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  #1  
Old July 27th, 2007, 01:41 AM
Dawid Loubser Dawid Loubser is offline
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Default Tokina 800mm f/8 (screw mount): First Impressions

For the price of a decent pair of shoes, I purchased a second-hand Tokina 800mm f/8 lens. Apart from a few very exotic and expensive lenses, this is about as long a lens (with regards to focal-length) as can be found for an SLR camera.

I've only spent an hour or two with it, but here are my impressions:

If you are used to Canon L-series telephoto lenses, it is quite an adjustment with its manual focus [difficult to track moving objects!], manual aperture [no wide-open metering!] and of course, no goodies like image stabilisation. A great deal more care needs to be put into each shot you make.

Even though the view through the viewfinder was much brighter than what I had expected for an f/8 lens (mounted on my Canon 1D MkIIN) this is, of course, mostly a daytime lens.

The build quality on this lens was just fantastic - I don't think any lens easily betters a white Canon L, but this is certainly no worse. And the controls, however, have a decidedly more "solid metal" and industrial feel to it, and in my copy, everything still moves smoothly and well-damped - quite perfect, actually. It has a large screw-on metal lens hood, and the general fit and finish really surpised me - I had gotten too used to "modern" (read: plastic) lenses. I found it lighter than expected.

I have to rave about this lens' aperture diaphragm: It has 15 blades, and is a thing of mechanical beauty. This lens appears to have perfect bokeh.

A problem I've had with other (old) screw-mount lenses is that the reflections off the digital sensor wreck havoc with your image: it looks great through the viewfinder, but once the mirror swings up, your image is a hazy, flare-ridden mess. This lens does not seem to exhibit this problem at all (the rear element seems to be coated, and seems curved).

I've not done any 'proper' optical testing or pixel-peeping, but I don't really care. From the one semi-decent image I've made with it so far, it seems to exhibit good enough sharpness wide open, decent contrast and colour, but above all, a character which I look forward to exploiting - this is a snapshot of the street scene this morning in northern Johannesburg (and I can honestly say, no intent or care went into making this photograph, the lens was too difficult to hand-hold to compose properly) but I really like what I see. Keep in mind, at 800mm, this scene is more than 500m away from me (sorry if the image is too large, but anything less makes it difficult to judge a lens' character). I find that monochrome suits the character of old lenses well (nostalgia?):



Fine-tuning focus is really difficult, and though I did try with Canon's excellent split-prism focus screen installed, this was not of much use, as f/8 is not enough for that screen. You could still use it to accurately line up edges, but the split prism quadrants go too dark (they interfere with composition and light metering)

I don't know if this will make pin-sharp images, but the above (taken at max aperture) seems pretty decent to me, and I find wildlife photography dull in anyway (where technical superiority is usually very important). For the type of photography I do, this lens looks like it'll suit me to the "T", and at 1/100 the cost of a new Canon EF 600mm L.

What a joy!
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  #2  
Old July 27th, 2007, 02:12 AM
David Hufford David Hufford is offline
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Tokina does make well-built lens. I never knew that they had made and 800mm. Even only in f8, it seems like it could be useful in some situations---especially at that price. It does look pretty good in the focused area in the photo.
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  #3  
Old July 27th, 2007, 02:22 AM
Dawid Loubser Dawid Loubser is offline
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Hi David,

Until the day before yesterday, nor did I know they made a 800mm! There is not much information on the web on this lens (no official info, just a few accounts of it being used for astrophotography, surfing, and some Japanese pages).

The photo I posted was taken at ISO1600, it's the only way to get a high-enough shutter speed for hand-holding :-) Even so, that image was taken at 1/200s, so it's pretty soft.

Even if I were to put this beauty in a cupboard, it would have been worth what I paid for it, but I hope to use it a lot...
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Old July 27th, 2007, 02:03 PM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is online now
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How heavy is the thing, Dawid?

Do you have a picture of it on your camera?

Asher
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  #5  
Old July 29th, 2007, 02:02 PM
Dawid Loubser Dawid Loubser is offline
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Default Update: More images (auto racing)

I don't have a photo of the lens on my camera yet, will try to get one soon (I won't stoop as low as to take one with a cellular phone just yet), but the lens weighs probably about 3.5kg (I would estimate).

I went to a classic/historic race car meet this weekend, and this gave me the perfect opportunity to try it out in what it supposedly does best - getting images of speeding race cars at extreme distances. This lens does not quite have the bulk of a Canon EF 600mm f/4L, but in physical size it is not that far off, so it is quite challenging to swing around and track moving objects.

Then, the extremely shallow depth of field at 800mm, coupled with a manual focus lens, made it extra difficult to track cars. When I examined my first few shots, I almost got disappointed - I thought the lens was too soft to be usable. In the end, however, it turned out that I had to embark on a learning curve to properly use this beast, and I started getting better and better shots. It was a such a nice experience tracking the cars through this veritable telescope (I had never photographed auto racing before), and this is the type of shot I ended up with:



The lens' colour/contrast is not particularly good, but instead of fighting it with post-processing, I decided to embrace it, and in this shot I processed the RAW specifically to have a more period, "washed out" colour look. I absolutely adore the smoothness with which this lens renders images, without being particularly soft. My 28-300L looks perfect and, often, harsh compared to it, and for the right type of shot, I can see that this softer look is a style that I could embrace. I don't know if it's just me, but it looks different to how, say, a cheap Tamron lens is soft. It's kind of a "quality softness"... hard to explain. It doesn't look like there's Vaseline on the lens.

