Saturday, May 29, 2010

Tokina 90mm f/2.5 AT-X Macro - The "Bokina"

More than a decade after Vivitar's release of the Series 1 90mm f/2.5, Tokina unveiled their AT-X line's macro lens (1986). According to a review written by user on, Tokina denies any relation between the Vivitar S1 90mm and their AT-X 90mm. That review, by the way, is a great in-depth look at this spectacular lens. As is the case with these more popular lenses, due to a good amount of info already available, this post will attempt to serve as a hub of as much info as I can gather, my personal experience with this lens, and some detailed images!

Above, the Tokina 90mm and the Vivitar 90mm side-by-side. The size difference is only cosmetic as the Vivitar has a slightly longer barrel and thus more shaded front element.

So despite Tokina's reluctance to reveal their 90mm's true origins, it is accepted these two lenses share their optical formula. It was, after all, Tokina who manufactured the original Vivitar Series 1 90mm. Speculation that Tokina either purchased Vivitar's design (perhaps near or after their demise) or adapted it to their own, abounds. As far as records, dates, and other empirical data proving any of these allegations is sparse at best. Whatever the truth may be, it doesn't change the fact that the Tokina 90mm f/2.5 AT-X macro is one of the best macro lenses ever made.

Look and Feel

The AT-X 90mm f/2.5 is slightly smaller than the Vivitar Series 1 90mm and in a way feels as if everything in the S1 has merely been packed into a slightly smaller package. It is a dense hunk of metal and glass. The AT-X is also slightly shorter as the front element is not quite as recessed as the S1.

The ridged rubber grip pattern used in the AT-X line is the same as I found on the Tokina MF 300mm f/2.8. It's rigid and perfect for grabbing quick focus. This 90mm also has macro reproduction ratio markings on the barrel, same as the Vivitar.

One thing I appreciate about the Tokina 90mm is the small ridge near the top cut specially to accept a dedicated clip-on lens hood. These 90mm lenses definitely need it. The hood does not interfere with the front thread so you can keep a filter on the lens, the lens cap, or even flip the hood backwards for stowing in any order you want. Simple.

Just like it's Vivitar cousin, the Tokina 90mm was designed for a 1:2 macro reproduction ratio but originally came with a 3-element macro extender the brought the lens to 1:1 while correcting for aberrations. The Tokina extender lacks a rotating tripod socket like the Vivitar S1. It also does feel considerably lighter and bit less rugged. Also, it should be noted, I used the Tokina extender with the Vivitar 90mm with great results however, the Vivitar extender cannot be used with the Tokina 90mm due to a fitted metal ridge at the top of the extender (at least in terms of the Nikon AI mount lenses).

This lens originally came in a 2-part black leather cylindrical case which included a smaller, leather compartment specially crafted for the extender. The interior was a red felt. Prices on eBay as of May 2010 have been between $360-500+ USD for these sets. They truly are worth it as they are capable of phenomenal images and sharpness.


Focal length: 90mm
Angle of View: 27°
Max. Aperture: f/2.5
Min. Aperture: f/32
Min. Focus (from film plane): 15.3" (390mm)
Filter size: 55mm
Aperture blades: 8
Elements/Groups: 8/7
Weight: 530g

Specs and MTF data can be found at This lens is ranked their 4th sharpest lens ever tested.


How does the Tokina 90mm fair? I think it's safe to say by this point, you know, this lens is incredible. I really cannot say more. This lens is sharp wide open. And not consolation-sharp, tack sharp. I consistently use this lens wide open. The bokeh is just as a lens nicknamed "The Bokina" should be: beautifully soft, smooth, and aesthetic. The coatings provide great optical performance and contrast. I love the color I get from this lens. Of course there is a hint of CA wide open, ever so slightly in extreme highlights. But I honestly have no cons with this lens. If you have the chance at one, buy it. You cannot beat the performance for the prices of some of these (I say some since due to the hype, the prices have been on the rise. $550 can buy modern macros with AF and newest technology coatings).

Below is the full-frame image and then a crop at about 200% of a jumping spider made with the Tokina 90mm f/2.5 wide open. I was holding the little guy just above the grass on a bright day. ISO 200 on the D700.

>>See some samples utilizing CombineZM image-stacking software.

Tokina 90mm AT-X VS. Vivitar Series 1 90mm

If they truly are the same optical design, then is there much difference in performance? If so, which one is better/should I look to buy?

