Today, we review a modern representative of a super-telephoto lens “Tokina 400mm f8” from a well-known Japanese manufacturer, Tokina. Extra telephoto or super-telephoto lenses are lenses with an equivalent focal length exceeding 300mm. Typically, these optical devices cost a lot of money and are heavy. However, there is an exception to this rule – mirrored lenses.
Mirrored lenses open up the world of ultra-long focus optics for beginners and photographers on a budget. Those scenes that can be obtained at such a focal length cannot be repeated with a lens with a standard focal length.
This is not only a matter of zooming in on the subject because it can be simulated, especially if your camera has a high-resolution matrix. What you can’t get with electronic magnification is what’s called perspective compression.
Below is an example of a space compression effect. In reality, the lanterns hang at a distance of about two to three meters from each other.
You can get very unexpected results with the right angle, but this isn’t easy because finding a location can take a long time. This is a price to pay for a unique shot because not every photographer has such a focal length and the desire and time to search. So if you want to experiment, then a mirror lens can be a great choice. However, there are some subtleties here. Let’s figure it out.
Before we go directly to our hero, it is necessary to understand the features of lenses with such an optical design.
Initially, the scheme was used in telescopic construction, and only later was it used in the production of photographic lenses. Perhaps the most famous lens that many photographers will hear is the Sony FE 100-400mm. My acquaintance with mirror-lens lenses began with that.
In the optical design, mirrors are used, which makes it possible to reduce the overall length of the structure by approximately three times compared to a lens of a classical lens design with a similar focal length.
The design features are such that there is no aperture block in all mirror-lens lenses, so it is fixed, and the exposure is changed only by shutter speed or ISO. Also, a mirrored lens is afraid of even a minimal hit of back or side light – this leads to a decrease in contrast, which is often mistaken for a low resolution of the lens.
Another essential feature is exclusively manual focusing. However, there has been only one Minolta autofocus mirror lens in history. However, autofocus is quite expensive for mirror lenses.
Images from this kind of lenses are effortless to recognize by defocusing flare. The light discs look like a circle or “donut” because a mirror is located in the front lens center. I find this kind of bokeh very artistic, and if applied successfully, you can get awe-inspiring pictures.
A unique advantage of the mirror lens system is the complete absence of chromatic aberrations. This is because a small number of lenses are used here.
So, we have analyzed the main features of mirror lens lenses; let’s get acquainted with our hero.
Appearance and Characteristics of Tokina 400mm F8
It's not my discovery that mirror lenses are compact, but when I took out the Tokina SZX SUPER TELE 400mm F8 Reflex MF lens from the box, I was amazed at how compact it is. It looks tiny even on a mirrorless camera, let alone a DSLR.
By the way, I tested the lens with a Fujifilm X-T4 camera. And it should be noted right away that it is imperative to enable shooting without a lens in the camera menu.
The Tokina 400mm F8 is not equipped with a chip and contacts, so the camera does not realize that a lens is currently attached to it.
The peculiarity of the Tokina SZX SUPER TELE 400mm F8 Reflex MF is that this lens can be mounted on almost any camera. The lens has a standard T mount, for which there are adapters for all cameras.
The company itself sells a lens without a mount adapter or bundled with one mount adapter to choose from: Canon EF, Sony E, Nikon F, Micro 4/3, and Fujifilm's the X. Nothing bothers you, having bought with a specific adapter, then purchase another one for another system.
Even in my bins, I found an adapter for Micro 4/3, which I bought five years ago, and here it also fits perfectly. Thus, I can install the camera not only on Fujifilm X-T4 but also on my old Olympus.
The body of the Tokina 400mm is entirely made of metal; however, as already mentioned above, the optical scheme is simple here, so the total weight, due to the lack of a large number of lenses, is small. It weighs only 355 grams and dimensions 74×77 mm. Let me remind you that we are talking about a 400mm super-telephoto lens!!! Impressive, isn't it?
The build is very high quality; the lens barrel is scratch-resistant. On the body, there is a marking of the focusing distance in feet and meters. The focusing ring occupies almost the entire body. Part of the ring has a rubberized coating.
The minimum focusing distance is only 115 centimeters, which results in a 1:2.5 scale - this corresponds to an object approximately 6×9 cm in size for the entire frame. Thus, you can even shoot macro. However, this will be very difficult because the depth of field at the minimum distance is minimal, and, let me remind you, there is no aperture block here. That is, it will not work to increase the depth of field.
By the way, the lens's aperture is set to f/8, which is quite good for a mirror lens. It has a proprietary anti-reflective coating to reduce reflections.
The focusing ring has a very long stroke and is convenient. After all, even setting sharpness on an object that is at a distance of 20 meters is quite tricky - you cannot do without a tripod, but we will talk about the features of shooting a little below.
Tokina 400mm F8 comes with an intense metal conical hood. Remember, I wrote above that mirror lenses are prone to the backlight. Nevertheless, even such a hood design does not prevent the loss of contrast.
Unfortunately, the hood is attached to the filter thread and cannot be attached to the lens in the reverse position to obtain maximum compactness in the transport position.
The hood is so deep that when it is screwed on, it is pretty problematic to install the lid, let alone work with position-dependent light filters. The filter thread is 67 mm here. By the way, the magnetic mount, which I showed above, dramatically simplifies the installation and work with filters.
Mirrors tend to fade over time and lose their reflective properties. Here are the elements with a silver coating with a protective antioxidant layer on the back. Thus, long service life is achieved.
