Cinema Vistas are Tokina’s line of no-compromise, full-frame cine lenses. Five T1.5 primes from 18mm to 85mm are currently available with a 105mm on the way; there’s also a 16-23mm T3 zoom. When I reviewed the Canon C700 FF, Canon supplied a Vista 50mm, so I had a chance to do some quick tests with this $4,500 lens.
The 50mm is a fairly chunky prime lens weighing 4.6 pounds (2.09 kg). It’s 5.7 inches or 145mm long, with a front diameter of 4.49 inches or 114 mm. The front filter thread takes 112mm filters.
Construction appears to be metal throughout; while I didn’t stress-test the lens by dropping it on the floor or exposing it to salt spray and sand, it has a robust and solid feel.
The focus ring travels through about 300º. Both focus and iris rings are marked in white for operation from the left side, and yellow for operation from the right side. Both focus and iris scales are densely populated so you’re not left guessing as to intermediate values. The rings turn smoothly without bumps or grinds, and have cine-standard mod 0.8 gearing for follow-focuses and lens motors.
The wide T1.5 aperture means that the rear element fills the PL mount’s diameter almost entirely. If PL isn’t your thing, Vistas are also available with Canon EF, Sony E, or Micro Four Thirds mounts. There are no contacts for electronic data transfer; Vistas are pure mechanical lenses.
Reflections in the lens indicate that different coatings are used on different elements, and the distortions show that aspherical elements are used. In all seriousness, I could have simply looked up that information, but then I wouldn’t have had the excuse to post this cool photo.
While I don’t have a proper optical testing bench to fully thrash a lens, I could at least do some simple tests.
The lens is so close to perfectly rectilinear that I couldn’t see any visible defects. Straight lines stay straight. You could shoot architecture with this lens and no one could complain.
Tokina claims Vistas are 8K-capable lenses. I only tested the 50mm on a 5.9K camera, but saw no indication that 8K resolution was unrealistic.
At T1.5 the lens is slightly softer at image center than at T2.8, but from 2.8 onwards it’s consistently crisp and contrasty.
Corners are bit softer than centers but are fully crispened up by T5.6:
When stopped down to T5.6 this is a very sharp lens.
Wide-open, corners are almost a stop darker than the center of the image, but by T2.8 everything aside from the extreme edges is flatly illuminated. From T4.0 onwards it’s as flat as a pancake.
Chromatic aberration is almost entirely absent, both laterally (towards the edges) and longitudinally (before / behind the focal distance). See the chart pix above for lateral; for focus-related CA, see Matthew Allard’s focus tests.
Breathing and Bokeh
No breathing. It’s uncanny. Focusing and defocusing the lens results in no perceptible change in image magnification. I’m used to this with electronically-controlled zooms built into camcorders, but not with fully mechanical cine primes. Focus pulls feel almost synthetic, as if you were varying a blur filter in post rather than moving a few chunks of precision glass back and forth.
Bokeh is smooth and unfussy. On point sources, the outer rim of the bokeh is slightly brighter than the center, but not distractingly so.
Again, Matt Allard’s focus pulls give a good idea of what to expect.
Flare is very well controlled. With a moderately closed iris you can get modest sunstars from bright sources, but they aren’t a defining feature of the lens:
The Tokina Vista 50mm T1.5 is an impressive full-frame prime for $4500. It’s sharp, distortion-free, untroubled by chromatic aberrations, and unbothered by flare. Focus pulls result in a pleasing bokeh, without apparent breathing. Its straightforward, “all we want are the facts, ma’am” rendering means that what you see (by eye) is what you get (through the lens). It’s a great choice for unfiltered reportage, and its consistent behavior will make your VFX folks happy.
Ironically, it may be too clean for some people. if you’re looking for vintage “character”, this lens hasn’t got it; perhaps you should look into Richard Gale Optics UK instead.
- No breathing
- No chromatic aberration
- Minimal flare
- Smooth bokeh
- T1.5 maximum aperture
- Covers 35mm full-frame and VistaVision image sizes
- Available in PL, EF, Sony E, and MFT mounts
- While center crispens up by T2.8, corners aren’t fully sharp until T5.6
- Image illumination isn’t perfectly even when wider than T4.0
- The look may be too clinical for some
- Complete lack of breathing can be disturbing at times
- No electronic coupling for lens data
- A high-performance, modern, full-frame lens for not too much money
Disclosure: Canon sent me the lens as part of a C700 FF review loan. I had to send it back when I was done. There is no material connection between me and Canon or Tokina, and no one has offered any payment or other consideration in return for a favorable review.
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