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The Tokina 400mm f5.6 and nature work

Bob -- , Jan 11, 1998; 03:16 p.m.

In scanning the many responses concerning 400-500mm telephoto lenses when used in nature photography, I only seem to see the Sigma 400mm mentioned more than any other 3rd party lens. I recently acquired a Tokina 400mm f5.6 SD ATX (for Nikon) and, after reading the many comments, am beginning to feel that I may have made a mistake. Do I have something that has passed it's prime? Where does this particular lens rate as compared to the "apparently much more popular" Sigma version of the same kind? I still have time to change before a majoe Yellowstone venture in a few months. Thanks much.

Responses


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Dan Smith , Jan 11, 1998; 06:09 p.m.

Bob, before you do anything at all with the lens, go out and shoot a few rolls of film with it. No matter what anyone says, if the lens meets your standards, it is fine. Then the question is whether your standards are high enough. Reality is that no matter what you buy, something better, sharper, etc will always crop up. So shoot some chromes with it(using the best technique you can) and check the sharpness, contrast and how the images look to you. If they pass your quality test(& you can compare them with those from others lenses to see how they do) then you are fine. A lot of us shoot with more expensive and exotic glass. A lot shoot with less expensive stuff, even "qualified junk" at times. If the images do the job that is good enough. Technical perfection as a goal is impossible if your technique is lousy and even a cheap lens used well can outperform the best glass in the hands of an idiot. So try the lens first, compare to the quality you like and take it from there.

James Pezzella , Jan 11, 1998; 07:31 p.m.

Bob, first of all congratulations on your new lens. When I was in the market for a 3rd party 400mm, I too had a difficult time choosing between the Tokina and the Sigma. As you've already been advised to do, shoot a few rolls of slide film and and use those shots to determine whether the lens is adequate for your needs. If it will help, you can visit my web site for a few examples of images that were captured with the Sigma 400. For what it's worth I had read a review of the Tokina in Popular Photography, and it was rated as a good lens. Best of luck!

Wesley Ebisuzaki , Jan 12, 1998; 12:17 a.m.

I got the Tokina 400 in November. Pop photo gives a higher SQF to the Sigma at 5.6 but much better numbers to the Tokina at other apertures. The highest SQFs went to the Tokina. OTOH, pop photo and Chasser d'Images both raved about the Sigma.

I would take usenet opinions with a grain of salt because this lens is really brutal on your technique and equipment. Even a serious amateur will take some time before he/she is getting the best out of a long telephoto. The sigma may be better optically but I went Tokina for its better reputation for maintaining EOS compatibility and being a pound lighter.

Don Baccus , Jan 12, 1998; 12:19 p.m.

With a 400/5.6 the most important optical test is at wide apertures, which perhaps is why Pop and Chasseur d'Image raved about the Sigma despite perhaps better performance at other apertures by the Tokina. This is because you'll find yourself using this relatively slow telephoto wide-open most of the time, due to the technique problems wesley mentions. And it will be wide-open with a 1.4x 99% of the time if you choose to try this.

I will not disagree anyone who's staying away from Sigma due to past problems with EOS compatibility, though, and also some problems with apparent build quality with at least some of their cheaper lenses. I've heard far too many folks complain about problems to believe they're all falsified! It seems that Sigma will have to work hard to repair their overall reputation in this regard with 3rd-party afficianados.

Having said that, all reports seem to indicate that the new APO Sigma 400/5.6 Macro is well-built and works fine with current EOS bodies. Hopefully the HSM version works (or will, is it out yet?) fine, too. But a little waryiness in regard to Sigma lenses on EOS is perfectly understandable, IMO!

Bob Atkins , Jan 12, 1998; 12:56 p.m.

When it comes to comparing lenses, my opinion is that your opinion is the only one that counts. Not mine, not Popular Photography's, not Chasseur d'Image's, just yours. The trick is, of course, that it's hard for you (or me!) to test every lens before purchase. Whether the Sigma is sharper than the Tokina depends on a lot of factors. How you use it for one, what film you shoot, how you view the final images and so on. If you shoot ISO 400 print film and usually view 4x6 or 5x7 prints, then ultimate sharpness may not matter as much as if you shoot Velvia and make 20x30 prints. If you shoot hand held, then the sharpness of a 400mm lens is a minor factor in final image quality.

What most of the responses to date seem to have missed is that there are two Tokina lenses. A cheaper 400/5.6 SD and a more expensive 400/5.6 APO ATX. If you have the SD, you have the cheaper, lower optical quality lens which probably isn't a match for the Sigma 400/5.6 APO Macro. The SD sells for $250, while the APO ATX sells for $440 and the Sigma APO Macro sells for $630. With lenses as with most things, you more-or-less get what you pay for.

I would not put too much faith in Usenet (or photo.net) opinions. If your lens delivers results you are happy with under the conditions you normally shoot under, then it's just fine. If you really want to know you are going to have to get hold of a Sigma lens and shoot a test roll of film and switch back and forth between the two lenses under the conditions you will typically be working in.

Bob Atkins , Jan 12, 1998; 12:59 p.m.

Note my comments above re. the two different Tokina 400/5.6 lenses. I see a cheap 400/5.6 SD, a more expensive 400/5.6 ATX-APO but no 400/5.6 SD ATX listed by B&H. The "SD" lenses are early "low dispersion" glass lenses. Not all that great and not the one recently tested by PP.

Peter Legisa , Jan 13, 1998; 04:14 a.m.

I have the Tokina 400 5.6 ATX for EOS. In the beginning I had some problems with my Elan and the lens- but still do not know if it was the battery contacts or the lens. Once my 540 EZ would not switch off - I had to remove the batteries. Now for almost six months everything is OK. As for the quality of the pictures, in my opinion technique is more important than anything. I pasted a newspaper on the wall and shot with Tokina as well as Canon 75-300 IS and Sigma 70-300 APO macro at 300 mm. Tokina was best, and close to the corners of the picture was incomparably better. Under the microscope there was some color fringing - in green and violet. I made a very nice picture of a deer with Tokina handheld and wide open - with a lot of skin detail. Then many other pictures are not so great... - probably my fault.

Greg Pfremmer , Jan 13, 1998; 06:15 a.m.

I originally purchased Sigma 400 f4.5 APO for my Elan IIE. The camera locked up about every 5th shot and had to remove the battery to get it back. With a 1.4 tele converter, it locked up every other shot and had to remove battery to fix. The lens did not seem to make a good contact with camera body as lens would be loose and I could make it clik. I may have just had a lemon. I am not sure all Sigma 400's are like this. I then returned & tried Tokina 400 f5.6 auto focus ATX and have lived happily ever since. No lockups and no contact problems even with a 1.4 teleconverter. Using tripod and comparing shots from both lenses under 8X loop, could not tell any difference in sharpness between the two lenses.

Bill O'Neill , Jan 13, 1998; 09:45 a.m.

Bob, I have owned the Tokina 400/5.6 ATX (AF) for Pentax for about 3 years now. It's a very good lens for the money. I don't use it much these days as I have aquired some bigger glass, but I have many great shots taken with it. A friend had bought the Sigma (the older non-macro) 400/5.6. We both agreed the Tokina was a bit better on the optical side and a lot better on the mechanical side. He now has the better Sigma 400/5.6 Macro. This Sigma is a bit better than the Tokina (not much) but the Tokina is still better built. You should be able to do quite well with the lens. Be sure to use it with a GOOD tripod.


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