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Tokina ATX 80-400 F4.5-5.6 AF Zoom lens

I should preface this review by stating that the Tokina ATX 80-400 is hard to get. THK Photo - the US distributor of Tokina has discontinued the importing of this lens, so the only ones available are dealer stock that has not yet sold. I bought mine at Amazon, and periodically you will see them. This is a bit unfortuante as Tokina does make some very nice lenses, and this lens - while not perfect - is the smallest 80-400 lens on the market (and easiest for travel). For that reason - and that you can still find a few new lenses (as well as from the used market), I am including the review.

Perhaps there is some criticism about this lens that it is a bit soft at the telephoto end, and perhaps there is. But it is not any worse than many other lenses. I think the biggest issue is that it does not have Vibration Reduction, and in the hands of an inexperienced photographer, their results will not be great. The issue is that when you use such a lens, you must either carry a tripod, or use the 1/1 shutter speed rule (1/10 shutter speed per 10 millimeters).

Using that rule, you need to be at a shutter speed of 1/400 for the maximum 400mm focal length, something that is not done in anything but bright daylight. As well, like many consumer grade lenses, this lens does best at f/8 if you want maximum sharpness.

Tokina ATX 80-400 F4.5-5.6 AF Zoom lens Overview

Tokina ATX 80-400

Lens Type: 5x Zoom
Format: FX
Maximum Aperture: f/4.5 to 5.6
Minimum Aperture: f/32
Focal Length: 1880mm to 400mm
Autofocus Type: AF
Maximum Field-of-View: 6.2 to 30.3 deg
Filter size: 72mm
Manufactured: Japan
Lens construction: Amateur
Street Price: $600


Overview: This lens is available in both Nikon and Canon mounts. The lens is so small that it at first does not look like a 400mm lens - it is more the size of the typical 300mm lenses.

I classify this lens as consumer grade due to the f/4.5-5.6 aperture. Even then, the lens is solidly built as is fairly typical of Tokina lenses. It is AF focusing, meaning that an advanced Nikon camera is required for autofocus as there is no focus motor in the lens. The Canon version of the lens does have a focus motor for those systems.

There is no Vibration Reduction as stated, so care must be taken to use a tripod or sufficiently high shutter speed to prevent camera shake from bluring the photos - especially at 400mm.

The lens does have a rather unique lens hood, and has an internal rubber wheel so that you can turn a polarizer on the lens without having to remove the hood. With the hood, the lens does look a lot bigger.

Testing: Testing was conducted to see how sharp the lens was, as well as how the lens differed in the various focal lengths.

The test was conducted photographing this scene with several lenses at different focal lengths; all using an aperture of f/5.6. The yellow box in the lower right is the cropped area for each photo shown below. While this isn't entirely scientific as one should sample the center and all corners - I don't have that much ambition. This is just a simple test I used to compare my lenses.

Tokina ATX 80-400 F4.5-5.6 AF @ 80mm.

Tokina ATX 80-400 F4.5-5.6 AF @ 100mm.

Tokina ATX 80-400 F4.5-5.6 AF @ 135mm.

Tokina ATX 80-400 F4.5-5.6 AF @ 200mm.

Tokina ATX 80-400 F4.5-5.6 AF @ 300mm.

Tokina ATX 80-400 F4.5-5.6 AF @ 400mm.

The lens clearly becomes a bit softer in the corners beyond 200mm. Since this is a FX lens mounted on a DX body, whether this becomes worse at the extreme corners is not known. However, it is not really bad for a 400mm lens in the $600 range, and I would not say it is any worse than it's competitors. Fact is that most lenses do have issues, and this is just an example that no lens is perfect.

Tokina ATX 80-400 F4.5-5.6 AF @ 400mm f/8.

Nikon 80-200 f/2.8 @ 200mm f/5.6.

When stopping the lens down to f/8, sharpness improves a bit at the 400mm point. While still not perfect, if you notice the yellow bar at the bottom of the steps, the f/8 photo is a bit sharper. Since this is only a 1 stop change, going 2 stops may improve things, but given the high shutter speed you must use (unless you use a tripod), you will soon run out of the ability to go higher.

The photo to the right is my benchmark Nikon 80-200mm lens at f/5.6 and you can see that this lens is a bit sharper even at f/5.6. But this is a pro glass lens, and the reality is that while the Tokina is not quite as good, it isn't bad either.

Masked Boobys alongside our Cruise Ship in the Caribbean.

At 400mm, Booby in flight.

Summary: While this is not the most perfect lens, it is average for it's price range, and no worse than it's competitors. Fact is, lenses are hard to make, and they are harder to make at a consumer price point. Handling this lens can be a challenge for new photographers, as you must have good skill in holding the camera, panning, and using sufficient shutter speeds. These are skills that are learned over time, so it may not be the best lens for a rookie photographer.