Review Tokina 70-200 mm F4 @ DX

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Not long ago, we published a review of the Tokina 70-200 mm f/4 on a Nikon D800E. It would not surprise me if this lens gets more users with a high-end DX camera than with an FX camera. Professional photographers with an expensive, heavy camera with full-frame sensor often choose an—also fantastic—expensive, heavy 70-200 mm f/2.8 with image stabilization. If you're the fortunate owner of a Nikon D5300 or Nikon D7100, then the price and the dimensions of a lens, along with flawless construction quality and image quality, are important arguments for choosing a Tokina 70-200 mm f/4.

Tokina70200f4

Tokina 70-200 mm F4 and Nikon D7100

Tokina 70-200 f4 lenstestTokina 70-200 mm F4 @ 200 mm f/4 , 1/500, 100 ISO
The Tokina 70-200 mm f/4 VCM is a perfect companion for documentary or street photography, where you can capture a subject unnoticed from a bit further away. The field of view and brightness of the Tokina 70-200 mm correspond with a 300 mm f/4 lens on a camera with a full-frame sensor.

Construction and auto focus

This lens is clearly built for use under the most extreme conditions. Tokina has gone so far with that, that the Tokina 70-200 mm f/4 at 980 grams is even 130 grams heavier than the Nikon 70-200 mm f/4 VR. There's a switch on this lens for AF/MF and one for image stabilization (on/off).

The minimum focus distance is 1 meter. Focusing in most situations is lightning-fast and quiet, thanks to the ring-ultra-sonic motor. This AF technique makes it possible to override the AF manually at any time, in order to be able to relocate the focus for creative reasons. Focusing occurs entirely internally, so that the front lens does not rotate. That's great when using a circular polarization filter or a graduated filter.

Specifications
Tokina AT-X 70-200mm F4 PRO FX VCM-S
Image Stabilization:+
lenses/ groups:19/14
length x diameter:138 / 82
filter size:67
Weight:895
Lens hood:+

Just like the Nikon 70-200 mm f/4, this zoom lens comes without tripod collar. Most photographers choose a 70-200 mm f/4 with image stabilization as a workhorse for many kinds of photography (journalistic, street, bridal, documentary) where you don't work from a tripod. For these photographers, the inclusion of a tripod collar would result in an unnecessary increase in price. If you work from a tripod, then—regardless of whether you choose the Nikon 70-200 mm f/4 or the Tokina 70-200 mm f/4—it's advisable to purchase the tripod collar.

CollegaTokina AT-X 70-200 mm F4 PRO FX VCM-S @ 200 mm f/4 , 1/500, 100 ISO

Vignetting

On this point, the two 70-200 mm f/4 lenses from Tokina and Nikon don't differ from each other. At full aperture, the vignetting is about a third of a stop. In practice, that's actually no longer visible. After stopping down 1 stop, it's only a quarter of a stop, and at aperture 8 and beyond, the vignetting is shockingly small. In practice, it amounts to not having to worry about vignetting at any aperture.

vignet

example700Tokina 70-200 mm f/4 VCM @ f/4, 1/800, VR ON, 200 ISO

Distortion

The distortion runs, as with many zoom lenses, from barrel-shaped distortion at the shortest focal distance to pincushion-shaped at the longest focal distance. In this point, too, the Nikon 70-200 mm f/4 and the Tokina 70-200 mm f/4 differ little from each other. Because you only use the center of the image with a Nikon DX camera, while the Tokina 70-200 mm is designed for an FX camera, the distortion is even lower. In the vast majority of cases, you won't find distortion across the entire zoom range.

distort

Flare

 

The design of the Nikon 70-200 mm f/4 VR (20 elements, of which 3 have ultra-low dispersion, in 14 groups) is comparable with that of the Tokina (19 elements, of which 3 have ultra-low dispersion, in 14 groups). Such complex designs can be sensitive to internal reflections. The Tokina 70-200 mm f/4 VCR comes with a sun cap, with a luxurious matte inner surface. It's good to use this sun cap, even if it's only to protect the front lens. Without sun cap—or if you're shooting directly against a bright light source—you can have trouble with flare under extreme back-lighting situations.

