Tokina SZ 8mm F2.8 Fisheye Lens (X-Mount) Review

All photos of this review were captured by Christophe Anagnostopoulos.
February 17, 2022 -> Full Review was published.

***Reading Time: 29 minutes***

Intro

Back on November 2020, Tokina became the first major Japanese third party manufacturer that entered the very popular Fujifilm X Mount system.
With the release of the atx-m 23mm F1.4 X33mm F1.4 X and the 56mm F1.4 X lenses, Tokina provided from the start three of the most popular focal lengths in prime lenses with excellent optical quality and performance.
Almost one year later, on October 2021, the popular trio of atx-m lenses were also released for Sony E-Mount , providing an excellent choice for Sony camera users as well.

Tokina presents a new series of lenses for both Fujifilm X and Sony E Mounts, the SZ line, and the first lens to present is the Tokina SZ 8mm F2.8 Fisheye Lens.

Tokina SZ 8mm F2.8 is a compact and lightweight ultra-wide prime fish-eye lens which is exclusively designed for APS-C mirrorless sensors and it is available for Fujifilm X-Mount and Sony E-Mount cameras.

Image Samples with Tokina SZ 8mm F2.8 Fisheye lens

Fisheye Lenses?

Fish-eye lenses provide a unique perspective and for this reason many photographers have them amongst their favorites while some others think of this type of lenses as “non-so-professional” due to the extreme distortion, something that of course is not correct.
Fish-eye lenses can be used with excellent and very creative results in many situations, like in architectural and real-estate photography, in landscape photography and in many more photographic genres.

Build Quality, Lens Handling & Design

The Tokina SZ 8mm F2.8 Fisheye lens has a sophisticated and compact exterior design that fits perfectly not only the Fujifilm camera styling but also the Sony APS-C cameras as well, while at the same time it fits all the guidelines and quality standards of the latest Tokina lenses.

The lens features a metallic housing with a subtle glossy black finish, and it is made in Japan with the highest quality standards.
It is not weather sealed but due to its robust and solid construction, it feels like it can withstand some normal weather elements.
However, the front bulbous element is exposed so it needs caution for possible front hits or scratches.

 

 

Size

Despite its metallic construction, the weight of the lens is only 277g, with the included lens hood attached (but without caps) and its dimensions are 52.4mm x 59.8mm for Fuji X and 52mm x 59.8mm for Sony E.
The lens is very small and lightweight which practically means that you can easily leave it attached on your camera all day without tiring, fitting perfectly on almost all Fuji X System and Sony E camera models.

Mount

The mount is made of metal, and it doesn’t have any dust protective rubber ring.
There are no electronic contacts to provide communication with the camera body, so Autofocus and some other camera features will not work, like in example Electronic Aperture Change, EXIF Data and In-Camera Corrections.
However, In-Body Image Stabilization (IBIS) will work perfectly in case the selected camera model has this feature.

Please note that on Fujifilm cameras there is an option in the menu to manually set the focal length of the lens and record this data to the EXIF.
In order to set this option you have to go to: Shooting Menu-> Mount Adapter Setting like shown below.

Focus Ring

As mentioned before, there are no electronic contacts on the mount which means that the lens can be focused only with manual focusing.
The focus ring has a good size in proportion to the lens overall size, covering around 30% of the lens barrel, and it is located in the front just below the big front element.
It has  a good solid grip and it feels very smooth when focusing, offering the proper level of resistance to the user.
The lens focusing ring has mechanical stops in the minimum and maximum focusing distance (0.10-infinity) which means that it is ideal for certain types of photography like in example astrophotography.

Due to lens design and the extreme field of view that it offers, it is somehow difficult to not achieve a proper focus, and in general I found it very easy to focus in almost all situations, both in daytime and at low light.

 

Aperture Ring

The lens features a dedicated Aperture Ring as otherwise it would be impossible to select the aperture due to the lack of electronic contacts.
The aperture ring is located near the mount so it’s unlikely to be changed by accident.

It has a similar size as the focusing ring, with a good solid grip and it feels a little stiff when changing apertures.
In general I prefer the focusing ring to be stiffer than the focusing ring, in order to avoid selecting the wrong aperture.
It is also important to note at this point that the aperture ring is click-less, something very important for video shooters who prefer a smooth operation while changing apertures.
However, especially for this lens as there is no way to see the selected aperture in example when seeing through the viewfinder, I would prefer the aperture to have clicks or even better a small mechanism to let the photographer select click or click-less aperture depending on the needs of the shooting.

