Tokina 80-400mm F4.5-5.6 AT-X 840 AF-II A-mount lens review by Swoopy

reviewer#2609 date: Aug-6-2007
sharpness: 4
color: 4
build: 5
distortion: 5
flare control: 4
overall: 4.4
tested on:
  • film camera:Film camera
  • APS-C: 6MP6 MP; 10MP10 MP; 12MP12 MP; 14MP14 MP; 16MP16 MP; 20MP20 MP; 24MP24 MP
  • full frame: 12MP12 MP; 24MP24 MP; 36MP36 MP; 42MP42 MP; 61MP61 MP
ownership:I own this lens
compared to:Minolta 75-300/4.5-5.6 (D)
Minolta 70-210/4 Beercan
Sigma 18-200/3.5-6.3
Rubinar 500/5.6 MF reflex
price paid:€250,- (second hand)
positive:-range
-sharpness (up to 350mm)
-did I say range ?
-low weight (relative to range)
-relatively compact; good travel lens
-tripod collar
-nice wide apertures available (though not always usable), 5.6 @ 400mm
-PRICE!!
negative:-needs small (f8 - f11 and further) aperture @300-400mm to get usable DOF & sharpness
-CA at 400 mm
-trombone zoom, so prone to catch some dust over time
comment:I stumbled onto this lens because I was scouring the local equivalent of eBay for a telezoom with a longer focal length than your typical 300mm and someone just across town from me was selling it, for a very OK price.
I was actually thinking of the Bigma but was put off by it's typical price, even when buying second hand.

In the range 80-250 mm this Tokina lens performs well. If you can work with the longer focal length on APS-C this makes it usable as an outdoor walk-around lens, depending on circumstances.
At f8 it delivers good results even above 300mm but the lens needs good light conditions, therefore.
I've made the occasional nice portrait with this at a bit of distance.
Colours are bright but even, warm yet not excessive so I'd call that nicely neutral. Not Minolta bright, but warm nonetheless, certainly not flat or bland.

In the typical focal range for which someone buys this lens, 250-400mm, it's so-so in absolute terms,
but unbeatable for the price and physical dimensions of the package.
I bought a matching close-up add-on lens for the Tokina from a Nikon user who replaced his AT-X 840 with a Bigma and he said Bigma was much bigger & heavier in exchange for almost no extra range.
The Bigma is optically a better performer though, he said, which I can't compare for myself.

At apertures wider open than f8 and above about 250mm focal length, CA is notcieable on the AT-X 840 II and the lens sharpness becomes soft (wide-open) above about 300mm.

The zoom ring has no indicators between 200 and 400mm making it hard to judge whether you're at 300mm, 350 or 250.
It gave me the impression that Tokina was working on a 80-200 and founde it would still work at 400mm so they added some length and an extra line on the ring. When composing TTL in the viewfinder this lack of focal length indication is not a problem though.
I usually turn it back just a little from the maximum extension since I feel that results are slightly sharper that way.

Using the Sig 18-200 and this lens on my 7D, I can actually cover the range of effective 27mm - 600mm with just two lenses, making that combination of 2 an ideal holiday package, with nice overlap between the two making you not have to change lens too often.

AF can hunt in low light but in general it's accurate and quick on the 7D, except above 350mm focal where it becomes so-so. I read somehwere that next to the added tripod collar, the AT-X 840 II has an improved AF chip compared to the original so my guess is that it shows.

Since the lens is front-heavy, the inclusion of a zoom lock switch at 80mm is great, though it's so fidgety that I've actually had this slip loose a couple of times at the slightest touch. The lens drops down like a brick when pointed downwards if you don't grab it quickly.
When the AF clutch isn't engaged, the front can still rotate out more than a cm when pointed downwards. Yes, it rotates when focusing.

===

My ratings are relative to the price I paid, since I have no personal experience with 'G' glass so I can't compare to that. It is affordable portable range in a tight, relatively light & small package so there are limitations to live with.
When I call it light, one should bear in mind I am 6'2" and not exactly skinny, so that's relative to what I'm capable of lifting.

I gave it a 4 for sharpness not because it isn't good for what this lens is, but because it's uneven; sharp wide-open in the range where you have other options (up until 250mm) and less sharp even stopped down in the range that this lens is typically purchased for (300mm or more).

I gave it a 4 for flare control since I do have one or two shots with direct light where some flare/ghosting is noticeable, if I find some time I'll post one in the sample image section. I have many more where this doesn't happen so I'll blame unusual circumstances but the lens still exhibited it, so no 5 there.

Build is a hefty 5, apart from the included lens-hood, this thing is all-metal (including the zoom extension tubing) and feels like the barrel of a tank, except for the rubberised zoom and focus rings that feel delicate, which is as it should be I think.
It's heavy but not so heavy that I don't dare to stick it out in front of me unsupported for fear of damaging the mount. Obviously it needs support both hand-held or on a tripod though, hence the addition of the collar in rev. II
Tripod collar is sturdy, non-removable but can be turned around the lens 360 degrees so you can always get the mount & screw out of the way. No click stops on the collar so a bit of attention needed to make sure the camera is vertical or horizontal. There is some play on the A-mount in my copy, but rotational only, so no wobble.

I gave distortion a 5 since I've simply never seen any with this lens, but I didn't look or measure for that so it might be there.

rating summary

lens image
  • total reviews: 6
  • sharpness: 4.00
  • color: 4.33
  • build: 5.00
  • distortion: 4.50
  • flare control: 4.00
  • overall: 4.37
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