Tokina 35mm f/2.8 Macro Nikon

Tokina 35mm f/2.8 Macro Nikon

Lenses that have been slow to gain acceptance on APS-C format are the standard focal length macro lens. However, this year there are two new lenses in this class, the Nikon 40mm f/2.8 macro and the Sony 30mm f/3.5 Macro. Here I test one of the first to make it to APS-C format (this is the same optical formula as the SMC Pentax DA 35mm f/2.8 Limited). How does it perform?

Build quality of this lens is exceptional. It is made largely of metal and high quality plastics. There is a focus limit switch that will limit to either near or far focus. The manual focus is engaged by slide the focus ring towards the body. Manual focus feel is poor for normal focus distances. The movements are too great and it zips right past the focal point with a tiny adjustment of the ring.

This macro focuses to life size magnification ratio of 1:1. With its compact barrel it has only 52mm filter threads. It is a 9 element in 8 group design, and it weighs 340g (12oz). Minimum focus distance is 0.14m (5.5 in), but bear in mind the sensor to end of the lens distance isn’t much more than that. It also has 9 diaphragm blades to help smooth out the bokeh. Remember that I am photographing a normal subject chart at approximately 1:54 magnification, not a 1:1 chart so performance could differ for macro subjects.

NEX 3 Optical Characteristics

NEX 3 MTF 50 (Sharpness)

NEX 3 MTF 20 (Resolution)

NEX 3 Lateral Chromatic Aberration

The lens has noticeable barrel distortion of -0.53 (numeric average between tested apertures). Coefficients can be found in the following chart.

All data gathered using Imatest.


The lens is sharp in the center wide open and corners by f/4. Resolution is good across the frame from wide open.

The lens has high lateral CA for a macro lens, but still in the realm of being easy to deal with. Longitudinal CA in the bokeh at least is good.

Flare resistance will be updated after a field shoot.

Distortion is high for a macro lens, but still relatively low for the 35mm class lenses.

Bokeh: if I have a chance I will take some bokeh shots.

– Sharp Center at f/2.8
– Sharp across the field at f/4 and up.

– Not well corrected for Macro lens.

Uses (sample):
– General Macro
– General Photography
– Great all around

This lens is borderline what I would consider a “true macro” despite focusing 1:1. The lens has very good all around performance, but has high distortion and lateral CA for a macro lens, which should be nearly 0 for both. I think we are seeing the weakness of making a 35mm standard field of view macro lens for APS-C camera.

APS-C has the same mounting flange distance as full frame, and this impacts the design of 35mm lenses so they are more complicated to design than a 50mm lens, and more difficult to correct well. The other issue we run into is focal length is focal length on any format, and short focal lengths have a shorter working distance to get to 1:1, so with APS-C we end up right on top of the subject at 35mm, where 50mm actually gives a bit of breathing room.

Don’t get me wrong, this is an excellent overall lens, but I hesitate calling it a Macro lens, as the working distance at 1:1 is next to useless, and the lens should be corrected better.

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The gallery images are © 2011 Eric Tastad, and may only be used for personal evaluation of the lenses. The images were exported straight from camera with my default LR3 settings for the NEX 3, which have some sharpening set since it is a fairly high resolution sensor and LR tends to under sharpen.