Tokina 70-200mm f/4 Pro Announcement

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.

Tokina 70-200mm f/4 Pro FX VCM-S

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:

Tokina 70-200mm f/4 Pro FX VCM-S MTF 70mm Tokina 70-200mm f/4 Pro FX VCM-S MTF 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.


  1. 1) Ricardo Vaz
    May 22, 2014 at 9:17 am

    I bought the nikon 70-200 f/4 last month. The image quality is fantastic, prime quality! The tamron 2.8 was on my mind but I ended up with the nikon. If this tokina was 2.8 then it may had a place in the market, but f4 with this price…

    • May 22, 2014 at 9:19 am

      Totally agreed Ricardo! It would have been much different if the lens was an f/2.8…I hope Tamron adjusts its pricing under $1K.

  2. 2) Alis Dobler
    May 22, 2014 at 9:46 am

    I am a tokina fan. I own the 50-135mm 2.8 AF (for DX). The only thing I miss about this lens is the fast autofocus since the lens relies only on the camera’s autofocus. I also own the 11-16mm 2.8 (for DX) which is also a great lens. One of the reasons I chose tokina was the price.

    That being said, my next step will probably be 70-200mm 2.8… If tokina sells the f4 the same price as Nikon does it will be very hard to compete…

  3. 3) mike
    May 22, 2014 at 10:12 am


    I tried two copy’s of the nikon 70-200 f4 in a shop but I wasn’t happy with the quality. I haven’t seen the huge advantage against the nikon 70-300. I’m talking about vignette and image resolution. The af is faster, okay, but I use it primary for landscape, af speed isn’t that important for me. Specialy at 200mm the resolution wasn’t that good and also “bad” vignette at f4 :(

    Also my tele test nikon 70-300 vs tarmon 70-300 (three examples) – the nikon is a bit better
    I hope for a cool price at the tokina :)

    Greetings, Mike

    P.S. Before I get an shitstorm because I don’t like the 70-200 f4 – I love my 14-24, 50mm 1.8 and 24-70 2.8 from Nikkon. :)

  4. Profile photo of Mike Banks 4) Mike Banks
    May 22, 2014 at 10:48 am

    I use the Nikon 70-200 f2.8 a lot. I was looking forward to the Tokina 70-200 f4 for a weight reduction. Now it seems it is heavier and with the extra expense of a tripod collar. If the price holds, Nasim, as you stipulate here I don’t think this will be a winner at first offer. Perhaps in a couple of months Tokin will start offering sales making this a worth while investment for those who can hand hold easily that heavy piece of equipment.

  5. 5) AutofocusRoss
    May 22, 2014 at 11:40 am

    It’s always interesting to follow new releases of products. Let’s be honest, a new lens is as much fun as a day out shooting, a kind of self indulgent mini-christmas present to yourself. I always feel a bit guilty when I complete an online purchase / over the counter transaction for photo gear. Don’t know why this happens, but it does, every time!

    I was kicking through some recent model’s reviews (DX Models) and the general opinion is that image quality fall off doesn’t really begin to bite until you dip into iso 1600 or more. Since I shoot mostly at iso 100, with 400 being as far as I like to push it, it seems the IQ is barely distinguisable between each end of that range.

    That being the case, are we approaching a time where sensor technology is beginning to render these fast, expensive lenses, slightly redundant?

    I know one could argue image quality and in particular, autofocus, are better with faster glass, but how long will it be before autofocus improvements strip away any advantage, and cheaper options of lenses emerge which equal these rather exotic lenses?

    I am not a lover of cheap photo gear, but rather, a prudent purchaser who likes to get, is it, ‘bang for the buck’ you say in the States? I’ve been fortunate in my lens choices, the only one that I feel lets me down is the 55-300mm VR Nikkor, but then, on a DX at full tilt, we are equalling a 450mm lens on a full frame. Maybe its my technique!

    • May 22, 2014 at 5:07 pm

      Ross, good and valid points! I don’t think new sensor technology will make fast / expensive lenses redundant, but “slightly” is definitely the case – it is already happening! These recent budget lens updates and releases are certainly reviving the market and providing excellent value for those that do not want the price or the weight of the pro glass. Pretty much every f/1.8 & f/4 Nikkor produced during the past 3-4 years has been amazing: 28mm f/1.8G, 35mm f/1.8G, 50mm f/1.8G, 85mm f/1.8G, 16-35mm f/4G VR, 24-120mm f/4G VR and 70-200mm f/4G VR, for example. In some cases, the slower f/1.8 and f/4 lenses are actually better optically than their pro counterparts! And some lenses like the 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G are so good optically that they outshine most other lenses even on super high resolution cameras like D800E. Definitely good bang for the buck, as you have pointed out :)

      • 5.1.1) AutofocusRoss
        May 24, 2014 at 2:56 am

        Hi Nasim & Mike, I was busy yesterday and meant to follow up my original post.

