Tokina AT-X Macro 90mm 1:2.5 Review

In this review I have a look at this popular manual macro lens from the 80’s and test whether it can defend it’s reputation as one of the best macro lenses ever in the digital age.

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Introduction

The Tokina AT-X 90mm 1:2.5 Macro is a manual focus lens, with a maximal magnification of 1:2. It is well know for it’s supposedly great bokeh, it was even nicknamed Bokina because of this.

It was produced in any major mount like Canon FD, Nikon F etc., my copy has a Minolta SR mount.

Their wide range of applications make macro lenses in the 100mm range quite popular, so I will show you in this review if the Tokina AT-X Macro 90 mm 1:2.5 could be a good option for you.

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Specifications

Size: (diameter x length):
Filter Thread: 55mm
Weight: 530g
Max. Magnification :  1:2
Close Focusing Distance (from the sensor/from the front of the lens): 38cm /22cm
Number of aperture blades: 8
Elements/ Groups: 8/7
Price:  (Germany August 2014): 150-250€ in Canon FD or Minolta SR mount, up to 400€ in other mounts

 Image Samples in low resolution

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You can find many more samples in this flickr set.

Versions

I only know of one version, but the Vivitar 2.5/90 which is older shares the same optical formula but it is a bit bigger and heavier and it has less effective coatings which make it more prone to flares.

Build quality and handling

The housing is completely made of high quality metals with a rubberized focus ring.

The focus ring turns nice an smoothly, I find it easy to focus at all distances (unlike for example the Minolta MD 4/100). It turns in the wrong eh … I mean the Nikon way.

From 39cm to 1m the focusing ring travels about 260 degrees and it takes a further 60 degrees to reach infinity which is good enough for portraits but dedicated portrait lenses have a longer focus throw making it a bit easier to take portraits with them.

The lens is pretty heavy for it’s size and I prefer to use it on my a7 with a L-bracket attached.

The aperture ring which is made of metal can be adjusted in half-stops from f/4 to f/32, there is no stop between f/2.5 and f/4.

Macro Extender 

There is a dedicated 1:1 Macro Adapter for this lens which is not simply a spacer but it contains several glass elements for better correction.

Since I don’t own one I can’t tell you anything about it, it would be interesting to see weather it gives a noticeably better performance  than a cheap 45mm spacer.

Optical performance

These results are based on the use with a Sony Alpha 7.

Vignetting

Vignetting at f/2.5 can be visible under critical circumstances and it is basically gone from f/4.

Distortion

As with almost any macro lens this one is very well corrected for distortion.

Flare Resistance

Strong light sources will especially at the corners of the frame will reduce the contrast noticeably but there won’t be any flares.

Bokina Backlight

Bokina Backlight

 

Bokeh

So far I haven’t seen anything but great bokeh from this, see all those examples.

Here is a test image showing great fore- and background performance at f/2.5

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There is one issue though and that is a saw-tooth shaped aperture at f/4.

bokeh

 

Chromatic Aberrations

The lens can, under certain circumstances, produce significant amounts of purple fringing at f/2.5, stopping down to f/4 reduces it to barely noticeable levels and from f/5.6 onward it is gone.

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Sharpness

In short: The lens performs great at any distance

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closeup
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f/2.5

The center is already excellent wide open.

Midframe sharpness is good to very good.

The corners are a little soft

f/4 – f/8

Lens shows excellent sharpness from corner to corner, there is a teeny tiny improvement in the corners when you stop down from f/4 to f/5.6

If you use the lens at it’s close focusing distance you will notice a drop in sharpness at f/8 because the effective aperture at this distance is closer to f/11 and diffraction kicks in.

f/11

Sharpness is reduced a little because of diffraction

Links

photodo mtf graph

Compatibility

This lens comes in many different mounts and compatibility differs between mounts.

If you want to use this lens on a mirrorless camera you should choose Minolta SR or Canon FD because they are cheaper.

