Photography / Hands-on Review

Hands-On Review: The Tokina AT-X 24-70mm f/2.8 PRO FX Lens

As a third-party lens manufacturer, you know that when you enter the realm of the 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, you are going to be competing against the best of the best from the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM). Not only that, but the 24-70mm f/2.8 lens is likely the one lens that rides at the front of many photographers’ cameras the majority of the time. The wide-to-portrait focal length lends itself to exceptional versatility for everyday shooting. Because of this, if you want your lens to compete, you have to pull out the stops to make it race with the big boys.

Over the past several years, Tokina has been making wide-angle zooms for both full-frame and APS-C format cameras, like the ATX-116 PRO DX-II 11-16mm f/2.8, that not only represent a great value, but have often exceeded the image quality of the similar offerings of their brand-name competition. It looks as though that trend will continue with the Tokina AT-X 24-70 f/2.8 PRO FX lens, available in Nikon F or Canon EF mounts.


Tokina definitely did not return to the drawing board for this lens as, on the outside, it is unremarkably similar to the other lenses in the Tokina line. This is not a bad thing, in my opinion, as the Tokina shape is conservative, reserved, and functional. If there is nothing wrong with the design, do not fix it.

The front of the lens features a Nikon-like gold ring. The focus ring (forward) and zoom ring (aft) are textured with aggressive, grippy rubber rings that have contrasting knurled patterns. In classic Tokina style, the focus ring has horizontal and vertical grooves, while the zoom ring features only vertical cuts.

Inside, the new Tokina sports 3 SD super low dispersion glass elements and three glass molded aspherical elements that work together to fight chromatic aberrations and distortion, and provide sharpness. These six elements form a complex system of 15 total elements arranged in 11 groups. Of course, multi-coating is applied to the system to combat ghosting and flaring.

Autofocus power comes from an SDM (Silent Drive-Module) that provides snappy and nearly silent focusing services. A petal-shaped BH-822 bayonet-mount lens hood comes standard with the Tokina, as well as front and rear caps.


The search for the compact 24-70mm f/2.8 lens continues to elude manufacturers, and the new Tokina is no exception. Like its Canon EF 24-70 f/2.8L II USM competition, the Tokina features a wide 82mm front element that gives the lens a stout and purposeful look. The lens measures 89.6mm at its maximum beam. I was never enamored by the awkward long and narrow look of AF-S Nikon Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED lens with its traditional Nikon pro 77mm filter. The Tokina is an inch shorter than the Nikon and half an inch shorter than the Canon. With a wider presence than its rivals, it looks great on a big DSLR.

The focus action is internal to the Tokina lens, and the zoom action is external, with a snoot extending from the lens body when you roll into the telephoto regions of the zoom range.


If you always look for excuses to avoid the gym but still want to work out, this lens is for you. It weighs a considerable 2.2 lb. Your arms, neck, and shoulder will surely get exercise. I don’t know this for sure, but the Weight Conservation Department at Tokina has apparently been on strike for years. Therefore, where many manufacturers are turning to exotic composites to shave ounces from their lenses, Tokina is cranking out lenses that feature a lot of metal and glass.

The end result is a quality product that has serious heft. On the Nikon Df on which I tested the lens, the balance was perfectly fine, but after a few months with a mirrorless camera system, I had forgotten how much a DSLR and pro zoom lens could weigh.

The rival lenses from Nikon (1.98 lb), Canon (1.78 lb), Sigma (1.74 lb), and Tamron (1.81 lb) all show the results of years of dieting when compared to the Tokina. If you like lightweight composites and a plastic feel to your lens, the Tokina is not for you. If you like to hold a beautifully constructed metallic chunk of lens, definitely get your hands on the Tokina.


Tokina continues to employ its autofocus/manual focus clutch system where the shooter can engage the manual focus gears by sliding the entire focus ring toward the camera. The system is effective and quick, but don’t expect it to be a silky-smooth shift from AF to MF that you could employ accidently. There is a solid mechanical click that accompanies the process. It’s not unpleasant, it’s just purposely noticeable.

