Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tokina AT-X Pro 35mm f/2.8 Macro Lens Review

I have acquired a Tokina AT-X Pro 35mm f/2.8 Macro lens for my Canon Rebel T2i. The lens is among Tokina's DX line, meaning it is designed for APS-C sensor cameras; in APS-C sensors the 35mm focal length is effectively 55mm, thus becoming a "normal" lens. I was looking for a lens of this focal length to serve as a stop-gap between my Tokina AT-X Pro 12-24mm f/4 and Tamron LD Di 70-300mm f/4-5.6. I have long used my EF 50mm f/1.8, but it recently took a bad spill (here), and has never been the same. But the 50mm is a bit long for many of my purposes, so the 35mm fit the bill just perfectly.

Additionally, Tokina's 35mm is a Macro lens. A real macro lens, that magnifies down to 1:1, which at 35mm means about 5in from the subject. Because of that, when you're focusing at 1:1 with this lens, you are essentially touching the subject with the nose of the lens, because it extends as it focuses. So if you're looking to do macro work on anything that moves, this won't be the lens for you. Also you and the lens will get in the way of the light at such close working distances.

All of the photos below were hand-held, so any deficiencies in sharpness (which probably can't be determined at these small sizes anyway) are likely a result of that and most of them being shot at f/2.8. 

Canon Rebel T2i, Tokina AT-X 35mm f/2.8, 1/800s @ f/2.8, ISO 100
I have only had the lens about a day but put it through some paces this morning while waiting for my dog to play and do her morning business. The shallow depth of field at f/2.8 is enjoyable.

Canon Rebel T2i, Tokina AT-X 35mm f/2.8, 1/2000s @ f/2.8, ISO 100
But as with my other Tokina lens, the primary weakness of the 35mm is that it suffers from chromatic aberration. The photo below is a 50% crop of Darby's (my golden retriever) fur to show this effect, which isn't as bad as some. Clicking on the photo will cause it to be seen at a larger size.

Canon Rebel T2i, Tokina AT-X 35mm f/2.8, 1/2500s @ f/2.8, ISO 100 :: 50% Crop
This lens is exactly what I wanted it to be. It has Tokina's usual sturdy build. It uses Tokina's clutch mechanism for alternating between manual and auto-focus. The focus is somewhat noisy and not super-fast, but there is a limiter switch that allows to have a smaller focal range to manage. The filter thread is 52mm, which is nice in that it matches the threads on my 50mm lens. And in addition to close-up work, this is a nice general purpose lens (though I don't have any examples of that at present).

Canon Rebel T2i, Tokina AT-X 35mm f/8, 1/125s @ f/2.8, ISO 100
Canon Rebel T2i, Tokina AT-X 35mm f/2.8, 1/500s @ f/2.8, ISO 100
There are more technical reviews available for this lens, but my purpose here is to convey its value and show it in use. For my purposes, it was a better buy than the equivalent Canon EF 35mm f/2. While the Canon is an f-stop faster, it's also about $30-ish more and doesn't have the close-focus abilities. Additionally, Canon's is an old design (though well-reputed), and the Canon's build quality is inferior.

If you're interested in purchasing this lens, you can do so at Amazon, and by following this link, you can support me: Tokina 35mm f/2.8 AT-X PRO DX Macro Lens for Canon Digital SLR Cameras.

UPDATE :: I recently discovered that this lens has a large enough image circle to work, without significant vignetting, on Canon full fame or film cameras. I am pretty excited about this, as it will me to use the lens on my Canon EOS 3. Of course, that is a pretty wide angle focal length for a macro lens and will likely only have limited usefulness in that capacity; but as a general purpose lens, it should be excellent.

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