Tamron Lenses

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The local camera store guru recommended Tamron SP lenses. Particularly the SP 60-300mm zoom. I looked through it and it seem fine thru the viewfinder. The quality seemed good. They are not inexpensive (Retail $375-$400) Also lighter than the Hexanon's.

Any experiences or observations out there?

Thanks David S Smith

-- Anonymous, February 21, 2001


Hi David,

I'm a huge of Tamron's SP lenses. Currently using a 90mm f/2.5 Macro (very early one, ser. #0000145) and a 500 f/8 mirror. As soon as my credit card balance allows I'll be buying a 180/2.8, 300/2.8 and possibly an 80-200/2.8 (have heard & read that the later 70-210/2.8 wasn't nearly as good a lens). All of these lenses are "cult classics", deservedly, in my opinion. The 400/4 is another incredible lens, but the 300/2.8 with a 1.4X teleconverter is virtually the same speed, focal length and picture quality.

The Tamron SP lenses I use never cease to amaze me with their color rendition... you need to be a little careful with Velvia and polarizers and these lenses, or you might hurt someone's eyeballs with the resulting pics!!! They are high quality optics, sharp and seem durable even after a lot of use.

Can't comment much on the particular lens you are considering, not personally familiar with it in use. I do see a few selling on eBay & closed auctions seem to end up $125 to $135 (+ shipping), several did not reach their reserve prices, bidding ended under $100.

The f/3.8-5.4 aperture seems a bit slow to me, but I shoot slow slide film and this may not bother you, depending on your uses.

I would also prefer any lens from 180mm on up have a built-in tripod mount, which I don't see on this lens. Especially at at the 300mm end of its range, I wouldn't try to use it without a tripod or monopod!

I would say in general that Tamron's SP line of lenses are very good and the Adaptall 2 is great in that you can interchange with virtually any 35mm camera system.

Hope this helps!

Alan Myers San Jose, Calif.

-- Anonymous, February 21, 2001

And a followup

Alan and others,

Indeed I too was taken by the 500 F8 mirror and picked up one second hand yesterday. There are some eagles and birds nearby about to get "shot." I didn't think much of the mirror lenses until I looked through one.

I was most impressed by two outstanding features of the Tamron SP lenses. #1 They are lighter than Hexanon lenses #2 They are available. (After purchasing adaptall)

Two questions. Tamron SP's been out a while? (Used or second hand models O. K.) Do you really find occasion to use the F2.8 stop very often? Please give they situations where wide open at f2.8 makes a difference.

Thanks a bunch.

David Smith

-- Anonymous, February 21, 2001


Hi again,

Glad to hear you got a 500/8...

I really like mine. Don't say this around any "Nikon-o-philes" or you'll get a big argument... I've noticed it is VERY similar in size, shape & design to the Nikkor 500/8! To me it appears to only have some cosmetic differences. Gee, could Nikon be buying Tamrons and putting their own grips and tripod mounts on them? I know, I know... "Nikon makes ALL their own lenses!"

I have exactly two "gripes" with the Tamron 500/8:

1. I wish it were a stop or two faster!

2. I hate having to remove the Adaptall 2 mount to install those little 30.5mm filters (admittedly, they are bigger than some lense makers use!) This is more important on a mirror because neutral density filters are the only way you can change the effective aperture. Tamron could have designed a drop-in filter holder for this lens and used larger, more easily obtainable filters. Of course, I also could put an 82mm filter on the front... (whoops, there goes the credit card again!)

But, for the price, you can't beat this lens! Great glass, sharpness & color, best "out of focus" area of any mirror I've used, and extremely close focusing to under 6 feet. Very shallow depth of field, which I've used as an advantage in most instances.

How established is Tamron? Well, they're celebrating their 50th anniversary this year. All the SP/Adaptall-2 lenses are from the past 20-25 years and are relatively current, modern designs, some could be called "groundbreaking". Tamron is also big in the movie and television camera industry, with pretty sophisticated lenses.

I buy nearly all used lenses. Using the previous examples (sorry, but these are the lenses I've been researching & am familiar with):

With the 300/2.8 (eventually) I'll be a very careful used lens shopper & expect to spend about $1000 (new about $2200). Many of these (and the 400/4s, $1500 used) were purchased by newspapers and magazines for the "equipment pools" of their staff photographers. As such, they saw hard use and didn't receive the care someone gives their own personal equipment. So I'll carefully inspect before purchasing, and/or arrange a trial period.

