Jonathan Fleming's Blog

A Photography Blog

Tokina 50-135mm f/2.8 AT-X 535 PRO DX

with 42 comments

(Taken with my Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3)

My wife is keenly aware of my equipment wish list, and came home from work yesterday with several photographic goodies for me, including this fast telephoto from Tokina. My fast zoom kit is now complete, with three constant aperture lenses covering an 11-135mm (16.5-200mm full-frame equivalent) range.

What I love about my three-lens system is how compact the optics are compared to their full-frame counterparts. This 50-135mm f/2.8, for instance, is a lot smaller than I thought it would be at 5.32 inches in length, weighing 1.86 lbs. To get similar focal length coverage with a constant aperture on a full-frame Nikon camera, you’d need a lens like the $2400 Nikkor 70-200mm VRII, which is a whopping 8.1 inches long at a hefty 3.2 lbs. To me, this is a big advantage of the DX system: smaller, lighter optics that make for better mobility and portability. Not to mention affordability: I picked up all three of my third-party constant aperture zooms for less than the price of the new Nikkor 70-200 VRII alone (Tokina 11-16, Tamron 17-50 VC, Tokina 50-135).

I shot a bunch of images last night to make sure I had a good copy of the Tokina 50-135, and am astounded at the results so far. This is one sharp optic! It relies on my camera’s focus motor to drive focus, so it doesn’t focus as fast or as quiet as an AF-S lens. I find the focus motor in my D300s to be pretty fast, however, and had no problems tracking my dog around the house in low light.

(Nikon D300s + Tokina 50-135mm f/2.8 at 85mm f/5 ISO400 1/60 Second)

Like my Tokina 11-16, this lens features very high quality construction, with a rugged all-metal casing and exceptional fit and finish. The zoom and focus rings are well-damped and move with buttery-smooth precision, and the included (but not removable) tripod collar is also a plus for me. What’s missing? VR and AF-S, but at the price I (er…the wife) paid, I think I can live without those features for now. I really hope Nikon releases some DX lenses in this range, but I’m not holding my breath!

There’s relatively little information on this Tokina on the internet incidentally, which I find strange since it’s so excellent. In fact, from the research I did before receiving it as a gift, it appears that Tokina discontinued this lens.


Want to see more images taken with the Tokina 50-135mm? Head on over to my Flickr page. I just got back from a trip to Japan, where I used this lens extensively. You can view my Japan set by clicking here. Enjoy!

42 Responses

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  1. slick! I look forward to seeing what you produce with it!


    January 12, 2010 at 6:31 pm

  2. This Suki-chan looks so japanese, I mean she seems to have more japanese feel than usually. I don’t know why. It’s just I feel so after all, maybe;)

    Your wife is really generous! She knows what’s the best present for you;))


    January 13, 2010 at 12:55 am

    • I see what you mean, she really does have a very Japanese look to her in that shot huh? 笑


      January 14, 2010 at 10:28 am

  3. You Joker!

    *buying one*


    January 13, 2010 at 12:53 pm

  4. Hi Jonathan, been following your blog for sometime now.

    I’m a budding photographer, and I find your pics to be fantastic! Always look forward to updates.

    Just wondering how you’re enjoying your Tokina 50-135. I’ve been thinking about getting a little more range (I also own the Tamron 17-50 VC), and was deciding between the Tokina and the Nikon 70-300.

    Just wondering how the lens has worked out for you so far!



    February 11, 2010 at 9:41 am

    • Thanks for the comment!

      I actually own and use both the Tokina 50-135 and the Nikkor 70-300 VR. In outdoor scenes with ample light, the 70-300 is fantastic and has a much broader focal range than the Tokina. You can REALLY compress the elements in your frame with it racked out. It also benefits from VR, which helps you at longer focal lengths with static subjects. For these reasons, I think the Nikon is probably a better bet for general purpose/travel use. For portraits or for stopping action in lower light, however, the Tokina really shines and is a steal at its current price. I use it extensively for events (especially indoors, where the 70-300 just won’t do) as well as studio and on-location portraits.

      So I guess what it boils down to is: what do you intend to use a telephoto lens for?


      February 11, 2010 at 10:17 am

      • Mostly portraiture, but I do have some prime lenses that cover that pretty well. So I may end up with the Nikon just for those times I need that extra reach.

        Thanks for the advice. I’ll keep it in mind while I’m mulling it over.

        Keep those updates coming!


        February 11, 2010 at 11:33 pm

  5. Hi Jonathan,

    Just a quick question on your Tokina 50-135. I ended up picking up the same lens and so far am pleased with the results.

