I hopped on eBay to check something and...well...so maybe I took a look around. Before I knew it, a whopping $15 was exiting my paypal account! I even sort of forgot I picked this up until it arrived on my doorstep. Funny how that works because it practically teleported to my house (maybe a whole 2 days?!). Somehow this type of shipping doesn't often occur on the purchases I care most about. It not only feels so much longer but inevitably a weekend or holiday adds a few days!
Anyway, the lens shows up and I know nothing about what exactly this lens is. Complete impulse buy. So I begin searching the web and finding my compatriots, "I got this lens for $10", "Picked this up for $15 at a local shop", "Who makes this Tokina-special?", "Anyone know if it's any good?" All stories and questions I can relate to! Not ironically, the Tokina-Special 135mm isn't anything 'special' as the name suggests, at least not these days, but it can produce some pleasant results; and it can do this at a price that is unmatched. Furthermore, the lens offered me a chance at some valuable fix-it experience.
When I got the Tokina-Special 135mm, it turns out it was not working correctly. Fortunately, the repair was extremely simple! (If it had been complicated, the lens would be broken. I know very little about fixing lenses. Who knows, there's still time for this lens to break.)
Focal Length: 135mm
Max. Aperture: f/2.8
Min. Aperture: f/22 Min. Focusing Distance (from sensor): 70" (1.77m)
Aperture: 6 blades
The Tokina-Special 135mm had good solid feel to it. Standard metal construction common at the time of production. It bears very similar resemblance to the Vivitar 135mm f/2.8 made by Komine (not the close-focus version) and could possibly itself be Komine-made but I have no evidence of this currently. Because this Tokina-Special line of optics has relatively lower production quality than say, a "Pro" line, I think it very feasible many of these lenses can be found under various other brand names.
I will just say right now, this is no sleeper. You will not be blown away by the performance nor would it be wise to invest any real money in these lenses in hopes you will turn a profit. They are often practically given away. I have read of a few other Tokina-Special lenses, the 75-150mm f/3.8, 28mm f/2.8, and even a 200mm f/3.5 but none appear to be touted by their owners as great pieces of glass. In fact, there appears to be an overall air of disappointment with the 28mm. The biggest issues being flare and contrast, which wouldn't be as much of an issue for a more telephoto focal length such as a 135mm. I haven't used this lens much in varying conditions but did a quick test in the yard to demonstrate what you can expect out of something like this.
I have read some issues with CA in the Tokina-Special lenses. I can just see some blue within the mulch but I haven't put it through much. I have noticed a significant loss of contrast at f/2.8 near the center as well as some considerable light fall-off. Lens is soft wide open but depending on the application, this may or may not be an issue. Bokeh and color rendition is nothing especially great or poor.
I mainly did this review since I didn't see much on the web about this particular lens and felt I may be able to shed some on light for others who may run into a great buy with this lens. The value to be had with this optic lies within the bargain and experiential realm. The Tokina-Special provides an inexpensive introduction to the (shrinking) 135mm focal length. The build will last and the optics are capable of some atmospheric images. For a walk around lens, I love the feel of the softness at f/2.8 with the vignetted corners. I also enjoy the feel of a manual focus lens. Much better lenses exist in 135mm but for <$20, you really can't do much these days!