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Review: Tokina 300mm f6.3 Mirror Lens (Micro Four Thirds)

by Chris Gampat on 10/07/2012

The Tokina 300mm F6.3 Reflex lens was designed natively for the Micro Four Thirds mount, and perfectly holds ture to the philosophy of making the entire package smaller and more portable. Because it is a mirror lens, it is also a fixed aperture, has a curious looking mirror on the front, is manual focus, and has some interesting quirks.

On a Micro Four Thirds camera like my Olympus OMD EM5, it renders a 600mm field of view due to the crop factor. I’ve spent a month with the lens. Getting used to shooting at such a telephoto focal length has taken a lot of getting used to, and even as I’m about to send the product back off to where it came from, I still don’t think that I’ve become accustomed to the field of view.

However, that doesn’t mean that is can’t deliver some stunning images.

Gear Used

Tech Specs

Specs taken from the B&H Photo Video listing of the lens

Performance
Focal Length 300 mm
Comparable Focal Length: 600 mm
Aperture Maximum: f/6.3 – 6.3
Minimum: f/6.3 – 6.3
Camera Mount Type Micro Four Thirds
Format Compatibility Micro Four Thirds
Angle of View 1
Minimum Focus Distance 34.50″ (87.63 cm)
Magnification Not Specified By Manufacturer
Maximum Reproduction Ratio 1:2
Groups/Elements 11/13
Features
Image Stabilization No
Autofocus No
Tripod Collar No
Flash Synchronization Not Specified By Manufacturer
Exposure Control Not Specified By Manufacturer
Physical
Filter Thread Front: 55 mm
Dimensions (DxL) Approx. 2.17 x 2.60″ (55.12 x 66.04 mm)
Weight 10.51 oz (298 g)

Ergonomics

This section was copied from the first impressions post.

One of the first things you’ll notice about the Tokina 300mm f6.3 is the mirror on the front with a little circular disk in the center. You’ll also notice the extremely large hood. My advice is to keep it on there, because that mirror is probably very fragile.

The lens itself is fairly compact though; in fact, it is around the same size as my Voigtlander 17.5mm f0.95. The lens hood only makes it look larger than it really is.

On top of the lens is a focusing scale, but no depth of field scale at all. It can focus to beyond 60 feet and as close as around 2.5 feet. In front of this is a very large and extremely comfortable manual focusing ring. Said ring is also very smooth. But don’t think that you’ll go from 60 feet to 2.5 feet just like that. This is a lens that you’ll need to take your time with and set your photos up slowly before you press the shutter.

Additionally, ensure that your camera’s IS compensation is set to 600mm.

The lens has an overall silver color, which matches well with a Silver Olympus OMD EM5.

Focusing

Focusing the lens is fairly simple to do. All you need to do is keep in mind the 600mm focal length (equivalent) and just pay very close attention to your potential subject.

Oh also, it does this really cool doughnut-shaped-bokeh-thinger. That is characteristic of most mirror lenses, and it should be kept in mind for astrophotography and spying on the neighbors. Ensuring that you have critical focus can be tough on a system that doesn’t have peaking. Otherwise, you can liken the bokeh to what a blind person sees when they don’t have corrective spectacles on.

Image Quality

When you can nail a subject perfectly in focus, the image quality from this lens is absolutely astounding. However, it isn’t the sharpest out there but the softness from the images looks almost like a cross between a toy lens and an extreme telephoto.

The bokeh, as mentioned before, can do some pretty cool things such as make subject look like they’re moving or create those rings.

When using this lens, practice good judgement and ensure that your shutter speed is over 1/500th. That’s around the point where the OMD’s image stabilization system can handle for most people. More experienced users might be able to shoot down to 1/100th.

You can see more images in the First Impressions post.

 

Conclusions

Even after a full month of testing with this lens, I’m still not sure what to think about it. Can it deliver great images? Surely. Is it for everyone? No. The focal length is extremely long and not everyone may like the doughnut effect or the slow manual focusing. To really get the most out of the lens, you’ll need to slow down, think, and wait for the right moment.

With that said though, the Tokina 300mm f6.3 Mirror Lens does what it is supposed to do very well, but I wish that it were sharper. However, for the price, you really can’t go wrong.

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