Review Tokina AT-X 70-200 mm F4 PRO FX VCM-S @ FX


Sample image Review Tokina AT-X 70-200 mm F4 PRO FX VCM-S @ FX

In 2012, Tokina showed a prototype of a Tokina 70-200 mm f/4 VCM zoom. Tokina PRO lenses are known for their high-quality optical and mechanical properties. Tokina didn’t complete the development of an incredibly solidly built zoom lens for prosumer and professional overnight. The Tokina 70-200 mm f/4 is the first Tokina zoom lens that is equipped with image stabilization (VCM) and – unless I’m mistaken – the ultrasonic AF (recognizable by the S in the lens name) is also a premier for Tokina. This Tokina telephoto zoom with a list price of 1200 euros/store price below 1000 euros is potentially an attractive workhorse for many (semi)professionals. Don’t cheer too soon. The Tokina 70-200 mm f/4 is for the time being only available with a Nikon mount. We have reviewed it on both FX (the most pixels on a sensor) and on DX (the most pixels per mm), starting with the Nikon D800E.

Tokina AT-X 70-200 mm F4 PRO FX VCM-S and Nikon D800E

LetsPlayTokina AT-X 70-200 mm F4 PRO FX VCM-S @ 200 mm f/4 , 1/500, 100 ISO
The Tokina 70-200 mm f/4 VCM is a perfect companion for documentary or street photography, with which you can record a subject for a slightly greater distance without being noticed. The small sharpness depth of a shot made at a 200 mm focal distance and aperture 4 on the Nikon D800E shows that you can well isolate a subject from any disturbing elements in the background or foreground.

Build and auto focus

This lens is clearly built for use under the most extreme circumstances. Tokina has gone so far in that, that the Tokina 70-200 mm f/4 at 980 grams is even 130 grams heavier than the Nikon 70-200 mm f/4 VR from Nikon. On the lens is a switch for AF/MF and for the image stabilization (on/off).

The minimum focus distance is 1 meter. Focusing runs fast and silent in most situations, thanks to the new ring-ultra-sonic motor. This AF technology makes it possible to overrule the AF manually at any given moment, in order to move the focus due to creative considerations. The focusing takes place completely internally, so that the front lens does not rotate. That is nice when using a circular polarized filter or a graduated filter.

Just like the Nikon 70-200 mm f/4, this zoom lens is delivered without a tripod collar. Many photographers choose an f/4 70-200 mm (with image stabilization) as a work horse for journalistic reporting, street photography, wedding or documentary photography. In those cases, you are generally not working from a tripod. For those photographers, a tripod collar would have an unnecessary price increase as a consequence. If you work from a tripod, then it is absolutely advisable to purchase the tripod collar, because the lens is built so solidly that it weighs nearly 9 ounces.

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 DSC9942miniTokina AT-X 70-200 mm F4 PRO FX VCM-S @ 200 mm f/4 , 1/500, 100 ISO


At f/4, just as with the Nikon 70-200 mm f/4, you will find (1 stop) vignetting in uncorrected RAW files at all focal distances. We carried out this lens review with the in-camera vignetting correction for jpg files set to Normal. In that case – as you can see in the image shown here – vignetting in the Nikon D800E jpg files is so low that – just as with the Nikon 70-200 mm f/4 – you have no more trouble with it. On this point, the 70-200 mm f/4 lenses from Tokina and Nikon are neck and neck. Vignet

butterflyTokina 70-200 mm f/4 VCM @ f/8, 1/800, 200 ISO

Certainly in combination with the Nikon D800E, there is enough resolution remaining for a usable partial enlargement.


The distortion runs just as with the Nikon 70-200 mm f/4 and many other zoom lenses from barrel-shaped distortion at the shortest focal distance to pincushion-shaped at the longest focal distance. Only at the longest focal distance is the pincushion-shaped distortion of the Tokina 70-200 mm f/4 is more visible (1.5%). If you photograph in RAW, distortion – if needed – is simple to correct with software in Lightroom and Photoshop with help from lens correction profiles. Distort


The Tokina 70-200 mm f/4 VCR is delivered including a sun cap, with a luxuriously matte inner surface. It’s good to use this sun cap, even if that’s only to protect the front lens. Without the sun cap – or if you photograph directly against a bright light source – you can have trouble with flare under extreme backlighting conditions, such as in the practice shot shown here. flare
The design of the Tokina 70-200 mm f/4 VCM is (with 19 elements, of which 3 are ultra-low dispersion, in 14 groups) comparable with the design of the Nikon 70-200 mm f/4 VR (20 elements, of which 3 are ultra-low dispersion, in 14 groups).



