by: guide4wdw – Collin

The Best Budget Friendly Lens for Disney Parks Photography – Getting a New Perspective  

I know the first thing many of you are asking is why is a camera lens review on a Disney Parks themed website? Well, about a year ago I took the leap and dove into the Disney photography realm. I knew absolutely nothing about “professional tier” photos but wanted to try my hand at capturing higher quality images not only to share here but also to supplement social media posts, share greater details in reviews, and even potentially to use in print for future projects. 
I’m certainly no photography expert and will never claim the title of a “professional” because it’s more of a hobby that anything else. It’s something I enjoy and essentially that’s why I do any of this. Contrary to popular belief in the blogging realm, I don’t do this for the money, I do it simply because it’s what I enjoy doing and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to share that with so many of you. I’ve said it before, but I never in my wildest dreams would have thought even one person would have had an interest in what I write and talk about. It blows my mind to this day but I’m incredibly thatkful for the people it’s allowed me to meet along the way.
So to best answer that initial question I have to say a lens review is on this site mostly to encourage other folks traveling to the parks to try something new. It may not be photography, it may not be a website, and it may not be anything beyond trying a new restaurant in the parks, but trying something new can change your outlook in so many ways. 
Why am I sharing this? Well, hopefully it will help someone out there looking for something just like this as I was a short time ago. If you’re not at all interested in the review, I completely understand and invite you to check out one of our other posts here on the site. This will apply to a very limited audience but sometimes it’s fun to switch things up a bit in this content sharing journey. Theme park photography has become something I really enjoy and sharing things that interest me and potentially others is one of the many things this site is for. 
To jump right into it, I do have to credit Tom Bricker (the man, the myth, the Disney photography legend himself over at the for the initial lens recommendation. He’s the reason I caved and bought this lens and I’ve never once regretted the purchase.
In my opinion, the best budget friendly camera lens for Disney parks photography is none other that the Tokina 11-16mm F/2.8 DX Type II. the important parts of that lengthy description are 11-16mm and Type II. Essentially, for the non-photography folks reading this, an 11-16mm lens covers an angle of view of 104 degrees. While that seems trivial, it’s incredibly helpful in the Disney parks to capture things both in tight quarters and in a more creative perspective. It’s not going to be ideal for portraits or anything of that variety because it’s simply too wide for most of those applications. However, the lens is designed primarily for landscapes and architecture photography on crop sensor cameras. 
To further explain, a crop sensor camera is essentially the removable lens cameras about 95% of you reading this likely have. Full frame or FX sensor cameras are not fully compatible with this lens but if you have a full frame camera, you’re probably not looking at this lens to begin with. Also worth mentioning is the fact that this will not work on iPhones or anything of the sort. Additionally, the lens is currently built for Canon and Nikon cameras. 
The type II reference is also quite important because only the second version of this lens will auto focus with most DSLR cameras due to its internal focus motor. In the simplest of explantations, the previous version had to be manually focused by hand on most entry level DSLR’s in the Nikon lineup. The second generation put a focus motor in the lens itself allowing it to focus with even the most budget friendly camera in the Nikon lineup, the d3400 (an incredible entry level offering). I cant speak to Canon directly because I’ve never used one but I believe the same is true for at least select camera models.

Why Is This The Ideal Disney Parks Photography Lens?

Truthfully the main selling point for me on this lens was and is it’s incredible array of uses in the Disney parks. At an aperture of f/2.8 it’s capable of absorbing enough light to use a reasonable shutter speed and a reasonable iso on most dark rides to get the shots desired. It’s also great for nighttime photography when you really need that fast aperture to capture the image without a tripod (depending on the shot). 

For the non photography geeks out there, the process of capturing images in dark spaces is a delicate balance of aperture (referred to as f-stop), iso, and shutter speed. Aperture is referred to as being “fast” or “slow.” Faster lenses are paired with small aperture numbers. For example, f/2.8 is a wider opening inside the lens that a f/4 lens. The f/2.8 aperture allows the camera to gather more light. The iso number is essentially a representation of artificial light the camera is creating (without flash) to expose the image correctly. Higher iso numbers yield higher grain in the image, so it’s desired to shoot at an iso of 100 (or lower) to get the sharpest images possible in most cases. Lastly, shutter speed is a varying number referring to how long the cameras shutter is physically open when gather light on the cameras internal sensor. The darkest scenes require many seconds of exposure time with the camera completely still to gather enough light. However, for dark rides, you can only slow down your shutter speed so much or it will induce motion blur into the image. 

