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Tokina 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5
© 2013 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

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Tokina 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 AT-X PRO

Tokina 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5, Nikon version (72mm filters, 17.8 oz./504g, 1.7'/0.4m close focus, about $100 used). enlarge. The biggest source of support for this free website is when you use these links, especially this direct link to this lens at eBay (see How to Win at eBay), or at Adorama, when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Thanks! Ken.


September 2013     Nikon Reviews    Nikon Lenses    Canon    Canon Lenses




Ideal Uses: Low-cost, high-quality FX ultrawide zoom for use on FX digital, DX digital and 35mm, both auto and manual focus. Works great with thick filters, and even with two stacked filters down to 21mm on FX.

Not for: I wouldn't bother with this on a DX camera. I'd use any DX lens, like the 18-55mm kit lens, instead. This Tokina lens won't autofocus with the cheapest D40, D40x, D60, D3000, D3100 or D5000, but the 18-55mm kit lens will.


Introduction       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

Format & Versions    Compatibility

Adorama pays top dollar for your used gear.

B&H Photo - Video - Pro Audio
I use these stores. I can't vouch for ads below.

This Tokina is a winner. It's as sharp as anything from Nikon, other than the superior 16-35 VR and 14-24mm. This Tokina is tough, much tougher than Nikon's similar 18-35mm.

This Tokina uses more metal than anything from Nikon today. This Tokina is precise, too: everything moves smoothly and without play. It's a lot sharper than Tokina's 20-35mm f/2.8 AT-X PRO, which sells for three times as much.

For about $100 used, this Tokina 20-35/3.5-4.5 is a steal for FX and 35mm. It is better optically and far better mechanically than Nikon's current 18-35mm AF-D.


Format and Versions       intro      top

This is a big, full-frame FX lens, and I am reviewing it as such. It works fine on DX, but why bother for such a restricted zoom range?

This Tokina came in mounts for Nikon, Canon, Pentax K FAJ, Sony Alpha and Minolta. I'm addressing the Nikon mount here; you may make the usual inferences for other mounts.


Compatibility       intro      top

This is an FX lens, and works especially well with on FX, 35mm and DX Nikon like the D7000, D700, D3X, D300s and F6. It works fantastically on manual-focus cameras like the F2AS, F3, FE and FA, since it has real manual-focus and aperture rings that work exactly as they should.

The 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 AF works great with almost every film and digital Nikon camera made since 1977. If you have a coupling prong added to the diaphragm ring, it's perfect with every Nikon back to the original Nikon F of 1959.

The only incompatibility is that it will not autofocus with the cheapest D40, D40x, D60, D3000, D3100 or D5000, but if you focus manually, everything else works great. These cameras have in-finder focus confirmation dots to help you.

This Tokina is a "D" lens, meaning it encodes subject distance to help get more accurate exposure, especially with flash.

See Nikon Lens Compatibility for details on your camera. Read down the "AF, AF-D (screw)" column for this lens.

Caution: as a non-Nikon lens, it may or may not work on certain present or future cameras. I don't know of any incompatibilities, but there's always the possibility that something won't communicate properly on some models of camera.


Tokina 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 AT-X PRO

Tokina 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 AF. enlarge.


Specifications        top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations


Name       specs       top

Tokina calls this the Tokina AF 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5.

It's got no fancy alphabetical designations like Tokina's f/2.8 version, and it's much sharper!


Optics       specs       top

13 elements in 11 groups.

Front-group focus. Front group slides inside barrel.

Front and rear groups move inside barrel for zooming.



Diaphragm       specs       top

Diaphragm, Tokina 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 at f/5.6

Tokina 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 at 35mm and f/5.6. enlarge.

6 ordinary blades.

Stops down to f/22-29.

Engraved metal aperture ring with full-stop clicks. No click at f/4. Two indices: one for 20mm, the other for 35mm.


Coverage        top

35mm film, FX and DX.


Focal Length        top


When used on a DX camera, it gives angles of view similar to what a 30-52mm lens gives when used on an FX or 35mm camera.


Angle of View        top

95° - 64 ° on FX and 35mm film.


Close Focus       specs       top

1.3 feet (0.4m).


Hard Infinity Focus Stop?       specs       top


This is great for astronomy; just turn to the stop and you have fixed laboratory-perfect focus all night.


