Tokina ATX PRO 280

28 - 80mm f/2.8

I got a Tokina ATX PRO 28-80mm f/2.8 lens few days ago (12th April 2001)...ha...less than a month after I acquired my Sigma EX 28-70mm. No no no...don't get me wrong, the Tokina lens does not belongs to me...ha ha...I am again just helping a friend to buy the lens for him in Johor, Malaysia. My friend is from Sarawak, Malaysia, and the price of this lens at his place is much more expensive compare to I was given the chance to 'own' the lens for a while...

Ok, the full story is quite friend actually trade his Nikon F60D + some money for this Tokina lens. The selling price of the lens is RM1850 (US$487 at the rate of US$1 = RM3.8), and the shop willing to take in the F60Dat RM650, where my friend has to add another RM1200 for the lens. RM650 for a 2-3 years old F60D is quite good I would new F60D + Nikkor AFD 28-80mm f/3.5-5.6 is selling at around RM1300 if it is still available (Nikon has discontinued the F60D model in year 2001, replaced by F65). New Nikkor AFD 28-80mm f/3.5-5.6 lens is selling at RM450 now, so that means the body is around RM850 new. Trading price at RM650, my friend is actually getting a very good price. Ha...I have a F60D too...perhaps one day I will trade it in for something...ha...not now, as my F60D is still too new for me to abandon it...

I am quite happy to have the chance to try out the Tokina 280 lens. Before getting my Sigma EX 28-70mm lens, Tokina 280 has always been the ideal lens that I hope to get. Ha...Nikkor AFS 28-70mm is too expensive. So, how's the Tokina 280 compares to my Sigma? I didn't really shoot photos using the Tokina lens, so I can't comment anything regarding glass performance.

Holding the Tokina lens in sure feel heavy...and solid. Most of the part of the lens is made out of metal...which gives the solid and heavy feel. The lens body is metal, but the focusing and zooming rings are plastic. The finishing is nice...just like my Sigma or high end Nikkor lens with the rough surface finishing. The surface texture on the lens is quite rough when compare to my Sigma, not to say which one is better, as both are good and nice...but different. My Sigma EX surface seems not so tough/lasting then the Tokina finishing. The focusing ring is smooth...much more smoother than my Sigma lens (feel too loose). It has the Nikkor manual lens feel. Ha...quite like my Nikkor AFD 60mm micro lens. When auto focus, you have to pull the ring out, and when manual focus, you have to push the ring in. Ha...a big improve of the Tokina 280 model compares to previous Tokina 270 PRO II is that you can push the ring for manual focusing at any angle! On the Tokina PRO II 270 lens, you need to turn to ring to a certain angle in order to push it in. The zoom ring of the lens is very smooth too (my Sigma zooming ring is a bit tight...), and you can zoom in and out with little effort. Like most lens design, focusing ring is at the outer side, and zooming ring in the inner side of the lens.

The filter ring of the Tokina 280 lens is made out of metal. I am not sure if plastic is bad compare to metal, but sure metal ring gives me more confident and feel more solid. Ha...not very meaningful to me in practical use, as I seldom change or use filter, only a skylight or UV filter to protect the lens.

Another big plus of the Tokina lens is that the lens size doesn't change during zooming. My Sigma extends when zooming from 70mm to 28mm...although not much in length but still feel not so nice. Both Sigma and Tokina lens has internal focus, where the filter ring doesn't rotate during focusing.

What else...hmm...ok, regarding packaging, both Sigma and Tokina has lens case and hood included. The Tokina's case is made out of plastic/rubber but the Sigma's case is wool. Which one is better? Ha...I would have to honestly say that I prefer the Tokina case more...both shape and feel. Regarding the hood, when mounting the hood to the Tokina lens, it is kind of not so nice. You have to turn very hard to click lock the hood...and when you want to unlock have to turn hard again. I dare not to try too many I am afraid of breaking the hood! Ha...the lens leaves not so nice sign of the unlock/locking process. A bit scratch...When compare to my Sigma, my Sigma's hood can lock and unlock easily...and much smoother.

