I was recently selected to review the new Tokina Macro lens, the 100mm f/2,8 FIRIN dedicated to Sony mirrorless cameras. At first, the lens is rather compact, its barrel is extending to reach the 1:1 macro magnification ratio. The lens is fairly light, it is nice to see lenses designed specifically for Sony mirrorless cameras at last and not the extended lenses designed for DSLR which adversely affects the size of the lens! The front lens is positioned quite far inside the barrel making the use of the lens hood dispensable (however this lens hood is provided with the lens). This is a great advantage for macrophotography. The lens has no knobs which is a pity because I would have appreciated a knob to turn off the AF mode and above all a focus-limiting switch (I will return to this point in a moment).
Pierre Anquet, flower's pistils, Tokina 100mm macro FIRIN used with Sony A7III, ISO 200, f/4, 1/800s.
Using the lens
I have used the Tokina lens with my Sony A7III camera. The set is well balanced and the in-camera stabilization works perfectly together with the lens. The focusing system is quite slow and is having a hard time to travel a long distance?? (this is why a focus-limit switch would have been useful). However this focusing system is incredibly accurate even in macro. To my surprise, I was able to keep shooting foraging bees or flying hoverflies while using the AF mode. It is very nice particularly for moving subjects. Moreover, the Eye AF system works fantastically well.
This is a good alternative for portrait shooting. DMF mode allows AF combined with direct manual focus adjustments. The focusing ring is electronically associated with the camera and its stroke is very long (3 full revolutions from the infinite to 1:1). This is convenient for macrophotography thanks to the sharp and accurate focusing system even if this setting remains long to complete! If the barrel is extended when you switch off the camera, it will self-retract.
Pierre Anquet, grasshopper, Tokina 100mm macro FIRIN used with Sony A7III, ISO 160, f/3,5, 1/500s.
On the optical side, let’s make it easy, this is the sharpest macro lens I have been able to test (and I have tested a lot!). The Tokina 100mm Firin is by far as good as the Canon MP-E 65mm which remains the industry benchmark in terms of sharpness. At maximal aperture, the sharpness remains excellent until f/16 where diffraction begins to reduce it slightly. I am constantly impressed by the level of details on the image itself: you can easily observe the hairs on the flies, the pollen grains on bees or the scales on butterflies.
I don’t see any chromatic aberrations and I have experienced a good resistance against flare due to the fact that the front lens is deeply positioned into the barrel. The bokeh is soft and nice, and the subjects easily stand out from the background. I have used this lens in natural light and with a compact flash always with good results. The focal length of 100mm is for me the perfect compromise between the working distance, the dimensions and the bokeh: if longer it would be heavier and very expensive, and if shorter, it can be tricky with sensitive subjects.
Pierre Anquet, foraging bee, Tokina 100mm macro FIRIN used with Sony A7III, ISO 2000, f/10, 1/250s, 1:1 ratio.
With an end-user price at around 650€, the Tokina 100mm macro FIRIN is a real bargain for those wanting to start macrophotography with a Sony mirrorless camera. The optical quality of the lens is really outstanding and clearly the crucial point for a macro lens! Furthermore, similar lenses are very scarce on this segment of the market today. We can regret that the barrel extends during focusing but this characteristic provides a competitive pricing edge against the competition. For me it is simple, the Tokina 100mm macro FIRIN has become my new all-purpose macro lens used alone or with a close-up lens.
Pierre Anquet, jumping spider (Salticus scenicus), Tokina 100mm macro FIRIN used with Sony A7III, ISO 200, f/7,1, 1/200s.
Narrative of a shooting
I have just received the lens in the morning, the weather is fine and I think it would be interesting to quickly test the “beast” in my garden… I take my camera, my flash, my Tokina and let’s go. I am taking some views and suddenly, I notice a little jumping spider on a plant. I make a first shot and when I check the image at the back of my camera, I am zooming at 100% to check the focusing and I am stunned by the quality of sharpness: it is possible to see each hair of the little spider… This is particularly remarkable given this spider is only a few millimeters wide… Let’s go then for a game of hide-and-seek with this little jumping spider!
Thanks to the 100mm focal length, I can shoot at a relatively far distance from the spider and avoid scaring it away. I am used to photographing spiders with my Canon MP-E 65mm but I have to be much closer to the subject. So, here it is nice to be able to keep a distance using the Tokina Firin 100mm lens. The spider is jumping from one leaf to another, I am taking a few shots and suddenly it turns around to face me. Then I continue shooting before it disappears. I check the images on my camera and amongst the full set, one view stands out from the rest. This image summarizes this lens perfectly: the bokeh is really soft and the sharpness just fantastic, and I am sure this image even drastically cropped could be printed as such while still keeping some fine details!