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Tokina 20-35mm f/2.8
(c. 1990s)
© 2010 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

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Tokina 20-35mm f/2.8 AT-X PRO

Tokina 20-35mm f/2.8, Nikon version (77mm filters, 21.2 oz./601g, 1.7'/0.5m close focus, about $300 used). enlarge. The biggest source of support for this free website is when you use these links, especially this direct link to this lens at eBay (see How to Win at eBay), or to it at Amazon for Canon or at Adorama, when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Thanks! Ken.


November 2010     Nikon Reviews    Nikon Lenses    Canon    Canon Lenses




Ideal Uses: Low-cost, pro-tough ultrawide zoom for use on FX digital, DX digital and 35mm, both auto and manual focus. If you like filters, you'll love this Tokina because you usually can stack two filters on it on FX at every focal length.


Not for: I wouldn't bother with this on a DX camera. I'd use any DX lens, like the 18-55mm kit lens, instead. It won't autofocus with the cheapest D40, D40x, D60, D3000, D3100 or D5000, but duh, the 18-55mm kit lens will.


Introduction       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

Format & Versions    Compatibility


B&H Photo - Video - Pro Audio

Ritz Camera

I personally suggest Adorama, Amazon, Ritz, B&H, Calumet and J&R. I can't vouch for ads below.


This Tokina is built tough; it's got more metal on it than anything from Nikon today.

It gets soft in the corners wide-open, but too bad, so do Nikon's own 20-35mm f/2.8 AF-D and 17-35mm f/2.8 AF-S which sell for a lot more.


Format and Versions       intro      top

This is a big, full-frame FX lens, and I am reviewing it as such. It works fine on DX, but why bother for such a restricted zoom range?

This Tokina came in mounts for Nikon, Canon, Sony alpha and Minolta. I'm addressing the Nikon mount here; you may make the usual inferences for other mounts.


Compatibility       intro      top

This is an FX lens, and works especially well with on FX, 35mm and DX Nikon like the D7000, D700, D3X, D300s and F6. It works fantastically on manual-focus cameras like the F2AS, F3, FE and FA, since it has real manual-focus and aperture rings that work exactly as they should.

The 20-35mm f/2.8 AT-X PRO works great with almost every film and digital Nikon camera made since 1977. If you have a coupling prong added to the diaphragm ring, it's perfect with every Nikon back to the original Nikon F of 1959.

The only incompatibility is that it will not autofocus with the cheapest D40, D40x, D60, D3000, D3100 or D5000, but if you focus manually, everything else works great. These cameras have in-finder focus confirmation dots to help you.

This Tokina is a "D" lens, meaning it encodes subject distance to help get more accurate exposure, especially with flash.

See Nikon Lens Compatibility for details on your camera. Read down the "AF, AF-D (screw)" column for this lens.

Caution: as a non-Nikon lens, it may or may not work on certain present or future cameras. I don't know of any incompatibilities, but there's always the possibility that something won't communicate properly on some models of camera.


Tokina 20-35mm f/2.8 AT-X PRO

Tokina 20-35mm f/2.8 AT-X PRO. enlarge.


Specifications        top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations


Name       specs       top

Tokina calls this the Tokina AT-X PRO 20-35mm f/2.8 F/R ASPHERICAL.

     AT-X: Advanced Technology-seX.

     PRO: Tokina's designation for its lenses with its brilliant AF-MF focus clutch.

     F/R Aspherical: Specially shaped front and rear glass elements for better pictures.


Optics       specs       top

15 elements in 11 groups.

Front and rear elements are aspherical

Internal focus: nothing moves externally as focused. The front group moves in and out inside the barrel as zoomed.



Diaphragm       specs       top

Diaphragm, Tokina 20-35mm f/2.8 at f/5.6

Tokina 20-35mm f/2.8 at 35mm and f/5.6. enlarge.

9 straight blades. (Tokina's data erroneously lists 8 blades, copied from the 17mm AT-X PRO specifications.)

Stops down to f/22.

Engraved metal aperture ring with full-stop clicks.