Focus Scale       specs       top



Depth-of-Field Scale       specs       top



Infra-Red Focus Index       specs       top

Yes, white lines for 20mm and 35mm.


Aperture Ring       specs       top

Yes, engraved metal.

Full-stop clicks, except none for f/4.

Two index lines: main line for 20mm, second index line for 35mm.


Filter Thread       specs       top

72mm, metal

Rotates with focus.


Size       specs       top

Tokina specifies 3.0" (75mm) overall length by 3.2" (82mm) diameter, Nikon mount.


Weight       specs       top

17.777 oz. (504.0g), measured, Nikon mount.

Tokina specifies 17.6 oz. (500g).


Hood       specs       top

Tokina BH-771 Hood

Tokina BH-771 hood.

BH-771 plastic bayonet hood, which I think was a $40 accessory.

It's the same hood that was included with the Tokina 20-35mm f/2.8 AT-X PRO.

Fuzzy inside.

Oddly, it has a three-slot bayonet, meaning in only mounts one way, not two ways at 180º apart.


Made in       specs       top



Price, USA       specs       top

About $100 used, as of November 2010.

About $280 new in the late 1990s at B&H, which is the same as $370 in 2010 with inflation.


Performance       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

Overall   Auto and Manual Focus    Color    Coma    Distortion  

Ergonomics   Eyeblow   Falloff    Filters   Focus Breathing

Ghosts   Hood   Color Fringes    Mechanics    Sharpness   

Sunstars   Survivability   Zooming


Overall      performance      top

The Tokina 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 AF is as good as Nikon's lenses optically and mechaincall. In fact, it's as good mechanically as Nikon's professional lenses and better than most of Nikon's lenses since it's all-metal, and not crappy plastic as are Nikon's newest lenses.


Auto and Manual Focus      performance      top

AF Speed

One full turn (two half-turns) of the AF screw pulls focus from infinity down to 4 feet.

This is very fast, as is typical for wide lenses.


AF Accuracy

AF is right-on in my D3.


Manual Focus

Manual focus is slick and precise, I love it! It's better than Nikons AF-S zooms today, but you do have to move your Nikon's AF-MF switch.


Color Rendition      performance      top

The color rendition of this Tokina seems the same as my NIKKOR lenses.


Coma      performance      top

This Tokina has a little coma wide-open.

Coma is weird smeared blobs that appear around bright points of light in the corners. They happen with fast and wide lenses at large apertures. Coma goes away as stopped down, and tends not to be seen in slower and tele lenses. Coma is an artifact of spherical aberration.

sagittal coma flare


Distortion      performance      top

The Tokina 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 AF has barrel distortion, stronger at the wide and middle ends, with less at the 35mm end.

This can be minimized by plugging these figures into Photoshop's lens distortion filter. These aren't facts or specifications, they are the results of my research that requires hours of photography and calculations on the resulting data.


FX and Film
at 3m (10')


© 2010 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

* Some waviness remains.

Its distortion is complex, so it never completely goes away with these simple corrections, except at 35mm.


Ergonomics      performance      top

Tokina 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 AT-X PRO

Tokina 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 AF. enlarge.

This is a wonderfully precise and smooth all-metal lens. It works well; everything is easy to grab and well thought out.

Move only the switch on your Nikon to go between auto and manual focus; there is no need to move any switch on the lens. In autofocus, the focus ring moves, so keep your hands off and grab the fixed orange band instead. I prefer this to the two-step focus-ring switch of Tokina's 20-35mm f/2.8 AT-X PRO.

Zoom and manual focus are very smooth and light. They turn easily.

Zoom and focus rings turn in the same direction as Nikon's lenses.

The twisted ribbing on the zoom ring is weird, but not felt.


Eyeblow       performance     top

Very little air moves in and out as the 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 AF is zoomed. I never felt air blowing out of my eyepiece as I zoomed.


Falloff (darkened corners)      performance      top

Falloff on FX is about as expected for an ultrawide zoom. It's never a bother, as it can be on other lenses.

It will be even less of an issue on DX (see crop factor).

I've exaggerated this by shooting a gray field and placing these on a gray background.


Tokina 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 falloff on FX and film at infinity, no correction.

Maximum Aperture

© 2010 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.



