Sunday, May 2, 2010
Tokina AF 100mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro Macro 1:1
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
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
Specs as provided by: http://www.tokinalens.com/products/tokina/afl-m100-b.html
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 nikonians.org):
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.