Lens Hood

The lens includes the bayonet type BH-501 Lens Hood which is made of plastic and despite its relatively small size, I definitely suggest to leave it attached all the time, as due to the lens design the front element is very much exposed and needs attention in order to avoid any possible scratches.

 

It is also worth noting that the lens can be used on Full Frame Sony Camera Models and achieve an almost circular fisheye effect, but in this case the lens hood must be detached.

 

Filters

Lastly, due to the lens optical design and the bulbous front element, it is not possible to use filters with this lens.

*Testing Notes*

There are no Lab and Chart Tests with the Tokina SZ 8mm Fisheye Lens (as happened with almost all the previous lens reviews), due to the lens nature and design.

The camera used for this review was a Fujifilm X-T3 with Firmware version 4.12.

*Disclaimer*

I’m a Global Ambassador of Tokina since 2017, however this is not a paid post, and I’m only expressing my personal thoughts and experience using the new Tokina SZ 8mm F2.8 Fisheye lens.

Optical Design

Despite its small size, Tokina Technology is 100% present as the lens features an optical design of 11 elements in 9 groups.
Tokina’s exclusive Super Low Reflection Multi-Coating is present as well, providing very good contrast levels across the frame, minimizing flaring and ghosting issues, while providing water, oil and dust repellent abilities on the bulbous front element.
Lastly, the lens features a diaphragm of seven (7) blades and the angle of view is 180° degrees. 

Technical Specifications

  1. Brand: Tokina
  2. Mount Type: Fuji X, Sony E
  3. Compatible Format(s): APS-C
  4. Focal Length: 8mm (equivalent in FX: 12mm)
  5. Maximum Aperture: f/2.8
  6. Minimum Aperture: f/22
  7. Angle of View (FX-format): 180°
  8. Elements: 11
  9. Groups: 9
  10. Diaphragm Blades: 7
  11. Coatings: Multi-Coated
  12. Filter Size: N/A
  13. Image Stabilization : N/A
  14. Autofocus: N/A
  15. Focus Mode: Manual Focusing Only
  16. Macro ratio: 1:10
  17. Minimum Focus Distance: 0.1m
  18. Length: 52.3mm (X) – 52.0mm (E)
  19. Diameter: 59.8mm
  20. Weight (Approx.): 280 g
  21. Hood: Round Bayonet type BH-501 (included)

Optical Performance

Sharpness

Regarding sharpness performance, the Tokina SZ 8mm F2.8 Fisheye lens is relatively sharp wide open at the center of the frame, and it produces medium sharpness levels near the edges.
At F4 the sharpness levels in both center and edges of the frame are increasing and at 5.6, which I found to be the lens sweet spot, everything is very sharp in the whole frame.
After F11 the whole frame softens as the sharpness levels are decreasing due to diffraction.

Tokina SZ 8mm F2.8 Fisheye @ F5.6 – 1/640s – ISO 160

100% Crop

Tokina SZ 8mm F2.8 Fisheye @ F11 – 1/200s – ISO 160

100% Crop

For the following sharpness test, camera was on a Slik Vari-CF 704 tripod, and shutter was pressed with a 2 second timer to minimize any possible micro-movement.

F2.8

F4

F5.6

F8

F11

F22

Focusing

Despite being a manual focus lens, it is very easy to achieve proper focus due to the lens extreme field of view of 180°.

If the aperture is set higher than F4, just set your focus ring to 0.5m or 1m (based on Hyperfocal Distance), and everything will be in focus!

Tokina SZ 8mm F2.8 Fisheye Lens @ F4 – iso 160 – 1/200s
Focusing ring was set to 1m

Close Focusing

The lens minimum focusing distance can be set to 0.1m which practically means that it can create some very unique compositions, especially if the aperture is set to F2.8.

Chromatic Aberration

Chromatic aberrations, or fringing, are those purple and green color halos around areas of difficult (high) contrast transitions.
They usually appear around narrow dark regions that are over a bright background, like in example some tree branches over a sky background.

In the case of Tokina SZ 8mm F2.8 Fisheye Lens, Chromatic Aberrations can be seen when wide open at F2.8, specifically in areas of intense contrast transition.
Still it is easy to be removed on Lightroom/Photoshop as you can see
in the example below:

CA Not FixedCA Not Fixed

Flaring

Flaring and ghosting issues are controlled to an extent when shooting against very bright sources of light thanks to Tokina’s Exclusive Multi Coating technologies.
Still keep in mind that due to the lens bulbous front element, there will be signs of flaring in certain cases.