Below, we have illustrated the MTF diagrams of Tokina and Nikon at a 70 mm focal distance next to each other. In these images, on the basis of the lens design, the contrast is shown in the center (left) to the outer corner (right). The higher the line, the better. That is done by Nikon and Tokina for the global contrast (10 lp/mm) and the fine details/microcontrast (30 lp/mm). If we look at the sagittal resolution (the fixed lines), then you see that both the contrast and the microcontrast of the Nikon 70-200 mm f/4 in the corners – according to the reports from the manufacturer – is higher. We see that in our measurements. In the center and on the edges, the two lenses differ little from each other as far as sharpness is concerned, but in the outer corners, the Nikon 70-200 mm f/4 wins.  Res
Note: The resolution of lens and camera is in this case so high that another scale must be used in order to be able to show the results.

BokehliciousTokina AT-X 70-200 mm F4 PRO FX VCM-S @ 200 mm f/8 , 1/160, 200 ISO
The small sharpness depth, thanks to the long focal distance, isolates the subject from the yellow boat in the background.

Chromatic aberration

The application of three lens elements with a super-low scattering (displayed in purple) means that chromatic aberration is kept nicely limited across the whole zoom range. Because Nikon cameras remove any chromatic aberration from jpg files, you don’t see any of it in the jpg files.

VCM: Image stabilization

We have tested the image stabilization (called VCM by Tokina: Vibration Correction Module) by making a series of shots at a focal distance of 70 mm and at various shutter times, both with and without image stabilization. Subsequently, we analyzed the shots with Imatest.

A shot made without image stabilization at a shutter time of 1/200 of a second is just as sharp as a shot made with image stabilization at a shutter time of 1/25 of a second. That is an effective profit of 3 stops. Because small differences in resolution are measurable with Imatest, but are not visible to the naked eye, most photographers will find a shot made at 70 mm and 1/13 (4 stops difference) sufficiently sharp. Tokina claims that with VCM, a profit of 3 stops will be realized in practice.

OngemerktTokina AT-X 70-200 mm F4 PRO FX VCM-S @ 200 mm f/4 , 1/500, 100 ISO


A shot made at a 200 mm focal distance and aperture 4 ensures that you can isolate a subject well from the background, as you can see in the practice shots. In the image shown here, you see a miniaturized picture of our bokeh test setup, in which you can see on the right-hand side a slight form of cat’s eye bokeh, as a consequence of vignetting. We find that in practically every review with full-frame cameras. The bokeh of a bright light source in the background is nicely round thanks to the 9 rounded aperture blades. There is certainly an edge discernible. Bokeh

Conclusion Tokina AT-X 70-200 mm F4 PRO FX VCM-S review with Nikon D800E

Tokina70200f4 Look in our list of reviewed lenses or the lenses we have reviewed with a Nikon mount in order to compare the performance of this lens with other lenses.
ECWYSIWYG score: This table shows the performance of this lens if you save the files in the camera as jpg, where you have all available in-camera lens corrections applied. This score gives you for this lens/test camera combination: “What you see is what you get”. {insertgrid ID = 308}
ECPure RAW score: This table displays the performance of this lens if it is saved in the camera as a RAW file. This score approaches the intrinsic quality of the combination of lens and test camera.
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  • High image quality in all areas
  • High build quality with professional finish
  • Effective built-in image stabilization (premier for Tokina)
  • Ultrasonic AF motor (premier for Tokina), with which you can focus manually without taking the lens off of AF
  • Store price below 1000 euros


  • Heavy
  • Sharpness in the outer corners lags behind the very high center sharpness
  • Sensitive to backlighting
  • Not inexpensive
The Tokina 70-200 mm f/4 is a lens with two Tokina premiers. First of all, this is the first Tokina lens with built-in image stabilization. With a profit of 3 stops, you surpass the applicability of a 70-200 mm f/2.8 zoom without image stabilization, as long as the subject itself does not move. That makes this an attractive documentary lens. This is also the first Tokina lens with an ultrasonic AF, with which you focus faster, but that additionally means that you can relocate the focal point without having to take the camera off of AF. When you realize that Tokina has carried out two effective revolutions at the same time, it’s understandable that Tokina has taken more than enough time for the development of this lens. Both developments are progress for Tokina. Fans of Tokina lenses will be pleased in the coming years with the application of these techniques in other lenses.
The Tokina 70-200 mm f/4 VCM is a very good lens, with which every prosumer or professional photographer can make a lifetime’s worth of satisfactory photos. Both the build quality and the image quality are of a professional level. Whether the price difference of the Nikon 70-200 mm f/4 IS with the Tokina 70-200 mm f/4 VCM is great enough to convince the FX target audience to choose the Tokina, I find it difficult to assess. It is possible that a DX target audience that pays a bit more attention to money than the group of photographers who have put down thousands of euros for their camera will find it extra interesting. In addition, the differences in sharpness in the outer corners between the Tokina 70-200 mm f/4 and the Nikon 70-200 mm f/4 will most likely disappear. Soon, especially for photographers with a DX camera, there will appear a review of the Tokina 70-200 mm f/4 on a Nikon D7100. 

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