Tokina 90mm AT-X
  • Better/newer coatings - Handles flare better, performs very well even when using strobes
  • Less CA than the Vivitar S1 90mm
  • Notched for dedicated hood. User will definitely need to use the hood for optimum performance
  • Larger grip for fast and easy focusing.
Vivitar S1 90mm
  • Heavier build, more rugged design. The Vivitar is a tank and will probably take more abuse than the Tokina if you're thinking of taking it to war.
  • Macro Extender has a built-in rotating tripod collar. This is very handy for close-up work given the weight and length of this lens. It's possible the Tokina does not have this because it is a bit lighter. Both lenses can be cumbersome at 1:1.
Ultimately, I would recommend the Tokina 90mm AT-X. I prefer the ability to shoot under strobe over the cosmetic amenities of the Vivitar. Purchasing a lens is essentially purchasing a tool. The Tokina offers the more capability. Also like tools, more capability typically costs more money. The Tokina 90mm often goes for a much higher price than the Vivitar 90mm. Keep in mind though, both lenses perform extremely well relative to other macros and are very sharp wide open.


eBay member, Malak, was kind enough to acquiesce to my request for images of packaging as he listed a beautiful sample on eBay. I love cut-away images. Also, if interested, the auction ends June 21, 2010 and can be found here. It's for a rare Pentax KA mount. You won't see these very often, and especially not in this type of shape.

Nesster has a cool upload of an original Tokina Ad featuring the AT-X line which included the 90mm.'s review with MTF's write-up of the Tokina 90mm

Some very beautiful images posted in a Chinese forum made with the Tokina 90mm.

Another Chinese forum with samples.

Short post with images of the lens and some examples from a Japanese site.

Good examples of bokeh produced by this lens in a Russian blog.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Tamron SP 180mm f/2.5 LD-IF 63B

180mm prime lenses are somewhat of a lesser sought after focal length in this new era of digital. I presume this is because 180mm often falls within the range of more popular zooms. As far as I can tell, Nikon is still producing their AF 180mm f/2.8D ED-IF. The most recent iteration of which began production in 2006 (see Nikon Lens Serial Guide). So although the focal length has not been abandoned, users are a smaller segment. I find I often go to my Nikon AF 80-200mm f/2.8D simply because it's so convenient. Reviews indicate the Nikon 180mm is superior to the zoom though I have not personally ever used the 180mm.

Nevertheless, 180mm lenses are very popular amongst the manual focus enthusiasts. More discussion on the various 180mm primes of the past can be found on the Manual Focus Lenses Forum.

The Tamron SP 180mm f/2.5 LD-IF is pretty well sought after 180mm lens. Released in 1988 as a special edition lens, it marked the 35th anniversary of the Tamron company. It is an adaptall-2 lens and thus can be used on a wide variety of cameras. The LD suffix signifies that the lens utilizes low-dispersion glass providing optimal apochromatic performance. IF means the lens is an internal focus; It does not physically extend when focused. The small blurb on Adaptall-2's site states the 180mm uses a "spherical aberration compensator group" to improve performance even close-up. Put simply, this lens was stacked with Tamron's best offerings for that time and was meant for use by serious photographers.

Along with premier specs, another factor could be involved in the intrigue of this lens; Only 3000 were ever made. Everything I have read about the Tamron SP 180mm f/2.5 LD-IF has been very positive, and the debate between whether it is "better" than the Nikon 180mm is ongoing (this argument of course, can become quite subjective).


Lens Model 63B
Focal Length 180mm
Aperture Range f/2.5 — 32, AE
Angle of View 13°
Optical Construction
(Groups / Elements)
7 / 10
Min. Focus from Film Plane 47.2" (1.2m)
Macro Mag. Ratio
Filter Size 77mm
Diameter 3.2" (81.5mm)
Length at
[w/Nikon mount]
4.7" (119.5mm)
[4.9" (124mm)]
Weight 28.2 oz. (800g)
Lens Hood Bayonet type #73FH, reversible.

Specs from

Tamron SP 180mm f/2.5 LD-IF Optics Diagram


Like the Tamron SP 300mm f/2.8 and 400mm f/4, this lens boasts adurable, pro-quality build. An all-metal construction has ensured the relatively small number of units produced, remain intact for many years to come. I have said this before and I will say it again, I still think the adaptall concept is an excellent, practical approach to third-party lenses. Though some may criticize Tamron's execution of the idea, I find those shortcomings easily overlooked by the sheer utility these lenses provide.

The benefit of a prime 180mm is a more compact lens than a comparably fast zoom that covers a similar focal length. Although this lens may be more a bit more compact, it is still a heavy lens! It originally was marketed with a large bayonet hood and will accept the Tamron 01F 2x and 140F 1.4x teleconverters. I also received a Tamron brown leather bag that may have originally been marketed with this lens.


