Actually, some are really good. I'm a Minolta user, and a complete addict to Minolta glass, so sorry for the comparisons being made with Minolta. Generally, I feel that it's the best (Leica, aside). However, I still concede that I'd much rather the Sigma 12-24mm EX DG than any other wide angle lens from any other manufacturer.
As for macro, I love my Minolta 100mm 2.8, but also, I concede the Tamron 90mm and 180mm perhaps have an edge on the Minolta 100mm (but not sure about the very rare Minolta 200mm macro). I live in Japan, and on Saturday evenings there's a photography show on, sponsored by Canon, and all the photographers on it are professionals who are either Canon users, or obviously aren't. Every time I see one of them use a macro lens, it is without fail, the 180mm Tamron macro (thought the programme doesn't like to say this).
As for primes, I think the Pentax 50mm has an edge on the Minolta 50mm 1.4, but these two are perhaps better than the top Sigma equivalent, though, some will say the Sigma is better. Anyway, based on reviews at DPReview, they suggest not to bother with a 50mm Canon or Nikon.
I can't say much more, as I haven't seen the reviews, haven't used much else. Three good places to check are PhotoDo, PhotoZone, and DPReview.
So where would Tokina rated amongst these brands?
Ranking brands is always iffy (even the most prestigious brands have some lenses which don't stand out for some reason or another).
Originally Posted by jerk151
Even talking about particular lenses can be risky, especially for the cheaper models, because of sample variation.
Let's say that the better Tokinas are probably better than the second rate model lenses produced by the "great" manufacturers.
Compared to the top production of the big brands, the better universal lenses will usually fall short in one or more parameters (flare resistance, distortion, vignetting edge sharpness), with some notable exceptions among some macro and tele-macro lenses.
That usually doesn't mean that they are in any way "bad", apart from specific situations (like using a very distorting lens for architecture).
I have 17mm and 400mm (Vivitar-branded) Tokinas... Quite good lenses in their own right. They won't shine in a *direct* comparison with Leica or Zeiss equivalents, but for most uses they are quite adequate.
M6, SL, SL2, R5, P6x7, SL3003, SL35-E, F, F2, FM, FE-2, Varex IIa
Some of the independent lenses I've owned have been right up there with the proprietary branded lenses from Olympus, Canon and Nikon. The best I've owned (by far) was the Tamron Adaptall 2 90mm f2.5. The worst was a Prinzflex (a UK retail store 'own-brand') 300m f5.6 M42 job that was virtually impossible to focus as the split screen went black every time I put it on my Edixa...!
Comparing independent manufacturers is probably easier as everything I've ever owned by Tamron has been 'good' to 'excellent'. I still have their 11-18mm and 90mm f2.8 for my Nikon D300.
I've owned a few Sigmas. The APO 300mm/f2.8 was really good but I've owned a couple of short-range zooms (can recall exact models) which have jammed. One had 'crunchy innards' that sounded like grinding glass when trying to focus / zoom them and a 70-210mm (I think) that was just plain soft from end to end.
I bought an old Tokina 28mm f2.8 from a friend some years ago and it was excellent. Sadly, I had it nicked out of my camera bag when at a football match in the early 80's.
The advantages, I've found, in having proprietary lenses is that they have always seemed to be much more consistently well made and at least sharp in the middle. They also seem to hold their value better when you trade.
One exception was a kit lens (28-85mm I think) that came with a Canon 300 film camera I had around 2003/4. This was built like a yoghurt pot and never appeared critically sharp at any focal length or aperture. This seems difficult to achieve in a modern lens but they managed it with aplomb.
I have never had a bad Nikon or Olympus lens, though some are better (optically) than others.
Paul Jenkin (a late developer...)
How bad are the Topcon, Sigma, Tamron lenses compared with the Big Boy's productions (Nikon, Canon)?
The top-of-the-line from most companies (except Sigma) was very good.
That said, the bottom of the line - the ones that were enough cheaper than the camera brand lenses to be a "deal" - always fell very short of the mark in fit, finish and feel.
Not to say they didn't make good pictures in capable hands, they just felt cheap to the touch - compared to Nikon, Canon and Pentax - and didn't stand up well to daily professional use.
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Didn't even know there was such a beast. And yes, YIKES I can imagine something like that would cost a pretty penny. I've never seen one on eBay in all my years of frequent adaptall searches.
Originally Posted by Ian Grant
In life you only get one great dog, one great car, and one great woman. Pet the dog. Drive the car. Make love to the woman. Don't mix them up.
I've had perhaps the worst kit lens ever, sadly made by my beloved Minolta, the infamous 18-70mm DT. A yoghurt pot with a clear plastic lid and filter thread it was. :rolleyes:
Originally Posted by Paul Jenkin
Thanks to all of you for these answers.
I still have my Topcon RE-Super camera, bought in 1968 with RE-Auto Topcor 58mm 1.4 lens. The RE-Topcor lenses were among the best in their heyday. The R.Topcor 300mm 2.8 was the first real super-telephoto lens, so popular that many Nikon owners bought them and had the mount converted to the Nikon mount. I have held on to my old camera, still use it. It is built like a brick, tough, can take abuse and keep on working.
If you don't want to stand behind our troops, please feel free to stand in front of them.
My first 70-210mm zoom was a variable aperture Sigma (back in the 80's). It was not much of a performer. I didn't realize that until I purchased a Minolta MD 70-210mm, f/4 about 5 years later. It was stiff - straight out of the box - and never really loosened up. Once I bought the Minolta I stopped using it and ultimately sold it for nearly nothing on ebay two decades later.
Can't speak for the other third parties you mention, but I had a consumer level Tokina 35-70mm lens that eventually fell apart, but for the 20 years before it did it took wonderful pictures. I think I paid $130 for it new back in '83.
M3, M5, CLE, Minolta XE7, Minolta Maxxum 9, Minolta Maxxum 9000, Nikon F3HP, etc., etc.