Friday, February 2, 2018

Review of the Tokina SD 35-200mm f/4-5.6

Going through a near-forgotten hard drive, I discovered some old pictures taken with a wild assortment of lenses. Beginning my... digital photography life, I remember desperately trying to find a "magic" lens, that would give me superb image quality at a very low price. We have all been naive at some point or another... In any case, one of those lenses was the Tokina SD 35-200mm f/4-5.6. It's a manual-focus lens from the old days of photography. I remember that I'd bought it for just a few bucks, thinking (laugh all you want) that I'd managed to find the perfect lens.

200mm is good to have, but the image quality leaves a lot to be desired

+ Nice focal-length range (especially for FX); also comes with a "macro" switch that allows you to get closer
+ solid construction quality
used models (the only available!) of the Tokina SD 35-200mm f/4-5.6 can be cheap

- image quality poor: lots of flare, soft, low contrast
- manual focus over 150mm can be troublesome (though read this)
- big, heavy; a lens from a time long gone

Intended Users
Great for:
  • being expendable, it'd make a nice lens to take to dirty, sandy, or overall compromising environments
  • cheap option if you want to check focal lengths before committing to a higher-quality, more modern option
  • Portrait photography? The softness and lower contrast might give you some very artistic, a bit washed-out appearance. I'd try it when shooting film with Portra 
The close-up switch is useful but, again, the image quality isn't ideal. 

Not for:
  • DX. The focal-length range is quite useless (35mm on DX is too long). If you're looking for a cheap (and much better) lens take a look at the Nikkor Series E 70-210 f/4. If you want a superzoom, see my suggested options here.
  • landscape, or highly textured scenes. Resolution isn't great, the flare can be pronounced, and the contrast is low
  • fast action, obviously enough. It's manual focus, remember?

Final Verdict
I remember shooting that lens with my Nikon D40 for about two weeks, thinking that it would get better once I learn the tricks. Well, it got a bit better, but it wasn't the magic lens I had envisioned. It's usable, and it can be particularly attractive for certain portrait shots, but let's not kid ourselves. It's an old lens, and its age shows.

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