I have much more shooting to do with this lens before I officially pass judgment. My initial results indicated the lens performs well wide open regarding sharpness and has minor CA. Wide open it is a bit soft, but is very sharp by f/5.6. Below are just a couple test shots I made.

And here are a couple closer crops of near the center at the above apertures:

This was a quick test done with a tripod and using ambient light. Though it was not a thorough or elaborate test, it does prove a good first demo to preview performance.

More To Come

I love the image quality that comes out of this SP glass. So far I can see some minor CA is evident in the early apertures, f/2.5 and f/4 (not very visible in a test like this). But even the CA I have seen so far is really negligible. At f/2.5, I am confident to say this lens is a bit soft. It is however, a softness beautifully applicable to ethereal environmental portraits. Though my experience with this lens is limited at this point, I can really forsee some wonderful portraits being made at f/2.5. Contrast of this lens looks great! The coatings and ED elements really bump this lens into the Pro realm in terms of contrast. I have not photographed with this lens outside to a wide extent yet, and did not get a hood with my copy so just how well this lens handles flare is still a toss up. I suspect I will at least need a good substitute for the hood (Finding the original #73FH is probably going to take a lot of patience!) because the large, prominent front element is bound to have some issues with stray light.

One thing I am sure of, the Tamron SP 180mm f/2.5 LD-IF 63B promises to be a reliable, well-built, beautiful piece of optical equipment reminiscent of a beautiful era of photography. Like it's sibling SP Adaptall-2 pro lenses, the 180mm possesses well-engineered optics within a precision-made robust exterior. I love just holding lens in my hand.


A quick search on this lens brought up a thread on in which user, Roland Larson posted the pages below. The first page is from the UK publication camera weekly and the second image is from Modern Photography.

Many of my initial thoughts on the capabilities of this lens are assured in these two articles. I am surprised to read the Tamron actually sold for a higher price than the Nikon in its day. Since I have not used the Nikon, I would be interested to do a side-by-side.

As always, you can find some great info on this adaptall lens here: Tamron SP 180mm f/2.5 LD-IF 63B at

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Tokina-Special 135mm f/2.8 - The Tokina-Special Line

I hopped on eBay to check something maybe I took a look around. Before I knew it, a whopping $15 was exiting my paypal account! I even sort of forgot I picked this up until it arrived on my doorstep. Funny how that works because it practically teleported to my house (maybe a whole 2 days?!). Somehow this type of shipping doesn't often occur on the purchases I care most about. It not only feels so much longer but inevitably a weekend or holiday adds a few days!

Anyway, the lens shows up and I know nothing about what exactly this lens is. Complete impulse buy. So I begin searching the web and finding my compatriots, "I got this lens for $10", "Picked this up for $15 at a local shop", "Who makes this Tokina-special?", "Anyone know if it's any good?" All stories and questions I can relate to! Not ironically, the Tokina-Special 135mm isn't anything 'special' as the name suggests, at least not these days, but it can produce some pleasant results; and it can do this at a price that is unmatched. Furthermore, the lens offered me a chance at some valuable fix-it experience.

When I got the Tokina-Special 135mm, it turns out it was not working correctly. Fortunately, the repair was extremely simple! (If it had been complicated, the lens would be broken. I know very little about fixing lenses. Who knows, there's still time for this lens to break.)


Focal Length: 135mm
Max. Aperture: f/2.8
Min. Aperture: f/22 Min. Focusing Distance (from sensor): 70" (1.77m)
Aperture: 6 blades


The Tokina-Special 135mm had good solid feel to it. Standard metal construction common at the time of production. It bears very similar resemblance to the Vivitar 135mm f/2.8 made by Komine (not the close-focus version) and could possibly itself be Komine-made but I have no evidence of this currently. Because this Tokina-Special line of optics has relatively lower production quality than say, a "Pro" line, I think it very feasible many of these lenses can be found under various other brand names.


I will just say right now, this is no sleeper. You will not be blown away by the performance nor would it be wise to invest any real money in these lenses in hopes you will turn a profit. They are often practically given away. I have read of a few other Tokina-Special lenses, the 75-150mm f/3.8, 28mm f/2.8, and even a 200mm f/3.5 but none appear to be touted by their owners as great pieces of glass. In fact, there appears to be an overall air of disappointment with the 28mm. The biggest issues being flare and contrast, which wouldn't be as much of an issue for a more telephoto focal length such as a 135mm. I haven't used this lens much in varying conditions but did a quick test in the yard to demonstrate what you can expect out of something like this.

