Tokina AT-X 17-35mm f/4 FX Lens
Rating (out of 10):
- Build: 9.0
- Handling: 8.8
- Image quality: 8.5
- Versatility: 8.5
- OVERALL: 8.5
Tokina’s recently released SD 17-35mm f/4 AT-X PRO FX lens is designed for Nikon and Canon cameras with 36 x 24 mm sensors but can also be used on Canon and Nikon bodies with APS-C sized sensors. Offering a 2x zoom at moderately wide angles of view, it’s one of a series of wide-angle zoom lenses the company produces. . . [more]
Tokina’s recently released SD 17-35mm f/4 AT-X PRO FX lens is designed for Nikon and Canon cameras with 36 x 24 mm sensors but can also be used on Canon and Nikon bodies with APS-C sized sensors. Offering a 2x zoom at moderately wide angles of view, it’s one of a series of wide-angle zoom lenses the company produces.
Photographers with a Canon or Nikon DSLR with a ‘full frame’ sensor will find the Tokina 17-35mm competes with the Canon EF17-40mm f/4L USM and AF-S Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8D IF-ED lenses respectively. Key specifications of the three lenses are provided in the table below.
The new Tokina SD 17-35mm f/4 AT-X PRO FX lens
Tokina SD 17-35mm f/4 AT-X PRO FX
Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM
AF-S Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8D IF-ED
Lens Construction (Elements/Groups)
1 aspheric glass element and 2 Super-Low Dispersion glass elements
3 aspherical elements and 1 S-UD element
2 ED glass elements, 3 aspherical lens elements, 2 moulded-glass, 1 hybrid element
Picture angle (35mm format)
103.96 to 64.74 degrees
104 to 57.5 degrees
SD-M (Silent Drive Module) motor
Ultra Sonic Motor
Silent Wave Motor
77 mm + drop-in gelatin filter holder at rear
Dimensions (Diameter x L)
89 x 94.5 mm
83.5 x 96.8 mm
82.5 x 106 mm
Like the Tokina AF 16-28mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro SD FX lens we reviewed recently, the 17-35mm f/4 is larger and heavier than similarly-specified ultra-wide angle lenses for cameras with APS-C sized sensors. It’s also a bit more expensive. Nikon owners are likely to find it particularly attractive because it’s less than half the price of the Nikkor equivalent.
Although it doesn’t cover such a wide angle-of-view as the 16-28mm lens, the 17-35mm f/4’s zoom range is marginally longer (2x vs 1.75x). A full f-stop slower than the 16-28mm lens, it’s also roughly 40 mm shorter and 350 grams lighter.
The optical design consists of 13 elements in 12 groups and includes one aspheric glass element plus two Super-Low Dispersion glass elements to minimise aberrations. Unlike the 16-28mm lens, the front element is recessed into the lens barrel and threaded for 82 mm filters (which are usually pricey). Both focusing and zooming are internal, which means the barrel length remains constant and the filter mount doesn’t rotate.
Like the 16-28mm lens, this lens lacks stabilisation but most users should find it easy to hand-hold at relatively slow shutter speeds. A petal-shaped lens hood is provided, along with a large, clip-on front cap and bayonet-mounted rear cap.
Build and Handling
Build quality is similar to the 16-28mm lens, with which the 17-35mm f/4 shares many features. Among them are the well-made, largely plastic lens barrel and metal mounting plate. Weatherproof sealing is also provided at the lens mount and the overall assembly is tightly controlled.
The review lens carries the standard distinguishing thin gold band, which encircles the lens approximately 5 mm behind the front of the barrel. It handled equally well on the two camera bodies we used for our tests: the Canon EOS 5D and EOS 5D Mark II.
The front of the lens barrel is wide enough to prevent your fingers from straying into the picture and its inner edge is deep enough to accommodate filters up to about 6 mm thick without vignetting. The front element is recessed almost 10 mm into the lens barrel and measures approximately 50 mm in diameter.
The lens barrel narrows slightly 15 mm from the front, stepping down to a 20 mm wide focusing ring. A 16 mm wide rubber-coated grip with three rows of rectangular dimples covers most of it, aligned with the leading edge.
The same One-touch Focus Clutch Mechanism as used on the 16-28mm lens is featured on the 17-35mm f/4 lens. To switch between AF and MF modes, you simply snap the focus ring forward for AF and back towards the camera to focus manually. The ring turns through approximately 75 degrees in MF mode.
Just behind the focus ring the lens barrel is marked with AF and MF lines. Beside these lines is a recessed distance scale that clicks in for manual focusing mode. It has five settings in metres and feet, ranging from 0.28 metres to infinity.
The 25 mm wide zoom ring located just behind distance scale has a 17 mm wide band of thick, parallel rubber ridges running up to its leading edge. Five focal length settings (17mm, 21mm, 24mm, 28mm and 35mm) are stamped on the trailing edge for lining up against a mark on the fixed section of lens barrel just in front of the lens mount.