Coverage        top

35mm film, FX and DX.


Focal Length        top


When used on a DX camera, it gives angles of view similar to what a 30-52mm lens gives when used on an FX or 35mm camera.


Angle of View        top

93.6° - 63.2° on FX and 35mm film.


Close Focus       specs       top

1.65 feet (0.5m).

(Tokina's data erroneously lists 0.82'/0.25m, copied from the 17mm AT-X PRO specifications.)


Hard Infinity Focus Stop?       specs       top


This is great for astronomy; just turn to the stop and you have fixed laboratory-perfect focus all night.


Focus Scale       specs       top



Depth-of-Field Scale       specs       top



Infra-Red Focus Index       specs       top

Yes, white lines for 20mm and 35mm.


Aperture Ring       specs       top

Yes, engraved metal.

Full-stop clicks.


Filter Thread       specs       top

77mm, metal

Does not move.


Size       specs       top

Tokina specifies 3.4" (85.5mm) overall length by 3.3" (84.0mm) diameter, Nikon mount.


Weight       specs       top

21.212 oz. (601.35g), measured, Nikon mount.

Tokina specifies 20.6 oz. (585g).


Hood       specs       top

Tokina BH-771 hood and 20-35mm f/2.8 AT-X PRO

BH-771 hood and Tokina 20-35/2.8 AT-X PRO. enlarge.

BH-771 plastic bayonet, included. (Tokina's data erroneously lists a BH-773, copied from the 17mm AT-X PRO specifications.)

Fuzzy inside.

Oddly, it has a three-slot bayonet, meaning in only mounts one way, not two ways at 180º apart.


Case       specs       top

Case, Tokina 20-35mm f/2.8 AT-X PRO

Case and Tokina 20-35 2.8 AT-X PRO. enlarge.

The case is included. It has both a zipper and a velcro overflap.

It is made of the very finest Japanese synthetic cowhide.


Made in       specs       top



Tokina Product Number       specs       top

AT-X 235 AF PRO.


Price, USA       specs       top

About $300 used, as of November 2010.

About $700-640 new in the late 1990s at B&H, which is the same as $880 in 2010 with inflation.


Performance       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

Overall   Auto and Manual Focus    Color    Coma    Distortion  

Ergonomics   Eyeblow   Falloff    Filters    Ghosts   Hood   

Color Fringes    Mechanics    Sharpness   

Sunstars   Survivability   Zooming


Overall      performance      top

The Tokina 20-35mm f/2.8 AT-X PRO is very tough mechanically.

Its optics are almost as good as the Nikon 20-35mm f/2.8 AF-D and 17-35mm f/2.8 AF-S, and this Tokina is smaller and less expensive — but just as tough.


Auto and Manual Focus      performance      top

AF Speed

One full turn (two half-turns) of the AF screw pulls focus from infinity down to 4 feet.

This is very fast, as is typical for wide lenses.


AF Accuracy

AF is right-on in my D3.


Manual Focus

Manual focus is strongly damped, and geared perfectly.

Sadly, we must move both the AF-MF switch on our Nikon and move the ring on the lens to go between modes each and every time.


Color Rendition      performance      top

The color rendition of this Tokina is a bit cooler than my NIKKOR lenses.


Coma      performance      top

This Tokina has coma at f/2.8 and the larger apertures.

Coma is weird smeared blobs that appear around bright points of light in the corners. They happen with fast and wide lenses at large apertures. Coma goes away as stopped down, and tends not to be seen in slower and tele lenses. Coma is an artifact of spherical aberration.

sagittal coma flare


Distortion      performance      top

The Tokina 20-35mm f/2.8 AT-X PRO has very little distortion at the wide and middle ends, with some pincushion distortion at the 35mm end.

This can be minimized by plugging these figures into Photoshop's lens distortion filter. These aren't facts or specifications, they are the results of my research that requires hours of photography and calculations on the resulting data.

FX and Film
at 3m (10')


© 2010 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

* Some waviness remains.

Its distortion is complex, so it never completely goes away with these simple corrections.