If you want to use it on a Canon DSLR you will have to buy a copy with Nikon’s F, Contax/Yashica or Olympus OM mount because there are adapters for these mounts which will allow you to retain infinity focus.

Alternatives

There are many Macro lenses to choose from. In the 90-105mm range their widest aperture ranges from f/2 to f/4 and

If you want a cheaper lens which does 1:1 natively you could look for a Panagor/Vivitar 2.8/90. Their performance at f/2.8 won’t be as good but tey are cheaper and stopped down the differences will be small.

If you want a faster lens your only options are the Olympus Om Zuiko 90mm f/2.0 Macro (around 700€ used) or the Zeiss Makro-Planar 2/100 (around 1000€ used, $1700 new). But are great performers but both display significant amounts of color fringing in out-of-focus areas.

Almost any major camera company had a 4/100 macro lens with a maximal reproduction ratio of 1:2. From first hand experience I know the Minolta MD 4/100 which I used before I got the Bokina. Optically it is a good and it is lighter. But the focusing ring is too stiff for my liking and the trow at non-macro distances too short.

Then there is the Leica Apo-Macro-Elmarit-R 1:2,8/100 for around 1200€ used which is better corrected for color fringing in out-of-focus areas. The same can be said about the Voigtländer APO Macro 2.5/125 which is even more expensive but it does 1:1 without a spacer. For a discussion of the last three lenses see this thread on fredmiranda.com.

Then there are many modern lenses, Canikon both have a stabilized 2.8/100 macro  and as do Tamron and Sigma. The Sigma 2.8/105 OS ist the most interesting in my opinion because when paired with the Sony LA-EA4 will give you great optical performance plus AF and image stabilization.

I think the Tokina is one of the most attractive options because it offers great performance, is fully manual and fast enough to also be used as a portrait lens.

Conclusion

I think of the many lenses I own this lens has impressed me the most and it is my most used lens.

Apart from 3 minor deficits (sawtooth at f/4, purple fringing and average backlight performance) it performs excellent: It is sharp as a razor and the bokeh is excellent.

What I also like a lot is the versatility, I can use it as a macro lens, as a portrait lens and also for landscapes. So when I choose my lenses for the day I usually bring the Bokina with me.

If you are interested in the lens you can support me by using these affiliate links to see if there are any on ebay.com or ebay.de right now. It is appreciated 😉

Images Samples in high resolution

See this flickr set for a few more full resolution images.

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it doesn’t get any sharper than this

DSC05772very nice bokeh at longer distances

Tokina_90mmf2p5_atf2p5low levels of color fringing

DSC00592obligatory duck shotNueremberggreat infinity performance 

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at greater reproduction ratios the performance it still very good

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Further Reading

If you are interested in manual lenses you might want to check out my Minolta MC 1.2/58 or Canon FD 4/300 L review.

My Novoflex Adapter review might be interesting to you as well.

Finally the How I create Images – Part 2: Working with the Sony a7 is quite popular.

 

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I like to be outside with my camera and I am also a gear head with a love for manual lenses.

103 thoughts on “Tokina AT-X Macro 90mm 1:2.5 Review”

  1. I guess, the optical design is similar to my ELICAR V-HQ Macro MC 90mm f/2,5. But I have an additional achromate lens coming with it, which provides me an macro capacity of M. 2:1!

  2. Thanks Phillip for a great review and fantastic images (as usual).
    Unfortunately my Tokina is stuck on the 1:1 adapter and needs repair (I can’t fine anybody to fix it in the UK sadly)

    Just one out of topic question: do you shoot RAW and do you usually use the tripod? (As your images having great clarity and sharpness). Cheers and happy new year!
    Rado

    1. Aww, that sucks. I hope you will finde someone to fix it.

      All the images are deloped from raw.
      Just the long exposure of the water and the macro shot were taken with a tripod.

