One of the interesting announcements from last week was Tokina’s AT-X 70-200mm f/4 Pro FX VCM-S. Being the first Tokina lens to incorporate optical image stabilization, the 70-200mm f/4 Pro is a direct competitor to the excellent Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G VR lens. The Tokina 70-200mm f/4 seems to be similar to the Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G in a number of ways. Its optical design incorporates 19 elements in 14 groups, with 3 ultra-low dispersion lens elements (vs 20 elements in 14 groups and 3 ED elements) and the lens does not come with a tripod collar either (available to be purchased separately). It has the same filter thread size of 67mm and has a slightly shorter barrel. Unfortunately, at 980 grams, it is a 130 grams heavier than the Nikkor, which is a pretty noticeable difference.
Judging from its MTF charts, the lens appears to be very good optically. Take a look at the manufacturer-provided MTF charts at 70mm and 200mm:
Center and mid-frame sharpness appears to be very good, with extreme corners appearing a bit softer at f/4, which is normal. Contrast levels appear to be very high as well. Since there is a bit of separation between the sagittal and meridional lines, we can expect the lens to produce a bit more lateral chromatic aberration than the Nikkor. This could also affect the quality of blur / bokeh, but it is hard to make conclusions on bokeh from MTF charts alone – I will have to evaluate the bokeh characteristics of the lens and compare to the Nikkor in a controlled environment at different apertures. Comparing MTF charts between this lens and the Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G, it seems like the Tokina is not better optically…
The big question is currently the price. The lens will go on sale at the end of May in Japan for ¥150,000, which roughly equates to $1475. Since pricing is always lower in the US, I would expect the lens to fall in the $1299-1399 range. Sadly, this falls in the same range as the Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G VR, making the Nikkor a better buy considering that it is a native lens to the Nikon F mount. As a third party lens, Tokina will have a hard time selling this lens unless it prices it under $1000 in my opinion.