        I didn’t reinforce the message I was trying to put across, which was this: As we can now, with the new high res / high quality sensors, even on quite cheap models, allow ourselves to shoot up to iso 400 without concerns for loss of image quality, the need (certainly for an enthusiast Vs. a Pro) for these expensive / exotic lenses is vastly diminished.

        The change from iso 100 to iso 400 is a full two stops, making the need (at given luminance levels, aperture and shutter settings for correct exposure) for f 2.8 minimal. Image quality (of a lens) is anyway almost invariably to be found in the f 5.6 – f8 zone so it follows that, good though these expensive lenses may be, they are irrelevant to most normal enthusiasts as they represent a cost which exceeds the price of two camera bodies.

        Add to this the sneaky Nikkor lens updates (sneaky because the new releases are, in a backdoor way, telling us that the existing lenses were not up to the job – on the new high res sensor equipped bodies) and we have…. better BASIC lenses within reach of the normal enthusiast, plus, high res bodies which pack a punch in image quality, even on the lower end models, and, the icing on the cake, the ability now, to shoot at iso 400 without sacrificing image quality.

        This is significant to people operating in my ‘photographic zone’ where we buy product for the pure pleasure of photography, and not as a pro, who is ‘investing’ in equipment, can claim back purchase taxes via the business account, and can write down the value of the lens against earnings (depreciation).

        People like me who are not pro users and buyers, have to fund the entire purchase, including taxes, out of income which is already taxed – in order to enjoy their hobby, and thats ok… but it does mean a huge difference in mindset when contemplating a lens costing in excess of the price of the camera and standard lens already in that photographers kit bag – for obvious reasons.

        I think it is brilliant that Nikon (and of course all the rest of the manufacturers) are now putting great image making machines and lenses out there, which have an attainable price to the enthusiast, and we are making progress. I am convinced that sensor technology will eventually reduce or remove the purpose of an f 2.8 lens (for pure shutter speed purposes – sport and wildlife etc) leaving it there for those who want the bokeh effects etc.

        I wish I was born 20 years later to enjoy whatever is coming up next from those crafty Japanese designers :-)


        • Profile photo of Mike Banks Mike Banks
          May 27, 2014 at 3:15 pm

          Ross, I am in agreement with your buying decisions. My two favorite walk around lenses have become the Nikon AF-S 28-300 3.5-5.6G and the Nikon AF-S 24-120 f3.5-5.6 G a much maligned lens in the Nikon world. I’m not pushing the Nikon brand but the fact that I create very nice photos with lenses slower than most would think appropriate. My style is more journalistic than art so when I make a picture to tell a story I have in mind I need to demonstrate the background so the viewer doesn’t get lost in the “tale”. I do have many fast lenses both zooms and primes but they are for specific usage.

          I’m curious why you are adhering to the concept that ISO 100-400 should be your only range for quality photography. Which camera are you shooting with?

          • AutofocusRoss
            May 27, 2014 at 5:08 pm

            Hi Mike, if you re-visit my comment, you might note that, in the context of recent camera reviews, the range 1so 100 – 400 is now offering insignificant image quality improvement between the two extremes. I was a long established film SLR user, and from those days, the rule was to use a film with as low a speed as possible (IF you wanted the sharpest images). Even then, photo-journalists ‘pushed’ film – so a film rated at iso 400 would be exposed at iso 1600 or more, and then, in chemical development, the time adjusted to yeild a properly exposed, albeit grainy, image.

            At the same time, we had access to slower films, the lowest I can recall was Kodachrome is0 25 (yes, twenty five!).

            So, different photographic styles existed then, just as they do today. My concept of remaining in the range 100 – 400 on todays cameras is grounded in my desire for sharp, noise free images whenever possible, and the reviewers have done the work for us and revealed that the present genre deliver this up to 400 – beyond which, you do begin to see the differences. This is not a universal declaration so on one needs to protest that they get great results at higher speeds.

            I’m simply making the point that, fairly recently, in the context of photographic history, it is possible to get as good a result at 400 as you would at 100, which in itself is groundbreaking for all who shoot DSLR’s. Allied to that, of course, it means that the once ‘slow’ f4 aperture of budget lenses can be ‘speeded up’ by switching from 100 – 400, a whopping two stops, making them the equal of once very expensive fast glass in most respects.

            Of course, used wide open, a cheaper lens will underperform a faster (expensive) lens, but the fact is, Nikon are in the process of upgrading lenses, right now, which are beginning to show their faults, when used in conjunction with high res cameras. My once cherished 18-105 (so useful a range) was sold and upgraded to the new 18-140, and I have to say, it is a cracking lens and my decision was the right one. It was like having a new camera too.

            So, all of this, in summary, centres around these things: new, better, low cost lenses – higher resolution equipped camera bodies – the ability to deliver great image quality at iso 400.