Center Crops




I have read some issues with CA in the Tokina-Special lenses. I can just see some blue within the mulch but I haven't put it through much. I have noticed a significant loss of contrast at f/2.8 near the center as well as some considerable light fall-off. Lens is soft wide open but depending on the application, this may or may not be an issue. Bokeh and color rendition is nothing especially great or poor.


I mainly did this review since I didn't see much on the web about this particular lens and felt I may be able to shed some on light for others who may run into a great buy with this lens. The value to be had with this optic lies within the bargain and experiential realm. The Tokina-Special provides an inexpensive introduction to the (shrinking) 135mm focal length. The build will last and the optics are capable of some atmospheric images. For a walk around lens, I love the feel of the softness at f/2.8 with the vignetted corners. I also enjoy the feel of a manual focus lens. Much better lenses exist in 135mm but for <$20, you really can't do much these days!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Seadragon - A New Way to Pixel Peep

After this talking about macro comparisons in this last post, I began thinking about taking another look at the Tokina in relation to my other favorite macros, the Vivitar Series 1 90mm f/2.5 and the Lester A. Dine 105mm f/2.8. I was curious how they might render the same situation differently. A realistic situation rather than a flat dollar or test. In searching for a good way to effectively embed some means by which you as a reader can quickly view results, I found Seadragon.

I first heard about this type of technology through a TED talk (which are awesome by the way!). If you are unfamiliar with these, they are a collection of presentations by the most brilliant and charismatic minds of our time. Anyway, some of the potential uses for this Seadragon technology are quick viewing and rendering of high volumes of image content with maximized zoom capability. The demo shows the guys viewing all the images on a hard drive at once, then quickly zooming into a specific image, all the way down to the pixels; all this was done quickly and fluidly.

The spider at the top is a quick sample geared towards drawing you in and obviously demonstrating the technology. Also, it was probably a quicker upload than a more busy scene. Did it work?

Now for the more practical application, pixel peeping. Currently I have yet to determine the exact parameters since I have just discovered it and not read much into it. Why am I already writing about it if I don't know all that much? Well, because it is exciting! So while I learn some more about it, have a look at this:

Vivitar Series 1 90mm f/2.5 "Bokina"

You can utilize the navigation tools near the lower right corner, or if on a mac laptop, you can simply put two fingers down on the track pad and smoothly cruise across the image, zoom in and out, without even "lifting a finger"!

How To Do It

The process is surpisingly simple. To do this all you need to do is:

1. Upload a high resolution image (doesn't have to be high res but there's not much need for this tool unless there is a lot of content to zoom into).

2. Have images hosted at some specific URL. I quickly created a free account with After uploading, PicturePush gives you the URL to share as well as other codes for embedding, etc. I clicked 'full' to view the image at full size before copying the URL to Seadragon's site. I didn't check if this makes a difference yet.

3. Go to and enter your URL. Click 'Create'.

4. Now you can use the embedding code given to post elsewhere!

For the comparison's sake, here are the three renderings:

Tokina 100mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro

Lester A. Dine 105mm f/2.8 (Kiron)

I'm still working on perfecting the application and understanding all the quirks about the system, but it's a start! Anyway, I thought it a great thing to share!

Tokina AF 100mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro Macro 1:1

October 2010

I have since acquired the Tokina 90mm f/2.5 AT-X "Bokina". The Tokina 90 has been my go-to lens ever since my first day of owning it. Granted it does not get down to 1:1 without the inconvenient addition of it's paired macro extender, but the sharpness I can achieve wide open is excellent. Not to mention it produces wonderfully sharp, contrasty images at every other aperture as well. I also don't see as much CA under the same shooting conditions as I do with the Tokina 100mm (This is a very minimal amount in either case, however.). In relation to the Vivitar S1 90mm, I find I just prefer the results of the Tokina 90mm.

Although my favorite macro lens that I have ever used is the sharp, robust Vivitar Series 1 90mm f/2.5, this is not the lens I use daily, or even to photograph everything on this site (it is what I used to make the images of the Tokina though!). Instead, I always grab my autofocusing Tokina 100mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro. Funny, I just about never use it in AF mode.


