Tokina Opera 50mm f/1.4 FF Review: A Pleasant Surprise

Tokina-Opera

The Tokina Opera 50mm f/1.4 was first shown at the Photokina 2018 as part of their top-notch Opera series of lenses. Above the AT-X lens and aiming squarely at the top offerings from Sigma and Tamron, the 50mm lens market has a lot of competition, even at f/1.4, so this will be interesting to see if a third party maker can keep up with the rest.

Design

I have to admit that Tokina has never been my first choice of lens, but like many third-party makers, quality is great these days and as long as the lens is compatible with your camera, they can be just as good or even better as same brand lenses. In this regard, it’s going to be interesting to see what Tokina currently produces and how the lens matches the rest.

Tokina-Opera

Being at the higher end of the scale of quality, this is a rather chunky lens to accommodate the wide f/1.4 aperture and with its size shows an air of quality. The lens is made from solid plastic on the barrel with dust and moisture resistance and plenty of seals to keep the weather out. The outside of the lens has a distance scale, AF/MF switch and a huge focus ring. The whole thing weighs in at 950 grams, which in itself is at the top end of the weight spectrum with other heavyweight primes from the likes of Sigma and Zeiss.

Tokina-Opera

Inside the lens are 15 lens elements in 9 groups, with 1 cast aspherical lens element and 3 low dispersion elements. There’s also the new Tokina ELR (Extremely Low Reflection) coating which should reduce ghosting and flaring. The aperture range goes from f/1.4 to f/16 with 9 aperture blades, with a minimum focusing distance of 0.4m and at the end of the lens a 72mm filter thread with internal focusing so the lens can fit a variety of filters. A lens hood is included which has a rather nifty recess which allows you to easily get at your filters, like rotation of a polarizing filter. On a last note, no image stabilization with this lens, but this isn’t to be expected on a prime lens such as this one.

Overall, there’s nothing to complain about the build and initial specs. Everything lining up as a top quality prime lens.

In use

Everything on this lens is very simple and straightforward to use, with a basic layout. The Tokina uses a ring-type ultrasonic motor for autofocus, which does have full-time manual override. The system is fast and quiet and only starts to struggle in very low light. As expected from the lens it’s super sharp and pretty much this way across the aperture range. Center sharpness is great at f/1.4, with everything lining up perfectly at f/2-f/2.8. Things only start to drop off at f/16 when diffraction comes into play, but this can be expected from such a narrow aperture. The corner sharpness is only a little bit soft when fully wide open, but a little stopping down cures all. Any softness in the corners is also corrected by standing a few meters back from your subject.

As far as chromatic aberration and color fringing goes, everything is kept to a minimum across the aperture range and it’s in lens distortion where it gets full marks with hardly any showing, not needing any postproduction correction. What’s also impressive with the Tokina is the super sharp images with extremely pleasing bokeh. It’s basically a trait of high-end lenses and with an f/1.4 aperture available you can get your backgrounds as creamy looking as you like.

One benefit of the f/1.4 aperture is not just a shallow depth of field, but everything tightens up nicely by f/2 which means you still have plenty of creative of scope, along with peace of mind of super sharp images across the board.

Color rendering and contrast is very good with accurate rendering. With many of the images produced with this lens, only a bit of color tweaking and vibrancy was needed in postproduction. Basically, this lens will sit well in a variety of scenarios from landscapes to portraits, producing equally great results.

How Does It Compare?

Most photographers who are eyeing up a 50mm prime lens, would probably first look at their own camera brand versions, then a Sigma, Tamron or if money was no object, a Zeiss. Because of this Tokina needed to produce something a bit special to capture some of the limelight. The Sigma’s 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art is a definite contender and costs less than the Tamron. Canon’s 50mm f/1.4 is not in the same league, but the Canon 50mm f/1.2L costs more than the Tokina and this in the same ballpark of quality. The Tamron definitely cuts it with image quality compared to the rest, so, in many respects the decision can be down to your budget.

 Tokina Opera 50mm F1.4 FFSigma’s 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art
Aperture f/1.4 – f/16 f/1.4 – f/16
Blades 9 9
Elements 15 lens elements in 9 groups 13 lens elements in 8 groups
Filter 72mm 77mm

Conclusion

From initial apprehensions to completely won over, the Tokina Opera 50mm f/1.4 FF is definitely a fine 50mm prime lens. The optical quality is definitely up there with the likes of the Sigma Arts series and gives the peace of mind of great results every time. Its definitely not the cheapest lens out there, but if you’re willing to pay the extra for this fine an image quality, then you definitely won’t be disappointed with the Tokina.

If you can get your hands on a copy to test drive for the day, it’s definitely worth the experience as this lens renders supersharp images and great colors every time and that’s worth paying for.

Pros
Sharp lens
Little distortion
Fast

Cons
Cost
No stabilization
Only Canon and Nikon mounts

Deals
B+H – $949
Amazon – $949

Review Breakdown
Design 90%
Performance 100%
Lens 90%
Optics 90%
Price 90%

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