It’s an intricate process and this is a vast oversimplification of complex concepts but in essence, a lower number f-stop lens is better to have in your bag 99% of the time, a lower iso is better 99% of the time, and shutter speed will vary drastically. In all reality if you want tac sharp nighttime images you’ll shoot photos on a tripod, at iso 100, and at an f-stop at around f8-f/11 for peak image quality. However, none of this matters unless you learn to use your camera in manual mode. Also, if you’re going to buy this lens, I suggest you do so only if you’re going to learn to use your manual mode, aperture priority mode, or shutter priority mode. If not, the only thing this lens will provide you is a wider angle of view and very little difference in image quality in most cases. 

Your greatest resource in photography is knowledge of your gear and how to use it. I wont drone on in weird photography terms any longer but why is this lens a great deal??  

1. It’s incredibly sharp at its price point. It even comes close to comparing to lenses 4 and 5 times it’s price when used correctly.  

2. It’s an incredibly wide lens which is perfect for photos like what you see in this post. Personally, it’s my favorite kind of photography and I’m a bit of a wide angle freak. If you like these photos, you’ll love this lens because 100% of the photos in this post were taken on the Tokina. The photos here are not peak quality due to the websites compression, but if you want real details, check out our Facebook or Instagram pages. About 50% of those photos were taken with this lens.

3. It allows for vast creativity. Disney and ultra wide angle photography go hand in hand. This lens allows you to capture things no phone can capture, no standard zoom lens can capture, and will allow you take photos of things you never thought were possible. 

I’ve gone on and on about this lens, but what does it cost? Personally, I paid $279 for it and bought it refurbished directly from Tokina. I’m not a Tokina ambassador (even though that would be cool), I’m not getting paid by them to write this, and I’m not looking to sell you anything while writing this. The link to Tokina’s website is intentionally not an affiliate link. I recommend it because it is what I use and what has worked for me. So far it’s the main thing that’s kept me from jumping to a full frame camera and that’s a good thing considering what full frame cameras cost! 

It is without a doubt one of the best lenses out there for the money. There are a few different versions of it and I’ve heard the optical quality of the 11-20mm version of this is quite stellar as well, but I have not used it personally. The greater zoom length is pretty trivial to me so I opted for the the 11-16mm to save some money and recommend you do the same to save a few dollars. Chances are your standard kit lens that came with your camera will cover the 18-55mm focal range so this version works out quite well for most entry level photographers and many professional photographers as well. 

Last but certainly not least, it’s a lens that grows with you as you learn more about photography. Sure it does have some weird chromatic aberration in the corners or when shooting into direct sunlight, but it’s a two click fix in Adobe Lightroom’s lens corrections. It’s not without flaws but it is an incredible lens for crop sensor cameras and quite possibly the one lens I would take to Walt Disney World if I ever had to choose just one to carry with me in the parks.  

Your Thoughts

As always, if you have thoughts, concerns, questions, or even some tips of your own to share, don’t hesitate to reach out to us on Facebook or your favorite social media platform. Give us a follow while you’re there, and we’ll keep the conversation going in the future. We’re not the largest Disney community, but we’re one that’s there and one that listens. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day wherever you are!

Need a Travel Planner?

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Ready to Plan?

Last but certainly not least, if you’re starting the planning process, a great place to start are with some of our top planning articles! Looking for dining? Check out Disney World Dining Tips For 2018. Want to start with some more tips? 44 Excellent Disney World Tips for 2018 or Disney World Planning Guide and Tips For 2018 are a great place to begin! Looking to save money on tickets? Check out our friends over at The Official Ticket Center for great deals that even made it into our 2018 Discount Disney World Ticket selections and another great way to help us create more content through your contributions at no additional cost to you! You’ll probably even save money along the way.