Photographs by John R. Harris

The focus ring, when slid aft into the MF mode, has a good weight that is heavier than most autofocus lenses. The zoom is also stiff, maybe more than most people would want, but I like a lens that demands purposeful adjustments instead of those that change focus or zoom if a wind blows across your face while shooting.

The journey from 24mm to 70mm on the zoom ring can be accomplished by one turn of the wrist, but only if you grip the camera with a plan to travel that entire range. Likely, in a casual shooting hold, you will have to release and then re-grip the zoom ring to make it all the way from wide to telephoto, or vice versa.


Did I mention that this lens is heavy? It is. But, once you get past that, and start making images, the Tokina is a solid performer in all respects.

I took the lens and the Nikon Df on a pair of night outings in the Big Apple to explore the area around the famous Flatiron Building and New York City’s famed Chinatown, finishing with a stroll home over the Manhattan Bridge.

As you would expect from a 24-70mm zoom and full-frame camera package, the lens was versatile for the varying urban landscape and it did not seem to balk at any task I asked of it.

Photographs by Todd Vorenkamp









The autofocus was quick and accurate, but I suppose equal credit has to go to the Df in this regard. The Tokina SDM focusing motor was completely silenced by the competing noise of New York City traffic. Manual focus was easy to use and had good feel. Zooming in to my images on the Df’s LCD screen showed everything to be sharp, but the proof is always on the big screen when you upload the photos.

Once I uploaded the images, I found that the Tokina’s images did not leave me wanting more sharpness. I kept the aperture at f/8 for most of my shots, at the heart of the strength of most lenses, and edge-to-edge sharpness was terrific. You will see softness start to creep in at the wide apertures, but that is expected of all lenses. Also, diffraction starts to appear when stepped down toward f/22, but the difference in sharpness between f/8 and f/16 was only noticeable if splitting pixels on my monitor.

Distant light sources turn into beautiful 18-point stars that are noticeable at f/8, but really pop by f/16. In post-processing, any geometric or lens distortion was easily manageable, when I wanted it to be. I didn’t photograph the proverbial “brick wall,” because I find brick walls pretty boring, but the lens did not seem to have any obvious bad habits to speak of. I did get some ghosting on a wide shot by the Flatiron, but I was not using the lens hood and the lighting situation would have been a challenge to any lens of that focal length in that location.


For years, Tokina has been delivering great image quality and value in metal-wrapped packages, and the new Tokina AT-X 24-70mm f/2.8 PRO FX lens continues that tradition. It is heavy, well built, solid, purposeful, and it helps you capture sharp and colorful images at a price considerably lower than its first-party OEM competition. What more could you ask?

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This review is very, very lame.  The only technical aspects that you'll learn from it is that the lens is heavy and that the shapness didn't leave the reviewer "wanting  more" because apprenetly he only shoots at f/8.

Can I please have my time back?

Can I have my time back too?.....only other thing I learned was that the lens motor isn't quite as loud as NYC traffic....."The Tokina SDM focusing motor was completely silenced by the competing noise of New York City traffic".... Not sure you'd want this fella reviewing your products.


Unfortunately, I cannot give you your time back. I have been searching the internet for a working time machine for years and have yet to find one that meets my needs.

Also, I did not have a decibel meter handy to measure the amount of noise produced by the Tokina SDM lens. All I can tell you is that I couldn't hear it over the noise of the traffic.

Thanks for your comments and thanks for reading!

Please give my time back for readings these comments. World is still full of ignorants with time to waste with this kind of criticism. Please get a life instead of wasting you supposedly so valuable time in this issues.

Hey Carlos,

Sorry, but, like the others, I cannot give you your time back. However, I hope you were mildly entertained by the banter! Thanks for reading!

I felt the same way. I enjoyed the samples and read about the mechanical aspects but none of it surprised me as this is in line with every other Tokina pro lens for the last few decades. The main reason people would be interested in a lens like this would be to use it at f/2.8-4, so why show us samples at f/8? Even low-end $100 lenses are good at f/8.

