Best lens bargain ever?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by rodeo_joe|1, Sep 29, 2014.

  1. I just walked away from a charity (thrift) shop with a Tamron 135mm f/2.5 Adaptall-2 lens for £12 (= about $18 US). I bought it more out of curiosity than any hope of it being a stellar performer, but wow!
    After some quick tests on my D800 it performs far beyond anything I expected of it. LoCA fringing is very low at maximum aperture and it puts most modern lenses to shame in this respect. Central sharpness and contrast looks very good at f/4 and smaller, plus it focuses to just under 1.2 metres. When the weather improves I'll check out its resistance to flare, etc. but I think I've got a keeper.
    The Tamron model number is 03B, and it was only produced for 5 years between 1979 and 1984. For a lens at least 30 years old it's in great mechanical and optical shape. Focus is smooth and the aperture works snappily, just as it should. No marks on the glass at all. The mechanical condition is a tribute to the build quality of Tamron lenses of that era.
    Got any good bargain glass lately? Share your best (or worst) experience.
  2. I bought similar Tamron though I believe it's f2.8 BBAR adaptall 2 because I needed the mount. I tried out the lens and frankly it is now my best 135 and is versatile for my systems Nikon, Canon FD, Leicaflex.
  3. SCL


    A lot of people pass up the Tamron Adaptall lenses thinking they are outdated junk. Personally, I've enjoyed a number of the SP version lenses for years on both film and digital bodies, and their overall build and optical performance (depending on the model) is just great. Glad to hear of your experience. A resource I've used for quite some time on them is
  4. Some Tamron Adaptalls were very good, particularly the primes, and I've used the Adaptalls on Canon, Nikon and Olympus, as well as some mirrorless models via those all manual adapters. The Adaptall with F-mount works on both my V1 and Fuji X-A1 using Fotodiox and Fotasy adapters, no problems focusing to infinity.
    This year I've used the 24/2.5 Adaptall a lot with the D2H for infrared, because the 55mm filter thread happened to match filters I already owned, and the IR hot spotting isn't too bad. It's crisp and contrasty, very resistant to veiling flare but very vulnerable to ghosting flare. However the ghosting flare is among the most appealing I've seen, with brilliant multi-colors and unique piston shaped artifacts. I'll occasionally shoot into the sun to force ghosting flare artifacts to appear.
    The main quirk with that 24/2.5 Adaptall is that the moving inner barrel withdraws inside and flush with the front of the focusing ring, so it's very picky about filters and lens hoods. I had to trim a collapsible rubber hood to fit and avoid interfering with focus to infinity, and some slightly oversized filter rings can jam.
    One of the few lenses I regret selling was the 17/3.5 Adaptall, a cleverly designed lens with built in color correction filters and a yellow contrast filter for b&w film. Recently I re-discovered some 8x10 prints made with that lens and it was very sharp and well corrected for barrel distortion and coma, lacking only a bit in contrast and "snap", but remarkably resistant to ghosting and veiling flare. I found a good used sample of that lens in one north Austin camera shop and later that same day found the matching clamp-on petal hood in another shop closer to the UT campus. I later sold both to another photo.netter. But since then I've discovered most wide angle zooms that begin around 16-18mm are very poorly corrected for barrel distortion.
    The variable aperture Tamron zooms have been less impressive. Not bad, but nothing special.
    A couple other longtime favorites are T-mount lenses: a Spiratone Portragon 100mm f/4 soft focus lens with fixed aperture; and a Lentar 135mm f/3.5 preset aperture, a very basic telephoto design that's sharp but moderately low in contrast and well suited to portraits. I've had several other T-mount lenses but those are the only two I've kept.
    And I've gone through many third party fixed mount lenses from Vivitar, Kiron, Soligor, etc. Some were good but I sold or gave 'em away when I switched to Nikon. The only one I kept is a Vivitar Series 1 70-210/2.8-4 zoom, which is pretty good but like most lenses once considered "cult classics", now overrated and overpriced on the used market. Cult classics were very good values at the $25-$75 we used to be able to pay for Series 1 and Kiron lenses. They're a poor value at prices over $100.
  5. I have a couple though not all are great bargains. I find the old 35/2.8 PC preset lens works beatuifully with my D3200, but it was never cheap.
    In Nikon specific glass, I think the biggest bargain and biggest surprise was the ancient pre-AI 28/3.5 ( old enough to have a screwless mount , thus not AI convertible.) It was never much on film, and I bought it more because it said Nikon on it, and it was only 20 bucks. It turns out that most of its sins are outside the dx frame, and it's a slightly wide normal which is often just right. It is very flare resistant and good for scenery.I have a couple of samples of the Vivitar Series 1 75-210/3.8 zoom that were dirt cheap, but none in Nikon mount.
