Tokina has launched a super telephoto 400mm f/8 reflex lens… in 2020

Jul 17, 2020

John Aldred

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.

Tokina has launched a super telephoto 400mm f/8 reflex lens… in 2020

Jul 17, 2020

John Aldred

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.

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Tokina has announced a new Tokina SZX SUPER TELE 400mm F8 Reflex MF lens. Yes, really. I know, it’s strange in this day and age to see a new reflex lens. For those who aren’t familiar, they work a little like certain telescopes, using internal mirrors to effectively increase the focal length of the lens without it actually having to be very long. They used to be very popular, but these days… not so much.

It’s been released for a whole bunch of different mounts (sort of), including Nikon F, Canon EF, Sony E, Fuji X and Micro Four Thirds. The lens itself appears to have a screw-on mount with a 42mm diameter and then adapters are used to mount it to the system you’re using. But I have to ask, in this day and age, why?

Despite the fact that it has a 42mm thread to mount the adapter for your chosen camera system, it’s not an M42 lens mount. The thread pitch is 0.75mm, which is different from the 1mm pitch of M42. It looks like your chosen adapter comes with the lens, but others are available to buy separately.

The adapter, in this case, isn’t an issue because it means you can swap it over to different systems easily, and it’s manual focus anyway, with a fixed f/8 aperture, so there are no settings to change and your camera doesn’t need communication with it.

Focal length400mm
FormatFull Frame
Mount42mm thread (Adapters for Canon EF, Nikon F, Sony E, Micro Four Thirds, Fuji X)
Focus typeManual focus
Aperture RingNo
Max aperturef/8
Min aperturef/8
Min focus distance~115cm
Optics6 elements in 5 groups
Angle of view6°8′
Aperture bladesN/A
Filter diameter67mm
Dimensions74 x 77mm
Weight355g

Tokina says that the lens is ideally suited to travel photography, because it’s so small and lightweight, although unless your travel involves safari, it might not be all that useful as a travel photography lens. You’re certainly not going to be doing street photography in the middle of Venice at 400mm, especially if you’re on a Fuji or Micro Four Thirds camera.

Even then, though, one of the unique characteristics of reflex lenses (also called “mirror lenses”) is the donut shaped bokeh they provide, particularly at longer focus distances. The image below wasn’t shot with the new Tokina, but here you can see an example of what I mean. For some, this is unusual and desirable. But for others, it’s distracting and definitely not wanted.

An example of the “donut bokeh” created by the Minolta AF Reflex 500mm F8 (CC BY-SA 4.0 – Mikeytown2)

As to how it actually looks on the Tokina lens, well, it’s a little something like this. The donut shape is due to the fact that the centre of the lens is blocked on the front. So, the image is only entering the lens outside of that. When that’s all focused through the elements and then thrown back out of focus from your sensor, you’re essentially seeing the shape of the lens opening.

One interesting selling point of this lens is that Tokina is also billing it as a macro lens, with a 1:2.5x magnification ratio. With the minimum focus distance of 1.15m, they say you can capture an object that’s 6x9cm on a full-frame sensor. Admittedly, the example shown on the Tokina website doesn’t appear to exhibit much of the donut bokeh at this short of a distance.

A “macro” shot with the Tokina 400mm f/8 Reflex.

Ok, so Reflex lenses used to be quite popular for longer focal lengths. They were small and they were pretty inexpensive, too, which led to much of their appeal, despite the slow f/8 aperture and donut bokeh. But most people these days tend to just go for regular straight 400mm lenses, or they’ll use a 70-200/2.8 with a 2x teleconverter.

But has their drop in popularity simply been due to the fact that nobody’s released a new one in a while? That looks to be the gamble Tokina’s taken with this lens. Maybe they’ll make them fashionable again.

There’s been no word on a price for the Tokina SZX SUPER TELE 400mm F8 Reflex MF lens yet, although historically reflex lenses have been pretty inexpensive. That’s been one of their main appeals vs regular straight primes. The lens expected to start shipping on August 7th.

The lens will be available on its own or in a kit with an adapter for your specific camera (Nikon F, Canon EF, Sony E, Fuji X or Micro Four Thirds). Additional adapters are available separately if you happen to shoot multiple systems and want to use it on them all. You can find out more about it on the Tokina website.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

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.

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14 responses to “Tokina has launched a super telephoto 400mm f/8 reflex lens… in 2020”

  1. Michael Estwik Avatar
    Michael Estwik

    Donut Bokeh! ?

  2. Philip La Lumiere Avatar
    Philip La Lumiere

    With how sensitive cameras are these days, f8 is much more viable in 2020 than the film days

  3. Mike Downey Avatar
    Mike Downey

    You can usually find the Tamron 500mm f8 lens for about $100 online so I wonder how many of these will sell?

  4. Lars Stokholm Avatar
    Lars Stokholm

    One of the complaints in the analog days, was that they were very hard to focus. With focus peaking that has become a lot easier.

  5. Tj Ó Seamállaigh Avatar
    Tj Ó Seamállaigh

    Strange
    always called them Mirror Lenses. This is the first time I see the term “reflex lens”

    I remember also some people calling it “barrel lens”.

    It’s fun for creative projects and going on your own pace. Travel? Not sure about that.

    I have Rokinon 800mm mirror lens, and generally speaking, shots tend to lack contrast in general. Lot of work needed to enhance the looks. But it’s fun to use away from the humdrum of photography genres

  6. Marco Peixoto Avatar
    Marco Peixoto

    Back in the day major issues with this Mirror lens were mainly the lack of contrast and of course the huge focal at f8.

    Now those issues are almost no issue at all by using higher isos and simple post processing.

    I need to find my Tamron that even had a 2x teleconverter adapter.

    1. Paul Menard Avatar
      Paul Menard

      Marco Peixoto I have one, holding it steady is surprisingly hard on my crop a77ii.

  7. David Addams Avatar
    David Addams

    This lens uses something called a T Mount. It dates back to 1957. (Introduced by the company that later became Tamron.) It allowed them to produce a lens that could be used on any camera by means of an adapter.

    It’s a mount commonly used on mirror lenses.

    Someone writing for a photography site doesn’t know this?

  8. johnny Avatar
    johnny

    Tokina should have made it 500mm or 600mm.

  9. Kim Ginnerup Avatar
    Kim Ginnerup

    does anyone know if this will be equiv to 800mm on m43, they say it is 400mm full frame so shouldn’t crop factor be applied.

    1. Flauschie Avatar
      Flauschie

      The 2x factor does apply on MFT so yes, it’ll be equiv. to 800mm

  10. The Moeller Avatar
    The Moeller

    I might find use for this lens with an astro setup.

    Much smaller than an equivalent 400mm telescope, and can be mounted easily on a skyguider or something small.

  11. Jolyon Ralph Avatar
    Jolyon Ralph

    Hope you like bokeh donuts.

  12. Jadotch Avatar
    Jadotch

    This will be AWESOME on an RF-EF “drop in filter” adapter. F/8 is a little slow, but acceptable for day light photography with modern ISOs. With a variable ND filter behind the lens there is a LOT of potential here. I am definitely going to order one.

    If Tonika is listening, I would LOVE to see more Reflex lenses for the EF mount.