Tokina Firin 20mm F2 FE AF Snap Verdict
There’s nothing like a fixed focal length lens to focus the mind.
Strip away the luxury of zoom, then composition and framing become a delicate art of manoeuvres and shuffles to find the elusive perfect viewpoint.
That position found and with camera switched to manual, for the ultimate experience you understand, one leg propped against a rock and body contorted in a way that would impress a yoga master, the shot is framed and captured. The slightly wonky horizon I can correct later.
This is all part of the experience of a great lens; it makes you think about the shot, composition and the joy and experience of capturing a scene.
I looked at the Tokina Firin 20mm F2 FE MF last year and was impressed by the optical quality. The AF version is a very different beast in both style and use, however, the excellence of image quality is reflected in this the AF version.
The AF is accurate when coupled with the Sony A7 MKIII, maybe not as fast as the Sony G series lenses but fast enough for the style of lens.
20mm is ideal for landscapes, however, in the right hands, it can be a versatile focal length.
Getting creative with some wide angled close-up shots the 28mm minimum focal distance is a bit of a reach, but this distance is in line with Sony’s own premium 12-24mm.
20mm would have just added to the lenses flexibility.
Ultimately a 20mm is used for landscape shots, and for this, the Tokina Firin 20mm F2 FE AF excels. Great image quality across the frame, no signs of chromatic and sharp wherever you choose to look in the image, depth of field permitting of course.
It goes without saying that background blur is smooth and full of tone.
The Tokina Firin 20mm F2 FE AF is well worth a look, well weighted, looks excellent and ultimately enables you to capture great images.
For Tokina Firin 20mm F2 FE AF
- Excellent image quality
- Smooth background blur
- Fully intergrated electronics
Against Tokina Firin 20mm F2 FE AF
- Minimum focus distance 28mm
- AF slightly slower than G lenses
I love 20mm lenses coupled with a good full frame body, and in this case, the Tokina Firin 20mm F2 FE AF it is a perfect partner for the Sony A7 MKIII.
The fit, balance and style all sit together, and while some premium lenses can leave the small Alpha bodies feeling a little unbalanced, the Tokina Firin 20mm F2 FE AF is just the right size.
As a 20mm lens, it’s a great landscape solution, offering an excellent wide vista with minimal distortion. The fixed focal length and design lend themselves to the genre enabling you as a photographer to think about composition without relying on the zoom feature to correct your positioning.
When I looked at the 20mm manual focus last year I loved the build and image quality. The AF version is a very different lens in both design and function, the question is with the changes to the design in order to facilitate the AF will it still produce such stunning images.
The Tokina Firin 20mm F2 FE AF, unlike the FíRIN 20mm F2 FE MF, doesn’t feature an aperture focus ring and this means that the design of the barrel is far cleaner and simplistic.
There are far fewer markings, indeed only the name printed on the side, and a good section of the length is coved with the manual focus ring.
The lens has a good aperture range from f/2 at the wide open through to f/22, and all electronics are in place to ensures full communication with the Sony body.
20mm focal length gives you an angle of view of 92°40 and a minimum focal distance of 28mm.
An essential feature for any landscape lens is internal focusing which enables you to attach filters without them spinning around on the end of the lens each time you focus.
In order to facilitate attaching a filter, there’s a thread of 62mm.
Looking at the inner workings of the lens and you have 13 elements in 11 groups. The aperture is constructed from nine blades which help to produce the soft background blur when required.
Size and weight is kept compact and light measuring 73.4×81.5 mm
and weighing in at 464g.
In the box along with the lens is the BH-623 lens hood. The Tokina Firin 20mm F2 FE AF comes with a 2-year limited warranty.
Build quality and handling
Lens design in recent years has evolved, gone are the large glass optics, multiple rings and markings and now we have lenses like the FíRIN 20mm F2 FE AF.
The design has been simplified, and this simplification gives the lens a real feeling of quality.
The black finish and simple model name and numbers printed in white on the barrel are the only real markings, leaving the rest of the barrel with plenty of space for the large focus ring.
The construction and detailing is simple ergonomically pleasing and functional.
As a Sony E-mount, the lens attaches to the camera with the usual reassuring click when twisted into place.
As an AF lens it has full compatibility with Alpha E-Mount series cameras, so all communication between the lens and body is identical to that of a Sony branded lens.
In use using AF the lens performs well. Switching between the different shooting modes causes no issues as apertures and exposures are changed.
Switching the lens over to manual focus and the large focus ring comes into play. The size of this ring makes it easy to use, and there’s plenty of room for rotation to pull the image into focus.
When shooting stills and used with manual focus assist switched on the lenses focus is responsive to adjustments, and has been designed with full access to Sony’s manual focus assist features.
That large focus ring also comes into play when shooting video and makes focus adjustments easy and smooth.
Since I started using the Sony Alpha system, I have mainly stuck to zoom lenses. This isn’t actually out of choice it’s just that the fixed lenses for E-mount cost a fortune.
Not only that but most of these desirable lenses are almost as large as the DSLR equivalent, and that throws out the balance of the camera, however lovely those lenses look.
