Tokina AT-X 24–70mm f/2.8 PRO FX: The Sharp Heavyweight

Tokina AT-X 24–70mm f/2.8 PRO FX

Tokina AT-X 24–70mm f/2.8 PRO FX

Tokina’s latest offering has arrived, presenting proprietary lenses of that focal length a new challenge. Supriya Joshi sees if the Tokina AT-X 24–70mm f/2.8 PRO FX succeeds.

Announced during CP+ in Japan this year, the Tokina AT-X 24–70mm f/2.8 PRO FX lens is the company’s latest offering for full frame cameras. In this particular focal range, it is also happens to be Tokina’s first AF lens. This lens is available for both Canon EF and Nikon F mounts. Over the years, with resolutions increasing rapidly, optical finesse in the high-end standard zoom has become the holy grail for manufacturers. I paired the 24–70mm with both a Nikon D750 and D810 to see if it matches up.

The lens has 15 elements in 11 groups, including three all-glass aspherical elements. To prevent ghosting and flaring, the elements are multicoated. Nine rounded aperture blades make bokeh, especially at the larger apertures. Unlike the Canon and Nikon versions of the lens, the whole focus ring acts as a switch between AF and MF— a trademark Tokina feature. I found it infinitely more useful than a small switch on the side, or a lever on the camera. The eye does not need to leave the viewfinder and the hand does not have to stray from the lens to enable this. I did not miss the full-time AF override feature, available in competing lenses, because of this.

Weighing 1010g, the Tokina 24–70mm is heavier than all but Nikon’s latest version, the 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR. Despite this, it is also a rather short lens, and comfortably ‘snug’. The all metal build feels wonderfully sturdy. Both the zoom and focus rings are quite broad, and differently textured to compensate for the two separate levels of heft on rotation. Unlike its proprietary counterparts, the lens, however, is not weathersealed. It also does not feature image stabilisation, unlike the new Nikkor and the current Tamron 24-70mm.

In the manual focusing mode, the lens rotates by about 35º from end to end of the distance scale, a much smaller degree of rotation than its competitors. It allows you the convenience of simply using your fingers to move across the entire focus range, without removing your hand from below the lens. It is also quite accurate. However, it is also disadvantageous for video users, where pulling focus slowly and smoothly between far and near points becomes difficult.

The most important aspect of a highend standard zoom is sharpness, and it is certainly the highlight of this lens. The images it produces display an excellent level of consistent sharpness across the frame and through the zoom range, even on the D810, with images viewed at 100%. Wide open at 24mm, there is a slight loss at the edges, but this is well controlled. At the narrowest apertures, there is barely any loss in sharpness due to diffraction. In its category, the Tokina 24–70mm is the sharpest we have tested so far.

The level of comfort that I had with the Tokina allowed me to get plenty of images that I was quite happy with. It is surprising how good handling contributes to this. Exposure: 1/3200sec at f/5 (ISO 500). Photograph/Supriya Joshi

The level of comfort that I had with the Tokina allowed me to get plenty of images that I was quite happy with. It is surprising how good handling contributes to this. Exposure: 1/3200sec at f/5 (ISO 500). Photograph/Supriya Joshi

There is a slight barrel distortion at 24mm, but with a complex signature, which is not so easy to correct in postprocessing. A negligible amount of pincushion distortion can also been seen at 50mm and 70mm, that can be corrected easily. The lens was able to handle flaring reasonably well. At the widest apertures, specular bokeh show hard edges and granular textures, which is a problem, especially with portraits with spots of light in the background.

The AF speed is good, but not exceptional. It is actuated with a SDM (Silent Drive-Module) motor, which isn’t absolutely quiet, but not loud enough to distract either.

The Tokina AT-X 24–70mm f/2.8 PRO FX is priced at Rs. 90,000, making it one of the most affordable lenses in its segment, and especially when compared to proprietary lenses from Nikon or Canon. The closest competitor in price is the Tamron SP 24—70mm F/2.8 Di VC USD, at Rs. 81,700. It features Vibration Compensation and weatherproofing, but not the same level of sharpness and build. Considering the weight of the Tokina, stabilisation is a feature I missed, but the benefits are plenty for a professional user. Eventually, the combination of handling finesse, and capability of capturing tack sharp images on high resolution sensors, makes it an investment well worth the money.

Multicoated all-glass aspherical elements, no image stabilisation, fast f/2.8 aperture
Great sharpness, good AF capabilities, negligible barrel and pincushion distortion
Build Quality
Heavy, metal construction, not weathersealed
Push-pull mechanism for AF/MF, short focus travel, quick handling
Warranty & Support
Two-year warranty, limited service centres    
MRP Rs. 90,000
Who should buy it? Professional photographers who are looking to buy a f/2.8 standard zoom lens.
Why? The Tokina lens is a truly capable contender against the proprietary lenses of the same type. It performs really well, and its comparatively affordable price makes it a great purchase.
Tags: Supriya Joshi, December 2015, Tokina AT-X 24–70mm f/2.8 PRO FX, Tokina 24-70 review