Ergonomics      performance      top

Tokina 20-35mm f/2.8 AT-X PRO

Tokina 20-35mm f/2.8 AT-X PRO. enlarge.

This is a solid, chunky lens. It works well; everything is easy to grab.

Push and pull the focus ring to change between auto and manual focus, and sadly, you also have to move the switch on you Nikon. This is the worst of both worlds: you must move two switches each time!

Be sure to alighn the manual-focus ring with the actual autofocused distance in order to be able to enter the manual-focus mode from automatic.

Zoom and manual focus are very damped, meaning that they are harder to turn.

The twisted ribbing on the zoom ring is weird, but works fine.


Eyeblow       performance     top

Very little air moves in and out as the 20-35mm f/2.8 AT-X PRO is zoomed. I never felt air blowing out of my eyepiece as I zoomed.


Falloff (darkened corners)      performance      top

Falloff on FX is about as expected for an ultrawide zoom. It's never a bother, as it can be on other lenses.

It will be even less of an issue on DX (see crop factor).

I've exaggerated this by shooting a gray field and placing these on a gray background.


Tokina 20-35mm f/2.8 falloff on FX and film at infinity, no correction.


© 2010 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.



Filters, Use with      performance      top

There is no problem with vignetting, even with thick filters.

In fact, even two stacked normal 77mm filters work fine, with only the tiniest bit of vignetting at 20mm.

The solid billet-aluminum filter ring never moves.

Don't use polarizers at the 20mm end. Technically it will work fine, but artistically, 20mm lenses see such huge angles that whatever it is you hope to polarize will vary so much that the resulting image will usually fail. For instance, skies will show a dark band across them!


Ghosts      performance      top

I didn't stop to look for ghosts, however I did notice that this Tokina lens' coatings weren't as efficient as Nikon's, so there will be more stray light floating around inside if you're pointing it at the sun.


Hood      performance      top

The hood is included.

It only mounts one way.

There are three tabs, not two, so the other two ways it will attach are 30º crooked.


Lateral Color Fringes      performance      top

There are no lateral color fringes on the D3, which corrects them automatically.

Your biggest worry in the corners is this lens' softness.


Mechanics      performance      top

Tokina 20-35mm f/2.8 AT-X PRO

Rear, Tokina 20-35mm f/2.8 AT-X PRO. enlarge.

This Tokina is tough; tougher than Nikon's current lenses.


Filter Threads

Solid billet anodized aluminum.



Plastic bayonet.


Hood Bayonet

Solid billet anodized aluminum.


Fore Barrel

Crinkle-coated metal.


Focus Ring

Crinkle-coated metal, rubber covered.


Mid Barrel

Crinkle-coated metal.


Zoom Ring

Crinkle-coated metal, rubber covered.





Aperture Ring

Anodized aluminum, engraved and filled with paint.


Focus Geartrain




Chromed metal.



Paint, except for engraved aperture ring and serial number.



Painted on barrel.


Serial Number

Engraved onto bottom rear of barrel and filled with paint.


Ass-Gasket (rain seal at mount)



Noises When Shaken



Made in



Sharpness      performance      top

Warning 1: Image sharpness depends more on you than your lens.

Warning 2: Lens sharpness doesn't mean much to good photographers.

With those caveats, the Tokina 20-35mm f/2.8 AT-X PRO is usually soft at the sides, but tough, so are Nikon's similar lenses.

If you want to count pixels, you want Nikon's newest 16-35mm VR.


As seen on a 12MP FX Nikon D3:


At 20mm

f/2.8: It's hazy, but sharp, in the center. Sides and corners are very blurry from coma.

f/4: Everything is much better. The center is sharp and contrasty and gets no better stopping down. The corners are much less blurry, but still blurry.

f/5.6: Corners improve, but still softer than the center.

f/8: A little better than f/5.6 in the corners.

f/11: Optimum, but no prizes.


