You can help us make better recommendations if you:
1) complete your Nikonians profile, including the equipment you already have, either currently or on order; 2) tell in what kind of situations you’ve mostly used your Tokina 11-16 (about the same field of view as a 16-24 on an FX body), and whether this is also your intended use for the new lens; 3) tell us how you liked the 11-16, how often did you use it at the widest or longest setting?
>Mick, I will stick with nikon lenses. I had a not so happy >relantionship with alternative lens.
You seemed happy with your Tokina lens.
These days, there is really no particular reason to avoid the higher-end lenses from major third-party suppliers such as Sigma, Tamron, Tokina, Zeiss, etc - they can provide a reasonably-priced alternative to Nikkor glass, and quite often offer a combination of features that Nikon do not.
I guess we all have different experiences. My Sigmas, and I have or have had many, have been great at least all of the modern ones. My Tamron experiences have been decidedly mixed. The one Tokina that I tried was not very good.
The Nikon 14-24/2.8 is the best wide angle zoom lens available from any manufacturer. The best wide angle prime lenses are the Zeiss 25/2, 21/2.8 and 15/2.8. However, the performance of the Nikon zoom is about equal to or nearly as good as that of the Zeiss primes.
Since you apparently like pictures of the Grand Central Station, I attach a capture with the 14-24/2.8 at 15mm which I took when I just had gotten this lens, about five years ago.
As others mentioned, the 14-24 is indeed the best UWA available for any DSLR. That said, it's a very specialized piece of glass that's very heavy and doesn't take filters unless you want to spend another $400+.
If I were you I would look into the Nikon 16-36 f/4 which is a great lens that's half the weight and take filters without compromising much quality. If budget is an issue look into the Tokina 16-28 or Sigma 12-24. Actually, I had the Sigma 12-24 for $350 and it's the widest lens available on FX!
I had the 14-24mm f2.8 lens and replaced it with the 16-35mm f/4 lens. My main reason for doing so was that for me 16-35mm is a much more useful range than 14-24mm. I use the 16-35mm much more than I did the 14-24mm lens.
Given your budget, a kit consisting of the 24-70 and 70-200 would be a great start. In the Nikon lineup you have the choice of several ultrawide lenses - each with pros and cons.
The 14-24 is optically one of the finest ultrawide lenses made. There are a number of Canon pros using this lens with an adapter. The disadvantages are weight, no filter threads, no VR, and cost - but quality is terrific.
The Nikon 16-35 f/4 VR is a different approach to an ultrawide. It addresses the weaknesses of the 14-24 as it is relatively light, has filter threads, has VR, and is moderate in cost. The disadvantages are a little softness in the corners wide open, and not quite the optical performance but it is still very good. If you need filter threads or VR, this lens is a solid choice. I live in the southeast and do a lot of stream photography, so I chose this lens over the 14-24.
The Nikon 17-35 f/2.8 is the predecessor of the 16-35 and 14-24. It is a good lens and has a lot of fans, but it falls slightly short of the two replacement lenses. You probably would not be compelled to replace this lens if you owned it, but buying new the 16-35 or 14-24 are probably better choices. On a tight budget, you might find this lens available used for a reasonable price.
Given that an ultrawide is a specialty lens, I would not get a wide alternative. There is a 20mm prine that is pretty good, and the 16mm fisheye is a very good little lens.
My suggestion would be the Nikon 105 f/2.8 macro lens if you are interested in another lens. It's a solid macro lens at an all purpose focal length. VR facilitates its role as a portrait lens. And it works with Nikon teleconverters.