Focal length: 100mm
Max. aperture: f/2.8
Min. aperture: f/32
Elements/Groups: 9/8
Minimum focusing distance: 11.8 in. (30 cm)
Macro ratio: 1:1
Focus limiter: 1.28 to ∞
Number of aperture blades: 9
Filter size: 55mm
Dimensions: 2.9 in. x 3.74 in. (73mm x 95.1 mm)
Weight: 19.0 oz. (540 g)
Hood: Dedicated, BH-551
Mount availability: Canon and Nikon

Optical Diagram

Specs as provided by:


The Tokina 100mm AT-X Pro appears to have had a predecessor but only in that the other lens shared the focal length. I believe the Pro version is a new optical formula. The previous Tokina AF 100mm f/2.8 AT-X only when to 1:2 reproduction ratio whereas the newer Pro goes all the way to 1:1. I have not used the older version nor can I find very much info on it since every search attempt is dominated by results from the similarly named, newer Pro model. The 1:2 version looked like this (image from

My guess would be that this older version bears the same build characteristics of the early Tokina AF 17mm AT-X. Because of the different optical formula and newer coatings, I surmise the 100mm AT-X Pro is a completely different animal. Consequently would not think my observations of the Pro applicable to the former.

The exterior of the Tokina 100mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro possesses the signature "Armalite" coating as well as the gold band denoting Tokina's professional grade build. It features two rubber grip rings, the larger being the focus ring and the smaller most likely a grip for mounting and unmounting the lens. The front element sits well recessed within the housing of the lens. Combined with the copious OEM hood, the Tokina 100mm is well protected from stray light and flare. Even when the lens is extended to 1:1 reproduction, the front element remains proportionally the same distance from the lip of the lens.


The 100mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro features Tokina's AF/MF clutch mechanism at its best! Unlike the 28-70mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro where you must engage the MF by pulling the focusing ring back toward the camera, which you can only do at a specific point in the rotation of this ring, and then still be sure to switch the camera to MF as well, Tokina's new mechanism is streamlined and effective. With the 100mm, you can pull the ring back at any point in its rotation and you do not need to switch the camera to MF. It is as easy as engaging the clutch!

The 100mm AT-X Pro has a focus limiter switch near the base. When you are focusing right up near 1:1 and are utilizing AF you can turn the switch to "limit". Rather than the AF hunting all the way from minimum focusing distance to infinity, it will instead focus from 1:1 to a nearer pre-set (non-adjustable) point midway along the helicoid. This can save vital time, especially when photographing small moving subjects.


Tokina claims newer coatings optimized for digital sensors aid this lens in producing controlled color and great contrast. As much as I love my "Bokina", it is because of these newer coatings and the ample shading (hood, recessed element), that I choose this Tokina to shoot under strobes. I get great images devoid of any veiling (loss of contrast). I also love that I can go from 1:1 easily without the need for any extension tubes or macro extenders/converters. AF is great and fast enough for my needs with little bugs. Honestly, I typically use this lens in MF, which is a snap with the newer clutch.

I haven't noticed the out of focus rendering to be especially amazing but it looks great. Hard to live up to the "Bokina". At first glance, performance at infinity looks good. I have more testing to do on that before I can say for sure. I really don't buy macro lenses to do work at infinity though. Portrait-wise, the lens is great. Again, not my primary use but I have made a few images. Better portrait lenses exist.

As I said earlier, all the equipment reviewed on this site has been photographed with this lens. Simply put, the Tokina 100mm is an excellent macro lens! Technically speaking, in tests and comparisons with its contemporaries, the Tokina 100mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro does not score the highest on MTF, nor does prove the best overall. In fact, among some of the other lenses I have seen it compared to, such as the Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di 1:1 AF and Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG, the Tokina 100mm actually produces a little more CA.

Why choose the Tokina 100mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro?

Since I have not actually shot with the Tamron or the Sigma, or any of the touted superior AF Micro-Nikkors, it would be ill-informed for me to suggest this lens over those alternatives. Also, as I said, some comparisons would suggest otherwise. I picked this lens up because I got a good deal on one and wanted a macro with AF. Also, I'm practical. And practically speaking, this lens produces sharp, contrasty images, typical of Tokina engineering. It does produce noticeable CA in high contrast situations, just not enough to cause me to find a new lens. And in even more serious cases PP can do wonders, but I rarely ever even do that.

If the review seems less than raving, that's because it is. The Tokina 100mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro is a solid, reliable performer. It may not be the best in its class, but for the money, Tokina always comes through with admirable performance on a budget. The build guarantees this lens will last and the digitally optimized coatings do wonders when shooting in bright situations. Because I haven't done a whole lot of comparisons to other AF macros, all I can say is that the Tokina 100mm is a great all around performer and well suited for practical application, everyday shooting.