The Tokina lens is heavy. Due to this, when pointing the lens up or down (180 degree), and zooming it to 80mm, it will not stay there...and 'auto zoom' to 50mm...or from 50mm to 80mm. It does stays at focal length between 28mm to 50mm, regardless at what position you point the lens at. Although I would say one would seldom use the lens pointing vertically, but then if you do (shoot stars...with a 80mm lens!), then this might be a problem. I am sure (ha...just guess...) Tokina can fix this problem by giving more torque to the lens, but then the zooming feel wouldn't be that smooth anymore. just have to Sigma doesn't 'auto zoom' but it doesn't have the ultra smooth zooming feel like the Tokina.

How noisy is the Tokina lens? is not as quite as I thought. I compare it side by side with my Sigma, and both are about the same. When auto focus to infinity and to minimum focusing distance and to infinity again, the Tokina lens tends to give a hard 'bump' sound at infinity before returning to minimum focusing distance and also at minimum focus distance before going to infinity. You can feel the 'power' of the focusing speed, even on my F60D. is definitely faster than my Sigma lens, and gives more confident and certain feel. So, due to the faster AF, one will tend to feel that the Tokina lens is quieter than the Sigma, but the actual reason is that Sigma lens give longer time to focus, thus the noise last longer too and not that Sigma is noisier or the Tokina is quieter. There is different between loud...and last. Both are about the same loud...but the Sigma noise last longer.

Regarding focusing speed, yes the Tokina is faster. Can't say much faster, but definitely noticeably faster. The total turning angle of the focusing ring of the Tokina lens is even less than the Sigma lens. It is about 10 degree less. This can be the reason why it can focus faster. However, in manual focus, it might be a bit too shallow...but given the nice and smooth focusing feel, it is still quite easy to manual focus.

I can't comment on the optic performance, as I doesn't has the chance to actually try it out on field. From web reviews, I would say both the Tokina 280 and my Sigma 28-70mm are about the same. Tokina might be slightly better, or it should be.

If giving me to choice to choose in between Tokina 280 and Sigma EX 28-70mm, which one would I go? Ha...if both at same price, then definitely Tokina. However, Sigma has always known for its low price and good performance. I spent about RM660 (US$174) for my 2nd hand but mint condition Sigma, the Tokina is more than twice (to be exact = 2.78x) the I would go for my Sigma again. Not saying that the Tokina is bad, but just that my case is different. If I have to buy new, where the Sigma cost around RM1200 (US$316), then I will go for the Tokina 280. Resale value of Tokina lens is better than Sigma, and the construction is more solid and giving me the confident that it can last longer...

PS: If you are buying 2nd hand Tokina 280, do check the lens carefully. I heard that earlier batch of Tokina 280 lens has incompatibility problem with Nikon F100 camera. The lens can't focus sharply at minimum focus distance. It focuses at 1-2cm in front of the subject. You can check this by focus it at a newspaper, and then see if you need move 1-2 cm in forward for it to get sharp. Be careful...and take your time in choosing...

Now, some nice view of Tokina 280 on Nikon F80!

Update 27th Jan 2005: This Tokina ATX PRO 280 lens has been my wedding lens for many. Below are some of the photos I shot in Nov 2003 using only this lens for my sister in law's wedding. All shots using Nikon F801S + Fujifilm Superia 200 and 400, scanned at Fuji Digital Image station.






All I can say for this lens is that it is sharp and fast. The push pull AF/MF change is a good thing to have, as sometimes I need to change to manual focus due to difficult focusing subject or when the wedding couples are not in the center. At RM1.8k new or RM1k 2nd hand, this lens is a much better option for the triple times more expensive Nikkor AFS 28-70mm f/2.8, of course if you have money then get the Nikkor (I have no experience on that) but I am happy with mine and don't see the need to upgrade (waste of $$$?).