Here is a 100% crop (keeping in mind this image was made with a 800mm lens at a shutter speed of 1/200s while panning to track a car doing 200km/h+, using a monopod):


My biggest criticism of this lens, at this stage, is the chromatic aberration, which can be quite bad (see the bolts just behind the vent), and flaring (not visible in this shot, but when you shoot into the sun) is also a problem - luckily it has a large lens hood (heavy metal, screw-on type).

So, for a perfect "product" shoot, this is not your lens. However, when you embrace this older "look", I do find it has a certain something, and this does feel like a very special lens. I am so glad it's optical character does, at least in some way, match up with the fantastic feel and build quality of this lens. I just don't want to put it down!

But this lens forces you to appreciate image stabilisation in your other lenses... it is very difficult to frame and focus a shot, especially if you are rebelling against tripods as I am.

Again, let me remind you, that I picked this up second-hand from a junk dealer for the price of a good pair of shoes! (a.k.a. "basically for free") and I am absolutely thrilled with what I got.

Does somebody have an image made with a Canon 400mm (say, a 100-400L - the 400 f/2.8 doens't count!) with 2x tele-converter (giving a 800mm f/11) to compare?

Watch this space for further examples, and images of the lens itself.
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  #6  
Old July 29th, 2007, 03:56 PM
John Sheehy John Sheehy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dawid Loubser View Post
My biggest criticism of this lens, at this stage, is the chromatic aberration, which can be quite bad (see the bolts just behind the vent),
I think that what you're seeing there is infrared light out-of-focus, either by the lens or by the curved metallic surfaces (or both). Infrared tends to be purple to magenta in most digitals. Infrared is filtered out, but only a large percent. When you have something that bright and blown out, the small percentage of its IR that gets through is still bright, especially compared to the darker areas it is defocused into.
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  #7  
Old July 30th, 2007, 03:39 AM
Dawid Loubser Dawid Loubser is offline
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Default Moon test

I had a go at a hand-held shot of the moon (focused on infinity, aperture wide open). If you click on the image to view the full-resolution one, you can see again the (what I presume to be) chromatic aberration, here as a faint turquoise band around the moon.

With a high enough shutter speed, you don't need a tripod or image stabilisation to get sharp-enough moon photographs!





John, your theory regarding the IR light sounds plausible, although my moon image here shows (unless you get green IR light) that it is more likely chromatic aberration?

Also, on the same race day, shots with my Canon lens did not show this at all - unless of course they coat their lenses to block infrared? (but I though it was only in front of the imaging sensor).
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  #8  
Old July 31st, 2007, 11:52 PM
Dawid Loubser Dawid Loubser is offline
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Default Bokeh

Wide open (at f/8) the lens really is quite soft (and very difficult to focus correctly) and, with the typical "tree test" has very amplified chromatic aberrations, but the lens renders truly pleasing bokeh, for example:



(sorry for the stupid street lamp pole in the background)
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  #9  
Old August 2nd, 2007, 03:36 AM
Dawid Loubser Dawid Loubser is offline
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Default Chromatic aberration

The standard torture test (wide open aperture, shooting through a tree) illustrates the lens's quite prominent chromatic aberrations at max aperture. However, I was about 100m from this tree, and keeping in mind that 800mm magnifies the subject, as well as the optical faults, to an equal and extreme measure, this is not too bad. Again, this lens will teach me to look less towards the technicalities of an image, and more towards the overall look (haven't we all fallen into that rut?)

Chromatic Aberration test (click for large image)


EOS 1D MkII N, Tokina 800mm f/8 @ f/8, ISO800
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  #10  
Old August 3rd, 2007, 02:16 PM
Dawid Loubser Dawid Loubser is offline
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Default Pictore of lens on camera

Finally, I have a picture to show what it looks like mounted to a EOS 1D MkII N.

Tokina 800mm f/8 (click for larger version)
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  #11  
Old August 3rd, 2007, 03:20 PM
John Sheehy John Sheehy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dawid Loubser View Post
John, your theory regarding the IR light sounds plausible, although my moon image here shows (unless you get green IR light) that it is more likely chromatic aberration?
I'm not saying that the lens doesn't have some CA; what I am saying is that those purple glows that are uniform around very bright spots can be another thing; OOF IR.

CA is determined by oriention of edges relative to the center of the image. Those purple glows around shrome and water waves in the sun do not relate to the center of the image.
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  #12  
Old August 4th, 2007, 12:33 AM
Dawid Loubser Dawid Loubser is offline
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Ah, I see (thank you for clarifying) - you are right, the glows were not relative to orientation vs. the center of the image. So, is this which lenses are typically coated for? Would a filter cure this?
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