As a frugal photographer, I live by the motto “good and cheap.” My camera gear must meet both of these qualifications before they find a place in my camera bag. Over the years, I have purchased many cheap used lenses for my DSLR cameras. I am quite comfortable using older manual focusing lenses. In fact, they offer the best combination of quality and value for your cheapskate dollar. With focus-confirmation a standard feature in modern DSLR cameras it is not difficult to use manual focusing lenses at all.
What lens brand has consistently offered the best value in used lenses? I have discovered that the one brand of lens that offers the best value for my skimpy gear budget is Tokina. In fact, the standard “kit” lens on my current Pentax K-x DSLR camera is a vintage manual focusing Tokina SD 28-70mm 3.5-4.5 lens that I estimate to be at least 20 years old. It is sharp, has good color and contrast, and does what I need it to do. Many of my best photos have been shot with this lens (including the photo below).
I also use a 15-year-old Tokina AF 19-35mm F:3.5-4.5 that I have in a Canon mount on my Canon 20D and 10D DSLR cameras. It is a solid performer with a cult following among budget-minded photographers (known as the Plastic Fantastic). I am currently awaiting delivery of a Tokina 35-135mm F 3.5-4.5 lens (purchased for $13 on eBay) that will replace my classic Vivitar Series 1 70-210mm as a lightweight medium zoom lens with macro capabilities (I love the Vivitar Series 1, however it is just too heavy to lug around all day). I’ve owned at least 6 vintage Tokina lenses in the past and found them all to be solid performers.
Not only are the Tokina vintage manual lenses solid performers, they are dirt cheap and plentiful. I have never paid more than $20 for any used Tokina lens. They are very well built with solid metal construction. Tokina lenses were usually well rated in the film-era photography magazines. However, because they were not big advertisers in camera gear magazines like Canon or Nikon, they were never given the recognition they deserve. That’s good for cheapskate photographers who can find them on the used camera market priced well below better-known brands.
You should be able to find vintage manual-focusing Tokina lenses on eBay for less than $25 in excellent condition. Like a cheap used Honda Civic that runs forever, they offer amazing value for the money!