approximately 90-100 degrees). But you do need this much smaller dome to enable you to get close enough to the subject and be able to light it. When a larger subject turns up, like this John Dory from the same dive, you can still capture it with your now medium wide angle lens.

Whether you like the resulting images is of course down to personal taste. But the message should be to keep messing around with unusual lens combinations and never throw out those old bits of gears etc.! This was a little like turning the clock back to my early full frame film days when I produced similar compositions with a Nikonos 15mm lens and extension tubes. It worked well but positioning the subject and knowing when you had sharp focus were nowhere as easy as with this combination which also has the added flexibility of a zoom range.


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