Tokina announces shoe-mounted red dot finder for long telephoto lenses
Well, this is an interesting one. Tokina has announced a new SZ Super Tele Finder Lens. Essentially, it mounts to your camera’s hotshoe and puts a red dot on your subject to help you more easily track it with long telephoto and super-telephoto lenses. It doesn’t actually project a dot onto the subject but provides a wider viewfinder, with a dot in the centre of it that lets you get a wider view of the scene.
Having a wider viewfinder when using telephoto and super-telephoto lenses with an extremely tiny field of view makes it easier to keep track of moving subjects. It lets you adapt to the twist and turns nature often takes as it moves. Having the dot there just helps to ensure your positioning vs what the camera’s seeing through the lens. But is this one really worth it?
Why do you need a red dot finder?
The video above demonstrates the basic principle of how and why you’d use the SZ Super Tele Finder. You pop it onto your hotshoe when shooting wildlife. You calibrate the dot, presumably to match the area of the viewfinder that’s covered by the camera’s sensor, and then shoot away. It makes it quick and easy to adapt and find subjects. About the calibration mechanism, Tokina says:
Tokina SZ Super Tele Finder Lens requires red dot calibration before shooting. For this purpose there are two screws for vertical and horizontal adjustments on the top and left side of the unit. Adjustment screws of the Tokina SZ Super Tele Finder Lens do not come out from the surface, so the chance of accidentally shifting the adjustments is much smaller.
Once calibrated, the dot should stick to the spot you’ve chosen (or close enough to it) regardless of the angle you’re looking at. The SZ Super Tele Finder element in the viewfinder doesn’t actually magnify or distort your field of view, though. It simply serves as a place to project the dot.
This isn’t the first such finder on the market. Dot finders have been around for decades – for both cameras and guns. The most recent photography related release that springs to mind is the Olympus EE-1 from back in back in 2015. Despite being made by Olympus (and it’s still available today), it’s compatible with any camera you want to put it on. They’re not a very widely used accessory, though.
Tokina’s SZ Super Tele Finder is made from a compact one-piece metal body, so it should be pretty durable. Durability is important when you’re out traipsing through the wilderness. It has both vertical and horizontal calibrated to ensure you can match it up to the viewfinder of just about any camera you fit it to. After three minutes of no activity, it goes into sleep mode and completely turns itself off after five hours.
Five hours might seem like a long time, but given that many astrophotographers use such finders to pick specific parts of the night sky… Not so much. If you’re doing ultra-long exposures and you’ve got a mechanism to counter the earth’s rotation, this is a handy way to check that your camera is still looking at the right spot before your capture has finished.
It’s powered by a CR-2032 battery that provides between 28-440 hours of use, depending on the brightness of the red dot. Naturally, in darker conditions, like those for astrophotography, you want it to be as dim as possible. But you can brighten it up for when you’re shooting in super bright conditions. Tokina says that the multi-coatings on the two elements in the SZ Super Tele Finder viewfinder allow you to easily see the dot, even during those bright daylight conditions.
The problem with the SZ Super Tele Finder
All the above sounds great, right? The thing is, Tokina’s trying to charge $400 for this thing. The Olympus one mentioned above only costs $129 and has eight years of history and reviews behind it. The Tokina one also looks almost identical to a number of red dot finders that have been available for handguns for many years. And at a quarter of the price, too. A quick eBay search reveals this one, which looks very similar in appearance, available for $108.
It’s not a perfect match. Tokina doesn’t appear to have just taken somebody else’s product and stamped their name on it – although at least one Internet commentator has suggested that they’ve done precisely that. They are awfully close, though. There are many examples of red dot finders for handguns out there for the same price or less that seem to do exactly the same job as the $400 Tokina device.
If you own a 3D printer, you might be better off getting one of the scopes designed for handguns and printing your own adapter to mount it to your camera. If you don’t – or you just don’t want to go through the effort – the $129 Olympus EE-1 still looks like a much better option for your wallet.
Still want one?
For those that have $400 burning a hole in their pocket, though, the Tokina SZ Super Tele Finder Lens is available to buy now for $399 from the Tokina website.
John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.