Tokina SZX 400mm f/8 Reflex Overview: A Difficult However Enjoyable $250 Lens


Keep in mind when lenses had character? Tokina remembers. Final 12 months, it launched the SZX 400mm f/8 reflex lens which oozes character that the majority trendy lenses miss out on — it’s a tiny however mighty telephoto lens.

Whereas Tokina initially introduced the lens in July of 2020, it just lately additionally added assist for Canon RF and Nikon Z mounts, making it out there in nearly each main standard 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 common 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 inner mirror which makes it doable to have lengthy focal lengths contained in a comparatively small housing.

Most all of those lenses, together with this SZX 400mm, should not have autofocus and are handbook focus solely. In addition they all have a set aperture. That implies that this f/8 lens is simply an f/8 lens and can’t be stopped down additional with out the usage of impartial density filters or different exterior means. Lastly, they’ve a weird-looking entrance glass ingredient due to the mirror system inside. This spherical form that sits within the middle of the lens exhibits up within the out of focus areas of a photograph for a definite look that we’ll see beneath.

Construct High quality and Design

Proudly owning a 400mm lens normally comes with limitations on the place it might be comfy to convey alongside. You wouldn’t essentially wish to casually take it on a canine stroll the place images isn’t the first focus, for instance. But, the Tokina SZX 400mm to me doesn’t attain the brink of being a burden on virtually any event. It’s fairly small — in regards to the dimension of an ordinary 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 building on the skin. Nearly all the lens rotates and acts as the main focus ring, however there’s a vast strip of rubber as nicely to permit for a greater grip. The main target ring twists a really easy 270 levels that you just’re both going to like or hate. Whereas it permits for mild, exact actions, it pays for this by being gradual to focus better distances.

For wildlife, I discovered it to be irksome having to twist a lot with the intention to focus from topics close to to far and again once more — I can not sweep the main focus vary in a single twist of my left hand whereas holding the digicam regular within the different. As the main focus strikes from infinity towards the shut focus distance of three.77 ft (1.15 meters), the bodily size of the lens additionally extends out as much as round 0.75 inches (1.91 centimeters).

Left: Lens at infinity focus. Proper: Lens at shut focus distance.

One other level that I believe many will agree with me on is that the lens hood design 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 save lots of room within the bag. As a substitute, it would have to 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 similar time. Thirdly, one can not use filters and the lens hood concurrently they require the identical threading.

On a optimistic notice, 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 bought individually. For this evaluate, 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.

The detachable digicam mount will be changed with different out there digicam mounts from Tokina.

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 certain sufficient, it doesn’t go that far. That mentioned, Tokina SZX 400mm holds up fairly nicely for the money spent. After some minor tweaking in modifying to convey again distinction in pictures, 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 undergo from heavy colour fringing, there may be 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 tough job to hit vital 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 rapidly realized that the easiest way to make sure sharpness was to make use of the main focus 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 the earth for continuously transferring topics like birds, however it will get the job completed with better accuracy than focus peaking or eyeballing from the full-frame show.

Lastly, we are able to’t discuss a reflex lens with out mentioning one in all its defining qualities: the bokeh. Because the 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 can provide pictures 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. Alternatively, capturing backlit and actually looking for out-of-focus backgrounds and foregrounds with scattered high-contrast gentle in every single place makes pictures shine with a particular, authentic look to them.

Earlier picture cropped 100%.

The Larger the Problem, the Larger the Reward

This isn’t a straightforward 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 pictures 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 Options?

For $300, there’s the dearer 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 relatively than f/8 just like the Tokina.

Alternatively, for the reason that mirror reflex lens design is extra of a historic product in images as of late, there’s all the time the choice to go to eBay and choose up one of many older designs and adapt them to a contemporary mount the place doable. You’ll 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 modify out digicam mounts down the road, the Tokina SZX 400mm f/8 Reflex is a creative-use lens that’s value the associated fee should you’re up for a enjoyable problem.


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