Hey Bret,

As I mentioned to lollol above, I shot the lens at all apertures and was very satisfied with the sharpness. I mostly used the lens in a real-world scenario where I was tripod mounted and not looking for shallow DOF. Due to constraints, we could only share of a portion of my images to illustrate this review.

I am glad you enjoyed the sample images. Thanks for reading!

So shooting at wide apertures with shallow DOF ISN'T  a real world scenario?  Your defensivness and passive agressive comments do not lend much credibility to your arguments.  Not everyone wants charts and brick walls like you keep mentioning but your review was still very much lacking. 

Hi Kevin,

Thanks for your comments. It looks like I either misspoke, or was misunderstood in my above comments and I apologize for that.

Shooting at wide apertures and shallow DOF is a real world scenario and I did take several images at f/2.8. One is shown above of the neon restaurant sign. In hindsight, I maybe should have shot the lens in a different manner for the purposes of the test. In actuality, I took the lens out and shot it in the manner in which I thought was best to capture the images that I got.

The bottom line, which I hoped to convey through the article and the images, is that this lens is capable of capturing sharp and colorful images.

Thank you for your comments, and thanks for reading!

Hi lollol,

Thanks for your comments. I shot the lens at every possible aperture and was more than satisfied with the sharpness. I am sure that there will be a great collection of MTF curves posted in the near future on other sites if you need to see numerical data on the lens. My assignment was to review the lens, not bench test it, and I chose to do that in an environment that reflects how I would use the lens in the real world and share the shooting experience with the reader.

Thanks for reading!

Unfortunately I will agree with the other not so friendly commenter. At least post some examples at every f-stop and use a tripod with the same conditions etc. honestly if you are going to review something do it professionally. Presently you have no credibility and you appear to be a weekend snap shooter feeling a need to blab online That statement is not being a hater rather it is being honest. That was almost as bad as a Ken Rockwell review. 

With dribble like this, maybe there is a place for Rock Kenwell after all


Thank you for your comment.

Ken Rockwell would review the lens without actually putting his hands on one. The reviewer is up front about the manner in which he tested the lens and is not claiming to be conducting a comprehensive test of every aspect of it's performance.

I commend him for responding to every criticism that has been posted here.


Thank you and thanks for reading! I appreciate your comments.


Thank you for your comments. The goal of my review was to use this lens in the manner that I would use it for my photography, not to bench test it, and share the shooting experience. There will be plenty of websites that will show brick walls and MTF curves for this lens. For me, photography isn't about these things. This lens allowed me to get the shots that I wanted to capture, and it did that very well. That is what is important to me.

Thanks for reading!

Why didn't you shoot at 2.8? Not that it would've told us much by the images you've posted, but you could have tried! And yes, a set of images of a (Good Quality Built) Brick Wall does provide a lot of useful information. I've been waiting to see what this lens can do, but I guess I'll have to wait a bit longer. ...that is, if you've sent it back. If you didn't, maybe you could shoot some good reference images at a few focal lengths and apertures so we can learn something about it. After all, we have come to expect better than this from B&H. If you need some help, just ask! 

Hi Joe,

Thanks for your comments.

I did shoot the lens at f/2.8. The second image (neon sign) was taken at that aperture. I shot the lens at all apertures and focal lengths, but we can only present a handful of the images I captured. If this was not sufficient for you, I apologize and will forward your comments to the editors to see if they want to change our approach to lens reviews moving forward.

Yes, the brick wall does provide some useful information, but it makes, in my opinion, for a horrible photograph. What I tried to present is real-world examples of images that this lens can capture. What I tried to convey is the shooting experience with this lens.

Thanks for reading!

Hi Todd, Thanks for responding. I would never say anything bad about you or your work, but like most of the others that wrote in, I was completely baffled by this one. I really want to like this lens (I have two other AT-X Pro lenses, and they are great). I think the Nikon version is coming through first, and I just want to hear some of the good points, and I''ll put my order through. I am sure that this is going to be a Hot seller, so I expect the first batch to go fast. By all means, if you could post some more images (with the specs listed) you would surely make many of us happy. I'm sure that you know, we are a very loyal customer base, and you probably know many of us personally. We'd all appreciate it if you can just give it a try. That's all we can ask!  Kind Regards. ... Joe Prete

Hey Joe,

No worries. I'll try to reply without sounding completely defensive here...

