Lens Test: Tokina 70–200MM F/4 AT-X PRO FX VCM-S
Tokina finally gets image stabilization
The 70–200mm is one of the most popular telephoto zooms for amateurs and pros alike. Add today’s robust image-stabilization technology, and suddenly f/4 zooms are more than just a budget alternative to f/2.8s. Tokina’s first crack at a stabilized full-frame version comes with a lot of promise. Available for the time being only in a Nikon mount, this new Tokina, at $1,099 (street), costs a full $300 less than Nikon’s original. But is it as good?
The new lens is a bit heavier than competing 70–200mm f/4 lenses from other makers, weighing about 4.5 ounces more than the Nikkor and 7.5 ounces more than the comparable Canon. Conversely, the Tokina is the shortest of the bunch, but only by a hair. All three take 67mm threaded filters.
Handsome and ergonomically well designed, the lens sports three nicely sized rubberized rings—the one around the base of the barrel aids in mounting and removing the lens from a camera body. The focus ring turns smoothly past infinity; the zoom ring, which has a pleasing tooth, turns a total of 80 degrees. Focal lengths are clearly marked. A switch on the barrel sets autofocus and manual; another toggles VCM (vibration correction module), Tokina’s name for IS. These switches were very stiff when we first got the lens but loosened up over the course of our testing.
In the field we used this Tokina on a Nikon D4 and found the shooting experience equal to using the comparable Nikkor. AF was silent and incredibly snappy, even in low light. We didn’t notice the added weight.
On our lab’s optical test bench, the Tokina logged Excellent-range SQF scores for sharpness and contrast at 70mm and 135mm, and a Very Good at 200mm. This is on par with the Nikon, which similarly slipped to Very Good at 200mm; the Canon received an Excellent rating at all focal lengths.
In our distortion tests using DxO Analyzer 5.3, the Tokina edged out its competition. It showed Slight barrel distortion (0.20%) at 70mm as well as Slight pincushion distortion at 135mm (0.18%) and 200mm (0.25%). That’s a tad more at 70mm than the Nikon and Canon equivalents, but a tad less at 135mm and 200mm.
The Tokina matched the Nikkor in vignetting control and performed slightly better than the Canon. Close-focusing was a similar story, with the Tokina and Nikon again neck and neck (the Nikkor goes down to 38.04 inches, the Tokina to 38.45), and both well ahead of the Canon’s 45.5 inches. The Tokina also beat its rivals in magnification at the longest focal length, with a ratio of 1:3.21 versus 1:3.25 for the Nikon and 1:4.35 for the Canon.
Considering that this is Tokina’s first lens with any kind of stabilization, its engineers deserve a pat on the back. Their lens performed as well as the Nikon, giving our testers an average of 2.75 stops of extra hand-holdablity—though the Canon is the real winner here, with a whopping 3.75 stops.
This lens marks an exciting direction for Tokina. Having for quite some time been overshadowed by other third-party lens makers that jumped into the image-stabilization game long ago (hello, Sigma and Tamron), Tokina proves with this new 70–200mm f/4 that it can take on the big boys, and even beat them, at a lower price. From our testing, your only major sacrifice in picking this lens over the Nikon version is a bigger tax write-off for your investment in glass.
70–200mm: (71.21–200.02mm tested), f/4 (f/4.61 tested), 19 elements in 14 groups. Focus ring turns 180 degrees. Zoom ring turns 80 degrees. Focal length marked at 70-, 85-, 105-, 135-, and 200mm.
Diagonal view angle: 34–12 degrees
Weight: 2.29 lbs
Filter size: 67mm
Mounts: Nikon AF Included: Lenshood
Street price: $1,099
Distortion: At 70mm, 0.20% (Slight) barrel; at 135mm, 0.18% (Slight) pincushion; at 200mm, 0.25% (Slight) pincushion
Light falloff: Gone by f/5 at all three tested focal lengths
Close-focusing distance: 38.45 inches
**Maximum magnification ratio: **At 70mm, 1:8.66; at 135mm, 1:4.56; at 200mm, 1:3.21
Image Stabilization: 2.75 stops