I wanted to do this shootout long time ago.
Two Tokina lenses, same focal lengths, but completely different in every other way, including the price. The Tokina AT-X 80-200mm f/2.8 is already mega cheap for what it gives you, but the Tokina 80-200mm RMC f/4 is basically one of the cheapest lenses one could get. If you are lucky you could even snap one up for under $20, which is absolutely crazy for such zoom range at constant aperture of f/4. I’ve tested the Tokina AT-X 80-200mm f/2.8 some time ago and it’s currently one of my favorite vintage lenses, which I use on my Sony FS100 all the time. I prefer to step this lens down to f/4 to get the sharpness I want as f/2.8 is a little on the soft side.
I’ve been wondering for a while how would a cheaper f/4 version perform against the f/2.8 version that I prefer to use at f/4 anyway, so I’ve made this simple test to compare the sharpness, contrast and colours of these lenses.
The Tokina 2.8 is obviously better in every way, which was not a massive surprise, but there is not that much difference by the time you get to f/5.6 in video mode. Both lenses produce pleasant bokeh and I must say, even though the bargain f/4 zoom is not as good as f/2.8, it’s still a usable lens, especially good for someone how doesn’t have any lenses covering these focal lengths and needs something that could at least cover it until it’s possible to upgrade to better glass.
As I said before, the video mode is quite forgiving, but when you look at the crops from stills taken with theses lenses you start to see a clear difference between these 2 lenses. I personally think that the f/2.8 lens has better contrast, colours and sharpness at every f-stop. The f/4 lens can’t even catch up at f/8. Also, the f/4 lens has a bit of that dreamy look wide open similar to what the f/2.8 lens looks wide open. In both cases I’m not the big fan of such look, although it could even be useful in some cases (some people put expensive softening filters on their lenses just to get that softer look when they want to achieve soft skin look, etc).
Quick word on build quality and feel: Both lenses have solid, metal construction. Both have pull/push zoom rings which can actually be handy for smooth zooming. Sometimes I get really nice smooth zooming action with the dampened pull/push zoom on my f/2.8 version even though it’s a telephoto lens and usually zooming with such lens would not be possibly during the recording, but for zooming pull/push is much better than common zoom ring. Another great thing about push/pull zoom rings on these lenses is that you also focus with the same ring, so as you pull/push the ring you also turn it at the same time making sure that you are keeping that object in focus while zooming.
At the end of the day, if you think how much these lenses cost, it’s amazing what they can do. I can’t recommend one of these lenses over another as both offer amazing value for money. If you have a little bit more money go for f/2.8, but if you only have $50 or less to spare, the f/4 is a great choice. Even this lens will produce absolutely amazing results if you know how to get the best out of your 80-200mm lens.
I highly recommend both.
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