Bear in mind when lenses had character? Tokina remembers. Final 12 months, it launched the SZX 400mm f/8 reflex lens which oozes character that almost all fashionable lenses miss out on — it’s a tiny however mighty telephoto lens.
Whereas Tokina initially introduced the lens in July of 2020, it not too long ago additionally added assist for Canon RF and Nikon Z mounts, making it obtainable in nearly each main fashionable lens mount outdoors of L-mount.
As a preface, the Tokina SZX 400mm f/8 is what’s known as a mirror lens or a reflex lens (or if you wish to sound like an actual nerd: a catadioptric lens). This basic design has been round for a really very long time, going again to the 1800s when it was first developed for microscopes. With common images lenses, the sunshine enters and travels down the optical path proper to the digicam’s sensor. For reflex lenses, the trail is folded by an inside mirror which makes it potential to have lengthy focal lengths contained in a comparatively small housing.
Most all of those lenses, together with this SZX 400mm, wouldn’t have autofocus and are guide focus solely. In addition they all have a set aperture. That signifies that this f/8 lens is barely an f/8 lens and can’t be stopped down additional with out using impartial density filters or different exterior means. Lastly, they’ve a weird-looking entrance glass aspect due to the mirror system inside. This spherical form that sits within the heart of the lens reveals up within the out of focus areas of a photograph for a definite look that we’ll see under.
Construct High quality and Design
Proudly owning a 400mm lens normally comes with limitations on the place it might be snug to convey alongside. You wouldn’t essentially wish to casually take it on a canine stroll the place images just isn’t the first focus, for instance. But, the Tokina SZX 400mm to me doesn’t attain the edge of being a burden on virtually any event. It’s fairly small — concerning the dimension of a regular 24-70mm f/4 lens — and likewise very light-weight at simply 12.5 ounces (354.4 grams). It’s a carry-everywhere sort of lens, however it’s additionally acquired heavy firepower with that 400mm attain. That’s an thrilling mixture.
Trying on the full lens, we see a quite simple metallic development on the skin. Nearly your complete lens rotates and acts as the main target ring, however there’s a vast strip of rubber as effectively to permit for a greater grip. The main target ring twists a really clean 270 levels that you simply’re both going to like or hate. Whereas it permits for light, exact actions, it pays for this by being gradual to focus larger distances.
For wildlife, I discovered it to be irksome having to twist a lot with a purpose to focus from topics close to to far and again once more — I can’t sweep the main target vary in a single twist of my left hand whereas holding the digicam regular within the different. As the main target strikes from infinity towards the shut focus distance of three.77 toes (1.15 meters), the bodily size of the lens additionally extends out as much as round 0.75 inches (1.91 centimeters).
One other level that I believe many will agree with me on is that the lens hood design just isn’t good. The metallic hood screws proper onto the lens’s 67mm filter threads and creates a number of issues in doing so. For one, the lens hood can’t be reversed and hooked up to avoid wasting room within the bag. As a substitute, it should should be wrapped unsecured across the lens. Secondly, when the lens hood is hooked up, meaning the provided lens cap can’t be clipped on on the identical time. Thirdly, one can’t use filters and the lens hood similtaneously they require the identical threading.
On a optimistic word, Tokina designed the SZX 400mm to have interchangeable digicam mounts. That’s proper: the digicam mount finish can unscrew off and get replaced with any of the opposite supported mounts which can be offered individually. For this overview, I’ve been utilizing the Sony E-mount model. Nevertheless, if down the road I get into the Canon mirrorless system, I merely buy the $29 RF mount, swap them out, and the lens comes with me. Mounts can be found to be bought independently for Canon EF and RF, Nikon F and Z, Fujifilm X, Micro 4 Thirds, and Sony E.
Picture High quality
Inside, the lens makes use of six parts in 5 teams and has multi-layered anti-reflective coatings. For a $250 400mm lens, the picture high quality ended up exceeding my expectations. I by no means assumed this lens to be wildly sharp with stellar distinction and readability, and positive sufficient, it doesn’t go that far. That stated, Tokina SZX 400mm holds up fairly effectively for the money spent. After some minor tweaking in modifying to convey again distinction in photographs, it’s exhausting to complain when that’s all it actually wants.
One profit typical to the reflex lens design is the elimination of chromatic aberrations. Whereas different low-cost picture lenses on the market usually endure from heavy coloration fringing, there’s none to be discovered with this 400mm lens.
As for picture sharpness, I felt that was extra a matter of achieving correct focus within the first place. It may be a troublesome process to hit essential focus manually with 400mm at f/8. The truth that the lens naturally lacks some readability additionally contributes to the issue in eyeballing it.
I shortly discovered that one of the best ways to make sure sharpness was to make use of the main target magnifier setting mapped to a customized button on my Sony digicam and digitally punch in on the picture to regulate focus as I’m firing away on the shutter. It’s not the simplest factor on this planet for continuously transferring topics like birds, however it will get the job completed with larger accuracy than focus peaking or eyeballing from the full-frame show.
Lastly, we will’t speak about a reflex lens with out mentioning one in all its defining qualities: the bokeh. For the reason that lens contains a spherical opaque construction set within the center, this ends in matching donut-shaped bokeh balls in out-of-focus areas of the picture.
It’s busy, it’s unusual, and it’s pronounced, however it’s additionally distinctive and enjoyable and may give photographs the additional spark wanted to face out in a optimistic means. Personally, I adore it, however the trick is to essentially lean into the look and embrace it. If I shoot with the solar to my again and there’s flat lighting within the out of focus areas, it tends to not look flattering. However, capturing backlit and actually looking for out-of-focus backgrounds and foregrounds with scattered high-contrast gentle in all places makes photographs shine with a particular, unique look to them.
The Larger the Problem, the Larger the Reward
This isn’t a simple lens to make use of, however that doesn’t imply it’s a nasty lens. It’s really fairly enjoyable to be challenged to seek out situations the place the photographs from this lens will pop as a result of when you do, the outcomes are magical. It’s additionally extraordinarily useful to maintain round for the reason that dimension and weight means it may be tossed in any bag or left on the digicam for at any time when the event strikes to zoom in.
Are There Alternate options?
For $300, there’s the costlier Rokinon Reflex 300mm f/6.3 ED UMC CS that may be bought new for choose digicam mounts. It’s much less focal size but additionally a set f/6.3 fairly than f/8 just like the Tokina.
Alternatively, for the reason that mirror reflex lens design is extra of a historic product in images nowadays, there’s at all times the choice to move to eBay and choose up one of many older designs and adapt them to a contemporary mount the place potential. You could find 500mm, 600mm, and even 800mm f/8 reflex lenses on the market for comparatively low-cost.
Ought to You Purchase It?
Sure. For $250 and the power to change out digicam mounts down the road, the Tokina SZX 400mm f/8 Reflex is a creative-use lens that’s value the associated fee when you’re up for a enjoyable problem.