I need a wide angle lens for low-light/club photography with my Nikon D5000. I was going to pick up this one, but then I realized that it won't autofocus on my body. What is the closest equivalent in terms of price and performance that will?
If you can try it out before buying, the Tokina 11-16 might still be the best option. It is less expensive than the Nikon 12-24. The Nikon is the runner up in my opinion. The two lenses are significantly different: the Nikon 12-24 is part of the 3 lens continuous zoom coverage set, the Tokina 11-16 is a Prime with wiggle room.
I say that the Tokina might be your best option since focus does not have to be very precise. The focus scale is 1/4 turn on this lens, it goes from 1ft to infinity. 2ft is over halfway across the scale. Another consideration is whether auto-focus will be effective in a club environment. It is probable that neither the Tokina or Nikon will auto-focus in a club without the af assist light on-- and that is so bright you will annoy people and disrupt your composition.
I own the Tokina 11-16. It's a great lens, but you'd be surpirised how wide the lens is. I use it on a D7000. Also, the limited zoom range (it's really wide even at the 16mm setting.) Unless you're literally a meter in front of the subject, it's going to look small.
Also - it's so wide, your flash won't light the whole frame.
I am looking to solve a similar problem to what you have - and I'm currently planning on purchasing the Nikon 17-55mm lens as the solution to the problem.
I've been testing the concept - standing at the back of the room with my 80-200mm 2.8 on my D7000, ISO at about 3000 and shooting around 1/60 - 1/100 sec. With Aperture at 2.8.
No flash - using the stage lighting only - it produces a fairly decent image. You can see the grain, but it's acceptable if you frame your shot well and don't have to zoom in too much.
Tokina apparently makes a D5000 compatible version of your original lens.