The zoom ring on the 17-35mm f/4 lens wasn’t quite as stiff as its equivalent on the 16-28mm lens but still very well damped. It rotates through approximately 45 degrees as you span the focal length range.
We carried out our Imatest tests on this lens using the Canon EOS 5D body, which is the body we use for all assessments of ‘full frame’ lenses. However, to evaluate general functionality, many of the test shots were taken with the lens on an EOS 5D Mark II body.
The AF motor in the 17-35mm f/4 lens was a little noisier than the motor in the 16-28mm f/2.8 lens and perceptibly louder than the ultrasonic motors in Canon and Nikon lenses. The noise of this motor would probably be picked up on movie sound tracks, particularly in quiet environments.
Imatest showed the lens to be a very good performer on the whole, with centre resolution exceeding expectations at all but the widest focal length setting. Best performance for most focal lengths was between f/4.5 and f/8. The graph below showing the results of our tests is based on JPEG files from the EOS 5D.
The sweet spot for this lens is around 20mm at f/4. Edge and corner softness were apparent up to f/8 with the 17mm focal length and between f/4 and f/6.7 for other focal lengths. Diffraction kicked in at around f/11.
Lateral chromatic aberration remained mainly in the ‘low’ band, kicking up into ‘moderate’ at f/4 with the17mm focal length and down into ‘negligible’ for the middle of the aperture range at 35mm. Traces of coloured fringing were found in some test shots. In the graph below, the red line marks the border between ‘negligible’ and ‘low’ CA and the green line separated ‘low’ and ‘moderate’ CA.
As expected, barrel distortion could be seen at the 17mm focal length, although it was less than we expected for such a wide angle of view. By 21mm the distortion was much less visible and it became quite difficult to detect from 24mm on.
Vignetting was also quite low for a lens of this type, although some corner fall-off was visible in shots taken at 17mm with the f/4 maximum aperture. By 24mm very little corner darkening could be seen. Unlike the 16-28mm lens, we found no evidence of centre-of-field darkening at 17mm.
Flare and ghosting were also much less than we found with the 16-28mm lens, even when the sun was just outside the frame. Close-up performance was similar to the 16-28mm lens.
Buy this lens if:
– You’re a Nikon FX DSLR owner who wants an ultra-wide angle zoom lens for a reasonable price.
– You require superior performance and build quality.
– You want a wide-angle lens that accepts filters.
Don’t buy this lens if:
– You use a DSLR with an APS-C sized sensor.
– You require a lightweight lens.
– You want to shoot close-ups.
(based on JPEG files from the Canon EOS 5D)
EOS 5D, vignetting at 17mm, f/4.
EOS 5D, vignetting at 35mm, f/4.
EOS 5D, rectilinear distortion at 17mm
EOS 5D, rectilinear distortion at 35mm
EOS 5D Mark II, strong backlighting at 17mm, 1/125 second at f/11, ISO 200
EOS 5D Mark II, strong backlighting at 35mm, 1/1000 second at f/6.7, ISO 200
EOS 5D, 17mm focal length, 1/180 second at f/9.5; ISO 200
EOS 5D, 35mm focal length, 1/180 second at f/9.5; ISO 200
EOS 5D, 17mm focal length, 1/125 second at f/8; ISO 200
EOS 5D, 35mm focal length, 1/90 second at f/6.7; ISO 200
EOS 5D, 17mm focal length, 1/180 second at f/9.5; ISO 200
Crop from the above image enlarged to 100% to show slight coloured fringing
EOS 5D Mark II, 20mm focal length, 1/125 second at f/8; ISO 200.
EOS 5D Mark II, 17mm focal length, 1/180 second at f/11; ISO 200
EOS 5D Mark II, 35mm focal length, 1/180 second at f/11; ISO 200
EOS 5D Mark II, 17mm focal length, 1/20 second at f/11; ISO 1250
EOS 5D Mark II, 17mm focal length, 1/15 second at f/11; ISO 250
EOS 5D Mark II, 17mm focal length, 1/15 second at f/11; ISO 3200
EOS 5D Mark II, 23mm focal length, 1/30 second at f/11; ISO 200
EOS 5D Mark II, close-up at 17mm, 1/180 second at f/11; ISO 200
EOS 5D Mark II, close-up at 35mm, 1/60 second at f/11; ISO 200
Picture angle: 103.96 to 64.74 degrees
Minimum aperture: f/22
Lens construction: 13 elements in 12 groups; includes one aspheric glass element and two Super-Low Dispersion glass elements
Lens mounts: Canon EOS, Nikon-D
Diaphragm Blades: 9
Focus drive: Internal with SD-M (Silent Drive Module) motor; One-touch Focus Clutch Mechanism
Minimum focus: 27.9 cm
Maximum magnification: 1:4.83
Filter size: 82 mm
Dimensions (Diameter x L): 89 x 94.5 mm
Weight: 600 grams