    However, I’ve noticed that the manual indicates that you can override the AF by simply turning the focus dial. However, on my copy, although the dial spins freely in AF mode, it actually does not have an effect. In order to manually focus, I have to set the focus to MF (pulling back on the clutch mechanism). Just wondering if you can confirm that yours is similar.

    Thanks again for all your assistance. I really enjoy your work!


    March 10, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    • Hello again!

      Tokina lenses are not designed to allow instant manual focus override like Nikkor AFS lenses. The method you describe to get into manual focus is correct. You do have to engage the focus clutch by pulling the focus ring back in order to switch from AF to MF.


      March 11, 2010 at 7:26 am

  6. The 17 – 50mm Tamron you have along with the rest is a good choice. I also have the Tamron 70 – 200mm f2.8.
    Nice Lense with good optics, slow on auto focusing. Unfortunatily this lens got damaged. had nothing but trouble trying to get it repaired. Parts are difficult to obtain let alone in a reasonable time. This does not help Tamron. I have decided to because of my difficulties in having a Tamron repaired to switch to a Tokina AT-X 535 PRO DX – Tokina. I t seems to appear to be a good Lense with good optics. I have a Tokina 10 – 24 and I am not as fond of the optics on that. They are just not crisp enough for me, even on the optimum aparture settings.
    I will purchase the Tokina 535 Pro as it suits the Camera APS C size sensor. Can’t go wrong considering the price as I can pick one up for around $720.00 Aus


    March 24, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    • Nice choice! Thanks for your input. If you’re not happy with the 12-24 on the wide end, you might try the 11-16. It’s a killer ultra wide!


      March 31, 2010 at 10:02 pm

  7. Hello, one question where exactly your wife bought the lens? I live in the bay area but I can’t find this lens nowhere, thank you.
    your photography is awesome.


    March 31, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    • Hello!

      We got the Tokina from BH photo video, but I believe it’s no longer in stock because Tokina has discontinued this model. You may need to try ebay perahps.


      March 31, 2010 at 10:03 pm

  8. Thank you, I will be checking ebay.


    April 1, 2010 at 2:07 pm

  9. Thanks for a great review, Jonathan! Damn, I’m so confused right now… 50-135 or 17-55…


    April 5, 2010 at 1:18 am

  10. have you tried tokina 80-200?

    with these kind of posts you have, now i am really getting this lens… so hard to look for any reviews of this lens in the internet and now im happy i saw your blog. very thankful!

    i hope my d90’s focus will not be a problem


    May 20, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    • Thanks for visiting, and I’m glad you found this helpful to you! I know someone who has the Tokina 535 and D90 combo and is happy with the performance of the combo. Thanks again!


      May 21, 2010 at 11:37 am

  11. Paq,

    If it helps you any, I have the D90 and the at-x 535 and I’m very satisfied with it!


    May 21, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    • how that’s how i want it! i’m gonna get this one by mid-june 🙂

      very glad i have stumbled upon this blog. thanks!

      btw jonathan… are you gonna do a little review of bags? :p


      May 22, 2010 at 6:50 am

      • I’m actually in the market for a new bag. Soon as I snag the right one I’ll do a little write-up!


        May 24, 2010 at 2:02 pm

  12. […] Tokina 50-135 f/2.8 was the main lens I used on my recent trip to japan. If it only had a vibration reduction system, […]

    • Hi,

      I’ve been considering to get either Tokina 50-135mm f/2.8 or Sigma 50-150 f/2.8 to my Canon T2i, but I am a bit concerned that I will end up getting not quite sharp images as both of them lack of IS. How do you get clear images shooting indoor parties, food, dancing people?



      August 13, 2010 at 8:38 am

      • Hi Ema, thanks for your visit!

        Bear in mind that image stabilization systems are designed to reduce blur caused by small movements at the camera, not subject movement. So if you’re shooting a plate of food indoors, IS might help you since the food isn’t moving. It’ll reduce the vibration at the camera caused by minute movements in your hands (unless you’re using a tripod).

        Because IS will only help steady the camera and not your subject, if you’re shooting a person dancing indoors under low light, it’ll help you keep steady any stationary element in the frame, but your subject will likely be blurry from all the dancing.

        For indoor parties, especially if there’s dancing, you have to use flash. You should probably invest in a nice hot shoe mounted unit if you plan to take lots of pictures indoors, because the light from the flash will help you freeze subject motion even when using relatively slow shutter speeds. Hope this helps =)


        August 15, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    • Hey Jonathan, came across your blog while researching the tokina 50-135 for my 7d. Ended up buying it from a bird photography. He let it go for a pretty sweet deal I think 450 cad. Anyway love the lens so far. Keep up the good work.