      Cheers,
      Phillip

    2. The firm WIESE-Fototechnik at Hamburg/Germany has the official TOKINA repair service, and can repair Rado’s lens problem!

  3. Thanks for taking the time to make this review. I have been thinking about getting a macro for a while the ‘Bokina’ looks like it fits the bill. I wanted to ask your opinions about the new Tokina 100mm f2.8 macro and if it just as good? They have redesigned it to be 1:1 so the Tokina Extender would no longer be necessary which is great, as long as the optics and Bokeh don’t take a hit. Would it be worth getting the new version or is the older lens still superior?

  4. Hi Philip I’m looking for a portrait lens that I can use on my sister’s wedding. Most likely, I’m going to adapt on Sony A7, so far the plan was to go for Canon FD 85 1.2. Of course, even on this purpose price matters and since you recommended the Bokina as a potrait lens as well I wonder if you’d also recommend it for “semi-serious” wedding potraits (even when compared to the much heavier priced Canon)?
    Brgrds + thanks
    Florian

    1. Hi Florian,

      I think the Tokina would be a great lens for portraits, I wouldn’t want to use f/1.2 for those anyway.
      But the Canon 1.2/85 would be much better at isolating persons at longer distances.

      Phillip

  5. Great review for this excellent lens. It’s very sharp but at least for APS-C the chromatic abberations are a real issue wide open.

    This is totally unrelated but I think you said something about a sharpening plugin for LR that you were using instead of step sharpening in PS. I’m doing step sharpening in PS and I’d rather not have to go to PS just for that. Can you tell me what you’re using?

  6. I have both the Tokina version and the Vivitar Series 1 version. The one benefit of the Vivitar version is that the aperture blades are not “saw-tooth” like the Tokina version.

  7. Great review of a very nice lens. Thanks Phillip.
    However, why are the Canon FD or Minolta SR mounts of this lens cheaper than the others as Nikon or Pentax?

  8. i have recently come into a load of lenses and camera bodies. The bodies are nikon FA both black and silver, nikon em. the lenses are nikon, tokina, vivitar and soligor. There are about 10 lenses , one being the Tokina AT-X 90mm macro. My ? to you is can I use any of this gear with newer DSLR bodies both nikon or canon?

  9. One little picky point (sorry), I think you should point out that the twin for this lens is the ‘Vivitar Series 1’, not simply ‘Vivitar’. The Series 1 line of lenses were a different animal to the regular, basic Vivitar ones. That’s not to say that the Vivitar lenses were bad, in fact some of them are superb, but the Series 1 lenses are on another level (I have 5 Series 1 lenses, including the Bokina, and love them all).
    Great review.

  10. Of course like pehaps anybody here, im a fan of the Bokina.
    But, organizing my pictures last week, enjoying the macros with fine Bokeh, i noted,
    – these pics i had taken with the old lens, a Vivitar 2,8 90 mm ….
    a big difference, without knowledge which lens was used, can probably not be ruled out
    The 2,8 90mm sold as Elicar, Vivitar, Soligor etc. is regarded as the “less good macro” and you see it even on the prices on Ebay.
    But, in handling for free hand shooting, its a sympatic lens: better position of aperture ring, finer working focus ring , 1:1 without converter and for its longer extension while focusing close, its better to hold in Hand.
    Heavy build, one can overall defend himself with it….
    Dont forget, its strictly designed as macro, not at its best on infinity, – here is the advantage of the Bokina which is simply universal
    But looking at the prices for the Bokina today, the 2,8 90 mm appears as a smart deal for shooting beautiful macros.

    On the other hand, having finally got my Bokina, i never took it off the NEX body, (where it appears to be designed for) anymore
    Perhaps there is some “magic” on the Bokina

  11. Great review. I love your site and your photos.

    I am currently a A6000 shooter but will eventually get af Sony full frame.

    Will this lens be good with the A6000 or would your recommendation change?