Filters, Use with      performance      top

There is no problem with vignetting, even with thick filters, at any setting.

In fact, even two stacked normal 72mm filters work fine down to 21mm on FX.

The solid billet-aluminum filter ring never moves.

Don't use polarizers at the 20mm end. Technically it will work fine, but artistically, 20mm lenses see such huge angles that whatever it is you hope to polarize will vary so much that the resulting image will usually fail. For instance, skies will show a dark band across them!


Focus Breathing       performance     top

Of interest mostly to cinematographers focusing back and forth between two subjects, the image from this lens gets very slightly smaller as focused more closely.


Ghosts      performance      top

I didn't stop to look for ghosts, however I did notice that this Tokina lens' coatings weren't as efficient as Nikon's, so there will be more stray light floating around inside if you're pointing it at the sun.


Hood      performance      top

The hood only mounts one way.

There are three tabs, not two, so the other two ways it will attach are 30º crooked.


Lateral Color Fringes      performance      top

There are no lateral color fringes on the D3, which corrects them automatically.


Mechanics      performance      top

Tokina 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 AT-X PRO

Rear, Tokina 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 AF. enlarge.

This Tokina is tough; tougher than Nikon's current lenses.


Filter Threads

Solid billet anodized aluminum.



Plastic bayonet.


Hood Bayonet

Solid billet anodized aluminum.


Fore Barrel

Black anodized aluminum with engraved and painted orange band remeniscnet of Nikon's dedicated close-up lenses for its super-zooms of the 1960s.


Focus Ring

Black anodized aluminum.

Rubber covered.

Painted markings.


Mid Barrel

Black anodized aluminum.


Zoom Ring

Black anodized aluminum

Rubber covered.

Painted markings.





Aperture Ring

Anodized aluminum.

Engraved and filled with paint.

Two indices (one for 20mm and one for 35mm), engraved and filled with paint.


Focus Geartrain




Chromed metal.



Paint, except for engraved aperture ring, serial number and aperture indices.



Painted on bottom of barrel.


Serial Number

Engraved onto bottom rear of barrel and filled with paint.


Ass-Gasket (rain seal at mount)



Noises When Shaken

Lots of clattering.


Made in



Sharpness      performance      top

Warning 1: Image sharpness depends more on you than your lens.

Warning 2: Lens sharpness doesn't mean much to good photographers.

With those caveats, the Tokina 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 AF is as good as Nikon's similar lenses.

If you want to count pixels, you want Nikon's newest 16-35mm VR.

This Tokina is a sharp lens, as ultrawide zooms go. It's softeer in the corners at the wide settings at large apertures, as is Nikon's 17-35mm f/2.8 and Canon's 16-35mm f/2.8 L II, each of which cost over ten times as much.


As seen on a 12MP FX Nikon D3:


At 20mm

f/3.5: It's sharp and clear in the center. Sides and corners are blurry from coma.

f/5.6: Side and corners improve somewhat.

f/8 - f/16: Sides and corners continue to improve.


At 26mm


f/4: Sharp in the center. Sides and corners are less sharp.

As stopped down, sides continue to improve.


At 35mm

f/4.5: Reasonably sharp and clear all arond.

As stopped down, doen't improve much.


Sunstars      performance      top

I didn't try it, but with its common 6-bladed diaphragm, this Tokina ought to make classic 1970's 6-pointed sunstars on bright points of light.


Survivability       performance     top

The Tokina 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 AF is much tougher than its dainty weight and price suggests.

It's all metal, and the zoom mechanism and focus mechanisms are both shielded inside the barrel.

When zoomed, the front group slides in and out inside the outer barrel, so if you hit the front of the lens, you aren't likely to damage the zoom mechanism as you are with "pumper" zooms, like Nikon's 18-35mm, that move the outer barrel as zoomed.

In fact, if you put a filter on this lens, it's quite resistant to physical abuse.


Zooming      performance      top

Zooming is the best of any ultrawide zoom: it moves smoothly with a single fingertip.

EXIF focal length encoding accuracy was within a millimeter.


Compared             top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

Tokina 20-35/3.5-4.5 and Nikon 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 AF-D

Tokina 20-35/3.5-4.5 and Nikon 20-35mm f/2.8 AF-D. enlarge.

