Are Viltrox & Tokina 85mm f/1.8 the same lens?
Many are claiming that Tokina's new 85mm f/1.8 lens is either the same as or some sort of copy/rebrand/rebadge of the Viltrox 85mm f/1.8 STM lens that's been out for some time now. I personally noticed the similarities between the two lenses while I was recently reviewing the new Tokina ATX-M 85mm f/1.8 lens. One look at the optical composition of this lens immediately reminded me of the Viltrox 85mm f/1.8 manual focus lens that I reviewed last year.
Upon comparing the optical design, I saw that the two lenses share a nearly identical composition. A quick internet search revealed that I wasn't the first person to think that perhaps one was a rebrand of the other. In fact, there's quite a lot of speculating going on about this being the same lens with a different design concept. Some people seem to think that given Tokina's a long history of allowing other companies to re-brand their own lenses and more established place in the lens market, that the Viltrox 85mm f/1.8 is actually a re-branded/re-badged Tokina design, while others speculate that because Vitlrox released their 85mm f/1.8 first, the Tokina must be a copy of the Viltrox lens.
- Are Viltrox & Tokina 85mm f/1.8 the same lens?
- Optical formula & the rebranded theory
- MTF results & pontential Viltrox/Tokina re-badge
- Physical similarities between Viltrox & Tokina 85mm f/1.8
- Lens lineups indicate similar lenses and release dates
- Both lenses share many of the same features
- EXIF data similarities
- Official response from Tokina Japan
- Tokina's 85mm & the new Viltrox 85mm Mark II
The optical formula and the rebranded theory
If you compare the optical design of the Viltrox with that of the Tokina, it's not hard to see why people are talking about how one of these lenses by Tokina or Viltrox may be a rebranded version of the other:
MTF results and the potential of a Viltrox/Tokina re-badge
The MTF results looks pretty similar too, which some might interpret to mean that the one is a rebadge of the other. Tokina says that they've used a "proprietary coating" on the 85mm ATX-M, which could account for the moderate resolution difference, along with normal deviation between each individual lens tested. Since most lens manufacturers virtualize their MTF data, rather than obtaining it from real world testing, it's also possible that both companies used slightly different formulas to arrive at their representative data.
Physical similarities between the Viltrox and Tokina 85mm f/1.8
Then there are some pretty noticeable physical similarities as well. For example, the metal focus rings both look pretty similar, with the Tokina's cutting off a bit sooner and leaving more dead space for whatever reason. Both rings appear to be at the exact same height starting point wise.
From the front side, it's anyone's guess as far as which one is which.
Stacked head-to-head, these two lenses look almost like a mirror image of each other, with the most substantive differences being in how the lens barrels taper to the mount and the width of the focus rings.
Lens lineups seem to indicate that both Viltrox and Tokina have similar lenses planned to release around the same times
This single 85mm lens release isn't the only reason people are wondering about Tokina lenses being made by Viltrox (or vice versa), the 2020 lineup that both companies have announced is looking pretty similar too.
The basic specs of Tokina's new ATX-M lens lineup appear to match the Viltrox lens linenup and so far, Viltrox is releasing their lenses ahead of Tokina. For example, the Viltrox 85mm f/1.8 was originally made available on May 6th, 2019 whereas Tokina didn't begin shipping their 85mm lens until around 7 months later on February 7, 2020.