And I will steer clear of the earliest, non-IF (internal focusing) model of this lens. With such a large lens, you don't want it to have the light fall-off and imbalance problems inherent in a non-IF design (where the lens gets longer as you focus it).

The 180/2.5 (which is also IF, about $350-400 used) was a special edition lens for Tamron's 35th Anniversary, so is at least 15 years old. The 80-200/2.8 ($400+ used) is from the same time frame. I don't really know the age of the 60-300 you are looking at, but would guess 10 or 15 years old. The closest current autofocus model is a 70-300.

In answer to your question about the utility of a wide aperture... I see three major reasons:

1. A large aperture also gives you a lot of control over depth of field, so a subject can be in sharp focus, while the background is greatly out of focus to reduce distractions, etc.

2. I find myself wishing for a faster lens all the time, shooting 50 ASA slide film in shade and trying to stop action, lately a lot of water birds amd birds of prey, for example. I'm often using my Hexanon 300/4.5 for this and it's a great lens for color and sharpness, but a bit slow. This is especially true if I put a 1.5X teleconverter on it, losing another stop, to approx. f6.7.

Plus, most lenses are by design "optimized" to be sharpest one or two stops down from wide open. This means my 300/4.5 is probably at it's best at about f/8 or f/11. Even in full sun, with 50 ASA film, that means a shutter speed around 1/125th or 1/60th! Pretty slow when using a long lens, even on a tripod!

With 300/2.8 you would normally expect a sharp aperture at f/5.6 (shutter speed 1/250th in full sun). But, in fact, Tamron designed the manual focus 300 to perform optimally wide open at f/2.8 or f/4, where I can use a 1/250th or 1/500th or possibly even 1/1000th shutter speed. On paper it can only look like a small difference, but in practice it's the difference between getting a high percentage of well exposed shots on a quality, fine grain film or compromising on quality/sharpness or not getting the shot at all!

3. A large aperture lens also makes for much easier manual focusing with my middle-aged eyes! A brighter viewfinder is one reason I prefer the 2.5 Macro lens over others I have.

Of course, you "pay the price" for fast lenses, both with $$$ and with weight/size. It's all a balance of what you "need" and how much $$$ & energy you want to spend/can afford. For a lot of additional info, lok the lens tests on sites like www.photodo.com, then look at the cost, new or used of a Canon or Nikon 300/2.8, especially the new ultra quiet autofocus, image stabilized models, and the Tamrons start to look like a steal (Hey, can I rationalize, or what?!) Another great source of info about lenses & manufacturers is http://www.smu.edu/~rmonagha/third/index.html

Look carefully at tests of Tamron's & other manufacturer's "fast lenses" and you may notice that they aren't all created equal, either. Fast and/or expensive doesn't necessarily mean better! I probably would not buy the new Autofocus Tamron 300/2.8, for example.

Some lenses give up a lot of sharpness in the quest for speed. "Speed" is relative, too. A 300/2.8 is fast. A 35/2.8 is average. And a 50/2.8 is downright slow!

fyi: Tamron still services many of their lenses. However, this may be pricey, too, depending on what needs doing and the lens being serviced. I saw a 300/2.8 selling on eBay that had a recent $200+ "factory tune-up".

Hope this answers your questions.

Alan Myers San Jose, Calif.

-- Anonymous, February 22, 2001

David, I checked out the 60-300 on Monaghan's lens list and it shows a manufactured date of 1983. I also checked on ebay for completed items and although there were only 5 listed the going price seems to be less than $150. Currently, there are some up on ebay w/one w/a bid price of $88 (17 bidders) Item #1215491165. The adaptall 2 mounts go for $20+ and are readily available. Good Luck,Dave

-- Anonymous, February 23, 2001

Tamron SP lenses

Hi David,

I own two Tamron SP lenses - the 35-105/2.8 SP which is a very good zoom. It is not as good as my Zeiss 35-70/3.5 for my Contax camera but that is truly an outstanding lens if limited in it's focal length. The Tamron 180/2.5 SP is really a fantastic lens. It is very very good and I feel it is as good as my Zeiss lenses. If you buy the 60-300 let me know how you like it. I was thinking of buying one at one point and asked on the photo equipment newsgroup about it. As I recall the responses seemed a little mixed.


-- Anonymous, March 12, 2001

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