Tokina opera 50mm F/1.4 Review - The Proof Is In the Pictures

November 26, 2018  •  1 Comment

The opera Series

This is the founding lens of Tokina’s new series of full frame DSLR lenses designed to exceed 50 megapixels. This year we have 45-50 mega-pixel sensors from Nikon and Canon but the megapixel war is far from over and in two years we might have 60+ megapixel full frame sensors. Anyone that stepped up from a 20-24 megapixel body to a Canon 5DS or Nikon D850 found out really quick that some of their old favorite glass was actually not that sharp. The Tokina opera has a future-proof design by exceeding today’s sensors knowing full well even higher resolution sensors are coming.  


So now let’s dive in; Basically, the lens is incredibly sharp and I can’t state that emphatically enough. That is what you need to know from the outset. This lens beats some of the sharpest primes I own such as the Canon 50mm F/1.4 and its even sharper than the Canon 100mm F/2.0 USM which has been my go-to headshot lens for many years. It’s sharpness easily exceeds 45 megapixels and that is what this lens was designed to do. When reviewing portraits in camera and  later on the screen you can count individual eyelashes without ever having to go to the sharpening tool.

Above Image:  For this shot of author Sean Haynes I wanted to pose him with the book but have the book out of focus so all the attention goes to his eyes.  The Tokina opera 50mm f/1.4 is a perfect lens for portraiture, is incredibly sharp and the wide aperture give you the option of very shallow depth of field


Personally I love the 50mm focal length for street photography.  I have always shunned the popular 35mm focal length.  I pass over it to go straight from 50mm down to 24mm.  50mm gives you a little more compression of the background. Plus the shallow depth of field of a wide aperture like f/1.4 places more emphasis on your subject. So a fast 50 is always of great interest to me and my Canon 50mm F/1.4 USM has been my workhorse but the Tokina opera beat it handily.  From the first shot it was clear that the opera was a sharper lens.  

Above Image:  This shot is of the side entrance leading to the old ticketing area at Union Station  in downtown Los Angeles.  The 50mm focal length yields the most natural looking perspective and its my favorite for street photography.

Above and Below Images.  The Tokina opera 50mm lens is so sharp that in  both shots you can literally count the individual stone blocks that were used to create the Dom Cathedral in Cologne, Germany and the Los Angeles City Hall.   

Above Image: Not only is the sharpness evident in this photo of the Union Station marque but the contracts makes the Union Station letters pop out from the background.


Always, whenever a fast lens comes out there are immediate questions about how it renders the out of focus areas with special attention to out of focus highlights. This out of focus quality is known as “Bokeh”.  Some lens have a bokeh that is “harsh” or “busy” but not this lens. The opera 50 renders out of focus areas with a very pleasing silky-smooth softness that keeps the attention on the subject. This lens is really the Bokeh master. Out of focus highlights are soft and circular thanks in part to the circular aperture diaphragm and a ton of glass in the lens. I have not found a lens that has better Bokeh rendering. That and sharpness are really the main strengths of this lens.

Above Image: This low-light shot of my dessert was a perfect opportunity to test the Bokeh of the opera lens at f/1.4, the focus fall-off and Bokeh are so smooth and gradual that your eye just slips into the out of focus areas of the image

Above Image: These rental bikes appeared overnight on the street of Cologne while I was there, it was like one day there were none and the next day they seemed but everywhere.  A super-wide aperture is so useful to separate the subject from the background as in this shot and the smooth Bokeh keeps the attention on the bike by not creating a busy, distracting background.

Auto Focus

Since I was not doing a lot of demanding quick-shooting or focus tracking I never had a chance to really tax the AF system but I will say it acquired and locked focus fast every time. I appreciated that the AF was fast and smooth, but its also quiet! Some older Tokina lenses are by today’s standards quite noisy when they auto focus but the opera is nearly silent. You should have no problem shooting video in AF mode but don’t buy the lens specifically for that, buy it because it’s incredibly sharp.

Build quality

The lens is beefy, it weighs a hefty 33 oz. (950g) which is surprising at first but balances very well on a full frame DSLR.  All-metal lens barrels add little to the weight but let you know this is no flimsy or cheaply made lens. A wide manual focusing ring that is engaged full time to allow for manual focusing without having to hit a switch on the lens is a welcome update. This is different from Tokina’s traditional focus clutch mechanism where the focus ring is pulled back into the manual focus mode and pushed forward for AF. Now manual focusing on the fly is much easier. The lens is also weather-sealed to prevent moisture from getting in. I wouldn’t use it or any equipment in a driving rain but in a heavy mist or very light rain for short periods of time you should be fine provided the body you mount it on has weather-sealing as well.  

The lens also uses 72mm filters that are lens expensive than larger 77 or 82mm size so you can save some money there. The lens hood is a deep petal design that does an excellent job of shading the lens. This hood has a removable tab near the bayonet that opens so that a filter such as a circular polarizer can be rotated without having to remove the hood for added convenience.   Over-all the handling and balance of the lens on a full frame body is excellent.   

Final Thoughts

Impressed, that is my final thought on this lens, extremely impressed.  It’s sharpness and silky-smooth bokeh rendering are amazing and with quick and silent AF the lens performs as a lens should perform. If photography is your job, this lens absolutely justifies its price, no question about it.  The opera gets out of your way and just lets you shoot knowing you are capturing some of the sharpest images available from any 50mm lens and really, isn’t that the point?   



L Nedel(non-registered)
Hi Michael,

as (apparently) you are shooting Canon: How does the colour rendering of the Tokina fit with rendering obtained with Canon lenses?

Let me explain: A while ago, a third-party manufacturer launched a 50mm lens, and reviews were unanimous praising the "stellar" optical performance of this lens. However (and yes, there is a caveat: this seems to be a highly subjective matter), while some photographers seemed to be happy to mix this lens with their Canon (and/or Nikon) glass, others reported to having stopped using that lens, as colour rendition was markedly different. Which meant that if they had to deliver a body of work with a consistent look, they would spent to much time in "post", which kind of nullified any advantages that lens brought in optical terms.

Hence, again my question: Do you feel the rendering of this lens is compatible with the Canon "look", do you think one can "mix" this lens with Canon glass one already owns and still get a (somehow) consistent look?



PS: Like your review and especially some of the pictures you shot with the Tokina opera!
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