Product Manager's Diary (part 6)

Dec 9, 2020

This column will throw us back to the 80s when film SLR cameras got equipped with an AF system. In this chapter, we reveal memories, thoughts, and feelings of one of Tokina's senior product manager who was involved in managing and production of the legendary Tokina AT-X lenses.

PART 6: Tokina AT-X 304 AF (300mm f/4)

The 300mm f/4 was the only specification of lenses coming out only from of the proprietary manufactures at the time. And besides, we were seeing no model changes. This is where we at Tokina decided to step up and provide a high performance, compact 300mm f/4 lens that from sales perspective was a difficult challenge. We incorporated built-in barrel hood and added a locking mechanism.

At this stage, Tokina already had the 300mm f/2.8 and AT-X 340 AF (100-300mm f/4), and were troubled on what level function the 300mm f/4 would require to pique customer interest. Discussions with development teams resulted in fitting 300mm f/2.8's lens configuration while making the front element smaller, and setting the glass material with the same placement. This led to an extremely beautiful design. With Tokina's specialized IRF (Internal Rear Focusing), we were able to bring the desired compact size into fruition. Nikon at this time had a lengthy 300mm f/4 commercial lens that did not support Nikon D type capabilities, much like other lenses, causing us to question whether the 300mm f/4 were a kind of neglected specifications.

AT-X 304 AF (300mm f/4)

The late Mr. Nishihira's CAPA lens tests were popular at this period. Within the column of this test, that many used as reference when deciding on new lenses, I remember that our 300mm f/4 was solidly praised. To be honest, I designed this lens from scratch and thus this review left me quite overwhelmed. However, not paying attention to costs we used a considerable amount of glass material and thus economically, this model became unviable in terms of profit gain. The lens that incorporated FK01 and FK02 glass in two front elements could not be found within any competing 300mm f/4 models. The feeling that we couldn't sell our beloved product outside of standard competing prices was excruciating. However, we were more than humbled by the customers who did purchase our lenses. It may go without saying, however there was not a single case of our users feeling limited as far as this lens' functionality was concerned. It was sold as it was in Japan but didn't fare well overseas.

AT-X 304 AF (300mm f/4) construction

The AT-X 340 AF (100-300mm f/4) was currently available at Tokina and naturally was taken up by the users. In comparison to the 300mm f/4 single focus telephoto lens, we receive a lot of comments that the zoom is better. As far as Tokina's telephoto zoom is concerned, the Tokina 100-300mm f/4 is high functioning and great quality, thus considering the field of specialty you of course would go with the zoom. That was remarkably clear with foreign markets. The 300mm f/4 itself did not succeed in sales. However, the fact that we surpassed other commercially available brands at the time and establish our name as specialist lens manufacturer remained as my personal achievement. My apologies to the company.

PART 5: Tokina AT-X M100 AF Macro (100mm f/2.8)

PART 7: Tokina AT-X 17 AF (17mm f/3.5)

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