Here’s my Tokina 80-200/2.8 AT-X SD. I got this lens used from keh.com some years ago. I was shooting weddings and everyone was raving about how you needed a 70-210/2.8 lens. I shoot Canon cameras and that lens sells for north of $1k and I simply couldn’t afford it. There is a Canon 80-200/2.8L that was fetching $800-ish at the time that I was seriously considering. Then I checked third party lens section on keh’s site and stumbled across this wonderful gem.
If you know Tokina lenses you might be familiar that the AT-X line is their stab at professional quality lenses. They usually fall short of Canon’s L line in terms of ability but in this instance I found it to be “good enough.” The quality of the build is awesome by today’s standards. From what I can tell was the cross over from manual focus to AF and back then weight was apparently not a factor. Wide open at F2.8 it’s a little soft, especially around the edges. At F4 it’s great. For weddings this is generally ok as slightly soft isn’t always a bad thing. Plus if there’s two people in the frame F4 is a minimum for this focal length or someone will be out of focus. Still the large F2.8 maximum aperture collects a lot of light for focusing.
This brings us to the primary downfall of this lens, the AF is downright pokey. Ultrasonic lenses have been around for at least a decade and spoiled us. The focusing motor on this is slow and it has to move big elements a lot to do its job. I’ve done some shooting with my children with this lens and it’s difficult. Soccer was a challenge! When focusing the front filter ring turns which can be bad under certain circumstances (petal lens shade, gradient filter, polarizing filters, etc would drive you nuts) but it’s not a deal breaker. Also the tripod collar is *not* removable which is pretty much just nitpicking at this point. On the plus side, these can often be found used for under $500 and the red stripe can make you feel like you’re using L glass! If you’re shooting subjects you’re posing this lens is great. The slow AF won’t bother you in these more controlled circumstances. 200mm at F2.8 or even F4 is a classic beach/swimsuit combination.
Oddly enough I found myself not liking this lens for weddings. I used a crop sensor camera making this more like 100-300mm. Generally I shot wider and a 24-105mm/4 IS L fit my style much better. I eventually stopped using it for weddings because it weighs 1363g which was too much for how often I used it. I still held on to it for senior picture sessions and modeling work. I’ve also had an odd occasion to grab it for a quick wildlife photo in my back yard. It’s a decent performer. I picked this one up at keh.com for under $300. Here’s an awesome tip for finding inexpensive pro tele zooms: look for 80-200mm/2.8 lenses. Everyone is looking for 70-210mm lenses many folks never look just 10mm beyond that. Some of the 80-200’s can be way less expensive, yet still very high quality glass. It’s an older lens design which will have the slower AF motor problem but it could save you $500 or more. Right now keh.com has a 80-200mm/2.8 L for under $400 granted it’s listed in rough condition but still functional and it’s L glass. One word of caution when taking advantage of older AF lens deals: Sigma made some AF lenses that just don’t play nice on Canon dSLRs. Sometimes they’re called Elan only (which was a film SLR) but on digital cameras will give you Error99 or Error01 codes. Neither will hurt your camera but it just won’t go either.