 

Color Rendering & Contrast Levels

As mentioned before, due to Tokina’s exclusive Super Low Reflection Multi-Coating, the Color Rendering and the contrast of the Tokina SZ 8mm F2.8 Fisheye Lens are in very good levels, as the lens produces natural colors.
Depending on available light, there are certain occasions that the sky is slightly bluer but that actually is a good thing, as the lens cannot take filters, in example to use a CPL filter.

Please note that depending on the FujiFilm Simulation style that you may have selected, colors are bound to be produced different in your Jpeg files (Raw files are not affected).

Vignetting

The Tokina SZ 8mm F2.8 Fisheye Lens produces a moderate amount of light fall-off towards the edges of the frame, especially when shooting wide open at F/2.8.
On some occasions and depending on the framing and subject, it can be fixed in post.

Not FixedNot Fixed

Fisheye Distortion

Fisheye lenses are well known for their produced distortion effect, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that all produced images must be distorted.

As happens with all ultra-wide angle lenses, the horizon must be kept straight to avoid as much as possible any distortions near the edges.
If in the scenery there are no vertical lines, especially near the edges, then the produced image will look more natural.

Of course, when a fisheye lens is being used and the horizon line is not straight, then the results can be very creative!

Comatic Aberration (Coma)

Coma is an optical aberration that afflicts off-axis light and it is caused by the curvature of the principal planes of the optical system.
Coma becomes apparent when the light rays from the source enter the lens at an indirect angle causing the image to be off axis.
The result is a comatic spot in shape, having a bright central core with a triangular flare extending toward the optical axis of the lens.

Although on paper this lens should be a very good option for astrophotography (in example Milky Way Galaxy astroscapes) due to the provided angle of view and bright F2.8 aperture, the coma levels are very intense near the edges of the frame as shown below.

Full Image @ F2.8

100% Crop

However, and despite the coma levels, the Tokina SZ 8mm F2.8 Fisheye lens is ideal for star-trails!
It is a great tool to create unique compositions, capturing star-trails in 180° of the beautiful night sky.

Personal Thoughts

Just six (6) months ago, in the review of the Tokina atx-m 56mm F1.4 X lens, I wrote in the “Personal Thoughts” section: “…small but capable, bright aperture lenses with affordable price tags (especially after the pandemic) are potential winners..” (you can read it here).

Tokina SZ 8mm F2.8 Fisheye Lens is exactly that: a very small, lightweight, capable and bright lens with a (very) affordable price tag.
Although the Fisheye effect will not be of everyone style, still it is a lens that can do wonders when used properly.

Personally I do not use very often Fisheye lenses, but there are times that I need to use a fisheye lens. A good example is in commercial Real Estate Photography.
I have often encountered rooms and indoor areas on houses and villas that are way too small that even a focal length of 14mm (in FX) cannot capture everything.
In these occasions, a Fisheye lens is a must, otherwise you simply cannot do the job right. And keep in mind that if it is used properly, you can get rid of the distortion in post.

I honestly enjoyed this lens, as it can create some unique perspectives and honestly, it is so small that you can leave it on your camera bag just in case.

Oh, did I mention that it is ideal for Vlogging?

Conclusion

“A fun-to-use lens that comes in a well built, lightweight and compact form, with a very good price tag.
The Tokina SZ 8mm F2.8 Fisheye lens is a great option for everyday photography and video like vlogging, landscape and candid shots.

Ratings

Build Quality:8.3 out of 10 stars (8.3 / 10)
Handling:8.4 out of 10 stars (8.4 / 10)
Size and Weight:9.2 out of 10 stars (9.2 / 10)
Optical Performance:7.5 out of 10 stars (7.5 / 10)
Sharpness:7.8 out of 10 stars (7.8 / 10)
Features:6.7 out of 10 stars (6.7 / 10)
Price Tag:8.6 out of 10 stars (8.6 / 10)
Fun to Use:9.1 out of 10 stars (9.1 / 10)
Average:8.2 out of 10 stars (8.2 / 10)

Did You Know?

Tokina became the first major Japanese third party manufacturer that released lenses for the very popular Fujifilm X Mount on November 2020!

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