I will inquire about adding to the image pile with some metadata. However, I only had the lens for a short time, and it has gone back to Tokina, so there is no chance of getting new images until we get one in stock.

I certainly could have photographed the proverbial brick wall, but this lens did not have any really noticeable distortion issues that made me want to shoot a brick wall. The lens corrections applied in Lightroom were well within normal parameters for other lenses I have used.

As far as performance wide open versus stepped down, I could have taken 6 identical images at each focal length to visually bore you all with 18 pictures of a static scene, but the maximum resolution we can show images on the site would not lend themselves to analyzed study. That would likely lead to more frustration with readers. We are discussing the possibilities of allowing full-resolution reproductions for future reviews.

My goal was to write about the experience of shooting the lens and produce some good images with it. I was not tasked with bench testing the lens, so I took it out for night photos just like I would do on a night with my gear.

I, and B&H, certainly values your input and critique of our articles and hands-on reviews, so please keep your comments coming! As a retail outlet, we are sometimes limited by what we can say or do, but we are always open to change and improving.

Thanks for your time and thanks for reading! I am happy to meet you at the superstore for a chat anytime!

Hi, Todd. I don't need brick walls or charts, but isn't the idea of a review to challenge the equipment in multiple (predictable) ways so that we who don't have access to the equipment will know whether it will work for us? In testing a 3rd-Party lens, we want to know how close we can get to OEM performance without spending OEM dollars. (It's a fiscal balancing act.) From this review, what I know is that I can get nice shots from this lens by putting my camera on a tripod and shooting at f8. This week (shooting the meteor shower) was the first time in about 3 months that I've had my tripod out of my gear closet, and I'm not entirely sure some of my lenses even HAVE an f8. But thanks for the effort, and for being (sort of) patient with the response you're getting.

Hey John,

Thanks for your comments. I hear what you are saying, and I agree. 

I did shoot the lens at all focal lengths and apertures and, had I found a weakness, I would have articulated it. Speaking of articulation, I probably could have stated that more clearly in my review, and I feel remiss about that. 

The images shown above show the lens' performance at different focal lengths and apertures, but our web infrastructure prevents very-high-resolution images from being shared, and that limits the effectiveness of illustrating "sharpness."

For what it is worth, I found the lens very sharp throughout. I am confident that those who buy this lens will be happy with its performance. I know I was.

Patience is a virtue and always a work in progress! Thanks for reading!

Also... The first two images show that you had the lens in Daylight, but you waited to shoot your "Artsy" images at Night? ...WHY?

Hi again, Joe,

I did have the lens during daylight, but I consider myself a "night photographer" and much prefer night photography over daytime shooting. Also, I find that nighttime is a better environment to evaluate many aspects of lens performance, especially when it comes to color reproduction.

Thanks again for commenting and reading!

Hi  Todd,

I  liked  your  review.   Night  shooting  is  a  real  test  for  any  lens.  I  picked  up  a  lot  from  your  lens  trial  and  will  read  other  reviews  as  well.  You  offered  the  review  for  free  so  I  fail  to  see  the  logic  in   getting  testy  on  how  you  do  things.  This  is  a  free  country  and  you  are  welcome  to   review  lenses  as  you  wish.   I  am  on  a  budget  as  times  are  tough  and  that  may  be  why  some  readers  feel  free  to  be  abrupt  here  on  the  net.  Also  a  natural  trait  in  competitive  New  York  any  way.    I  bet  your  readers  will  check  out  more  than  one  review  and  get  the  whole  story  as  I  do.   Grousing  about  something  you  offer  for  free  seems  odd.  Glad  I  don't  live  in  the  USSR.  TG

Hey Anthony,

Thank you! I appreciate your support. I definitely scour multiple reviews before making a purchase. And then, when I get the lens, I test it to see if it meets my needs. If it does not, I return it or sell it.

