Any mention of it that was on the Tokina Japan site a year or so back seems to have been removed. Some of you will likely remember this from back then...the original thread, lost at Nikonians, is still in Google's cache, in fact.
I think I can understand why. The spy photo shows an f/4 lens, so it would have to compete with D50 kit pricing and the Nikon 18-55 3.5-5.6 that you can buy separately for well under $200. That's not a very profitable niche to go for.
The Canon 17-40 f/4L seems quite popular among Canon users, I believe it retails for about $700. If the lens would have a better quality than the Sigma 18-50/2.8 at f/4 and above, it might be a viable option for users than want something between the Nikkor 18-55/18-70 kit lenses and the expensive Nikkor 17-55/2.8. I obviously don't know how large this potential market and profit margin would be.
From what I understand Tokina will be releasing/announcing a 17-55 Pro at PMA to compete directly with the pro Nikon equivalent. They have been working on a 17-45, 17-55 and an 18-60. For whatever reason the 17-55 has been given the nod. I would have preferred the 18-60 range a tad better myself. But I'm not surprised the 17-45 (in the photo above) has been scrapped.
The pro series lenses from Tokina continue to impress me no end, the 12-24 is a case in point. Amazing build quality and results are simply superb with the exception of extremely minor CA in some circumstances - but no worse than the Nikon 12-24 in my humble opinion.
I used a Tokina 12-24 for two weeks when my Nikon 12-24 went in for service. I was genuinely surprised with the Tokina. When I got the Nikon back I did some exhaustive tests between the two and decided to pay for the Tokina lense and promptly sold the Nikon to my offsider. Trusting third party lenses is not my style but the results from the Tokina 12-24 simply speak for themselves. Loyalty is one thing but you just can't argue with what your eyes see.
Thus I have high hopes for this new Tokina 17-55 Pro. If the quality is there and if Tokina stick to their usual price points it could end up being Tokina's hottest lense, possibly 2006's hottest DX DSLR lense period.
Except the 12-24 has been the proving mainstream lense for the Tokina brand and was one of the all time best selling higher quality lenses third and fourth quarter of 2005. I have heard excellent reports about their other "pro" lenses but no personal experience so I can't comment.
Tokina is a company formed by renegade Nikon optical engineers who went out on their own. So, there is a nice pedigree there - I'm not surprised the company is gaining a good reputation.
But Sigma too have also upped the quality of their lenses (their EX variety I'm talking about). I have been hearing their 18-50 EX and 24-60 EX lenses both produce images that well exceed the assumed quality delivery for what price points they are targeted at.
I'm very happy with my Tokina 12-24 and I guess this is all that matters.