I compared this Tokina directly to the Nikon 20-35mm f/2.8 AF-D, Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8 AF-S and Nikon 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5 on a Nikon D3.

This Tokina lens is as good optically as these Nikon professional zooms. The Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8 AF-S is a bit better, while this Tokina is superior to Nikon's 20-35mm f/2.8 AF-D! This Tokina's optics are about as good as Nikon's 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5, while this Tokina has far superior mechaics to the plastic Nikon 18-35mm.

None of these zooms are very sharp on the sides and corners. They are all pretty good in the center.

These comparisons are looking mostly in the corners, where the differences are most apparent:

At 20mm and f/4, they are about the same, with the Nikon 20-35mm f/2.8 AF-D worse than the other three.

At 20mm and f/8, the Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8 AF-S is a bit better than the other three.

At 35mm and f/4 or f/4.5, the Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8 AF-S is best, this Tokina 20-35 is second, the Nikon 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5 is second worst and the Nikon 20-35mm f/2.8 AF-D is the worst.

At 35mm and f/8, the Nikon 20-35mm f/2.8 AF-D, Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8 AF-S are best and the Nikon 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5 and this Tokina are worse.

Therefore, this inexpensive Tokina slots right in there between Nikon's lenses. The 17-35mm AF-S is a much newer and more expensive lens, while this Tokina is just as good optically as Nikon's current plastic 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5, and this Tokina is much better than Nikon's original Nikon 20-35mm f/2.8 AF-D.

I didn't compare Tokina's f/2.8 20-35mm AT-X here, but when I did before, the Tokina 20-35mm f/2.8 was inferior optically to the Nikon lenses. Therefore, transposition tells us that this inexpensive Tokina lens is much better than Tokina's much more expensive f/2.8 lens that was sold alongside this lens.

I didn't bother comparing the Nikon 16-35mm VR optically because I've already shown that its the sharpest ultrawide zoom on the planet. All these other lenses are previous generation. If you count your pixels, get the 16-35mm VR.

Tokina 20-35/3.5-4.5
Filter Threads
Delicate amateur
Tough amateur
Zoom type
6 blades
7 blades
9 blades
9 blades
9 blades
9 blades, rounded
Better than good enough
Better than good enough
Good enough
Almost good enough
Much better than good enough














17.8 oz.


13.1 oz.


20.7 oz.


21.2 oz.


25.8 oz.


23.9 oz.


Infinity Stop?
MF mode
Move switch on camera
Move switch on camera
Press button and rotate special ring
Pull focus ring towards you AND move switch on camera
Grab ring at any time
Grab ring at any time


Recommendations       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

The Tokina 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 AF is the steal of the decade for an FX ultrawide zoom. Its optics are on par with most of Nikon's best lenses of its era, and this Tokina's mechanics are better than Nikon's similar-speed 18-35mm zoom.

If you count your pixels, get the Nikon 16-35mm VR, otherwise, especially of money matters, get one of these if you can find it.



I wouldn't bother with the hood.

I'd pitch Tokina's flat 72mm cap, and use a 72mm Nikon pinch-type front cap, which really is much easier to use.

I'd leave either a 72mm Nikon Clear (NC - UV) filter, or a 72mm Hoya Super HMC UV on the lens at all times.

If I was working in nasty, dirty areas, I'd forget the cap, and use an uncoated 72mm Tiffen UV filter instead. Uncoated filters are much easier to clean, but more prone to ghosting.

For color slides like Velvia 50, I use a 72mm Hoya HMC 81A or Nikon A2 filter outdoors.

For B&W film outdoors, I'd use a 72mm Hoya HMC Yellow K2 or 72mm Hoya HMC Orange.


Help me help you         top

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The biggest help is when you use any of these links when you get anything. It costs you nothing, and is this site's, and thus my family's, biggest source of support. eBay is always a gamble, but all the other places always have the best prices and service, which is why I've used them since before this website existed. I recommend them all personally.

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If you've gotten your gear through one of my links or helped otherwise, you're family. It's great people like you who allow me to keep adding to this site full-time. Thanks!

If you haven't helped yet, please do, and consider helping me with a gift of $5.00.

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Thanks for reading!

Mr. & Mrs. Ken Rockwell, Ryan and Katie.

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November 2010