The FíRIN 20mm F2 FE AF is a perfect balance, and the first thing that you notice when out in the field is exactly that, the balance of the camera. It’s not too big or too heavy, like the Sony / Zeiss 24-70mm f/4 it’s just the right size.
I find this balance important for any lens that I’m going to use extensively, I generally keep the camera in my hand and wrap the strap around my wrist, so keeping weight and size to a minimum is essential.
This size weight thing also comes into play when you’re shooting with a fixed lens. If you’re moving about you may work up a bit of a sweat, but, you don’t want your wrist to twist off in the process.
I say this, as one of my favourite optical lenses is so large and heavy that I ached for weeks after testing. This is not the case for the Tokina Firin 20mm F2 FE AF.
For any AF system, accuracy and speed are essential.
When it comes to accuracy, I found that the lens was generally spot on.
I did, however, have a few issues when it came to photographing a seal that appeared as I was taking a few landscape shots in Devon. The camera signalled that it had locked on target, but when I reviewed the images, I could see that the focus was slightly off.
In this instance the light was low, and the conditions were overcast. The image was also shot in an instant so moving quickly from one composition to another as the seal briefly popped above the surface.
Testing accuracy away from the spur of the moment scenario and that accuracy all appeared good, but the test did highlight that the AF speed was a little slower than that of the Sony lenses I have been using.
I also found that the camera had a little more difficulty finding focus in lower light conditions.
Generally, the AF speed and accuracy was excellent in all AF modes.
Switching the camera to manual focus and the feeling of the lens changes. The large focus ring gives you a good level of control and responds instantly to any adjustments.
The full electronic integration also means that you have access to the manual focus assist features.
Another aspect of the lens which stood out during the test, especially in the low light conditions, was the image stabilisation.
Due to the communication between lens and body, the lens can make full use of the SteadyShot inside technology enabling you to shoot at longer shutter speeds than would usually be possible.
Physical performance and operation are just part of the story and of course where this lens comes alive is the image quality.
Here we have to look at the whole image before any adjustment of faffing in the digital darkroom. RAW, unedited and ready to show every defect and imperfection.
Firstly, new camera and I still seem to have dust on the sensor, but this is something that will it seems will forever plague my images.
When it comes to image quality, there are a range of issues that we’ll be looking for, chromatic aberration, focus, vignette and tonal graduation.
Although image quality has a great deal to do with the camera you are using, it does in equal measure have to do with the lens that fronts it.
Looking at the image as a whole and colour and tone are well reproduced but it’s the detail that shines through.
During the test, Pip (my dog), spent as much time as possible posing for the camera, she’s quite vain, and the images that were taken highlight the quality.
Over the years I’ve looked at many lenses with large apertures, and despite the claims when it comes to quality, those lenses can’t cope with the size of aperture they offer.
Here with the Tokina Firin 20mm F2 FE AF and using an f/2 aperture I focused ion on the eye. In the final image zooming in on the eye and you can see the detail and clarity of the shot is as good as it gets.
Not only that but the focus fall off is beautifully controlled from sharp through to the blur. In the background, the blur is smooth with a good level of graduation that gives the image a pleasing depth.
Zooming in on the background rock and you can see the potential of the smooth round bokeh produced by the nine-blade aperture.
Switching to an image with high contrast, shot on a bright sunny day, and checking the corners and edges there’s no sign of Chromatic aberration.
The image is just about as clear as you get.
Distortion is just as well controlled, and despite the wide focal length, there is only the slightest sign, which will go unnoticed unless you’re looking for it.
Likewise, the vignette is slight with just a touch of darkening at the corners, this is far less than most lenses of this focal length and again highlights the overall quality of design.
Ultimately the optical quality of the Tokina Firin 20mm F2 FE AF is superb with the highlight being the way that the lens control tone and sharpness falloff.
The Tokina Firin 20mm F2 FE AF is a perfect landscape lens with plenty of flexibility and superb optical quality.
The Sony E-mount fit lens has been designed to blend in seamlessly with the system in style, weight and size.
Once attached to the camera it looks at home, and the designers at Tokina have done a great job when it comes to this look and style.
Used on the Sony A7 MKIII the balance is ideal, just what you want when it comes to a lens and body combo that you can carry around.
When out shooting landscapes the 62mm filter thread enables plenty of options when it comes to attaching either circular filters of square filter systems.
In use, the lens is fast and responsive, although on a few occasions especially in lower light conditions I did find the AF a little slow and the camera had a few issues locking onto a target.
Shooting in normal lighting conditions and the speed and accuracy was spot on.
Although primarily designed as an AF lens switch to manual and this lens is extremely competent especially with the large focus ring and full compatibility with Sony’s manual focus assist.
Image quality, however, is where this lens stands out. The tone, detail and colour are well reproduced, but it’s that sharpness falloff that makes this lens excel.
At f/2 this lens enables you to capture images with almost a cinematic appeal; rich colour, plenty of tone and depth.
If you’re looking for a landscape lens for your Sony Alpha series camera, then I would highly recommend you check out the Tokina Firin 20mm F2 FE AF.