  12. Hi Phillip,
    I really appreciate your reviews, and this one is no exception.
    However, as this “Bokina” is on my shortlist, you really need to say what a truly terrible lens it is, which isn’t worth half the price it goes for ;o))
    Love your photographs too.
    Thanks,
    Tim

    1. I wish someone would lend you a Voigtlander APO-Lanthar SL II 90mm/F3.5, which is another lens on my radar, as you cover all the points so well in your reviews, that I’m interested in too.
      The biggest negative about the Tokina is the 530g weight, where the CV is only 320g, but I wonder what its Bokeh would be like with only F3.5 max?

  13. Thanks for the great review, I have heard nothing but good things about this lens.

    I have always been very happy with my Tamron Adaptall SP 90mm f2.5 1:2 macro (52BB) which worked very well as an all round lens – portraits, landscapes and macro. It is significantly cheaper and more common than the Tokina and is a real option for people looking for an alternative to it. I’ve used it with a Sony 5N and A6000.

    Another lens only mentioned in passing in your review is the final Tamron Adaptall 90mm lens, which is f2.8 and has native 1:1 reproduction, as well as more aperture blades than previous versions. It performs very well and fits on any camera.

    It is quite rare, but worth hunting down – it is much lighter than older manual lenses as it has a lot more plastic (not to everyone’s liking, but it feels well built and its weight feels more suited to the A6000 than older all-metal lenses).

    Anyway, thanks for the review, I will try in future to review my vast lens collection in the same way!

  14. Hi, Philip

    Great review.

    I recently found another macro lens “Tokina 100mm F2/8 macro”, what is your opinion to use it at A7?

  15. Hi Phillip,

    Im just wondering what type of adapter are you using with your
    Tokina AT -X macro 90 mm Thanks

    And thanks for very usefull and detailed reviews. Appreciate it.
    Jura

    1. Hi Jura,

      I use different adapters. I like my Novoflex adapter the most but they are very expensive overseas. The cheaper ones from Amazon or Ebay usually work well enough

      1. Hi Phillip
        Thanks for answer,

        I think that Novoflex are prety good by the reviews I red about.
        I visited Novoflex web and I could not find adapter for Tokina AT -X macro 90 mm mount. Can you please tell me which adapter exactly it was. thanks.

        And also if you can please recomand other good lenses for macro pictures on Sony A7

        Best regards Jura

        1. Which Adapter you need depends on the mount of the Tokina. It was made with for many different mounts. Mine has a Minolta SR mount so I use my adapter for Minolta lenses

          Other Nice lenses are the Leica 2.8/60, Nikon 2.8/55 and Canon FD 3.5/50

  16. Hi Phillip,

    I am looking into getting myself a macro lens. I have a Sony a7ii camera and have narrowed it down to the Tokina 90mm lens and the Minolta AF 100mm 2.8. Have you tested the Minolta one and if yes, how do you think it fares against the Tokina?

    1. The Minolta is a very good lens as well with native 1:1 focusing. At f/2.8 it has sharper corners but a little softer center, at f/8 both are great.
      I think manual focus is more fun with the Tokina. I would buy the one which is cheaper.

      1. Thanks Phillip! At the end of the day, they are going to cost more or less the same, as I have to get a more expensive adapter for the Minolta lens.

  17. Hi Phillip,

    I have an old M42 mount Vivitar Series 1 90mm 2.5 complete with dedicated 1:1 adapter.
    I love this beaten up old lens as it remains a resolving monster. Great for landscapes too.
    With the dedicated 1:1 converter optical performance increases! Chromatic aberrations are greatly reduced. Have used it with great success on a Sony A900 and now an A7r.
    The flare doesn’t bother me, and it renders really nicely in B&W.

  18. I was checking your flickr page on this lens. How did you get the EXIF data to appear? I thought this was a manual focusing lens. There’s no electrical connections on this lens and you’re using an adapter on the Sony A7. Am I missing something? Thanks.

