Nikon’s lens lineup for the Z-mount is still fairly sparse at the telephoto end of the spectrum (as I noted e.g. in my post on the Sentinel-6 launch). I was hoping for the 100-400mm being released soon by Nikon, but so far there hasn’t been much movement on lenses with long focal lengths outside of the 70-200mm and the 24-200mm. To fill up my camera bag in the interim with some longer lenses, I decided to give the Tokina SZX 400mm f/8 a try now that it comes as a Z-mount version.
The lens has some unique properties. First of all, it is a reflex lens, i.e. it uses mirrors and not only refractive elements. The backside of one mirror can be seen on the front element, and this arrangement results in a ring-shaped bokeh in out-of-focus areas. Online opinions about this type of bokeh diverge. My take: out-of-focus areas look busier, which makes it harder to isolate the subject.
The lens has a fixed aperture of f/8; cranking up the ISO settings of the camera helps to compensate. Next, it is a manual focus lens. That takes a bit getting used to—even at f/8, the long focal distance makes it challenging to get targets into focus, especially when they move.
There is also no image stabilization built into the lens, but the Z-system has it built into the camera body. Configuring it as a No-CPU lens in the camera enables stabilization (it also has no electronics reporting its type to the camera). All of these compromises result in a fairly light and compact lens that currently costs around $250. However, as you can see in the pictures above, the provided Z-mount adapter makes it a bit more bulky compared to the lens alone (as you may see it commonly featured online).
Some snapshots taken with the lens are below. There is no Lightroom profile for it yet, hence there are no standard profile corrections. Subjectively, the colors come out a bit more dull by default and require a tad more work during post-processing. For reference, a wider view of the hillside shot is in this video. The picture of the moon is a tighter crop—400mm did not get me that far to it after all. Note the ring-shaped bokeh in the shots with foliage in the background.
Overall, this has been a fun addition to my camera bag. The two gripes I have: first, the lens has a very pronounced circular vignette (see e.g. in the DTLA shot below) that is hard to get rid of just using manual Lightroom settings (i.e. without a lens profile). Second, bright light from the side can cause hazy artifacts in the picture, so one should bring the lens hood. However, the hood is large and doesn’t attach to the lens backwards for easy transport.
Update: I’ve added a more edited version using a custom lens profile of the skyline picture.
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