The majority of lenses on the open market either fall into the camps of standard primes or zooms. Macro lenses also have their place when the tiny aspects of our world need to be captured, but they are not always as commonplace. In steps the Tokina FiRIN 100mm f/2.8 FE Macro, which is a medium telephoto macro lens for Sony’s E-mount and part of Tokina’s topline Firin range.
Tokina traditionally produces very cost-effective lenses. Therefore, this lens with a link up to the Sony platform should provide a good quality photo experience for a reasonable price tag.
The design of the Tokina FiRIN 100mm f/2.8 FE Macro lens follows a simple principle. A straightforward exterior made from hardened plastic, which also cuts down on the overall weight. There are no external switches, buttons, or even the usual distance scale. About as straightforward a design as you can get.
The dimensions of the lens are not overly large at 74 x 123mm, but the inner tube does extend 5.5cm. The inner tube also has engraved distance markings which show magnification and focusing distance, which should be very helpful in macro mode.
The Tokina FiRIN 100mm f/2.8 FE Macro isn’t fully weatherproof, nor does it have a rubber gasket on the lens mount. But at least the mount is made from solid metal and creates a solid connection with the camera. This means that all the workings of the Sony camera can be accessed such as the five-axis image stabilization and EXIF data.
Inside the lens are nine elements arranged in eight groups, with nine rounded diaphragm blades for an extra level of quality. There is no image stabilization built into the lens, but Sony has you covered having stabilization built natively into the camera body.
There’s a 55mm filter thread and included lens hood to stop damage to the front element when you’re getting real close up. There are also multi-layered coatings to reduce any ghosting or lens flares.
The real draw to this lens will be its macro workings, which capture subjects at a 1:1 maximum magnification. Basically, being life-size with a minimum focusing distance of 30cm and an 11.53cm working distance.
The Tokina FiRIN 100mm f/2.8 FE Macro in Use
The most noticeable feature of the Tokina FiRIN 100mm f/2.8 FE Macro when first in use is the inner tube extension. For 1:1 magnification this is at a maximum of 5.5cm, so it’s always good to be mindful of how close the lens is to a subject.
One nice feature is that the inner tube retracts back into the main lens barrel when the camera is turned off and moves back to the last focusing distance when turned back on. Initially, the lens feels quite long on Sony’s slimline body, but the whole package balances very well.
The Tokina has a 1:1 magnification, which means everything is actual size on the sensor. There’s also a close-up working distance of 11.53cm, which allows for getting very close to the action. Subjects at this level can fill the whole frame and it opens up a whole new world for capturing the tiny things in life.
With no external workings, the aperture is changed via the camera body and is constant throughout the range. Although the lens is a reasonable performer throughout its aperture range when it comes to sharpness, when used in macro mode, f/11 is where the lens hits its zenith. The lens does have a large aperture range going up to f/32, but after f/16, images start to look a little soft, but still quite usable.
One advantage of a macro lens is that detail is easier to pick out at different aperture ranges, as most images will be shot on a tripod. It makes it quite easy to dial in the optimum settings and nail the sharpness.
There’s the option of manual focus, which was easy to hit with the smoothly rotating focusing ring. In general, the autofocus system works best when the lens is used in the traditional manner. It’s quick and quiet and even works well in low light conditions.
However, when it comes to macro work, like other macro lenses, it’s best to stick to manual mode. The AF system can lock into a single point, but if you want the finest of detail, it’s still best to deliberate in manual mode for the best results.
One advantage of this type of lens is that it can be used as a regular 100mm prime with f/2.8. As in macro mode, results are the sharpest when the lens has been stopped down, in this case to f/8.
Although images are usable down to f/2.8, the center and the edges do have noticeable softness, which is a shame. But, when the lens is at the right aperture, it can produce very sharp images.
The lens suffers from slight chromatic aberration when fully wide open but it quickly goes away by f/4. Distortion levels and light falloff are minimal at the widest aperture, quickly dropping by f/4 and completely disappearing by f/8. The lens also seems to be able to deal with distant subjects very well with its flat-field optical design.
How Does It Compare?
As the Tokina is aimed at being a middle-of-the-road, cost-effective solution, the Rokinon 100mm f/2.8 Macro could be a viable alternative. The Rokinon has similar specs with a maximum aperture of f/2.8, comparable optical quality, and works seamlessly on a Sony. Both these lenses give you a lot for your money and are very close in both quality and price point.
|Tokina FiRIN 100mm f/2.8 FE Macro||Rokinon 100mm f/2.8 Macro|
|Optics||9 Elements/ 8 groups||15 Elements/ 12 groups|
The Tokina FiRIN 100mm f/2.8 FE Macro may seem like it has a bunch of negative points, especially with stopping down for the sharpest results. But, as a whole package, the lens works well as both a regular and a macro lens. Being able to get optimum results from both ends of the spectrum is a tricky balancing act, macro to distant subjects, but with a little tweaking of the aperture, the lens can deliver.
The f/2.8 aperture is capable of producing some nice bokeh effects, especially with close-up subjects and the whole lens is light enough to be carried around all day. There may be better optical operators out there for more money, but considering the price point, this is a fun lens to use and has a lot of scope for creativity.