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Lens review

Tokina AT-X PRO FX SD 70-200 f/4 VCM-S

16 September 2014
Szymon Starczewski

11. Summary

Pros:
  • solid and huge casing,
  • high image quality in the frame centre, no matter what focal lenght you employ,
  • good image quality on the edge of the APS-C/DX sensor,
  • decent image quality on the edge of full frame,
  • slight longitudinal chromatic aberration,
  • low lateral chromatic aberration at 200 mm,
  • proper distortion correction,
  • very low coma,
  • slight vignetting,
  • nice defocused images,
  • accurate and silent autofocus.

Cons:

  • a bit too high spherical aberration,
  • disastrous performance against bright light,
  • autofocus slower than in rival lenses,
  • no autofocus limiter,
  • modest accessory kit, worse than that of the rivals.

The lists of pros and cons show that the Tokina AT-X PRO FX SD 70–200 f/4 VCM-S is a really good instrument. The negatives include several positions but in fact the only serious slip-up among them is the performance against bright light.

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However the Tokina has two other problems, ones which you cannot find on its flaws’ list. The first is its price, the second – the existence of brand name rivals. With a price tag of about 4,000 PLN the Tokina should have defeated both the Canon and the Nikkor in all categories; unfortunately it loses with them in most of optical aspects, offering you also less configuration options and a worse accessory kit. The majority of photographers would spend those several hundred PLN more and buy one of its better rivals. The Tokina was able to conquer only the Canon EF 70-200 f/4.0L USM, an older device without stabilization. Still the performance differences were slight and the Canon is two times cheaper.

Although the Tokina is a quite good lens I think it can repeat the sad scenario of the Sigma105 mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro. That lens, quite well done as well, was launched by its Japanese producer with a price tag of 3,999 PLN, comparable to the price of the slightly better instruments of Canon and Nikon with the same parameters. As a result the sales numbers were dismal so the company decided to bargain it away, selling it for half of the original sum. Still the bad rumours persisted on the market and the milieu of photographers put an ‘overpriced’ sticker on the lens for good. Since then, despite the bargains, the Sigma has been sold in negligible amounts, failing miserably.

The Tokina 70–200 mm follows that pattern perfectly. If only the producer tried to sell it for about 2500 PLN I don’t doubt it would be a market hit - being just slightly worse but also noticeably cheaper than its stabilized rivals. On the other hand, compared to the older Canon EF 70–200 mm f/4.0L USM, you would need to pay just a tad more in order to get a lens with a bit better performance and optical stabilization.

Currently, with the 4,000 PLN price tag, I’m afraid the sales of the Tokina will be marginal…