  6. computer glitches forced me to shut down and post before I was ready. For some reason scripts keep crashing. It occurs to me that I have another great bargain, but I don't use it so often with digital, because it doesn't cover that useful a range. It's a Vivitar series 1 28-90 / 2.8-3.5 macro zoom, which I got with a nasty looking and utterly harmless mark on the front element for 8 bucks (and that was from an actual dealer!). It is nice and sharp, a bit gloomy in coloration, vignettes a bit at the wide end, and not parfocal, so I have never found it particularly better than the Nikkor 35-105 on film, and it's sort of a non-issue on digital, since I have other coverage that's sharp. But it sure is a bargain lens. If I were stuck with it, I could use it well enough. It has a rather nice character on film, sort of a brooding or foreboding coloration that works well for things like industrial ruins.
  7. Great find, Rodeo!
    My best bargain pick-ups are:
    Series E 75-150mm (chrome ring) ~ $70
    Has to be one of the best known Nikon performance bargains, so just add my experience to the chorus.
    105mm f/2.5 (Sonnar) ~ $50 as part of a kit
    Just a wonderful lens. AI converted.
    55mm f/3.5 ~ less than $50 as part of a kit
    Great sharpness and contrast close up. Excellent resolution for landscape.
    28mm f/3.5 (Type K) ~ less than $75
    Liked it on DX, love it on 35mm film.
  8. My best bargain lens was a stone mint-in-case Sears 55mm f/2.8 macro lens in M42 mount. Price...Free! Given to me in a lucky CMC forum gear give away by the oh-so-generous Matthew Currie above. Fantastic quality both build and optical! Goes to 1:1, and fast! A treasure on mirrorless...thanks again Matt! L-O-V-E--I-T!
  9. I'm so glad that macro lens worked out.
    I have another bargain that I haven't tried much yet, but I'll add it to the list: a Spiratone T-mount preset 135/2.8 lens that someone gave me many years ago. On film, it never seemed worth doing much with, especially since I have a truly nice 80-200 Nikkor zoom that is easier to use. But the Spiratone has some potential on digital. I'll have to see how it goes and report back. I had forgotten I even had it. A bit long for Dx digital, and not anywhere near macro, but worth a shot.
  10. pics, RJ?
  11. I've got an old Tamron adaptall 200mm f3.5. I never liked it much on film but I put it on my D5300 about a month ago and it's really quite nice. Sharp and contrasty 1 stop down and good against the light. I guess maybe the longer lenses are more telecentric and sensors prefer straight-in/axial light?
    I think it was about £25 in 1990 complete with mount....but hey, that's nearly 25 years ago!
    Anyone trying to buy a Nikon F adaptall mount will notice they keep their value...there's a good reason for that...:)
  12. Got a Tamrom Adaptall SP Macro 300/5.6 cheaply; fine on a D700 but too much LoCA on higher res sensors. In bargain terms I've been most pleased with a Nikon S 50/1.4 made about 1968, which seems to have been factory AI'd, for about £60. At f5.6-11 it's incredibly sharp, and of course it's superbly well made. But the real joy is that for me it's like 2 lenses in one, because wide open it is dreamy, with coma and beautiful oof rendering. Maybe not an f1.2, but for £60.....
  13. Got any good bargain glass lately? Share your best (or worst) experience​
    Managed to find a Ai Nikkor 55mm f/3.5 for circa US $45.
    I use it for online mail order plant sale images. On the D700 it's simply superb - reproduces true colours and the finest detail which is vital for attracting plant collectors. It's perhaps earned me it's original cost a thousand times over.
  14. If you're an old Nikon guy it's hard to narrow these things down, because over the years I've gotten a lot of wonderful lenses that were bargains, but some of them were not unexpected. For example, the 50/f2 AI which cost $35 from KEH is a one of the nicest lenses ever, but I knew it would be. The 105/2.5 last generation pre-AI I've had since the 1980's is still superb, and the 400/5.6 AI that I got from KEH, not dirt cheap, but way below normal, will always be amazingly sharp.
    What's more amusing here is the ones that nobody expects to be so good. I'll take that Spiratone out today and see how it flies.
    On the other side of the coin, I have a Hanimex 28/2.8 preset with a very odd adapter thread, which I put on film a couple of years ago and found rather nice, but on digital it reveals itself as a bit soft and not nearly as nice as the Nikkor. For now it will serve as a hole stopper on an old F body.
    I also have a 35/2.8 auto Nikkor, which was always at best a fair performer on film, and it's no better on DX. No percentage in using that one instead of the kit lens. Another hole stopper.
  15. Adding one more post to the thread, I took the old Spiratone 135 out for a spin today. It's easy to see why the 135, once the most popular tele, has become something of a fifth wheel. In FX format, 200 has become so common, 105 is better for portraits, and in DX format, 135 is too long for comfort and too short for birds. This one, aside from being preset and a bit stiff, also is old fashioned enough to lack any semblance of close focus. It might make a nice macro if it did not start at 1.7 meters. It's decently, if not startlingly, sharp. It's unique in my arsenal for having 16 diaphragm blades, and its out of focus look is lush, but in almost all other respects I'm afraid that even at zero investment price it does not quite rate a "best bargain" rating.