The camera/lens review world is strange. You can prove that you can get great images with a certain piece of gear, but people crave the stats. If car reviews worked the same way, we would all buy cars based on horsepower numbers and 0-60 times, not on how it drives or how nice the seats feel!

Thanks for reading!

While I was underwhelmed by your review, I think I'll be easier to make happy. What I'm looking for is a comparison to known lenses. Assuming that's positive (I don't like returning things), I'll try it for myself. I'm mostly interested in how it compares to, in my case, the Nikon 24-70, optically. I don't really care how it looks (well, not too much). Is it sharper or less so? How're the corners compared to the center? CA? Distortion at the wide and long ends? etc. I don't like relying on posted photos because they could have been doctored and, unless you post raw files, they just don't mean that much.

I appreciate your time and understand the constraints put on you by the perameters of the assignment.

Hey Patrick!

Thanks for your comments! From what I have heard, the Nikon 24-70 has legendary sharpness. Without comparing both simultaneously, I think that the Tokina will give it a run for its money.

I can tell you that I did scrutinize the images I captured and found the lens to not have any negative characteristics to speak of.

You are certainly correct about the resolution/format of the posted shots. This is a huge limiting factor that our infrastructure here forces us to deal with. Trust me, I wish we could do a head-to-head test, run the lens through some testing equipment, and post full-res files, but, for now, this is not possible. 

My job is to go out and get some awesome photos with the lens! 

Thanks for reading and thanks for your understanding!

It seems as though the pixel peepers have bees in their bonnets. It's hard to go wrong with a Tokina lens anyway. If you've got the dough, buy the Nikon and shut up.

Hey Everett,

Very funny! Thanks for reading and thanks for giving us a laugh here!

We hope to see you again!

Hey, guys, lighten up!  I thought it was a good basic review, which I am sure it was intended to be.  It answered the questions I had about the lens, and now if I want to go farther I can look up the boring test chart reviews so many go for.  I like and do real world tests.  Anyway, the review contained all I wanted to know right now.  So I appreciated the author's efforts.

Hey Vernon,

Thank you very much for your comments. I am glad you enjoyed the review and got what you needed from it. Thanks for reading!

Everyone complaining about the review is very annoying. I hope people realize that there isn't one lens in the universe that is sharpest wide open. So yes, your need to shoot at f2.8 will hurt your image quality but that goes for a canon 24-70. What I got from the review is that it is just as good or very close to a more expensive canon or Nikon lens. Tokina 11-16 has been a great lens for many filmmakers and I expect the tokina 24-70 will be the same. People that leave their lenses wide open are pretty dumb in my opinion and don't really know the basics of have photography or videography works. 

Hi Grant,

Thanks for your comments!

I appreciate your thoughts and thank you for reading!

To comment on the comment first. I doubt that he shot at f8... What I don't get is why he shot them all at night and why he modifies his comments with "often" and general statements. He says the lens is a silent motor unit, they why say the noise was coverd by the noise of the city. A silent lens should be, at least as silent as a Nikon/Cano/Sony new lenses. The sitent motor is not really for still but for video, eespecially with the built-in microphone, (Which I would never yuse except if I was shooting ambiant sound nd not people speaking at a distance from the camera... And why not shot with a similar Nikon lens (He has a Df.) or Canon/Sony lens. A great shot on this site means very little... Can he print these shots to at least a 13x17 or? And coated, these days means less if it isn't Nano coated., especially with top model full frame N/C/S. I would like to think he is really testing and comparing the lens not trying to sell it. If he said it was equal to a Nikon/Canon up to a point or print size or for a large print and the net and made that point clear but also said it is a much lower price... then I could understand it better.

Hey Geoffrey,

Thank you for your comments.

I am not sure if there is a question in there, or if the statements are rhetorical, but I am happy to answer any questions you might have.

I am certain I could print these images at 20x30" or larger. As far as comparison reviews, we really do not have the ability to do that here at B&H, but we are certainly evaluating the feedback we get on reviews and constantly trying to improve the way we do business. 

Thanks for reading!

So, what's the point of this review. This guy shoots night time at f8 with a lens capable of f2/8 ?. Where are the day time shoots. Any lens @ f8 produces great images because light just passes through a narrow aperture. Show me day time photos landscapes, portraits. compare the softness of the edges at various f stops , or stop writing articles.


