Hi, this is Jay P Morgan. Today on The Slanted Lens we’re going to take a look at a really interesting lens from Tokina. Tokina sent us a 400 millimeter f/8 catadioptric lens. This is a 400 millimeter lens. It’s a super short, super lightweight catadioptric lens. It means that the light comes in, hits a mirror in the back of the lens and bounces to a small mirror in the front, then bounces to the sensor. So because there’s not as much glass in this lens it’s a much more lightweight lens.
So I started thinking to myself, “What can I shoot with this other than just birds or… And I thought, you know, it’d be beautiful to look at portraits with a 400 millimeter lens with this very interesting bokeh. So I gravitated to that thought. So we got a model. Her name is Janice. And we just went out and tried to shoot some interesting images with really great bokeh in the background. I found the lens very easy to use in that it focuses very quickly. It’s not hard to focus. I’m at f/8. I’m going to be probably at 2,000th of a second if I’m trying to freeze action. But a lot of these shots of her I’ll probably get down to 500th of a second. For me I like using a tripod with longer lenses like this. It just gives me a stable platform. I’ve got a yolk to be able to use which allows me to focus very quickly. A lot of times I’ll shoot it on electronic shutter because I don’t have to feel the shutter going off. I can just shoot very quickly and it just gives me an easy way to work.
So I think there are three very strong reasons why this lens is worthwhile. Number one is its lightweight construction. This small compact 400 millimeter lens is very easy to carry with you and put it in a bag. It’s just such a simple lens to travel with and shoot with because of that lightweight construction. And that short size gives you a 400 millimeter lens that’s very easy to carry. So that’s the first one. That’s really a positive for this lens. Very lightweight and portable.
Number two is the bokeh created by this lens. It has a beautiful look. With that catadioptric lens you get the light bouncing in and twice through the lens. You get these donuts on a lot of the highlights in the background and get this beautiful kind of ghosting. I think it’s absolutely magical. I think it’s wonderful. If you get your subject matter close to the background it looks more like a Van Gogh. There’s heavy lines and heavy kind of ghosting. If you get the background further back there and a little more softly lit it just looks absolutely painterly. It looks more like a Monet. It definitely has an art type feeling to it. A very interesting look. I think something that is unique to this lens that you don’t get in most of the 400 millimeter lenses that are out there. So there’s a look at some of the images. Number two, bokeh which I think is a fabulous reason to have this lens. Probably the number one reason for me.
Number three is the macro capabilities of this lens. This lens will focus down to 3.77 feet. So you’re really, for a 400 millimeter lens, that gets you in very close to your subject matter. And you’re able to focus. It gives you a 1 to 2.5 magnification which really allows you to be a little bit further away from your subject matter than you are with a lot of macro lenses where you’re right on top of the things that you’re photographing. This allows you to get back and to be able to shoot in closer. I do love using a tripod when I get in closer like that because any movement is going to make just a big difference. It just makes it easier for me to get sharp images.
Okay before we jump into taking images of our model with the strobes let’s just talk about some of the tech side of this lens, some of the specs. It is a 400 millimeter lens. It’s an f/8 constant.It’s not going to change. So if I’m shooting birds and things like that I’ll probably shoot at 2,000th of a second and f/8. But then auto ISO. I just let that ISO kind of track for me. And I can use my exposure compensation if I want to brighten or darken the frame a little bit. But that’s an easy way for me to work with a constant aperture lens. I think it’s a great way to work.
I want to go to use strobes. I’m going to just be able to tie my storage into that f/8. It’s going to work fabulously. But other specs about this lens. It doesn’t have autofocus. It does not have image stabilization. So you’re manually focusing. Which is something I’ve done for years and years in my career. And it’s not a hard thing to do. You get back into the kind of mode of doing that as you focus. So the grip on this lens is wonderful. It gives you almost 270 degrees. But it doesn’t matter where you grab it. I can grab it underneath. I can sling over top and it’s just easy to lean my hand on it and just roll it and find the focus. It makes it very fast and easy to focus. It also comes with lens shade. Which is really critical because you don’t want to get light bouncing in on those mirrors and get light flares and that, unless you want the flares. But this just eliminates all that problem.
