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Tokina Cinema AT-X 50-135mm T/3 Lens Review

Gary Wolstenholme takes a look at the 50-135mm T/3 lens from Tokina, designed with film-makers in mind.


|  Tokina CINEMA ATX 50-135mm T3 in Interchangeable Lenses
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Handling and Features
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Tokina CINEMA ATX 50 135mm T3 EF Hands On (5)
 

Film-making with interchangeable lens cameras is more accessible than ever. In response, Tokina has redesigned a few of their most popular lenses for cinematic use. In this review, we'll take a look at Tokina's Cinema version of their 50-135mm f/2.8 lens. Currently available to fit Canon EF and also cameras compatible with the Arri PL mount, such as the Red Cinema camera. This telephoto zoom promises crisp 4K footage, has a fast T/3 aperture throughout the zoom range and costs around £4500. This lens covers APS-C and smaller sensors, including Super 35mm and Micro Four Thirds Formats. In this review, we will test the optical quality of the lens using a Canon EOS 600D SLR body.

 

Tokina Cinema AT-X 50-135mm T/3 Handling and Features

Tokina CINEMA ATX 50 135mm T3 EF (7)
 

Weighing over 1.5kg, this lens is noticeably heavier than the non-cine version, thanks to the lens barrel being constructed pretty much entirely from metal and being much larger. This is the kind of lens that really needs all the serious video support equipment to handle well. Without it, the lens is quite cumbersome, but then that’s how the lens is designed to be used.

The geared aperture, focus and zoom rings are a pleasure to operate, needing only a fingertip to move them through the range, but with the mechanism having just the correct amount of damping to stay put. Screw holes are supplied in the zoom and focus rings for attaching a lever to allow smooth operation of focus and zoom manually, whilst filming. Values for each control are marked on one side of the lens, instead of the top, like on conventional photographic lenses, which will make operating the lens from a tripod easier.

The minimum focus distance of 1m produces a maximum magnification of 1:5.89 and the lens is designed to be parfocal. Focus breathing is noticeable, but not nearly as strong as with many other internal focus photographic lenses. 

Tokina CINEMA ATX 50 135mm T3 EF (5)

 

Tokina Cinema AT-X 50-135mm T/3 Performance

At 50mm, sharpness in the centre of the frame falls just short of excellent at maximum aperture, with performance towards the edges of the frame only achieving fairly good levels. Stopping down improves performance across the frame, with very good levels of sharpness being achieved towards the edges of the frame between T/8 and T/16.

Zooming to 80mm results in much-improved performance in the centre at maximum aperture, with outstanding clarity in the centre and good performance towards the edges. Stopping down to T/8 produces the best performance for this focal length, with outstanding sharpness across the frame.

Finally, at 135mm, performance in the centre of the frame is excellent at maximum aperture, although performance towards the edges of the frame drops to fairly good levels again. As is the case at 80mm, stopping down to T/8 results in outstanding sharpness across the frame for this focal length.

MTF@50mm
MTF@50mm
 
MTF@80mm
MTF@80mm
 
MTF@135mm
MTF@135mm
 

How to read our charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges. Averaging them out gives the red weighted column.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution. The taller the column, the better the lens performance. Simple.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Canon EOS 600D using Imatest.

Levels of chromatic aberrations towards the edges of the frame are high at either end of the zoom range, but especially at 135mm. Here fringing can exceed 1.5 pixel widths on occasion. This level may cause issues with any high contrast subjects towards the edges of the frame.

CA@50mm
CA@50mm
 
CA@80mm
CA@80mm
 
CA@135mm
CA@135mm
 

How to read our charts

Chromatic aberration is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimise the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Canon EOS 600D using Imatest.

Falloff of illumination towards the corners is well controlled for a telephoto lens with a constant fast maximum aperture. At 50mm the corners are only 0.65 stops darker than the centre, and at 135mm this increases to 1.06 stops. Visually uniform illumination is achieved at T/4 throughout the zoom range.

Distortion is also well controlled for a lens of this type, with barrel distortion of only 0.56% at 50mm being replaced by 1.6% pincushion distortion at 135mm. At both ends of the zoom range, the distortion pattern is uniform across the frame, so it should be relatively easy to correct in editing software afterwards if required.

This lens is quite resistant to flare, although a loss on contrast can be seen when shooting into the light at maximum aperture.


Tokina CINEMA AT-X 50-135mm T3 Sample Photos

Value For Money

Tokina no longer offers a standard 50-135mm f/2.8 for stills photography. Even so, I can remember that it didn’t ever cost anything like £4500. Due to the specialist nature of this lens it isn’t really fair to compare with lenses designed for stills photography.

Canon produces a 30-105mm T/2.8 in EF and PL mount, which costs around £16,000. A comparison like this makes the Tokina lens look like a bargain.

 

Tokina Cinema AT-X 50-135mm T/3 Verdict

Those who are committed to high-end digital video work will appreciate the handling and features of this lens as well as the way it performs. It produces images with relatively low distortion, falloff and high levels of sharpness.

Its parfocal design will also be appreciated and although focus breathing is much reduced compared to many photographic lenses, it is still a feature of this lens and something to be aware of. Those who casually take the occasional video with their SLR won’t be the target market for this lens. Instead, those who can possibly justify dropping £16k on a lens for serious 4K video work are the ones this lens is aimed at. If you’re one of those people, this optic may well be worthy of serious consideration.

Tokina Cinema AT-X 50-135mm T/3 Pros

Very good sharpness
Low distortion
Low falloff
Excellent build quality 
Video-centric build and design 

Tokina Cinema AT-X 50-135mm T/3 Cons

Chromatic aberrations towards the edges of the frame at either end of the zoom range
Price puts this beyond the reach of many who may be interested in better kit for shooting video

FEATURES  
HANDLING  
PERFORMANCE  
VALUE FOR MONEY  
VERDICT  

The Tokina Cinema AT-X 50-135mm T/3 is a lens those committed to high-end digital video work will really appreciate thanks to its handling, features and performance. 


Tokina CINEMA AT-X 50-135mm T3 Specifications

ManufacturerTokina
General
Lens Mounts
  • Canon EF
  • Arri PL
Lens
Focal Length50mm - 135mm
Angle of ViewNo Data
Max Aperturef/3
Min Aperturef/22
Filter Size112mm
StabilisedNo
35mm equivalentNo Data
Internal focusingNo Data
Maximum magnificationNo Data
Focusing
Min Focus100cm
Construction
Blades9
Elements18
Groups14
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data
Dimensions
Weight1530g
Height159mm

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