Photography / Hands-on Review

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

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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.

Design

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.

Size

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.

Weight

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.

Mechanicals

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.

Shooting

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.

Overall

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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Thanks for your insights. I am planning to get a D750 and will want a medium range zoom. This obe will fit the bill beautifully.

I will admit to being biased because I only use Nikon and Tokina lenses and have used them / still use them on my FM, FE and D7000. Tokina is that good.

One thing always bothered me. If the o.e.m. is the 1st party producer and Tokina is a 3rd party producer.....you catch my drift?....who is the 2nd party producer?

Hey John,

I am glad you enjoyed the article. Tokina is good. I have owned a few, myself!

I guess the 1st vs. 3rd party thing is similar to 1st person and 3rd person writing. I'm not sure what 2nd person writing is!

Maybe this needs to be searched on the internet!

Cheers!

Hi, Thanks for the reviews, I wonder if the lenses barrel made by metal or plastic ? weather seal ?

Thank you

Hi Tim,

Good questions. The lens barrel, if I remember correctly, is a very hard plastic. But, being a Tokina, there is a lot of metal inside that gives the lens its weight.

I cannot find anything on the Tokina website that mentions weather sealing, unfortunately. So, don't take it swimming!

Thanks for reading!

Great review. I'm considering this lens for a Nikon D700 from 2008. It's a good idea? Thanks.

Hey Sergio,

I think this will be a great lens for your D700.

Thanks for stopping by!

I'm a big fan of Tokina, and my 11-16mm is just great on the Nikon body. I already have an old Angenieux Tokina 28-70 which is amazing, considering the age, but I'm looking for an upgrade, mainly because of the autofocues speed in low light. I'm a photojournalist and that is a very important thing in my work. Can you confirm that this is as fast to focus as the new Nikon? Don't cosider the price tag, just pure quality...

Thanks for the review, by the way :)

Hi Ricardo!

I am also a Tokina fan. They make great lenses. That 11-16mm is without equal!

I did not put the Nikon and Tokina autofocus systems on the bench with a stop watch, but the Tokina seemed plenty fast. I don't recall it ever taking so long to focus that I noticed. I think you will be pleased with its performance!

Thanks for stopping by!

Thanks Todd. For me, that is the definitive aspect, because it's the only thing I truly need different from the excellent Tokina I already have... But it's hard, here in Portugal, to test the lens wothout buying it, so I don't know what to do...

Cheers,

Ricardo

Ahhhh. That is tough. I guess you can just scour the internet for favorable reviews and then take a leap of faith.

The only issue I had was that the lens was super heavy. Other than that, it performed great.

I am sure there are more technical reviews to be viewed on the interweb. Good luck, Ricardo!

Thanks for the posting this. Not much online on this Tokina zoom. What are your observations about the lens shot at 2.8? 

Hey fashionshooter!

This is a great lens. Saying that it is a fantastic "value" is probably unfair to the Tokina as I am fairly sure it matches up well against the big boys.

It is very good at f/2.8. The photo above of the "restaurant" neon is taken at f/2.8 for reference.

I am not sure why it hasn't been reviewed more than it has...strange!

Please let me know if you have other questions. Thanks for reading!

Thank you for the review. I agree with your overall comment at the end. I have the 100mm macro and I would also add that the lens is very tactile. There is something mechanical, engineered and crafted about it and this for me in an age of impersoanl electronics is one of the things I enjoy.

Cheers to that, Douglas! I believe there is an entire society of German scientists and engineers that do nothing but design "control feel" and they do it better than anyone else—automotive and photographically. Some others can come close, and Tokina is better than most when it comes to how their zoom and focus rings feel.

Thanks for reading and writing in!

Thanks for the review, I love Tokina lenses, they are great for those of us photographers "balling ona budget" if you know what I mean...

Hi Robert,

Thank you for reading! Nice phrase. I do know what you mean!

Thanks again!

Thanks for the review! Definitely getting this ove the Nikon 24-70G.  

& omg so funny "I don’t know this for sure, but the Weight Conservation Department at Tokina has apparently been on strike for years." That one line made me crack up!

Hey Bryan!

Thanks for writing in! I am glad you liked the review and at least one sentence!

Enjoy the Tokina and let us know how you like it! Thanks for reading!

Is this Tokina 24-70 weather sealed?

Hi Sriram,

I cannot find any mention of weather sealing on this lens on the Tokina website (or ours)...so, my guess is that it is not weather sealed.

Thanks for reading!

Geez, people! Lighten up here! It's called a "hands on review" for Pete's sake!! It's not clinical.

I would like to know how the bokeh looks on this lens in comparison to the Tamron or Nikkor equivalent. My daughter has the Tamron and I don't care for the bokeh at all compared to the Tokina's. The samples I've seen online from the Nikkor are same as the Tamron. Couple that with pricing and I'm thinking of springing for my first ever third party lens — the Tokina. 

Hey pops91710,

Well said, sir! Thank you for the laugh!

If you get the Tokina and the bokeh does not work for you, you can return the lens as we have a generous 30-day return policy! However, my guess is you will enjoy the Tokina!

Thanks for reading and thanks for the comments!

One of the product page's "reviews" mentions that the focal length of this 24-70 appears to stop at 55 or 60, as compared to the equivalent Nikkor. This was referred to Tokina for "research" but there has been no posted reply so far. Any response on that available from Tokina, or are still in the dark on that question?

Hi Larry,

I'll see what I can find out. The lens seemed to cover the advertised focal range when I tested it.

I will do some digging. Thanks!

