Tokina RMC 17mm F/3.5 REVIEW

As far as vintage wide angle primes go, once you go below 20mm, there aren’t many to choose from at all!

Tokina RMC 17mm F3.5 is one of the most affordable ultra wide vintage lenses out there, so if you are on a budget, this is the one you should be taking a closer look at. I originally came across one while doing my usual ebay searches and snapped up this baby for just £60/$90 which was a real bargain for such wide lens.

To give it some well deserved treatment, I took it with me on my short break to a picturesque part of England (perfect place to shoot some lens tests), where I shot the video above with my little, but very capable Sony NEX 5N; at the time my go-to camera for lens tests when I needed to travel light.

Tokina-17mm-web1Wide enough:

On APC-S sensor camera like 5N this lens is around 25mm in FF equivalent, which is not exactly ultra wide, but still wide enough for natural looking shots. You can of course get the whole ultra wide 17mm field of view if you use it on a full frame camera or if you combine it with a focal reducer like the Lens Turbo II one I’ve been using for a long time now.

Optical Performance:

In terms of performance I think it’s easy to agree that it’s definitely worth the price I paid for it. Although it benefits from being stopped down, it can be used even wide open if you really need to or want to get the most character out of it (video above was shot wide open). Tokina RMC 17mm producers nice, but not overpowering flares, handles chromatic aberration very well (I couldn’t detect any at all) and has very little distortion. You can even get decent amount of shallow depth of field on APC size sensor at F3.5, which is crazy for 17mm lens. Overall very cinematic image and in terms of optical performance definitely a great lens for video work.

Build Quality & Usability:

As you could expect from a vintage Tokina, it’s a fully metal, very solid lens, which will survive many more knocks than the plasticky modern kit/low/mid range lenses. The focusing ring is very smooth and dampened with a good amount focusing rotation (helps with precise focusing) and obviously there are hard stops at each end of the focusing range (will not mess up focusing marks on a follow focus). The close focusing distance is just 0.25m/0.8ft, which is absolutely awesome for those cool, close and at the same time wide shots. I love lenses that can focus so close and it’s a big plus for me. The front of the lens doesn’t rotate, so using any type of filters will not be a problem.

Mounts:

You can find this lens in most vintage mounts including Olympus OM, Nikon F, Canon FD, Contax C/Y, Minolta MD & Pentax K, so with the right adapter you can use such lens on just about any camera

Specs:

  • Optical Construction: 11 Elements in 9 Groups
  • Field of View: 103° (on full frame)
  • Aperture Range: F3.5 to F16 in 5 click-stops
  • Aperture Blades: 6
  • Filter Thread: 67mm
  • Focus Ring Rotation: approx. 150°
  • Closest Focusing Distance: 0.25m
  • Weight: 305g

Now, let’s take a look at its pros and cons!

PROS:

  • Ultra wide angle lens with full frame coverage
  • Very Affordable
  • Beautiful flares
  • Great built quality

CONS:

  • Not “ultra-wide” on anything other than full frame unless used with a focal reducer
  • Flares easily
  • Not very fast at F3.5 wide open
  • Not very sharp wide open

Conclusion:

Since I shot the test video above, I’ve used this lens for multiple projects, and there are literally no real complaints I have regarding this lens, especially at the price I paid for it. If you get lucky, you might find one at a similar price, but generally be prepared to pay at-least $150 for it, which is still a great price for a 17mm prime with full frame coverage. If you can’t find this one cheap, check out the Vivitar 17mm F3.5, which is a re-branded version of Tokina, pretty much exactly the same lens, but usually can be found cheaper! Overall, I highly recommend lens!

Tokina-17mm-web
Click to find this lens on Ebay

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9 Responses to Tokina RMC 17mm F/3.5 Review + Test Footage

  1. I also got my Tokina RMC F3.5 for cheap €70,- the men I bought it from had always used a filter on it so the lens looked as new. I have the nikon version. I found out that I like it the most on a shoulder rig or on a tripod but when you pan you can see some distortion. so be carefull about that when you filming poeple. and if they come to close they can look pretty weird. I use it for all my wideshots. I would liked a F2.8 or lower F-stop but it is the cheapest wide angle lens you can find if you got a cheap deal. Also i want to mention you need to check out the Tokina RMC 28mm 2.8, i have the PK mounth version and it rocks my world. I just found this website and i love it!

    keep up the good work!

    Daniel

  2. Since you have a NEX camera, did you compare any of the 17mm Canon FD compatible lenses with the SEl16 (specially with the Ultra wide adapter)?
    I am using a Lens Turbo 2 so the 17mm lens WILL act as a 17mm (more like 18mm) lens so compared to the SEL16 with UWA which is 12mm + 6mm for Crop factor =18mm so they are equal in that regards but I want better corner performance so I was hoping maybe one of the 17mm FD lenses will be it.
    Thanks!

  3. I agree with the comment that I wish it was a bit faster. It is not on UK eBay at the moment, but will likely grab it when I get around to buying the focal reducer. Any suggestions for alternave wide lenses which are faster? I also have a 28mm 2.8, which is a bit long for a widest lens on M/43 without a reducer. If not I might get the 19mm Sigma M/43 or look out for a good deal on a used Panasonic or Olympus.

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