Tokina specializes in lenses. Tokina’s origins go back to Tokyo Optical Equipment Manufacturing, founded in 1950. The name Tokina has only been used since 1971. Tokina is part of a conglomerate, which also includes Kenko and the glass manufacturer Hoya. Although Tokina is not a very large manufacturer, the company does have an impressive dose of knowledge.
Tokina: Specialist in wide-angle zooms
What makes a brand unique?
Every brand has its own character. Sometimes, that leads to unique products, with a DNA characteristic of that brand. Because the scores of our tests are based on measurement results, non-measurable properties are underexposed in the final scores. That is why we are trying to describe the DNA of a few brands based on our practical experience.
What makes Tokina special is that it does not have a very wide range of lenses like many other manufacturers of “foreign-brand” lenses do. With Tokina, you will not find an extensive range with, for example, a series of 18 or so zoom lenses for APS-C or telephoto zooms.
Tokina’s only telephoto zoom for photography is the AT-X 70-200 F4 PRO FX VCM-S for full frame. An excellent, super-sharp and extremely robust telephoto zoom with a brightness of f/4 and image stabilization. Tokina makes lenses for many different camera systems. Whereas camera manufacturers can correct images from their own lenses in the camera, the lenses from Tokina are designed in such a way that they can achieve very good quality even without lens corrections. In our tests, they almost all scored exceptionally high on sharpness, distortion and the absence of lens errors.
A lens that does not seem to fit in a list of special lenses is the Tokina AT-X 24-70 f/2.8 PRO FX. After all, almost every brand has a 24-70 mm f/2.8 in the range? But the Tokina 24-700 f/2.8 differs from most others. It is built like a tank, and it has a focus clutch, which allows you to switch quickly between AF and manual focusing. The lens has no image stabilization, and the autofocus is slightly slower than with the Nikon and Canon lenses.
On the other hand, in our test it turned out to be more accurate than the competition. Tokina has therefore made its own choices with this lens and has set other priorities. For example, the lens has an extra-large, strikingly flat front lens. This is probably one of the reasons that the lens has very little trouble with vignetting. The bokeh is also very beautiful. We tested the lens on a 50-megapixel camera. At that resolution, many lenses reveal their shortcomings. But the Tokina AT-X 24-70 f/2.8 had no trouble with it and scored very well.
Another characteristic of Tokina lenses is the solid mechanical construction. Tokina always uses a lot of metal in its lenses, and the finish is excellent. The great thing is that Tokina can combine old-fashioned solidity with good optical designs, without you having to pay a painful price. Benchmarked against comparable lenses from the various camera manufacturers, the Tokina’s are relatively cheap. Even more robust are the cinema lenses of Tokina. These not only have teeth on the various setting rings for connecting, for example, a follow-focus, but the housing and focus are also adjusted to perform well in a heavy production environment.
A special feature on the autofocus lenses of Tokina is the focus clutch. There was a time when Tokina was the only one to use this system, but Olympus has now also adopted it for a number of their Pro lenses. With a focus clutch, you can easily switch from autofocus to manual focusing by simply pulling the focus ring back. If you push it forward again, the lens will focus automatically again.
Unique lenses: Typically Tokina
What sets Tokina apart is making excellent, attractively priced wide-angle lenses. Especially wide-angle zooms. As a true wide-angle specialist, Tokina makes a number of unique lenses that you will not find with any other brand. The new AT-X PRO DX 14-20 f/2.0 is a unique lens. This is a super bright zoom for cameras with a crop sensor. No other brand offers a zoom with such a wide angle with this brightness. We tested the lens in 2016 and were very impressed by the high sharpness, the low vignetting and the relatively low distortion. What really stood out was the beautiful bokeh, and that is something you don’t soon expect from a wide-angle zoom. But yes, this is of course one with a particularly high brightness.
Another unique lens, which has since been replicated, is the Tokina AT-X DX 10-17 f/3.5-4.5. This is a fisheye zoom lens. Canon has since followed this example with a much more expensive Fisheye zoom, but at the time Tokina was the first manufacturer with a fisheye on which you could zoom. It is a nicely compact lens that can be used on both crop sensors and full-frame sensors. From 12 mm, you will even get the entire frame filled on full frame. During the test, the lens was not only sharp, but also surprisingly insensitive to backlight.
Tokina Cine lenses
The Tokina AT-X 16-28 T3.0 CINEMA PRO FX is of a completely different order. Tokina has a series of Cine lenses, but we have only tested one. This is a beast of a cinema lens, with which you make a great impression as soon as you put it on the camera. The lens weighs no less than one and a half kilos, but it also feels like you could easily drive over it with a car without anything breaking. There is also an f/2.8 version of this lens with autofocus for photographic use. The cinelens, however, has been specially developed to prevent focus breathing, for example. We have been able to establish in sample shots that this actually works and that the bokeh of this lens is also very beautiful, despite the large field of view. This lens also excels in terms of image quality. Video recordings are more difficult to correct than photos, which is why a lens without aberrations and other issues is highly sought after. And that is exactly what this AT-X 16-28 T3.0 delivers, a beautifully clean and sharp image.
One of the few longer lenses that Tokina makes, and which is worth mentioning for that reason alone, is the Tokina AT-X PRO D 100 f/2.8 macro. It’s not without reason that this has been a sales success for years, because this is a fantastically sharp macro, with an equally sharp price tag. Highly recommended for macro photographers but of course also very useful as a telephoto or portrait lens.