Tokina 300mm 2.8 review

 
Tokina 300 2.8 review

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(Discontinued, 500-1300 USD used. 2.4m/8′ MFD, 2.3kg/5.07 lbs.)

The Tokina 300 2.8 is a discontinued fast telephoto prime lens which appears here and there sometimes.

The price range can be different ranging from 500 USD to 1300 USD.

Official name

Tokina 300 AF PRO SD II

Tokina 300 2.8 versions

The subject of this review is the gold ringed version with Canon EF mount. This lens is an af lens, not manual. There is a red ringed manual focusing version as well. Other available mounts are Nikon F and Minolta AF.

What is it good for

Sports, wildlife/bird photography or distant portraits which comes to my mind.

As a birder I would like the lens at least 420mm in most of the situations, which means used with the 1.4x Teleconverter. In some cases the f/2.8 brightness can be really interesting.

Tokina 300 2.8 quick specification

You can find a more detailed specification at the bottom of the page, with all details regarding many things.

Minimum focus distance : 2.4 m / 7.9′
Weight: 2.3kg (5.07 lbs)
No of aperture blades: 9
Max aperture: f/2.8
Min aperture: f/32
Lens elements: 9 elements in 7 groups included 2 SLD the 2 front lens
Mounts: Canon, Nikon, Minolta/Sony

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Tokina 300 2.8 build quality

The lens is solidly built. but has not got as desirable build quality as the Canon 400mm f/5.6 for example. The large 112mm front element dominates the look of the lens, after the “neck part” is much narrower, where the manual focus ring is placed, this also results front heavyness. The biggest downside compare to today’s (2016) lenses regarding build quality is the screw-drive autofocus system. The manual focus ring is nicely can be operated, but not as smooth as with older manual focus Nikkors or newer high-quality lenses but better than on many today’s plastic wonders. The lens has a tripod mount and a relatively huge barrell shaped hood. The front lens cap has an interesting screw-on design (also means hard to replace).

Tokina 300 2.8 autofocus

I thought that my lens af has broken, but it came out the problem is with my camera. So I use manual focusing with the lens. It was a useful experience to see that the depth of field is extremely shallow even in relatively huge distances. There is an earlier review where they compared 4 300mm 2.8 lenses (Nikon, Sigma, Tokina, Minolta) out of which Tokina had the second fastest autofocus after the Nikkor.

Tokina 300 2.8 optical quality

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In close distances the lens is very sharp even with the converter. The picture above was made at 300mm f/5.6

It is a very sharp lens even at f/2.8, but even sharpens noticeably at f/3.2 and more so at f/4. The biggest optical problem is Chromatic aberration around high contrast areas (tree branches against sky, snow, white subjects) more than the alternatives. Somehow most Tokina lenses suffer the same problem. The lens has 2 SD elements to deal with this problem (the 2 big front glass), but the problem is still there. Wide open at f/2.8 there is some light falloff as well (dark corners) especially on FF cameras.
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the subject is 100m away (33-34′) or more Canon 30D + Tokina 300mm 2.8 at f/3.2 ISO 1600
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100% crop of the 3504 pixel image, very sharp, the low image quality is because of the high iso used

Chromatic aberration

There is a chromatic aberration even in a relatively dark environment in high contrast areas. The picture shows a 100% crop of small 5-6 mm fruits.
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Bokeh

With this brightness the lens is very effectively can blur the background, not just at close distances.

f/2.8 brightness

Today f/2.8 is the biggest available brightness, as far as I know there is no 300mm f/2 lens, but previously Nikon had a 300mm f/2. One hand this results in 112mm front element and the attached
weight, on the other hand results higher shutter speeds, more light to sensor, better sharpness, and more usability in not ideal conditions. This is the most interesting feature of the lens.

Teleconverters

The lens reasonably sharp with the 1.4x extender, but not stellar. The 2x is too much for this lens I think.

Tokina 300 2.8 Pros

-Very sharp, even wide open
-f/2.8 brightness makes it very usable
-very good with the 1.4 Kenko TC (suppose with others as well, not compatible with Canon converters)
-Cheap price can be achieved compare to quality and brightness

Tokina 300 2.8 Cons

-Chromatic aberration at high contrast areas
-Heavy (2.3 kg) and front heavy
-Vignetting wide open
-Screw dive af, which is not as attractive than USM HSM siblings

Compared to other 300mm f/2.8 lenses

Such lenses exist in Canon, Nikon, Tamron, Sigma and Minolta mounts. All these lenses are very sharp lenses. If we check prices the also discontinued Minolta is much more expensive. Canon and Nikon versions are much more expensive, even used discontinued version cost several times more.

Tokina 300 2.8 Bottom line / verdict

This is as many things in life: where you came, and what you expect. If you have the budget for Canon or Nikon versions of these highly popular 300mm f/2.8 lenses do not bother with this Tokina, if you come with tight budget this lens has decent value, depending which price you can get. The Canon and Nikon lenses biggest advantage is the better controlled chromatic aberration and USM/SWM drive which is much more quiet and more enjoyable. Sharpness and colors/contrast are also better at the native versions, but the Tokina is very sharp as well even with the 1.4X TC. With the 2X TC, the difference compare to Canon Nikon version are more pronounced.

On more comment for the price. For 1000 USD/EUR I perhaps expect no CA and USM drive. Such lenses like the Canon 400mm f/5.6 or the Nikon 300mm f/4 Af-s meets this criteria around this price point but brightness wise the Tokina has 1 stop advantage. Other contenders if we interested in wildlife/bird photography are the Tamron 150-600mm and Sigma 150-600mm lenses. Both of them quite good actually (with silent drive and stabilizer as well), and all mentioned lens has much less weight, and better weight distribution (not as front heavy). If I compare picture quality the above mentioned lenses are better according to my opinion, if you want to use the lens with a converter. The Tokina advantage is the f/2.8 aperture at 300mm, which can be interesting in dawn/duck situations from a hide. For sport needs considered CA can be really annoying for example sportsmen dressed in black white shirts etc.

Tokina 300 2.8 detailed specification
Dimensions: 117×187 mm (4.6×7.4″)
No of aperture blades: 9
Filter size: 112mm
Minimum focus distance : 2.4 m /7.9′
Autofocus: yes
Weight: 2.3kg (5.07 lbs)
Stabilizer: No
Max aperture: f/2.8
Min aperture: f/32
Lens elements: 8 elements in 6 groups included 2 SLD the 2 front lens
Mounts: Canon, Nikon, Minolta/Sony
Focus limiter: No
Tripod mount: yes
Rotating front element: No
Rotating part during focusing: yes/No
Accessories: Front and back lens cap/tripod collar, soft case
Initial price: 2200 USD
Color: black with golden ring
Coatings: Multi coated
Lens Hood: MH112N
Internal focus design: yes
Tokina 300 2.8 more sample images

Unfortunately I only can test the lens in winter in overcast afternoon weather. In bright light the results would be much more pleasing.

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420mm f/4 iso 500 1/200s 300mm f/5.6 iso 1600 1/320s 420mm f/5.6 iso 1250 1/200s
Tokina 300 2.8 more product images
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420mm f/4 iso 500 1/200s 300mm f/5.6 iso 1600 1/320s 420mm f/5.6 iso 1250 1/200s