YouTube Recommendation: Christopher Frost

Christopher Frost Photography

When I started looking for additional lenses for my 760D, the YouTube channel by Christopher Frost was among the first I subscribed to. Chris is an enthused photographer living in Cardiff and currently training to be become a vicar. He characterizes himself as a “lens enthusiast” and continuously publishes detailed reviews.

I’ve come to appreciate these reviews a lot. Chris follows a thorough and consistent scheme, so that his reviews can be easily compared to each other. From time to time, he takes advantage of that himself and combines several reviews into a “battle” – for instance, ten different 50mm prime lenses, or eight ultra wide-angle ones. Hence, it not only becomes evident how one particular lens behaves under various settings or on different cameras, but you can also easily compare lenses to each other.

He assesses the following points:

  • Look & feel, build quality, and equipment
  • Image quality (sharpness, contrast, chromatic aberrations) – on a full-frame as well as an APS-C camera, as far as applicable, at different apertures, and (for zoom lenses) at different focal lengths.
  • Distortion and vignetting
  • Close-up image quality
  • Behavior against bright lights
  • Bokeh

When it comes to lenses, he tests about everything that can be mounted to a Canon DSLR; in particular off-brand ones. Thus, he created more than a 130 videos by now. Recently, he obtained a mirrorless camera, so that lenses made specifically for DSLMs are now being reviewed as well.

The videos are made in a very likeable way. In addition to the always-similar test images, they always contain some example images as well as personal experiences when using the lens. He’s enthusiastic about what he’s doing, but he doesn’t overdo it. The videos have a very convenient duration of five to ten minutes each. His British English can be easily understood. Based on his reviews, for instance, I have decided to go with the Tamrom SP 70-300mm ƒ4-5,6 Di VC as my telephoto zoom lens.

PLAYLIST RECOMMENDATIONS

In addition, Chris has some other playlists mostly focused on music, TV shows, and his engagement at Church.


CONCLUSION

Recommendation: If you’re looking for well-made, substantiated, and informative reviews on lenses for Canon cameras, then Chris’ YouTube channel comes highly recommended!

What I’ve learned: Due to the comparability of the reviews, I have learned how significantly different lenses can behave concerning sharpness and color-fringing at different aperture settings and focal lengths, and also how big the differences can be when using one and the same lens on full-frame body or an APS-C camera.


LINKS

Title image: YouTube Screenshot

My Gear: Vast Spaces – Tokina 11-20mm f/2.8 DX

Tokina AT-X Pro SD 11-20mm ƒ/2,8 DX on the Canon 760D

The main reason for me to get a new camera in the fall of 2015 was the unique opportunity to photograph the Milky Way in the mountains on the edge of the desert in New Mexico (USA). This also meant: I needed a lens suitable for astro-photography. From research on the Internet, I quickly learned two essential criteria:

  • widest possible angle, to catch plenty of sky
  • widest possible aperture, to gather enough light

For APS-C cameras such as my 760D, “ultra wide-angle” means a focal length between 10 and 20mm.  A wide variety of lenses from different manufacturers are available in this range. Most of these have a variable aperture, from ƒ/3.5 or even ƒ4.5 to ƒ/5.6, which means they do not let in a lot of light. But then there is one lens with a quite unique setup.

TOKINA AT-X Pro SD 11-20mm ƒ/2,8 (IF) DX

Tokina AT-X Pro SD 11-20mm ƒ/2,8 DX
Tokina AT-X Pro SD 11-20mm ƒ/2,8 DX

The Tokina has a constant wide aperture of ƒ/2.8 and thus lets in a lot more light (about two to four times as much) than the other lenses in this focal range. With a price tag of around 600 € (Jan. 2017), it is also the most expensive lens, though – aside from Canon’s professional lenses such as the 14mm ƒ/2.8 for around 2,000 €. If you want to capture the night sky and hence need the wide aperture, the Tokina is well worth the investment.