At 26mm

26mm performs about the same as at 20mm:

f/2.8: It's hazy, but sharp, in the center. Sides and corners are very blurry from coma.

f/4: Everything is much better. The center is sharp and contrasty and gets no better stopping down. The sides and corners are much less blurry, but still quite blurry.

f/5.6: Corners improve, but still softer than the center. This lens isn't winning any prizes here — except maybe the booby prize.

f/8: Better than f/5.6 in the sides and corners, but still not a lens for pixel-counters.

f/11-16: Optimum, but far from great.


At 35mm

f/2.8: It's hazy, but sharp, in the center. Sides and corners are very blurry from coma.

f/4: Everything is much better. The center is sharp. The corners are much less blurry, but still blurry.

f/5.6: The center improves a bit. The sides and corners improve, but still soft.

f/8: A little better than f/5.6 in the corners.

f/11-16: Optimum, but no prizes.


Sunstars      performance      top

I didn't try it, but with its straight 9-bladed diaphragm, this Tokina ought to make great 18-pointed sunstars on bright points of light.


Survivability       performance     top

The Tokina 20-35mm f/2.8 AT-X PRO is tough.

It's all metal, and the zoom mechanism and focus mechanisms are shielded from the outside.

Focus is internal: nothing moves outside, and in AF, not even the ring moves.

When zoomed, the front group slides in and out inside the outer barrel, so if you hit the front of the lens, you aren't likely to damage the zoom mechanism as you are with "pumper" zooms that move the outer barrel forward and back.

In fact, if you put a filter on this lens, it's one of the toughest all-metal AF lenses I've ever used.

The biggest gotcha is that the sample I had suffered from a sticky automatic diaphragm pin, so the diaphragm hung open, leading to gross overexposure depending on if it got stuck or not for each shot.


Zooming      performance      top

Zooming is stiffer than I expected.

EXIF focal length encoding accuracy was perfect.


Compared             top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

Nikon versus Tokina

Nikon 20-35mm f/2.8 AF-D, Tokina 20-35/2.8, and 17-35mm f/2.8 AF-S. enlarge.

I compared this Tokina directly to the Nikon 20-35mm f/2.8 AF-D and Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8 AF-S on a Nikon D3.

This Tokina isn't very sharp on the sides and corners, but neither are either of these Zoom-NIKKORs, either.

This Tokina is the least sharp, but not by that much at 20mm compared to the Nikon 20-35mm f/2.8 AF-D. The Nikon 20-35 doesn't win any sharpness prizes at 20mm either. They are all pretty crummy in the corners at f/2.8.

At 35mm, the Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8 AF-S is superior to the other two.

The Tokina is the smallest, but not the lightest. They all take the same filters.

Tokina 20-35/2.8
Filter Threads
9 blades
9 blades
9 blades
9 blades, rounded
Good enough
Almost good enough
Better than good enough
20.7 oz./588g
21.2 oz./601g
25.8 oz./730g
23.9 oz./678g
MF mode
Press button and rotate special ring
Pull focus ring towards you
Grab ring at any time
Grab ring at any time


Recommendations       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

The Tokina 20-35mm f/2.8 AT-X PRO is for people needed a tough, inexpensive and practical ultrawide FX zoom. Its optics are not for people who count their pixels — those people need the Nikon 16-35mm VR.

This Tokina it is for people on a budget shooting FX or 35mm, and who need ultrawide images.

Stop it down, and it's sharp. It should look awesome on film, where we never were able to look in the corners at such high magnifications as we can do easily with FX digital.



I would leave the hood at home.

I'd pitch Tokina's flat 77mm cap, and use a 77mm Nikon pinch-type front cap, which really is much easier to use.

I'd leave either a 77mm Nikon Clear (NC - UV) filter, or a 77mm Hoya Super HMC UV on the lens at all times.

If I was working in nasty, dirty areas, I'd forget the cap, and use an uncoated 77mm Tiffen UV filter instead. Uncoated filters are much easier to clean, but more prone to ghosting.

For color slides like Velvia 50, I use a 77mm Hoya HMC 81A or Nikon A2 filter outdoors.

For B&W film outdoors, I'd use a 77mm Hoya HMC Yellow K2 or 77mm Hoya HMC Orange.


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