In the world of third party lens manufacturing, two companies stand out — Sigma and Tamron. But there is a third company that occasionally comes up with a gem of a lens. That company is Tokina. Like many third party lens manufacturers, Tokina has also had to come to grips with a changing camera market.
Every industry has “tipping points” and I think it’s fair to say the camera industry has hit its tipping point in the shift from DSLR to mirrorless. Third party manufacturers like Tokina have had to make the shift from DSLR mounted lenses to mirrorless mounted lenses. Tokina has been a bit slow to make the conversion, but their line of mirrorless lenses has been expanding rapidly. As of this writing, they have six prime lenses for APS-C mirrorless cameras and one full-frame prime lens for mirrorless cameras. Today, we’re going to take a look at this full-frame lens.
The Tokina atx-m 85mm f/1.8 came to the marketplace without much fanfare when it was introduced in February of 2020. In fact, I’ve scoured the web and can only find a few reviews of this lens. And that’s a shame, because it’s pretty outstanding for a lens in this price category. Curious to learn more? Read on.
- Superlative build quality — especially at this price
- Very good to excellent image quality, even wide-open at f/1.8
- Fast, silent and accurate AF performance
- Economically priced
- Weather sealing appears to be limited to lens coatings
- A little late to the game, but I’m glad they’re here now
- Though also a testament to the lens’s build quality, the Tokina 85mm is noticeably more husky and robust than others in this segment
Tokina atx-m 85mm f/1.8 — Technical specifications
All technical specifications for this lens are from the product listing page at B&H Photo:
- Focal length: 85mm
- Aperture range: f/1.8-16
- Aperture blades: 9, rounded
- Elements/Groups: 10/7
- Dimensions: 3.15 x 3.67″ / 80 x 93.2 mm
- Weight: 1.42 lbs. / 645 grams
- Angle of view: 28.5°
Tokina atx-m 85mm f/1.8 — Ergonomics and build quality
The first thing that strikes most photographers who use a Tokina lens for the first time is the robust build quality. I’ve long been a fan of Tokina lenses and the consistent, robust high quality build is a staple for the brand. The atx-m 85mm is no exception. Robust, heavy and made out of metal, the 85mm radiates high quality.
The focus ring is firm and almost feels pressurized as I rotate it to find manual focus. The mount is made out of metal and the barrel is also solid.
The only area where it seems like Tokina skimped was with the lens hood, which is a bit flimsy by comparison. All in for build, the 85mm feels more like something from Zeiss than it does from a value lens maker like Tokina. The lens punches way above it’s price point for build!
Ergonomically, I like the way the 85mm balances with the Sony a7 IV that I’ve been shooting with. The lens feels like the perfect counterweight to the bigger Sony body. The whole combination comes in at a healthy 2.4 lbs. Not so much that you’ll be aching after a long day, but certainly not a featherweight.
There aren’t any buttons, aperture ring or switches on the body of the lens as all functions are controlled in-camera. This is my preference, though I recognize many photographers prefer the tactile experience of switches and aperture rings. I could do with or without them. At the end of the day, with the Tokina, it’s mount it to your camera and off you go!
Tokina atx-m 85mm f/1.8 — In the field
If you’re familiar with other 85mm lenses, this one feels a lot like the Sony 85mm f/1.8, but just a bit heavier. Autofocus is snappy and mostly reliable. Low light performance has been strong. With its f/1.8 aperture, the Tokina not only finds itself capable in the dark, but with its 9 blade aperture, the ability to separate subjects from a cluttered background has made it a joy to use.
The weight of the lens can be a bit of a challenge if you’re handholding all day, as it’s considerably heavier than most other f/1.8 lenses in this category.
Tokina atx-m 85mm f/1.8 — Autofocus performance
I’ve had the opportunity to use the 85mm in good and bad light. I’m pleased to report that in all situations, AF performance has been generally very reliable with only a few misses. I’d sum it up this way. It’s fast enough, silent and mostly accurate. The AF isn’t as fast as the latest ultrasonic motors from Canon or even the Hypersonic motors from Sigma. But it isn’t so slow that I feel like I’m going to miss a shot.
I’ve found that AF accuracy is generally very good, though not perfect. I have missed a few shots that showed/confirmed in focus. But again, the majority of my shots are in tack sharp focus. The overwhelming majority of the time, I feel like I’m going to get the shot I want/need with the Tokina atx-m 85mm.
Both human and animal eye-detect AF work very well with a very high degree of accuracy. If the subject is moving quickly toward you, the stepper motor may have a more difficult time keeping up with the subject as the motor is not lightning fast. However, for still subjects, AF is nearly perfect!
Tokina atx-m 85mm f/1.8 — Image quality
First things first, I’m a bit biased. 85mm is my personal favorite focal length and there’s rarely an 85mm that I don’t like. That said, the Tokina 85mm f/1.8 impresses! Center performance wide-open is very, very sharp and contrasty. Edges suffer as expected wide-open, but sharpen up nicely by f/2.8 and are even sharper at f/4.
Vignetting is a bit of an issue wide-open, but fortunately that can be fixed simply in Lightroom with the lens profile correction. I also like to vignette my portraits a bit, so in that sense a little vignetting does a better job of focusing the viewer’s attention on the subject.
One area where Tokina lenses have historically fallen down is with their horrible chromatic aberration performance. Just a refresher — chromatic aberrations occur in the high contrast transition areas of an image. For example an abrupt shift from black to white right next to each other. Oftentimes, a lens will exhibit a line of purple or green fringe as the image shifts from black to white.
In my old Tokina lenses, which were otherwise very good optically, they would exhibit a line of purple fringing — sometimes several pixels wide — in the transition areas. Strangely, this happened with nearly all my Tokina lenses. I’m happy to say, this latest generation of Tokina lens has virtually eliminated that Achilles’ heel! Chromatic aberrations are essentially non-existent.
One of the strong suits of the Tokina is the out of focus area performance or the “bokeh.” With it’s 9 rounded blade aperture, the Tokina renders out of focus backgrounds with smooth silky bokeh! Tokina calls the 85 a “bokeh monster” — I’m not ready to call it that, but it’s pretty darn nice!
Bokeh is always subjective, but I find the bokeh of the 85mm to be creamy and non distracting. It’s a great performance, with very little color fringing on the out-of-focus bokeh balls as well.
Tokina atx-m 85mm f/1.8 — Outstanding value with top notch optics
There’s a new value leader for Sony shooters who are considering an 85mm lens. The Tokina atx-m 85mm f/1.8 is an outstanding value option at a killer price. It’s built considerably better than most lenses in this price range, with the notable exception of weather sealing. Handling, autofocus performance and image quality are all top notch anyway, but are extraordinary for something priced like this.
The value proposition of the Tokina 85 simply can’t be overstated. If you’re in the market, this lens is definitely worth your consideration!
Video Review Here
Tokina atx-m 85mm f/1.8 FE Lens for Sony E
A well-rounded prime for portraiture, the Sony E-mount atx-m 85mm f/1.8 FE from Tokina is a versatile short-telephoto lens mixing a bright design and popular focal length. The f/1.8 maximum aperture suits working in difficult lighting and benefits depth of field control as well as helps to maintain a portable form factor for everyday shooting. An ST-M autofocus system achieves fast and near-silent focusing performance and a nine-blade diaphragm also contributes to a pleasing bokeh quality to suit selective focus imagery.