BUILD QUALITY

A wide aperture always means a lot of glass, hence the lens is big and heavy. Together with the camera however, it balances well in your hands. It feels solid, and even though the casing is made from plastic, it doesn’t feel too “cheap”. The focus switch, however, is subject to critique: the lens has a push-pull mechanism, i.e. you move the focus ring back and forth to switch between manual and autofocus, as can be seen by the respective markings on the image above. Most of the time this won’t work without wiggling and you’ll inadvertently shift the focus point. Aside from that, the autofocus is reliable, and the manual focus is smooth and precise. The lens doesn’t provide image stabilization, but at such short focal lengths, this is not really needed in my opinion. The lens comes with front and back caps as well as a lens hood. Due to the wide angle of view, the hood is short, but has a very large diameter. This means it doesn’t fit into most pouches along with the lens but needs to be stored separately.  Because of its size and weight, I don’t take the Tokina with me whenever I go out, but pack it only when needed.

USE AND RESULTS

I use the lens on a regular basis now. Of course I use it for capturing the night sky, as can be seen in the examples below. There are other uses as well – it also lends itself to taking pictures in confined interior spaces, in particular with atmospheric lighting. For instance, the picture of the steam engine cab, which was illuminated just by a simple lamp, would not have been possible with a longer focal length because of the limited space. It is also great for landscapes, such as a sunrise at the beach. These uses technically do not require the ƒ/2.8 aperture, but it still offers the advantage of reaching a sharp image throughout the frame earlier than other lenses when stopping down.

The example images below have all been taken at the short end – i.e. at 11mm – because that is what I bought the lens for. Even though I do have alternative lenses for the long end with the Sigma C 17-70mm, or the Sigma A 18-35mm, the Tokina’s zoom range up to 20mm offers the flexibility to snap a “regular” wide-angle shot in between without having to change lenses.

I am quite happy with the image sharpness the lens renders. It’s always sharp in the middle; the corners of the frame however are perceptibly softer at ƒ/2.8. This can be seen in the shot of the Milky Way below, by comparing the sizes of the stars in the center of the image to those in the corners. This behavior is typical for all ultra wide-angle lenses, and stays within acceptable bounds for me. When you stop down, the image gets sharp from end to end at ƒ/5.6 at the latest. If you close the aperture even further to ƒ/11, you’ll get beautiful sun stars. However, when shooting into the light, the lens will create very prominent lens flares. They can look stylish, but often they are not desired.


CONCLUSION

Recommendation: If you want to photograph at night, to take pictures in moderately lit confined interior spaces, the Tokina is definitely worth the investment. It is solid, reliable and renders good image quality. It’s not flawless, however, and the recommendation is primarily based on its unique feature, the constant wide aperture of ƒ/2.8.

If you don’t need such a fast lens, I highly recommend the Canon EF-S 10-18mm ƒ/4.5-5.6 (Link to Amazon). It is considerably smaller, lighter, and most of all a lot less expensive (Jan. 2017: 230 €) than the Tokina. It also renders sharp images, but it lets in a lot less light – only a quarter of the amount compared to the Tokina – so you’ll be tied to brighter scenes, slower shutter speeds or higher ISO setting.

What I’ve learned: Taking pictures with an ultra wide-angle lens is a lot of fun – in particular because you can get a lot into your image even in a small space, or capture vast landscapes with just a single shot. This however poses the challenge of finding something interesting for the foreground, otherwise it’s easy to get lost in the scene because everything is pushed back – something I’m still working on. In particular with the Tokina, I have discovered the joy of astro-photography – even though that’s not an easy task considering the amount of light pollution in the area I live in.


LINKS

Picture Credits: All pictures – own images.


EXAMPLE IMAGES:

Sunrise on St. Simon's Island
Sunrise on St. Simon’s Island

 

Fire Basket on the Terrace
Fire basket on the terrace

 

Driver's cab of a steam engine (HDR)
Driver’s cab of a freight-train steam engine (HDR)

 

Milky Way over Albuquerque
Milky Way over Albuquerque

 

Mountain cottage in a full-moon night
Mountain cottage in a full-moon night
This web site uses cookies to enhance your browsing experience. By continuing to use this site, you agree to the use of cookies