I had long yearned for a true micro lens. The great pictures of bees, butterflies and detailed exotic flora had me wanting. Because of an accidental misfortune I could not buy the 105mm f/2.8D Micro Nikkor when I was out there looking for it several years ago. So, no Nikon that time around.
I had admired the Tokina lenses for quite some time, so an alternative was there. Allow me to explain why.
You may not believe it but there was a time when the prime (fixed focal length) lenses reigned. A zoom lens was not at par with them, neither in sharpness nor in contrast; not to mention a series of aberrations they suffer from.
Nikon pioneered the effort to develop the required new optical and mechanical formulas and as early as 1959, at the time of the introduction of the Nikon F, there were the 85-250mm f/4-4.5 -the first Nikon design- and a 35-85mm f/2.8. Three and a half years later the not handheldable 200-600mm f/9.5-10.5 made its appearance in the marketplace, along with the 43-86mm f/3.5. However, despite how awesome these zoom lenses seemed at the time, quality was rather poor when compared to the prime lenses, reputation that haunted zooms a long time.
An unconfirmed rumor was that, annoyed because of internal disagreement on what would be the future importance of the zoom lenses and how to improve those designs, a group of Nikon engineers and managers left to establish their own shop and try out their own ideas. Hoya was asked to produce the glass under their strict specs.
The other part of the rumor was that they left with an OEM outsourcing contract with Nikon; hard to believe although plausible with other brands.
You must remember that life-time employment was the rule in Japan until very recently. Failure was not an option. It must have taken true grit to try out on their own.
So I made a consultation to THK (the USA distributor for Tokina, Hoya and Kenko), for them to either confirm or deny the Nikon engineers' origin of Tokina and the Hoya glass participation. They confirmed it as follows:
"........ It is true, Tokina was established by a group of Nikon optical engineers and executives that wanted to concentrate on zoom lens design at a time when there were only a couple zoom lenses on the market and they were of rather poor quality.
Tokina started out as an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) and made products under other brand names and then, in the early 1970's, the Company established their own Tokina brand name.
The glass in Tokina lenses is made by Hoya Corporation to Tokina spec, the worlds largest manufacturer of optical glass. Hoya makes glass for several Japanese camera manufactures, including Mamiya, Bronica, and Tamron. They also make virtually half of the world's glass used in eye-glasses. Besides filters and optical glass, Hoya also makes the substraight material for hard drives and semiconductors.
So there you have the connection between Tokina and Nikon engineering. For me, enough darn good reason to trust it. Furthermore, reviews have been very good, most raving, specially on their AT-X Pro line.