In the Field with the Tokina FiRIN 20mm f/2 FE AF Lens

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About a year ago I had an opportunity to field test the Tokina FiRIN 20mm f/2 FE MF, Tokina’s first full-frame Sony E-mount and only premium FiRIN-series lens. I liked it. In fact, I liked it a lot. The lens was sharp, with strong, saturated colors, and just the right degree of contrast. When shooting up close at maximum aperture, the narrow bounds of whatever is in focus grabs your eyes and guides them as foreground and background detail slowly melts away from the narrow band of focus.

Long known for selling consumer-quality optics at competitive consumer prices, the new Tokina FiRIN nameplate represents what will be an expanding premium lens system (think Sigma ART-series lenses) targeted toward photographers—professional and otherwise—who value image quality over price. Tokina’s literature states that “FiRIN” is a variation of “firinne, an old Irish word meaning “truth,” “being true,” “fidelity,” or “what is real.”

The new Tokina FiRIN 20mm f/2 FE AF takes in a full, nearly distortion-free 92.6° AoV, accurate color rendition, and exceptional edge-to-edge detail.

Based on my positive experience last year with Tokina’s manual focus 20mm f/2 FiRIN FE MF, I was quite interested in seeing how the new Tokina new FiRIN 20mm f/2 FE AF compared to the original manual focus version. Visually there are few clues that would indicate these lenses are optically one and the same. While similar in form factor, the manual focus version has focus and aperture rings with apertures and focus distances stenciled in white and yellow paint.

You’d never know by looking at them, but the manual focus Tokina FiRIN 20mm f/2 FE MF (left) and the new autofocus version, the Tokina FiRIN 20mm f/2 FE AF (right), are optically identical.

The new autofocus version is stark in comparison. Though it has a full-time manual focus override ring, it doesn’t have an aperture ring and the only marking on the lens is “Tokina FiRIN 20mm F2 AF,” which is stenciled across the aft section of the lens barrel.

Ideal for photographing architecture, especially when shooting in tight surroundings, Tokina’s FiRIN 20mm f/2 FE AF displays little in the way of distortion when mounted on a leveled tripod.

Comparing the manual and autofocus versions of Tokina’s 20mm FiRIN lenses is akin to comparing apples to apples. Autofocus system aside, both versions of Tokina’s 20mm f/2 FiRIN are optically identical. Both versions capture the same 92.6° AoV and contain 13 elements in 11 groups, including three Super-Low Dispersion elements and twin aspheric elements with Multi-Layer lens coatings. Minimum focus is 11.02", and there’s a 9-bladed aperture that delivers sweet bokeh when shooting at wider apertures.

Tokina’s latest FiRIN ultra-wide supports all in-camera assist functions, and the lens’s Ring-Type Ultrasonic AF Motor, though not the quietest AF system I’ve used, proved to be quite responsive and, with few exceptions, had little trouble hitting the mark.

One of the benefits of shooting with a sharp, wider-aperture lens is the degree of selective-focus control you have when composing photographs. The Tokina 20mm f/2 FiRIN enables you to focus into narrow slivers of the total image area.

To see how the lens performs, I took a drive out to Seaside Heights, New Jersey, and wandered south along the boardwalk as the beach slowly came alive on a sunny, pre-season morning. The lens balanced well on my Sony a7R II and integrated fluidly with the in-camera assist functions. As for the pictures, I’ll let them speak for themselves.

There’s something to be said for a wide-angle lens that can be used to take pictures that don’t necessarily scream “Wide Angle” when you view them.

Wide open, there was a hint of falloff toward the edges of the frame, which all but vanished once the lens was stopped down a stop or two. Distortion was pretty much a no-show, especially when shooting level on a tripod. Being able to take pictures with a wide-angle lens that doesn’t render a “wide-angle” look is an attribute I look for in wide-angle lenses, and this lens passes the test with flying colors.

Something I like about testing new lenses on cameras like the Sony a7R II is that 42MP sensors push lenses to their limits. If the lens has any flaws or weak points, you see them. Similarly, if nothing jumps out at you, that’s a sign you’re holding a lens worth considering.

Bokeh aficionados should be delighted with the way the 20mm FiRIN AF lens renders out-of-focus portions of the frame.

Is the Tokina FiRIN 20mm f/2 FE AF a lens worth considering? If you prefer or need a fast, ultra-wide lens with autofocus in a Sony E-mount, the Tokina FiRIN 20mm f/2 FE AF is one of the best in town. You can’t go wrong with this lens—it is a solid, well-built performer that interfaces fluidly with Sony E-mount cameras without need of an intermediary adapter.

Do you have any hands-on experience with the original manual-focus Tokina 20mm f/2 FiRIN FE MF lens or other premium, fast, ultra-wide-angle lenses? We love these optics. How about you? We’d love to hear about your experiences with them. Type your thoughts below.

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