  19. I recently purchased a Sony A7R ii and am looking for a macro lens. For the Tamron X90 which adapter would you recommend?

        1. I guess the Sigma is bigger and technically a bit better in some aspects.

          You could buy the Sony A-mpunt version of the Sigma and use a Sony LA-EA3 adapter or the Canon EF-mount version with a Commlite or Metabones electronic adapter.

  20. May I ask whether there are any drawbacks using the bokina lens Pentax K mount on A7 compared to other mounts like Nikon or Olym mounts ?

  21. Love your 85mm contrast, I have Tokina, Leica 90 2.8 , and Olympus OM 85mm 2.0 which is lightest and tack sharp. Tokina for stack-shot macros. Shoot A7ii & A7rii.

      1. Hi Philip,
        First, thank you very much for your excellent review, it helped me a lot for making a decision.

        I’m loving my Tokina (minolta mount) on my sony a7s, but i chose a cheap adapter which doesn’t give me infinite focus and makes the lens “dance” a little bit. Does the K&F adapter you are using give the infinite focus at the end (i prefer not having to correct it to near the end).

        Considering that it will be impossible to find the original macro extender alone, which generic, macro tube extender could you recommend me for this lens?

        One last comment. I’m finding a slight tendency on the lens to present the whites a little bit green. Did you find that with your copy?

        Thank you in advance for your answers!!!

        1. Hi Daniel,

          my K&F adapters are usually a bit short so that the lens will focus a little behind infinity.

          I think any macro tube would around 45mm work, the nicest one is probably the one for the 3.5/100 macro which features a solid tripod mount.

          I didn’t notice any green shift with the lens but the coatings are certainly a bit dated.

          1. Thank you very much!

            Then i think i’ll have to try different adapters as the fotodiox or even the novoflex. If i find one that that goes perfect for focusing infinity i’ll tell you!

  22. Hi Phillip,

    I love your reviews, and usually purchase most of my lenses based on your reviews.

    Do you think there would be any drawbacks mounting this on an a6000?

    I finally found a few on ebay, but I have been too worried to pull the trigger, as I’m afraid of quality loss on an APS-C sensor.

    Thoughts?

    Thanks.

  23. What are your thoughts about the Image quality comparison between sony fe 90mm f2.8 macro g oss and the Tokina 90mm d2.5? Is it worth it to get the Sony of i allready got the tokina in terms of Image quality?

  24. It is a great lens, even for astro! it can be used wide open, a little bit of blue halo’s around the brightest stars which is gone by f2.8, No coma, even wide open. I like it over my Sigma OS HSM 105mm f2.8 , especially the bokeh and the transitional zone.

  25. hi Phillip , its very good preview and photos . I just bought a vivitar 90 2.5 and i used adapter ring for my canon 50D . I can hear the sound of aperture ring working fine but when i take photos same iso , same time shutter and i only change the aperture ring but all photos are the same ? may i know is it not working properly with my adapter ring or the aperture ring not working anymore ?

  26. Phillip,

    I’m surprised. I haven’t seen any mention of the Sony Macro 90mm that DxO rated as one of the best lenses for Sony E-Mount. Maybe I overlooked it on your site but I cannot see any mention of it anywhere. Would love to know your opinion of this lens? The Tokina is MUCH cheaper but I’ve ruled out the Batis 85mm F1.8 so I’m leaning towards either something like the Tokina, or just putting up the cash for the Sony G 90mm F2.8 Macro because I’m hearing VERY good things about it!

    1. I bought one but it was badly decentered so I had to send it back. From my short experience it is a very good lens which is quite large and handling is only soso but the optics are top notch.

