Review Tokina Opera 50mm f/1.4 FF
At the Photokina 2018, the Tokina Opera 50mm f/1.4, a high-end standard lens for Nikon and Canon SLR cameras, was shown. Its availability was announced at the end of October 2018. I took the Tokina Opera 50 mm f/1.4 with me to Namibia in December 2018 to do practice shots. Then we subjected this lens to Imatest. Now we are sharing our experiences with this fantastically performance lens in this Tokina Opera 50mm review.
Tokina Opera scored very high in our test, thanks to a lens design with exceptionally high standards for build and image quality.
Tokina's lofty ambitions are already apparent from the lens design, which consists of 15 lens elements, including a large, cast aspherical lens element and 3 lens elements of low dispersion glass types, in 9 groups.
BUILD AND AUTOFOCUs
This Tokina Opera standard lens is built like a tank. There is nothing to criticize about the build quality. The lens is extra-well sealed against dust and splash water, has an AF/MF switch and is equipped with a window in which you can read the focusing distance.
Like the Zeiss Otus and Sigma Art series, an uncompromising lens design for an SLR camera also results in a hefty lens. The Tokina Opera 50 mm f/1.4 weighs 950 grams and is almost 11 cm long. That is big and heavy for those comparing this lens properties to an old 50 mm f/1.4 lens from Canon or Nikon. If, however, you compare the Tokina Opera with other modern high-end ("for more than 50 megapixels") 50mm f/1.4 designs, then the Tokina falls, in terms of weight and size, between the Sigma and the Zeiss. Just like the other modern standard lenses for SLR cameras right now, the Tokina Opera 50mm does not have built-in image stabilization.
The Tokina Opera 50mm focused from infinity to one and a half meters in half a second. That is comparable to the Sony 50 mm f/1.8, Sony 50 mm f/2.8 Macro and the Sigma 50 mm f/1.4 Art (all tested on a Sony A7R II). All these standard lenses focus slightly slower than the less bright 24-105- or 24-70-mm zoom lenses, such as the Canon 24-105 mm STM or the Tamron 28-75 mm F/2.8 Di III RXD (model A036). It's possible that accurate focusing with extremely small focal depths (bright lenses of f/1.4 or lower) will take longer. The Tokina Opera did achieve precision focusing in our test: the spread in sharpness of 10 shots, with refocusing each time, was only 5%. That is a score that we almost never come across on an SLR camera (where there is no focus on the sensor signal).
A handy detail that you won't find on any other standard lens: a recess in the lens hood of the Tokina Opera 50 mm f/1.4 FF, making the use of polarizing filters and variable gray filters much nicer. I happily used the Tokina Opera in Namibia for a polarization filter practice test.
LIGNETTING, FLARE AND DISTORTIONg
The Tokina Opera is virtually distortion-free. In practice, you will have little trouble with vignetting. At full aperture, the vignetting in uncorrected RAW files is one and a half stops. That is already quite good for an f/1.4 lens on a camera with a full-frame sensor. At f/2, the vignetting is already less than 1 stop, and at f/2.8, less than half a stop. The absence of vignetting in uncorrected files is a good indicator for cat's eye bokeh in the extreme corners. Vignetting of more than 2 stops occurs regularly with bright lenses, and that results in clear cat's eyes. Using lens correction profiles, you can correct the vignetting in the image, but the cat's eye bokeh in the corners remains unchanged. By avoiding vignetting as much as possible in the design of the lens, instead of relying on (in-camera) lens corrections, you get beautiful, round bokeh balls.
The Tokina Opera 50mm f/1.4 also produces perfect images on a Sony A7R III.
If you had to summarize the image quality of the Tokina in three words, it would be "razor sharp and bokeh". That is a unique combination that you only find with the best (and most expensive) lenses. We tested the Tokina Opera 50mm with a Sigma MC11 adapter on a Sony A7R mk3. Although the Tokina Opera was not designed for use on a system camera, everything worked perfectly. The lab tests, including the AF accuracy and speed, were performed with a Canon 5DsR. When loading the practice shots in Lightroom, the high sharpness of the practice shots of the Tokina 50 mm f/1.4 immediately stood out. This lens can go toe to toe with the best lenses available today. The highest center sharpness is reached at f/4; the sharpness in the extreme corners reaches a maximum at f/8, according to the Imatest measurements. The Tokina 50 mm f/1.4 is not an alternative to a macro lens. At short focal distance (less than 2 meters), the sharpness in the corners is lower than at longer distances (from a meter or 3).
If you want to get the highest possible image quality from a file on autopilot, a RAW file is the right way to go. But there is not yet a correction profile for the Tokina Opera 50mm available in Lightroom or Photoshop, with which you could reduce chromatic aberrations, vignetting and distortion even further with the press of a button. But that's only a matter of time.
A fun detail from Tokina: the packaging of a Tokina Opera lens depends on the field of view of the lens: the smaller the field of view becomes, the larger the black area on the packaging. I'm curious about how the packaging of a 500mm Tokina telephoto lens will look.
ConclusiON: REVIEW Tokina Opera 50mm f/1.4 FF @ Canon 5DsR (& Sony A7R mk3 +Sigma MC11)
WYSIWYG 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 applied. This score gives you for this lens/test camera combination: "What you see is what you get".
Pure RAW score: This table shows the performance of this lens if the file is stored in the camera in RAW format. This score approaches the intrinsic quality of the combination of lens and test camera. If you use lens correction profiles in Photoshop or Lightroom to convert RAW files, then the RAW scores for distortion, vignetting and chromatic aberration are even better.