Zonnekap

Sharpness Tokina 70-200 mm

From our measurement results, it appears as though Nikon and Tokina have chosen different design strategies. Nikon seems to have targeted even sharpness across the whole image and across the aperture range, while Tokina targeted the highest-possible center resolution. The center resolution of the Tokina is already very high at full aperture, but it nonetheless increases even further. At full aperture, the center resolution of the Nikon is a bit higher, while at f/8 – f/11, the Tokina beats the Nikon in our Imatest results.

minirezz

Chromatic aberration

 
The application of three lens elements with a super-low dispersion (shown in purple) means that chromatic aberration is kept nicely limited across the entire zoom range. Because Nikon cameras remove any chromatic aberration from jpg files for all lenses, you see none of it in the jpg files. minlensdesign

VCM: Image stabilization

We reviewed the image stabilization (what Tokina calls VCM: Vibration Correction Module) during our previous review by taking a series of shots at a focal distance of 70 mm and different shutter times, both with and without image stabilization. We then analyzed the images with Imatest. Tokina claims that with VCM a profit of 3 stops will be realized in practice. A picture taken without image stabilization at a shutter time of 1/200 second is just as sharp as a picture taken without image stabilization with a shutter time of 1/25 sec. That's an effective profit of 3 stops. Because small differences in resolution are measurable with Imatest, but not visible to the naked eye, most photographers will find a picture taken at 70 mm and 1/13 (4 stops difference) sufficiently sharp. Below you see a partial enlargement of two practice shots that were made right after each other, with and without image stabilization. The profit in sharpness is abundantly clear.
NOISsample
200mmsample500f8Tokina 70-200 mm F4 @ 200 mm f/4 , 1/500, 100 ISO

Bokeh

A shot made at a 200-mm focal distance and aperture 4 means that even on a camera with a DX sensor, you nicely isolate a subject from the background. In the picture shown here, you see a shrunken picture from our bokeh test set up. The bokeh of a bright light source in the background is beautifully round thanks to the 9 rounded aperture blades. There is, however, a discernible edge.

bokeh

Conclusion Tokina AT-X 70-200 mm F4 PRO FX VCM-S review with Nikon D7100

Tokina70200f4

Look in our list of reviewed lenses or the lenses we've reviewed with a Nikon mount in order to compare the performance of this lens with that of other lenses.

ECWYSIWYG score: This table shows the performance of this lens if you save the files in the camera as jpg, with all available in-camera lens corrections (namely: chromatic aberration) applied. This score gives you for this lens/test camera combination: "What you see is what you get".


70
105
7.2
6.6
9.1
9.2
7.4
90
135
7.6
6.6
9.3
9.3
9.0
133
200
7.5
6.6
9.5
9.3
8.4
200
300
7.4
6.8
9.3
8.9
7.2
Overall
Overall
7.3
6.6
9.3
9.2
7.9
ECPure RAW score: This table shows the performance of this lens when the file is stored in the camera in RAW format. This score approaches the intrinsic quality of the combination of lens and test camera.

70
105
7.6
7.5
9.3
9.5
7.6
90
135
7.8
7.5
9.3
9.5
9.5
133
200
7.7
7.4
9.2
9.5
8.8
200
300
7.7
7.6
9.2
9.3
7.5
Overall
Overall
7.6
7.5
9.3
9.5
8.3

Pros

  • High image quality
  • High-quality construction with professional finish
  • Effective built-in image stabilization (premier for Tokina)
  • Ultrasonic AF motor (premier for Tokina), with which you can focus manually without having to shut off the AF

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Sensitive to back lighting
  • Not inexpensive

The Tokina 70-200 mm f/4 is a beautiful lens that fulfills the high expectations for it. Looking at important image-quality properties such as sharpness, distortion and bokeh, the Tokina 70-200 mm f/4 and the Nikon 70-200 mm f/4, when using a Nikon DX camera, differ very little from each other. We wrote already in our review of the Tokina 70-200 mm on a Nikon D800E: this is a very good lens, with which every prosumer or professional photographer can take a lifetime of satisfying photos. Both the construction quality and the image quality are of a professional level.

Weathered professionals will probably choose an FX camera with a bright, expensive and heavy 70-200 mm f/2.8, with which they can get the most out of their shots. The less fortunate professional and a large group of high-end photographers with a beautiful Nikon DX camera face a difficult choice. Will it be a Nikon or a Tokina 70-200 mm f/4? They're both fantastic lenses.  

Ivo Freriks
Author: Ivo Freriks
With Camera Review Stuff I hope to make a modest contribution to the pleasure that you get from photography. By testing cameras and lenses in the same way, evluating the results and weighing up the pros and cons, I hope to help you find the right camera or lens.

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