Based on the image and built quality, the Tokina 100 macro is a very worthwile alternative to the more expensive macro lenses and belongs to the range of Tokina professional line.
Tokina 100 macro review – Specifications:
The long name of this lens is: Tokina 100 mm F 2.8 AT-X PRO D
Focal Length: 100mm
Maximum Aperture: f/2.8
Construction: 9 elements in 8 groups
Minimum Focus Distance: 11.8 in. (30cm)
Maximum Reproduction Ratio: 1:1
Number of Diaphragm Blades: 9
Picture Angle: 24° 30′ (35mm format)
Filter Size: 55mm
Dimensions: 95.1 x 73mm
It comes with a 55mm lens cap, a rear cap and a bayonet lens hood which can be mounted in the reversed position for transport.
The Tokina 100 macro is a lens designed for both film and digital cameras, so it can be used even on full frame digital cameras.
On the DX cameras (Nikon and Fuji DSLRs), it will act as an 150mm lens on a full frame camera, making it even better for some tasks.
I tested the Tokina 100/2.8 macro in Nikon mount, so all specific details in this review are about the Nikon version (aperture ring, no internal AF motor, etc.).
Tokina 100 macro review – Appearance:
The Tokina 100 macro fully deserves the AT-X PRO designation, being very well built, with a crinkle black finish which resembles some professional Nikon lenses.
The new look is slightly different form the old AT-X lenses and at the moment only the Tokina 100 macro and the Tokina 12-24 share it.
The distance scale indicates meters, feet and the reproduction ratio. There is also a simplified depth of field scale.
The Tokina 100 macro has a convenient focus limiter that can lock the focus in 1.28 to infinity range, helping it focus faster.
It also features the Tokina One Touch Focus Clutch Mechanism for easy switching between manual and Auto focus. The real advantage on Nikon cameras is that the camera does not need to be switched back to manual focus.
The lens extends about 45mm when focused to the minimum distance – roll the mouse over the image above to see how it looks fully extended.
The lens’ multi-coatings is the new type, intended to minimize the reflections from the CD and CMOS sensors in the current DSLRs.
The filter thread does not rotate during focusing, facilitating the use of polarizing filters and macro ring flashes.
The Tokina 100 macro has a fixed rubber ring just above the aperture ring, about where the zoom ring is on zoom lenses. This rubber ring is very handy for mounting the lens on the camera, it can even be mounted and operated ( except for the Focus Clutch ) with the hood in reversed position.
Tokina 100 macro review – In use:
At 95 mm long, the Tokina 100 macro is not a big lens for its focal length, but due to the 490g it has enough heft to inspire confidence even for demanding assignments.
Due to the 2.8 aperture, the image in the viewfinder is bright, which is very useful when shooting macro images – remember that at the 1:1 reproduction ratio the effective aperture is 2 stops darker or when shooting in dark environments.
The frontal lens is well recessed (3cm) which makes the deep hood rather optional, but I prefer to use a lens hood whenever possible.
The lens hood is 5cm deep, but you can still align a polarizing filter carefully using your index finger. If you find this operation too cumbersome and use polarizers frequently, just buy a generic 55mm lens hood and screw it on top of the filter. It will not be as effective as the original Tokina hood but will be good enough in most cases and your life will be much easier when trying to precisely align the polarizing filter.
The AF is fast for a macro lens and very accurate, and Focus Clutch Mechanism will help if you want to switch to manual focus. Due to the bright image in the viewfinder and reduced depth of field the manual focus is very usable.
Due to its optical construction and the 9 blades aperture, the Tokina 100 macro in a very useful lens for a lot of tasks.
First, it is a very good macro lens, offering a good working distance even in extreme macro mode: at 1:1 you still have about 11.5cm from the lens to the subject, with the hood off.
This is very helpful not only to avoid scaring the critters you want to photograph, but also to allow for better lighting setups for very small objects, as jewelry.
This makes it suitable for flowers, insects and other small creatures outside and still life and product shots in the studio. Due to its longer focal length, the perspective distortion, as compared to a 50-60mm lens will be attenuated.
You should also remember that the 100mm is about the longest focal length which can be confidently used for handheld macro shots in available light, because with longer focal lengths both the framing and focusing will become more difficult in the absence of a steady support.
Than, the Tokina 100 macro is very good for portraits and a useful short telephoto lens for general use. It has a very low intimidation factor and a pretty long working distance so your models will feel at ease.
The only problem might be the rather unusual 55mm filter thread which may make you buy another polarizer, but at 55mm the filter prices are reasonable.
Tokina 100 macro review – Performance:
I intended to use my Tokina 100 macro both as a macro lens and as a portrait lens, so I compared it with the Nikon 60 2.8 Micro in the macro range and with my Nikon 80-200 2.8 for the portrait range.
For macro, my Tokina 100 macro is as good or better than my Micro Nikkor 60 2.8, which is regarded as one of the best macro lenses ever made. I was a little surprised, since my Micro Nikkor 60 2.8 is pretty old but I always considered it an extremely sharp lens for close up and macro subjects. We can conclude that the Tokina 100 macro compares favorable with the best in its class.
For portraits, I compared the Tokina 100 macro with my Nikon 80-200 2.8 at a distance of about 4m (12 ft). The Tokina 100 macro was a little better at 2.8 and 4 and then both lenses offered similar quality.
This was a pleasant surprise, since I thought that macro lenses are just OK at normal distances, but this one matched one of the finest quality zooms available.
The Tokina 100 macro has a pretty good bokeh, due to the 9 aperture blades.
The Tokina 100 macro makes a very good short telephoto lens and it can be a useful addition for general photography in the following kits:
Nikon 17-55/2.8 + Tokina 100/2.8 – great kit for social and wedding photography, much lighter than with a 80-200/2.8.
Of course, there are countless lens combinations in which the Tokina 100 macro would be at home, but I wanted to emphasize that it can successfully replace a tele-zoom lens in a lot of situations when the focal length is long enough and you would favor 2.8 aperture and a very high optical quality over a zoom versatility.
The Tokina 100/2.8 macro is much smaller and lighter than an 80-200/2.8 and much faster than any consumer zoom lenses, not to mention it is a superb macro lens.
Tokina 100 macro review – Conclusion:
I find the Tokina 100 macro a surprisingly high quality and versatile lens.
If you, like me, favor zoom lenses, a prime lens may look limiting, but you already know that for exquisite macro performance you need a fixed focal lens.
Price – considering both optical and build quality, and the number of applications for this lens, it’s a bargain.
Image quality – one of the sharpest macro lenses you can get. And if you are using consumer grade telephoto zooms, you will have a huge, pleasant surprise seeing what your camera is capable of.
Good aperture – 2.8 is standard on normal and around 100mm macro lenses, but if you compare with a 4.5 zoom you will like it.
Good size – about as a consumer telephoto lens, but much better built. The Tokina 100 macro would make a great pair with a standard zoom lens, even with a Nikon 17-55 2.8, to supplement the need for a high quality, small size telephoto.