      1. I painstakingly spent the whole day scouring the web for a reason to justify getting the Sony FE 90mm but I came across a video comparing the bokeh on the Tokina AT-X and the Sony FE Macro, and the Sony suffers from the onion ring pattern in evening bokeh balls coming from Christmas lights. The Tokina was much more uniform and smooth. That actually pushed me in the direction of seriously considering this lens over the Sony and saving $7-800 dollars. lol – So your review and that video is enough to persuade me to go the other direction. High Five! Your review of the Pentax 28mm F3.5 also encouraged me as well and I made a purchase of that lens. It’s so hard to find solid data on these older lenses in the face of all the digital hype… I’m pretty excited about the Bokina now!

  27. Phillip,

    I need your opinion. I spent the money on this lens and it’s sharp as a tack but my main concern is the “heft” of the lens. I’m using a K&F Concept adaptor that seems to have some play in it that makes the lens feel like it’s wearing down the Sony Mount or something!? This makes me not want to shoot it as much and I’m not noticing a huge difference between this lens and my Porst 55mm which feels solid on the camera with an M42 K&F Adaptor. I may end up selling it but I wanted to get your two bits on what adaptor you use with the lens? My Tokina is in Nikon AI Mount…

      1. Interesting. In what ways?
        I’ve heard (and experienced myself – four copies of the 14; 1 great two TERRIBLE one so so) of lots of sample variation, but not about good copies breaking.

        1. I have heard quite a few reports of people who spent considerable time hunting for a good copy of the 14 only for it to break after a year. Also lensrentals once had a repair report where Samyang lenses scored really badly.

          1. Makes me feel slightly better about having spent big on an APO Sonnar rather than the Sammy 135!

          2. I have to give manual Leica and Zeiss lenses credit for one thing: they offer pretty stable value. Many C/Y lenses are more expensive than similar brand new ones.

  28. Is the veiling flare on the Tokina version really that bad? I have the Vivitar Series 1 version and the veiling flare (on my copy anyway) is maybe the worst of any lens I’ve used to the extent that it is almost a deal-breaker. I’ve read that the Tokina is supposed to be much better in this regard and I have considered upgrading to it for this reason alone. Can anyone with experience with both lenses comment on whether the difference in flare handling between them justifies the higher cost of the Tokina?

    1. I’ve found that a hood makes quite a bit of difference. I’m just using a cheap screw in metal hood that I bought on ebay and it does the job. I have some flocking material that I’ll eventually line the inside with to reduce any chance of reflection. I still get veiling flare if the sun is low and I’m shooting in its general direction, but I can reposition the lens to avoid it usually.

  29. Wow, this looks like a great lens Phillip.

    I have a Rodenstock APO-D 75mm f4 for copying 35mm film negatives. Works very well on a DX Nikon D3200 sensor, even though it is not supposed to be at its ‘optimal’ magnification.

    On a full-framed sensor the APO-D is good, but seems to need to be stopped-down to f5.6 or f8, unless of course my test negative was not truly flat!?

    That Tokina is impressive, and hard to find too! The longer focal length would be ideal in theory, but would require me to build a new setup. Longer negatve-to-lens distance required for my limited aparatus.

    Regards.

  30. Thank You for short but answer 🙂

    Tokina 90mm F2,5 is old, on Sony A7r resolution loss isn’t visible?

    Does anyone have item to sell in Poland 🙂 ?

    Greetings

  31. Hi Phillips,

    What about the Tamron Adaptall-2 SP 90mm f2.8 Macro (72B) which offers 1:1 maximum magnification? Do you think it will perform better than the Tokina?

  32. Hi Phillip,

    I really liked your reviews on vintage lenses. I am using a Sony A7rii and plan to buy the tokina with a nikon or olympus or ckntax mount. You suggested the minokta or canon fd mounts only for mirrorless but I have not had any luck lately lookingbfor these lenses. Will it be possible to instead buy the om, nikon or contax mount and use it with my sony a7rii via an adapter? Is there any differencewhen using these mounts instead of the mounts you suggested?

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