|23mm f1.4 (APS-C, e-mount)||Summer, 2020||f1.4 (APS-C, e-mount)||March, 2020|
|33mm f1.4 E (APS-C, e-mount)||Summer, 2020||33mm f1.4 (APS-C, e-mount)||March, 2020|
|56mm f1.4 E (APS-C, e-mount)||Summer, 2020||56mm f1.4 (APS-C, e-mount)||March, 2020|
|23mm f1.4 E (APS-C, x-mount)||Autumn, 2020||23mm f1.4 (APS-C, x-mount)||March, 2020|
|33mm f1.4 E (APS-C, x-mount)||Autumn, 2020||33mm f1.4 (APS-C, x-mount)||March, 2020|
|56mm f1.4 E (APS-C, x-mount)||Autumn, 2020||56mm f1.4 (APS-C, x-mount)||March, 2020|
|85mm f1.8 E (FF, e-mount)||February, 2020||85mm f1.8 STM (FF, e-mount)||May, 2019|
|35mm f1.8 E (FF, e-mount)||Autumn, 2020||AF 35mm f/1.8 (FF, e-mount)||Autumn - Winter, 2020|
|50mm f1.8 E (FF, e-mount)||Autumn, 2020||AF 50mm f/1.8 (FF, e-mount)||Autumn - Winter, 2020|
Both lenses share many of the same features
Feature wise, there are also quite a few similarities between the two lenses. In fact, the only non-identical spec I found was Tokina's 0.125x magnification versus the 0.12x magnification listed for the Viltrox. It's worth noting that BH Photo currently lists the Tokina as having a 0.13x magnification ratio, which differs from other specs cited throughout the web. What's hard to understand is how these two lenses could both have identical minimum focal ranges, macro reproduction ratios, and angles of view and not share identical magnification ranges. It may be that they are indeed identical and that one company simply rounded down from x0.125 and the other rounded up.
|Feature||Viltrox 85mm f1.8||Tokina 85mm f1.8||Match|
|Aperture blade no:||9||9||✅|
|Macro Reprod. rt:||1:8||1:8||✅|
|Angle of view:||28.5°||28.5°||✅|
|Optical formula:||10 Elements in 7 Groups||10 Elements in 7 Groups||✅|
|Focal distance:||2.62'/80 cm - Ꝏ||2.62'/80 cm - Ꝏ||✅|
|Filter thread size:||72mm||72mm||✅|
EXIF data similarities
Interestingly enough, both Tokina and the Viltrox 85mm lenses currently display as the Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 in CaptureOne Pro (which obviously neither of them are). The Zeiss identifier appears to be embedded in the EXIF data, since it continues to show up as a an 85mm Batis on sites that reference EXIF information like Flickr and 500px.
Official response from Tokina Japan
Wondering if the similarities I was seeing could be purely coincidental, I reached out to Tokina Japan for an official response as to whether they were allowing Tokina to re-brand their lenses or if Viltrox was manufacturing their new 85mm for Sony. In response, they said that I can attribute the following statement to them:
Tokina lenses does not have a relationship with Viltrox.
So there you have it! Tokina and Viltrox apparently have no business relationship whatsoever. If you want my opinion, knowing what I do about the Chinese lens market, my best guess would be that Tokina and Viltrox are both working with a well established 3rd party Chinese lens manufacturer that creates prototypes and allows other companies to customize and sell their lenses under their own brand names. This makes oodles of sense if you think about how fantastically well Viltrox did with releasing their first ever lenses for Sony and Fujifilm last year.
Working with a 3rd party manufacturer doesn't necessarily mean a company isn't bringing their own ideas to the table or that two products are going to be absolutely identical just because they're based around the same raw design.
Update: it seems as though the Tokina 85mm might actually share more commonality with the Viltrox 85mm f/1.8 Mark II
Tokina's 85mm f/1.8 appears to share more optical commonality with the Mark II version of the Viltrox 85mm f/1.8 than its predecessor, the Mark I. I recently decided to try testing some shots in a completely controlled environment using all manual settings and was surprised to see that there is a bit of difference optically between the Viltrox 85mm f/1.8 Mark I and Viltrox 85mm Mark II. All of these images were captured using the same settings and were simply loaded and exported to JPG without any lens corrections or editing in CaptureOne Pro.
While subtle, if you look closely, it's not hard to see that the Mark I version of the Viltrox 85mm lens is more neutral and less contrasty than its mark II counterpart.
Interestingly, the Mark II version of the Viltrox lens and Tokina's new 85mm f/1.8 appear to be virtually identical:
The near identical optical performance between these two lenses makes me think that some minor optical change was made after the Viltrox M1 - perhaps in the optical coating of an element or two. That, coupled with my experience, which is that Tokina's lens seems to go head to head with the upgraded autofocus of the recently released M2 version of the Viltrox 85, leads me to believe that Tokina's lens is actually more similar to the Viltrox M2 than it is to the M1. Of course, it's also possible that my copy of the M1 is just lower on the bell curve quality assurance wise than the M2 version.