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06-06-2009, 11:14 AM   #1
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My review: Tokina AT-X 80-400mm - the most practical long tele!?

I found a Tokina AT-X 80-400mm f4.5-5.6 (the first version AT-X 840AF) (I was lucky on ebay).
this one:


I decided to write a little review here, and also compare it to my Tamron SP 400/4.

The positives:
- The greatest feature of this lens is its size, it is a bit more than 1.5 times the length of a 50-200mm, and only weights 960gr (2lbs). In contrast to all other 400mm it fits in a normal photo-bag.
- since it is not very heavy and the zoom ring is sufficiently wide (at least in this version) it is easy to handhold it. The shake reduction works very well, I get reliable results at 1/125sec at 400mm. At an overcast day I can shoot with f8 at iso 400.
- It does not have a tripod collar which would only make it bigger and would be in the way. It is light enough to mount the camera directly on the tripod.
- The pentax mount is fully supported, it transmits the focal length and f-stop correctly to the camera (the exif says, though, it is a Sigma 80-200mm lens), I was worried about this considering its age.
- although it is not very sharp compared to the Tamron it is still usable at f5.6 or f8 at 400mm.

The negatives:
- The autofocus is fast but tends to hunt. The whole front part of the lens moves for focusing, which produces quite some torque. You can feel a kickback when the focus starts and locks in. This also makes it difficult to use a polarizer.
- manual focus is to easy to turn. It does not have a focus clutch, so one has to set the camera switch to manual to be able to focus manually.
- the zoom is not linear it only takes 1/8th of a turn to go from 200-400mm.
- not tripod-collar, but if I really should need one I just got one cheap at ebay from China which should fit (I will report back).
- The sharpness could be better unless you stop it down to f11.
- bokeh has flares (see grass in the back in examples below)


Here is a comparison to my Tamron SP 400/ f4 as reference, they were done outside on an overcast day.

tamron f4

crop:


tamron f5.6 - tokina f5.6:


tamron f5.6 - tokina f5.6 crops:



tamron f8 - tokina f8:


tamron f8 - tokina f8 crops:




tamron f11 - tokina f11:


tamron f11 - tokina f11 crops:




Last edited by chse; 06-06-2009 at 11:22 AM.
06-06-2009, 11:15 AM   #2
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Conclusions and examples

I am very happy with this lens- it is perfect for taking on a hike since it is very light and small for reaching 400mm. As you can see from the examples below (at f8, 400mm) its quality is still good enough.

To bad it is not made for Pentax any more, combined with the in-camera shake reduction this lens would be a big seller, especially since there is no other lens like this for Pentax. It does not make sense that it is now only offered for the 2 brands (Nikon and Canon) which do not have in-camera SR.




06-07-2009, 04:45 AM   #3
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Thank you for this quick review - glad to see that it is not just my copy that flares in the bokeh - I have come to the same conclusions as you and use the lens for birding and sports where it does very well.

Have you tried focus trapping with it? Intend to try myself. I do back off a little from the 400mm mark to improve sharpness.
06-07-2009, 05:48 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Arjay Bee Quote
I do back off a little from the 400mm mark to improve sharpness.
Same here (when possible). I first used a Tokina AT-X 80-400/4-5.6 (first an "AF-I" and then an AF-II) on my 6 MP *ist DS, but since have been able to use an AF-II on a 14 MP K20D. I find that, oftentimes, backing off from the long end a bit, and then cropping very large images down a bit in processing, result in better images.

Long telephotos that don't get soft at the long end are not overly common...

06-07-2009, 10:05 AM   #5
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Thanks for the review

The couple of Tamron 400/4 lenses I've seen on ebay go for decent money...hopefully these Tokinas will stay cheaper
06-07-2009, 11:45 AM   #6
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Very interesting--I was unaware of this lens and it certainly seems like a very useful one.
06-10-2009, 07:36 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Arjay Bee Quote
Have you tried focus trapping with it? Intend to try myself. I do back off a little from the 400mm mark to improve sharpness.
Thanks for the tip, maybe I will try another comparison to see if I get less "flare" when I back off a little (I did all the tests with the hood- by the way). I am not so sure about the focus trapping, I could imagine that the focus creeps since it is so light, but maybe scotchtape helps.

QuoteOriginally posted by fwcetus Quote
Same here (when possible). I first used a Tokina AT-X 80-400/4-5.6 (first an "AF-I" and then an AF-II)
Did you see a difference between the AF-I and AF-II image quality wise? Is the focus better with the AF-II?
06-10-2009, 07:42 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by ryan s Quote
Thanks for the review

The couple of Tamron 400/4 lenses I've seen on ebay go for decent money...hopefully these Tokinas will stay cheaper
Unfortunately they do not turn up on ebay very often and the second version goes nearly for the price the 3rd version (Nikon Canon only) sells now. Compared to the current Sigma lenses this is still inexpensive.
Mine was listed for the wrong camera mount, that's why the price was OK.

06-11-2009, 08:43 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by chse Quote
Did you see a difference between the AF-I and AF-II image quality wise? Is the focus better with the AF-II?
I don't know about the focus. However, the AF-II (3 samples) seems to have a slightly sharper rendition at the long end than the "AF-I" (but only 1 sample) did. However, since many of us use "tele-zooms" much of the time pushed to the long end of the FL range, a small difference at 400mm might be more than insignificant.
06-11-2009, 07:55 PM   #10
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The tripod mount ring

My tripod mount ring arrived today. The measurements of the lenses perimeter suggested that the diameter is about 73mm, the ring is 72mm. It just fits, but I had to pry it open a little bit. To mount it I have to remove the screw since it has to slide over the rubber of the zoom ring. It fits well and holds the lens tightly, but the mounting of the ring is nothing which can be quickly done "in the wild" - you need 2 free hands and the lens has to be off camera.

The description of the ring is:
Tripod Mount Ring for Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro US, it was $10.80 (incl shipping) on ebay.

There is another one a bit more expensive: Tripod Mount Ring for Sigma 70-200 F2.8 F/2.8 I II III, this one has a hinge so should be much easier to put on, but might need a shim.


04-21-2010, 05:46 PM   #11
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^^^

Found it, that is what I was looking for a someone who had adapted a different brand tripod mount to this 1st version lens. I just picked up this lens, and need a hood and a collar since it is a first version. Cool already found it on ebay.
04-22-2010, 03:50 PM   #12
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There is now one available with hinge on the arch for the same canon lens. It makes it much easier to mount- but be careful I ordered the cheapest offer I could find with hinge and although it was in the picture the mount they send did not have a hinge, so better ask first.
The one for the Sigma lens does not fit the Tokina, there is about 2mm missing to close it. The measurements in the auction are wrong its even smaller than the one for the Canon.

Have fun with the lens it is great since it is so small and light for the length. You will have to stop down to f9 or f11 at 400mm to get sharp pictures.

The rear of zoom ring of this lens came loose when I was carrying my camera holding it on the lens on a hot day. The front and rear part of the ring are only tapped together. After cleaning away all the old glue I could fix it with scotch tape- bad construction :-( !

Last edited by chse; 04-22-2010 at 09:05 PM.
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