Not what one might consider a comprehensive review by any means.  More like a cursory look and evaluation.  Review would have been much more interesting and helpful with function and image comparisons between this lens and its closest rivals.  Much has been written and said about the foibles and lack of credibility of Ken Rockwell.  However, his review of this lens is heads and shoulders above this submission.  My 2 cents.

Hi Miles,

Thank you for your $0.02 and great jazz music and thanks for reading. I am sorry the review was not comprehensive enough for your liking.

Hi,

Thanks for your review.

Can you please tell me if the lens allows full-time manual focus in AF mode? Also, can you tell me what kind of focusing system is at work with this lens ? (rear element focusing or internal / front element focusing).

--

Cip

Hi Cip,

Thanks for reading! And, thanks for your questions!

If you are in AF mode on the lens and want to switch to MF mode on the Tokina, you just slide the focus ring aft and enter MF mode. I do not think there is an MF override mode and I don't have the lens anymore to verify. Sorry!

The lens is internal focus. It does not change length when the focus is adjusted.

Thanks again!

I felt compelled to reply for a couple of reasons.  First, I found the short review helpful and it was not presented as comprehensive.  Some folks need to be more appreciative of value.  All that needs to be said about about 'giving time back' is that if they were not so lazy, they would have learned to read faster and would not spent much time on it. 

I have been shooting since 40 years and buying from B&H for about 25.  GREAT group of folks and I want to begin paying back with my reviews.  Let's start with what I recently learned from from a software package.  My cherished 20-35mm 2.8 Nikon lens that I bought when it was first made about 20 years ago is a Tokina.  (Nikon's software failed to reveal this.) 

I prefer shooting with an 85mm lens because it provides the same perspective as our eyes, but has too little "field of view" to be a walk-around-lens.  Ditto for my 60mm micro.  I wish people would drop the nonsensical "effective focal length" jargon.  These are two totally different attributes.  (Imagine how huge a 85mm lens with the field of view of our eyes would have to be!)

Sorry for the rants as my new Tokina (the one reviewed here) is still on a truck in route, but based on this, other reviews and many wonderful pics from my older wide zoom, I am certain that my first normal range zoom will be spectacular. 

And when Sigma produces an "ART" 85mm, I will be one of the first to buy. 

I'm not sure why I had never before seen this "Explora" section, but it is interesting that I finally did, just one day AFTER ordering this lens!  Perhaps your web guys will link these reviews to the customer reviews...

So when I get it, I wonder, should I post here or under reviews for the lens?   ;-)

Hey BeeGeeDee,

Thank you for your thoughtful comments and thank you for being a long-time B&H customer. B&H is 41 years old, so you could have started earlier! Just kidding!

Anyway, I appreciate your words and thoughts and sharing your experiences with other Tokina products. When you get your lens, feel free to share your feedback here and on the e-commerce site! I know a lot of folks would love to hear feedback on experiences with the lens. I am confident you will find it a great tool for your images!

Thanks for reading!

Thank you Todd for the review of this lens. There are not too many online as of now. While all night shots they do have good detail and provide a range of subjects that are compelling. I took the review as a "hands on" informative piece. Night time with a tripod? Yeah I would shoot at f8 or so too. I would mis-focus on some shots so as not to have sharpness on some shots (that is just me). 

I do not read a lot of reviews. I found this one useful. Not a lot of numbers and charts.     And that brick wall in #9? Looks good to me.

Hey FREDRICK! 

Thank you very much for the comments! I am glad you enjoyed the review and understood where I was coming from with the images and text. 

Thanks for reading and writing in!

Hello! I have a question. How you compare the image quality of this lense with the Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 IF EX DG HSM Autofocus Lens? I am a photographer / videographer on a budget, and I'm about to buy the Sigma (799) but I was wondering if it worth the extra 200 to get the Tokina. Can you help me make the best decision? Since the Tokina is a new release, I have not been able to read many reviews on it. I am a Canon user, by the way. Thanks in advance!!!!

Mr. Einstein,

Hello! Unfortunately, I have never used the Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8, so I cannot give you a direct comparison. I do know a handful of Sigma owners who swear by their lenses.

I believe both Sigma and Tokina have published MTF curves for their lenses and you could certainly compare their factory charts.

Sorry I cannot be of more help! Thank you for reading!

Thanks very much for the general review.  I have found chart tests always don't show how a lens will perform in the field. 

I had the Sigma 24-70 f2.8 if ex dg hsm lens and I personally did not like it.  I did not like the finish and could not get as sharp of images as I am use to with other lenses.

I have had Tokina lenses in the past and own the Tokina 16-28 f4.0 lens at this time and it is a better lenses than the Nikon 16-35 f4.0 lens with less distortion and is slightly sharper.  I am looking for a good standard zoom for event type use and when the 24-70 Tokina came into production, I am renting one at this moment to handle and use it to see if I want to buy the Tokina.  I am excited because Tokina has the reputation of excellant glass and really well constructed lenses.

Larry

Hi larry!

Thank you for your comments. I am glad you liked the review. I am a former Tokina owner as well and found that the Tokina I owned outperformed its OEM competition in sharpness and color reproduction.

Let us know how your rental goes!

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.

Hey Pete,

Thanks for your comments! I am glad the article works for your needs.

Regarding the lack of MSRPs, it's an easy answer: Because prices shift without warning, it would not make sense to put dollar figures in the article. I would hate for the prices to go up and have hundreds of B&H customers demanding the lower "Todd's Review" pricing option!

It is a good lens and it performed well! Thanks for reading, Pete!

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!

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!

Todd,

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

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!

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.

QUOTE:

" 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!

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