            Within that, it’s not entirely important which camera/lens combo you are using, particularly if the owner doesn’t produce prints exeeding 10 x 8 – for which, let’s face it, a DSLR from 2 years ago would still deliver good enough image quality.

            My kit features the D5200 (changed from D5100 for resolution reasons) which I love for the swivel LCD used a lot for macro in live view. I use the 18-140vr, the 50mm G af-s, the 70-300 vr and the sigma 10-20. I also often have the 50mm mounted on extension tubes for my macro work, sometimes on a sliding rail/tripod combo.

            This is not high end equipment, but it delivers amazing images which, due to the 24MPix it produces, allow a fair bit of cropping without dropping the image quality too much. Again, depends on print size.

            I prefer then, to stick to the lowest ISO I can get away with, to preserve image quality, it is that simple.


            • Profile photo of Mike Banks Mike Banks
              May 28, 2014 at 7:43 am

              Ross, a big AH Yes!

              I see your point and am in agreement. One segment of my business is flower photography for what I call “bathroom” photos. I have a number of interior decorator clients that do high end hotels and utilize my photos for the water closet enclosure or bathroom. I’ve been selling these photos for years. When making them the process is much slower than when shooting a journalistic piece. Portraiture also requires a slower ISO for the resolution and clarity obtained at lower ISO and the probability of enlarging the image greater than the normal 5×7 or 8×10.

              For journalistic pieces where the action is much faster I often will up the ISO as much as I can to utilize faster shutter speeds. I know you understand this technique. It all depends upon what one is shooting. For the hobbyist, making photographs for themselves or family and friends, one can control the shooting environment, and work in a slower pace.

  6. Profile photo of Mike Banks 6) Mike Banks
    May 22, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    Ross, I would not think prudent purchases representing the best of something for each individual need is foolish, (although you did not say that, I am).

    Most of my professional work is macro and I choose to use only Nikon Macro lenses for that work but I do have several third party lenses the will perform macro functions which I will use for other shooting occasions. For equipment purchases I mostly buy from B&H and when I want a new lens perhaps a third party I will order it and along with it the Nikon equivalent. Once I get them I can test them in the field and if I decide the 3rd party will suit my purpose and gives me what I need I will keep it, usually at a much lower price, and return the Nikon.

    I believe each piece of equipment must suit the user not some crazy personal image. I have many lenses and some of them are 3rd party which I felt were better than the branded lens and use them professionally. My camera bodies will always be Nikon; for me that’s a given. Lenses on the other hand are a different matter.

    • May 22, 2014 at 5:09 pm

      Mike, great feedback and I totally agree. Some third party lens choices are indeed very good. The Tokina 11-16mm is amazing and the new Sigma art series are also superb. I hope third party manufacturers make more good lenses, because it will challenge the big two and force them to compete more aggressively in terms of value and price!

      • Profile photo of Mike Banks 6.1.1) Mike Banks
        May 23, 2014 at 7:14 am

        Nasim, certainly for those of us who make our living creating images for clients need to have the best equipment necessary for each job we take on. However, too many hobbyists, whether advanced or just beginning with photography, get caught up in the mind set that they have to have what others post as their lens selection; just because they seem to know more about photography. Yes, good glass is very important for capturing images but so is the mind set of what one will do with the image after capture and processing. Most enthusiasts will not be making 40×60 inch prints for clients, therefore there is no need to always have the most expensive and fastest lens on the market, when one will only be making 4×6, 5×7 or 8×10 for their own use or to give to family or friends.

        Here on Photography Life, as well as other chat boards I frequent, I see some great deals on equipment purchased on impulse, for a great deal of money, and then sold off at a loss because the purchaser realized it just wasn’t going to be used that often for their interest in photography.

        For those who may be reading this my suggestion to you is to experiment with technique rather than equipment. Learn to make great bokeh at f5.6 or f8…it can be done with the lenses you already have. And to the aspiring night photographer, I would suggest you invest in the best tripod and shutter release you can afford rather than an f1.2 lens. You’re going to want DOF for these shots and that means you will stopped down at least two stops from wide open anyway. Unless you’re taking pictures of a black cat in a coal bin at midnight you don’t need that super fast glass. Learning what each piece of equipment can and cannot do will always be more important than the amount you spend on equipment.

        Just my .02.

  7. 7) Steve N
    May 22, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    Looks like a toy….. ;)

    • Profile photo of Mike Banks 7.1) Mike Banks
      May 23, 2014 at 7:16 am

      Steve N, maybe a nice toy if they lower the price.

  8. 8) Geoff C. Bassett
    July 27, 2014 at 5:29 am

    I have to give this a try simply because I love their 50-135 so much and this might have the same magic. Also I like the fact that it has a shorter barrel than the Nikon counterpart, it may balance better on the camera for that reason. Even if the nikon is sharper, the look of the tokina may be superior for me.

    • 8.1) Geoff C. Bassett
      July 27, 2014 at 5:34 am

      The price is in $1000, or $400 less than the nikon.

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