Lens review

Tokina AT-X 840 AF D 80-400 mm f/4.5-5.6

Tokina AT-X 840 AF D 80-400 mm f/4.5-5.6
15 May 2010
Arkadiusz Olech

1. Introduction

Originally posted 2007-05-27 on Optyczne.pl

Many different zoom lenses for amateur photographers are available on the market – you can even say we are spoiled for choice. The offer starts with cheap 55-200 mm class instruments, then features a bit more expensive 70-300 mm devices and lenses with similar focal range but equipped with image stabilization so significantly more pricey, ending up with 80-400 mm class equipment.

It is a very important category because devices of this type are very popular, giving in practically only to the segment of kit lens substitutes. It is also important for the author of this text who in his time faced the same choice. Being an enthusiast of family hiking trips I liked admiring and photographing nature so I decided I needed a zoom lens which would be physically light and handy enough to take it on these hikes without overstraining my neck muscles but also I wanted it to be optically good, reaching at least 300 mm. I have tested a Sigma 70-300 mm APO very strenuously and I was quite satisfied with the image quality in the focal length range of more or less 220 mm but its autofocus fell short of my expectations and I was utterly dissatisfied with its poor lighting conditions performance. The time has come for a Canon 70-300 IS USM. That instrument was optically better than the Sigma although its autofocus also didn’t fare outstandingly but the biggest asset proved to be the stabilization, giving me an opportunity to take photos in those conditions in which the Sigma had failed.

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As constant research is a part of human nature I waited impatiently when I could lay my hands on an improved version of a Tokina 80-400 mm f/4.5-5.6. I didn’t have plans to change the Canon 70-300 IS to it immediately but I just wanted to see what alternative it can provide. The lens has undoubtedly a huge alternative potential for more than one reason. First of all, it features those sought-after 400 mm which, in case of bird photography, is a huge advantage. Even if these 400 mm focal length is not of the highest quality we can always adopt such line of thought: if most of 70-300 mm class lenses are good up to 200 mm perhaps a 80-400 mm class lenses will be good up to 300 mm so we can get really sharp pictures at those 300 mm? Aperture is the second issue. 70-300 mm lenses at 300 mm have f/5.6 relative aperture and the Tokina 80-400 mm – f/5.0. The difference is perhaps not so huge at first glance but it means as much as 25% of light more.

When the Migomex company informed us that they already offer Tokina 80-400 mm lenses we didn’t hesitate one moment. The lens was dully sent to us and tested soon afterwards – the results you can find in the next chapters.

Information about our review method can be read in our article “How do we test lenses?"

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