" kept the aperture at f/8 for most of my shots, at the heart of the strength of most lenses, and edge-to-edge sharpness was terrific. You will see softness start to creep in at the wide apertures, but that is expected of all lenses"

WOW, F8 is the strenght of most lens ? have you ever shot any lens @ aperture other than that. Wide apeartures for a creamy bokeh !!. Get Photography 101..

Hi GH,

Yes, I shoot at night at f/8. But I also shot this lens at f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/11, and f/16.

I prefer night shooting to daytime, so I took this lens out at night. Yes, wide apertures can be used to create soft out-of-focus background highlights as I discuss in my three-part series on depth of field (link to Part I here).

Sorry if this was not the review you were looking for. Thanks for reading!

Todd, Thanks for the review. I'm always intrigued to hear user comments abouts Tokina products. I own Nikon lenses and haven't plucked up the courage to buy a third party lens yet. Photography is a pastime that I'd like as a hobby but I just haven't had the time to devote to it yet. As a result, my best photo's are taken when I'm drinking beer at weddings and I'm uninhibited enough to take a bunch of pictures. This usually produces a bunch of keepers that I'm proud of and the rest(majority) get canned! Anyway, I appreciate your "hands-on" comments. I have a note to check DPReview for a more scientific analysis. Thanks again!  

Hey Pnet_Phil,

Thanks for your comments. I appreciate them!

I did own a Tokina 12-24mm f/4 for years. I bench tested it against the Nikon version, and ended up selling the Nikon. It met an untimely death on the flying bridge of the M/V President Adams when a gust of wind in the Singapore Strait sent my heavy tripod, D300, and Tokina crashing to the metal deck.

Sounds like you might be the most fun wedding photographer around! Thanks for reading!


Thanks for the review. I found it very helpful and I get where you're coming from when you had to defend yourself from the whiners and their comments. You just can't please everybody. Buy the lens people. Don't like it... take it back. Case closed.

Thanks for your support, CaddyMan! It is appreciated! Thanks for reading and enjoying the review!

One more thought...

"Y'know, you can't please all the people all the time... and last night, all those people were at my show." - Mitch Hedberg

Glad to see you used a Nikon Df to test out this lens. I love my Df... in fact, I've got two... one in black and one in chrome!

Hey Russ,

Unfortunately, the Df was a loaner, and I had to give it back with the lens! The sensor seemed amazing, but I am not a big fan of the interface and ergonomics. Having said that, I am happy to take one of yours, if you are offering! 

Thanks for reading!

Do this lens or a similar unit comes for the Canon Ti5? What model will be best for a budget lens for a Ti? Thanks.

Hi Victor,

The Tokina dies come with a Canon EF mount. For a professional-grade f/2.8 all-purpose zoom, this Tokina will be a great buy for your T5i. Thanks for reading!

Dear Todd,

Thank you for a very insightful critique of the lens. I own an 11-16 Tokina and use it quite a bit. The images I get from that glass rival those of my Nikon lenses. I can see that yours are just as good and better.

I guess that you have to take self defense courses now at B & H to be able to post an article about a subject. Really, to ask for my his time back was ridiculous. Congrats on your reply and humour. You put the lens on a body, had a walkabout and gave us your impressions. If I had wanted lots of facts and figures, I would have looked elsewhere.

Carry on the great work and thanks for your insights. Best Regards, Martin

Hey Martin,

Thanks so much for your comments. It's all good! I know that a bunch of people are dying to split pixels on this lens, but I really don't have the infrastructure or environment to provide that type of review. My hopes were that folks enjoyed my images and figured out from those images that you can get good/great photos with this lens.

Thanks for reading and thanks for your support! I am glad you enjoyed the images! 

Good article. I go for these that are attached to the web site when I want some basics. I know how to google the specifics. To make my hurried day and your article maore complete, why weren't the MSRP's for each lens included, as by the photos of the lens. Now I have to review each lens to get the current relative prices?? Night is tough. This looks like a good lens.