I have used the Tokina AT-X 280AF Pro lens for approximately three months and in those three months I have taken quite a few photos with this lens, and it has developed into the standard lens on one of my camera bodies.
The 270AF Pro II lens I have had for a few years, and like the 280AF Pro lens, it was on one camera body at all times, that is, until I purchased the 280AF Pro lens. I originally purchased the 280AF Pro lens to supplement the 270AF Pro II lens, not to replace it. However, that was when I had three camera bodies, now that I have two, I may sell the 270AF Pro II lens, but not at this time.
Both lenses are internal focus, which means the lens stays the same size throughout the focusing range and the barrel of the lens does not rotate. This allows the use of special effects and polorizer filters without having to readjust them each time you change focus. Both lenses are parfocal, which means the focus does not change from one focal length to another. Therefore, if focus is obtained on a subject at 28mm, then the lens is zoomed to 50mm or 80mm, the focus remains the same. With this feature auto focus times are reduced, when changing focal lengths, since the camera does not have to re-focus each time you change the focal length.
One feature that I appreciate about the newer Tokina AT-X Pro Series lenses is that they all take a 77mm filter. To obtain a constant F/2.8 aperture over an entire zoom range, lens elements tend to be large. Therefore, with the AT-X line of lenses, you can share filters; this helps since these filters are rather expensive. Now I only have to carry around one set of filters. (Many other zoom lenses with a constant F/2.8 aperture across all zoom ranges also use this larger 77mm filter such as my Nikkor 80-200 F/2.8 lens.)
Both lenses include "tulip-style," bayonet-mount, plastic lens hoods that not only cuts down on light entering the lens from an angle, but also helps to protect the lens from possible damage.
On the 270AF Pro II lens, the aperture, focal length and distance scales are easy to read. However, when the lens is set to auto focus mode, the distance scale does not rotate so focused subject distance cannot be determined. This is due to internal focusing, since the lens barrel does not rotate in auto focus; however, when manually focusing, the lens barrel is physically being rotated. With the 280AF Pro lens, the distance scale is internal and is shown inside a window, this allows the scale to rotate in both manual and auto focus, so it is possible to determine focus distance in both manual or auto focus. The appearance of the markings for aperture and focal length are the same between the two lenses.
The Tokina AT-X Pro lenses use a "Focus Clutch Mechanism" to switch between manual and auto focus. I have found this feature easier to operate than searching for a small button on the lens; which is used by some other manufacturers. To operate the focus clutch mechanism, slide the focusing ring forward (towards the end of the lens) engaging auto focus. To engage manual focus, slide the focusing ring back, and manual focus is engaged, disengaging the auto focus gears.
With the 270AF Pro lens auto focus can be engaged at any location on the distance scale; however, manual focus must be engaged at the same location on the distance scale, where auto focus was engaged. So to engage manual focus, rotate the focusing ring while applying slight pressure until the same location auto focus was engaged is located, and the ring slides back, engaging manual focus.
The 280AF Pro lens has the same focus clutch mechanism that operates similar to the 270 AF, except manual focus can be engaged at any location.
From photos taken with both lenses, in my opinion the optical quality is excellent. Both lenses use high-quality, multicoated optical glass, the 270AF Pro II lens uses high-refraction low dispersion (HDL) glass; the 280AF Pro lens uses two aspherical lens elements: one element is molded, the other is a hybrid, and one super-low dispersion (SD) element.
This use of HDL or aspherical and SD elements helps produce extremely sharp photos with great contrast, especially in the F5.6 to F16 range, and F22 is darn good too. Flaring has not been a problem with either lens, primarily due to the multicoating, I believe. Primarily, I use Fuji Velvia and Provia, Kodak E100VS, and Agfa RSX-II 200, and have had many photos enlarged via Ilfochrome process to 8 x 12 and a few to 16 x 20. The slides and photos display excellent sharpness and contrast. Since I primarily take only landscape photos, if there is any pincushion or barrel distortion I would not notice it, since Mother Nature has no straight lines.
Here is where I judge that Tokina AT-X Pro lenses excel over all other non-OEM lens manufacturers. Other manufacturers may have great optical quality; however, I have never seen any other non-OEM lens manufacturers to have build quality as excellent as Tokina AT-X Pro series lenses. Tokina AT-X Pro Series lenses are manufactured with aluminum barrels with chrome-plated brass lens mount. A black rough (crinkle) type finish is applied to the lens and rubberized coatings are applied to the focus and zoom rings. The pattern on the two rings is different, and I guess in some situations this can help a person identify the different rings by feel. However, the older you get, the more callused your fingers are, so this difference in coating patterns on the rings does nothing for me. Besides, it is easy to figure out that the ring closest to the camera body is the zoom ring, while the one towards the forward end of the lens is for focusing.
Another nice feature about Tokina AT-X Pro lenses is the focusing ring is dampened when manual focus is engaged. This allows for a "better feel" when manually rotating the focusing ring. Similar to what a true manual focus lens feels like. The zoom ring is smooth to operate and gives just enough resistance to make it operate smoothly when rotating.
I will never say either of these lenses is as good as a comparable Nikkor, since I do not have the comparable Nikkor lens to test against. One good feature of this lens over a comparable Nikkor lens is the price. The comparable Nikkor will be more than double in cost, and in my opinion, under most circumstances you or anyone else will never be able to notice a difference; especially if you are taking landscape photos.
The following specifications for the AT-X 270AF Pro II lens and 280AF Pro lens are taken from Tokina Advertising Brochures; however, I did some revisions to commonize the specifications such as the order of the specification in the list, metric first, etc., but no actual specification has been changed.
|AT-X 270AF 28-70 f/2.6-2.8
|AT-X 280AF 28-80 f/2.8
|28mm ~ 70mm
|28mm ~ 80mm
|f/2.6 ~ f/2.8
|16 Elements/12 Groups
|16 elements in 11 groups
|Diagonal Angle of View
|75°20’ to 30°20’
|Minimum Focus Distance
|0.5M (1.6 ft.)
|760g (26.6 oz)
|810g (28.6 oz)
|Street price, new*
|Nikkor AF-S 28-70mm f/2.8*
* Prices from B&H and Adorama (9/24/2000)
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