Also you can get it in a kit with a 2X Extender so you can double this to an 800 millimeter lens that is converted. It’s just really easy to do, you slip off the back of the lens, screw that converter on, put the adapter back on and it goes right back on your camera. This comes with several different adapters if you want to adapt it to Nikon or to Canon or to other brands. It just allows you to change it. They’re really inexpensive and easy to change the different cameras.
Like I say, this is a specialty art type lens you can use. And just use it as something to give you a very interesting creative look. So how did we shoot the images for this lesson? I decided to combine strobes and do pretty much a tight shot of our model. So we had our model there. Janice came and we’re shooting tight shots. I want to get in fairly tight, f/8, everything’s constant at f/8. But I’m going to introduce strobes to this. I want to put a strobe light up to light her face. And then let that background fall nicely out of focus in different situations. So we shot a bunch of them around my house. We shot a bunch of them out in this flowered area here. I just wanted to see it in different situations, how that bokeh played, but with strobes as well. I want this to feel like a portrait with an interesting kind of art background in the background. So I love these when the background’s a little closer and the background just has this wonderful kind of glow around the images as the lens brings it out of focus. Just a beautiful look using that strobe was fun with this. I used the Westcott FJ400. I was able to get her a long ways away. Because in the end of the day we’re going to shoot some sunset shots with that sun way in the background and see what we get.
So last of all we wrapped our day up going out to shoot sunset. So the way I set this up is I’ve got my camera set to do multiple frames rapid fire. I want to shoot very quickly. The strobe is going to go off on the first one. So now I get an image with the strobe. But then the next two or three are just going to be her silhouette. So I get both of those at the same time. I’m getting the strobe image and I’m getting the silhouette images each time I shoot. The first one’s a strobe because the strobe is now recycling when I take the next one, two, three frames. Then I’ll refocus, shoot and I get the first one with the strobe. Then three frames in silhouette. I refocus after every shot. Refocus, refocus, refocus because when you’re manually focusing you’ve got to keep hitting the focus, keep hitting the focus. That way you’re going to get more in focus that way. If you choose a spot and think yeah I think I’ve got it yeah I got it and you don’t then the odds are too high that you’re not going to get anything in focus. So I just keep hitting the focus, shoot, refocus, shoot, refocus, shoot, refocus, shoot just repeating that over and over again as the sun was going down.
My goal was to get that big ball sun with 400 millimeters and a silhouette of our model. So she’s got on a jacket, she’s got an umbrella and we’re going to see the sun in the background. Of course I’ll use my sun seeker to see exactly where that sun’s going to go down. Then we had to find a place that would allow me to get far enough away to be able to frame a full figure with a 400 millimeter lens. You’ve got to get back a lot further than you might think. But up on the top of the hill here was fabulous because we had a spot and the spot even worked because there was a little drop. So a little flat mountain, kind of a flat plane and then a drop off. So I could get down on that drop off and I could look straight out at her and that pushes her up in the frame and brings the background down. If I’m staying at her height I’m looking out there and that background rises up behind her. But as I go down that background drops behind her lower and lower. And I can see straight out there towards the sun. Unfortunately the sun didn’t cooperate. We got clouds that rolled in at the last second. We just kind of got this bright, bright ball behind her and didn’t get the beautiful orange sun. So that’s something we’ve got to try again. I just love this thought of focusing on her and having that sun in the background.
So who is this lens for? You know, anytime you go to a 400 millimeter lens it automatically opens up the door for wildlife, for birds, any kind of landscape. Even if you want to reach out and compress landscape to show mountain ranges to show trees and mountains I mean it’s just a really interesting way to work. I did an entire lesson on how to compress landscapes using long lenses. This lens falls in that category. Is it a go-to lens for every situation? No, obviously not. When you want to bring something in and you need a lightweight lens to carry with you then this is going to be the choice.
So let’s wrap this up. I think this lens is for the person who wants either a really inexpensive price point to get into a 400 millimeter lens or you just want something really interesting, something different, very artistic kind of lens. It gives you beautiful bokeh. I can’t say enough about that. I think it looks fabulous. I’ll use it again just because of that because it gives me something very different and very interesting. It’s lightweight and easy to carry with you. It’s affordable as 400 millimeter lenses go. It truly is affordable. And you can adapt it to just about any camera platform you’re going to be working on with a 2x converter. So they have a really interesting lens I think you should check out. So keep those cameras rollin’ and keep on clickin’.