Tokina 400mm F8 Review
This was probably the most challenging lens test for me but, at the same time, one of the most interesting. I tested it on a Fujifilm X-T4 camera, and as you know, this is a crop camera, which is equivalent gave me a focal length of 600 mm. With this focal length, it was complicated to find an exciting subject. Plus, the lack of autofocus, reduced contrast, and a fixed aperture made it impossible to shoot any fleeting events. Even passers-by on the street were challenging to photograph.
The first scene that immediately came to my mind was the shooting of the moon. And it so happened that a full moon was to take place in a few days.
The most spectacular pictures of the moon are best taken either during the full moon or when it is in the form of a thin month. I spent about three days searching for the location.
In addition to choosing at least a high position to avoid flare from city lighting, it was necessary to understand where the moon rises. To make a picture of a celestial body as interesting as possible, it should not be taken just in the sky. Foreign objects must be present in the frame so that there is a visual comparison - in my case; it is at home.
Such a considerable focal length of 600 mm made it possible to make the moon very large against the background of buildings and create spectacular pictures. According to the forecast, the place has been found; I understood where the moon would be and what time.
I could only hope for a clear sky. And everything worked out. The shoot was only 20 minutes. Below is the result of my work - uncropped footage with minor contrast and color adjustments in Lightroom.
Of course, it is better to take pictures of celestial bodies in frost and somewhere far outside the city, preferably in the mountains. In the city, and especially in New York, there is not only light pollution but also constant smog, which inevitably degrades the quality of the result.
Therefore, it is essential when filming in the city; it is advisable to climb as high as possible. In my case, the shooting took place from the roof of a 20-story building.
The location I successfully found turned out to be an excellent position for shooting the sunset. And this was a serious test for our Tokina 400mm f8 super telephoto lense because, as I wrote above, mirror-lens lenses are very prone to the backlight.
I used a Manfrotto ND8 ND filter for the shots below, attenuating the light output by three stops. Without the filter, shooting would be simply impossible because even at the minimum ISO and shutter speed of 1/8000, the frame turned out to be overexposed.
A tripod is required to shoot with the Tokina 400mm F8 and any other lens with a similar equivalent focal length. Shooting handheld at a shutter speed of 1/600, which meets all the rules for a crop camera, does not give a satisfactory result even with a matrix stabilizer.
Moreover, even when shooting on a tripod, I recommend using the release delay timer, preferably as long as possible, to dampen all vibrations from camera movements and button presses maximally. In my case, I used a 10-second timer.
By the way, about the matrix stabilizer. Since I tested the lens on a Fujifilm X-T4 camera, it should be noted that it is necessary to adjust the stabilizer operation for maximum efficiency.
In the menu item "IQ" - "Setting the adapter" in one of the slots, specify the focal length of 600 mm and save it. For convenience, you can add a lens name.
Why 600 mm? We shoot on a crop camera with an APS-C sensor, so the focal length increases by 1.5 times.
Thanks to various manual focus assistants, mirrorless cameras can give a second life to manual focus lenses. When shooting with the Tokina 400mm F8 with a DSLR camera, achieving maximum sharpness through the optical viewfinder would be very difficult.
Yes, in DSLR cameras, there is an assistant in the viewfinder that signals the correct focus, but it has a significant error, and in our case, it would be completely useless.
Shooting in LiveView becomes the only way out for DSLRs and the obligatory electronic zoom use. However, mirrorless photography is much more convenient and efficient. Almost any modern mirrorless camera has a so-called focus peaking. The most advanced cameras have advanced settings from sensitivity adjustment to peak highlight color.
Moreover, this assistant works both through the main screen and through the viewfinder. But even with such an assistant, I still recommend using electronic zoom for perfect accuracy.
In the Fujifilm X-T4 and the focus peaking, two more assistants - micro prism and double image. I cannot say that they are more convenient than identifying peaks; nevertheless, their presence is unnecessary in any case.
But what is convenient is the dual-screen. The display simultaneously displays the complete image for compositing and the selected area with magnification for precise focusing in this display mode.
With the Tokina 400mm F8, I shot with a tripod and my hands. Exposure, in this case, was approximately 1/1500. The focusing ring travel is very smooth and moderately tight. Combined with the advantages mentioned above of mirrorless cameras, working even with such an incredibly long focal length is not difficult. So don't be afraid of manual focus lenses.
Tokina 400mm F8 Reflex MF Photo Gallery
The Tokina SZX SUPER TELE 400mm F8 Reflex MF is more of a creative lens. However, it can also be used in some commercial shooting scenarios.
Working with this lens is incredibly interesting. Plus, its incredible compactness and lightweight make it possible to take this lens for walks or trips without additional stress, which cannot be said in the case of a standard telephoto refractor lens.
And another significant plus is the very affordable price compared to the same focal length of classic telephoto lenses.
To work with the Tokina 400mm, there are a few things to consider. First, understand the camera settings - gimbal settings, electronic zoom, manual focus assistants. Second, be sure to use a lens hood and avoid side and backlighting.
Thirdly, pictures taken with this lens require post-processing - a minimal increase, in contrast, makes the image much better; this should not be neglected. And finally, fourthly, get ready to walk a lot and not be discouraged if your shot did not work out the first time.
This lens is for creative, thoughtful photography. You can get some truly unique footage with the Tokina SZX SUPER TELE 400mm F8 Reflex MF. So if you are not afraid of difficulties and are ready to improve your photography skills, this lens is the best choice for you.