      May 15, 2011 at 9:36 am

  13. hi jonathan,

    I’m confused that I can use flash in any picture and those flash can freeze any motion even the low shutter speed and lens without IS ?? Am I right


    August 15, 2010 at 9:55 pm

    • Well, I wouldn’t say any motion in any picture, but here’s a good example of what I’m talking about. I took this picture yesterday:

      This image was taken at a shutter speed of 1/15 of a second on a moving cable car. Notice that the background shows motion blur but that my subjects are sharp, despite the very slow shutter speed and lack of a stabilization system at the camera.

      This is because I’m throwing some flash at my subjects. I have my camera set to “rear curtain sync,” which fires the flash right before the shutter closes to end the exposure. This way, when I hit the shutter release, the shutter opens up, the background drags along the frame for 1/15, and then right before the shutter closes, the flash pops at a speed of about 1/1500 and freezes whatever is right in front of it. This is a pretty common technique used by photographers to imply motion in a photograph.


      August 15, 2010 at 10:21 pm

  14. Hey Jonathan! Thanks for the awesome info you provide! I work here with your cousin Josh in Patterson. He pretty much convinced me of picking this lens up instead of the Sigma 50-150. So I ordered it today!!! (Sorry though, got it for a Canon) It seems it has been about 7 – 8 months since you received your at-x 535. How is it holding up so far?


    August 24, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    • Hi! Nice to meet you. Keep my cousin out of trouble ok? haha

      I too was considering the Sigma before going with the Tokina. I decided in the end that the difference in price made the Tokina simply irresistible when it comes to value. Well, after all these months I still love the lens. I could leave it on my camera all day long and be happy =)

      No need to apologize for using Canon. I have an s90 in my pocket =D


      August 25, 2010 at 8:48 am

  15. hi, Jonathan. I’m interested in this lens too, but can I know how is the AF speed on D90? isit slow? and does it produce noise? Highly appreciate it if you can help answer me out. thanks 🙂


    November 3, 2010 at 11:54 pm

    • Hi,

      Yes, there is some noise from the AF motor in your camera driving the lens with the Tokina, but I never found it to be bothersome. AF speed depends on what you’ll be using it for. My cousin shoots lots of weddings with this lens on a D90 and never complains about AF speed, so that should tell you something. Hope this helps =)


      November 4, 2010 at 8:50 am

  16. Thanks for the information in this post 🙂 I know it’s been a while since you wrote it but from reading comments, this post and of course reviews on the net I think I might have found my next lens for a good price. Cheers! Btw, I have a S90 in my pocket too 😛 Aren’t they great?


    January 12, 2011 at 10:49 am

    • Thanks for the comment! Yes, it has been a while, but I’ll always have great things to say about the Tokina 535. My S90 is sitting on my desk right next to me as I type this. Definitely my favorite compact ever. Thanks again!


      January 12, 2011 at 10:54 am

  17. Hi, got this awesome lens this week, based on your jonathanfleming blog, SLRGear, Optychne, and Photozone reviews. Many thanks to all, the recommendations are just great…especially your. Overall impressed with the lens. LOVE your blog very much.

    Donny Tong

    May 18, 2011 at 9:06 pm

  18. Great shots. I have the same lenses. Your post production work is excellent. What do you use?


    February 24, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    • Thank you! I am a Lightroom user, and am currently post processing with Lightroom 4 Beta


      February 27, 2012 at 12:14 am

  19. […] flare in the frame, but I love Suki’s expression. Taken with my now retired Nikon D300s and Tokina 50-135. Two strobes to my right are combating the really bright background to provide light on […]

  20. Tokina 50-135 is awsome !!!!!! for it picture quality and it price as well. I got mine second hand for $400.
    The previous owner said he can not use it coz it has no VR, But I think we just need to keep the shutter speed always up. by this methode I can get a lot of razor sharp picture out door. I am mount it with Nikon D7K. It is briliant. I event not think to get rid off my prime nikon 50mm 1.4g and also my sigma 17-50 OS.
    I am not promoting my self but seach my flickr account user name: local_82 Picture of Darrel is taken by Tokina 50-135.


    April 18, 2012 at 9:55 pm

  21. I take lots of pic’s and had serious AF-problems with the Tokina 50-135 not focusing where i wanted on my Nikon D200.
    However when i cranked up the ISO to at least 500 it works 99% perfect.
    Any ideas on that ?

    Ove, Svedala

    August 27, 2012 at 7:03 am

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