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

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 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 not too long ago additionally added help for Canon RF and Nikon Z mounts, making it accessible in nearly each main well-liked 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 digital camera’s sensor. For reflex lenses, the trail is folded by an inside 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, would not have autofocus and are guide focus solely. In addition they all have a set aperture. That implies that this f/8 lens is just 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 component due to the mirror system inside. This spherical form that sits within the heart of the lens exhibits 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 will be comfy to carry alongside. You wouldn’t essentially wish to casually take it on a canine stroll the place images will not be the first focus, for instance. But, the Tokina SZX 400mm to me doesn’t attain the edge of being a burden on nearly any event. It’s fairly small — in regards to the dimension of an ordinary 24-70mm f/4 lens — and in addition very light-weight at simply 12.5 ounces (354.4 grams). It’s a carry-everywhere sort of lens, nevertheless it’s additionally received heavy firepower with that 400mm attain. That’s an thrilling mixture.

Wanting on the full lens, we see a quite simple steel building on the surface. Nearly all the lens rotates and acts as the main focus ring, however there’s a extensive strip of rubber as nicely to permit for a greater grip. The main focus ring twists a really clean 270 levels that you just’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 the intention to focus from topics close to to far and again once more — I can’t sweep the main focus vary in a single twist of my left hand whereas holding the digital camera 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 feel many will agree with me on is that the lens hood design will not be good. The steel 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 connected to avoid wasting room within the bag. As a substitute, it’s going to should be wrapped unsecured across the lens. Secondly, when the lens hood is connected, meaning the equipped lens cap can’t be clipped on on the similar time. Thirdly, one can’t use filters and the lens hood similtaneously they require the identical threading.

On a optimistic be aware, Tokina designed the SZX 400mm to have interchangeable digital camera mounts. That’s proper: the digital camera mount finish can unscrew off and get replaced with any of the opposite supported mounts which can be offered individually. For this assessment, I’ve been utilizing the Sony E-mount model. Nonetheless, 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 digital camera mount could be changed with different accessible digital camera mounts from Tokina.

Picture High quality

Inside, the lens makes use of six components 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 nicely for the money spent. After some minor tweaking in modifying to carry again distinction in images, it’s onerous 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 sometimes endure from heavy shade fringing, there’s none to be discovered with this 400mm lens.

As for picture sharpness, I felt that was extra a matter of accomplishing correct focus within the first place. It may be a troublesome activity to hit important 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 one of the best ways to make sure sharpness was to make use of the main focus magnifier setting mapped to a customized button on my Sony digital camera and digitally punch in on the picture to regulate focus as I’m firing away on the shutter. It’s not the best factor on the earth for continually shifting topics like birds, nevertheless it will get the job completed with larger accuracy than focus peaking or eyeballing from the full-frame show.

Lastly, we will’t discuss a reflex lens with out citing 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, nevertheless it’s additionally distinctive and enjoyable and can provide images the additional spark wanted to face out in a optimistic means. Personally, I find it irresistible, 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, taking pictures backlit and actually looking for out-of-focus backgrounds and foregrounds with scattered high-contrast mild all over the place makes images shine with a particular, unique look to them.

Earlier picture cropped 100%.

The Higher the Problem, the Higher the Reward

This isn’t a straightforward lens to make use of, however that doesn’t imply it’s a nasty lens. It’s truly fairly enjoyable to be challenged to search out eventualities the place the images from this lens will pop as a result of when you do, the outcomes are magical. It’s additionally extraordinarily useful to maintain round because the dimension and weight means it may be tossed in any bag or left on the digital camera for at any time when the event strikes to zoom in.

Are There Alternate options?

For $300, there’s the dearer Rokinon Reflex 300mm f/6.3 ED UMC CS that may be bought new for choose digital camera mounts. It’s much less focal size but additionally a set f/6.3 reasonably than f/8 just like the Tokina.

Alternatively, because the 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 decide 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 flexibility to modify out digital camera mounts down the road, the Tokina SZX 400mm f/8 Reflex is a creative-use lens that’s value the price if you happen to’re up for a enjoyable problem.

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