  16. I see some not unexpected old goodies like the 55mm f/3.5 Micro-Nikkor keep cropping up. As well as a few more Adaptall-2 Tamrons. I guess there are still some under priced gems out there still to find. And it's nice to know I'm not alone in treasuring these neglected bits of glass.
    The sun shone today, and I managed to do a flare test on the 135 Tamron - very disappointing. This is one area where the lens doesn't shine (or does, depending how you look at it). With the sun fairly well out of frame and the hood pulled fully forward the contrast took a complete nosedive, with veiling flare almost obliterating the subject. Ghosting came in strong with the sun just out of shot too. Not a lens for contre-jour work then!
    However, it looks like this lens was designed with portraits and frontal lighting in mind. At close distances the IQ is really quite good to excellent. This lens can do sharp at f/4 and beyond, while there's a pleasant small "glow" at f/2.5. Colour aberrations are really well controlled at all apertures, with only f/2.5 showing the usual purple/green bokeh fringing to any noticeable degree.
    Not a lens for landscapes though, IMHO. The centre is sharp enough at distances, but corners suffer a bit until f/8. Maximum sharpness is at f/5.6 to f/8. Not bitingly sharp, but more than adequate for anything less than a mural-sized print. This level of sharpness is held until the closest focus distance, and you can't say that for most lenses. So it's not a lens without some minor flaws, but for the money I paid I still think it's outstanding value.
    I'll post a couple of sample images below. First one is a wide-open shot of a rack of DVD sleeves to show the lack of bokeh fringing and a little of the bokeh character. To me the bokeh behind the plane of focus looks a little worse than that in front. This evens up considerably with a little stopping down. The insets are 100% crops from a D800 at f/2.5 and f/5.6 to show the sharpness. The picture doesn't show the whole of the frame BTW. I cropped it to just include the DVD rack, which takes up about a quarter of the frame area.
  17. Ooops, Curtailed the caption on above picture. It should read "LoCA (or lack of) at f/2.5".
    Next picture is taken at f/5.6 at the closest focus of 1.2 metres. Depth-of-field is so slim at wider apertures that there didn't seem much point in posting those tests, because you can't really tell what's soft due to being OOF against what's just plain soft.
    I also have some longer distance test shots. I'll post them on request, but I really think that CU/portrait is where this lens performs best.
  18. £30 each for Nikkor 135mm F2.8 AIS & 35mm F2.8 AIS lenses.
  19. People see that I still shoot some film in addition to the digital work that I do. Neighbors, friends and relatives have given me a Pentax ME Super with 4 Pentax M and A lenses. A friend who went vegan sent me Canon A-1 and AL-1 bodies, with 5 FD lenses. A relative proffered a Nikon FA with two Nikkor AIS lenses, and another neighbor lady gave me her late husbands Leica R4s body with a Summicron 35, a Summicron 50, and the Elmarit 100/2.8 apo macro, all in a Perrin leather bag. Total investment so far, lots of smiles and thank you's. Need Leitax adaptors for the apo macro for sure. The only lenses not usable for digital are the FD's so they see some Ektar 100 from time to time. Life is amazingly good.
  20. My 105mm. 2.5 from more than twenty years ago. I think I will have it and my f3 buried with me.
  21. I bought a Nikkor AI 80-200 from Goodwill for $10.50 not so long ago. I haven't used it much yet, but it seems a pretty good price.
    Some AI (manual focus) lenses are a little expensive, but many go for low prices.
    Find them on, at a nearby store to avoid shipping costs.
    More recently, I got a Tamron AF 24-70 f/3.3-5.6 in Nikon mount for $27.66.
  22. Nice going David, Bob and Glen. I'll obviously have to work on my needy expression. Plus most of the lens "bargains" I've fallen for have turned out to be worth no more than I paid for them. Some notable exceptions being two battered-looking 55mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkors and a brace of 75-150mm Series E zooms. All of which were optically superb. Anyway, as long as the condition of the glass is good I don't think you can go far wrong with old Nikon MF primes at the right price.
    Glen, I think I paid around the equivalent of $90 US for an as-new 80-200 f/4 Ai-S Zoom Nikkor. That was a few years ago now. Even at that price I think it was great value and still plays well on a D800. I believe the Ai version has an aperture of f/4.5 and a different optical formula, so I hope its IQ is OK for you. There's an interesting review of some Nikon zooms here:
  23. @Bob H: Wow! The only lenses not usable for digital are the FD's .... How about a NEX body to put them on? The local (well about a hour away) camera shop sold me a bunch of FL and FD-mount glass at excellent prices; I saved so much money I was compelled to get an A7 with which to shoot them. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
    In terms of Nikkor bargains, about a month ago I found a Micro-Nikkor 105/2.8 at my favorite charity shop. Externally it was very dusty and the lady at the counter said it was "priced accordingly at $5. Do you want it?" The lens cleaned up nicely and the glass is in great shape. Probably my best find in ages. I like the OOF rendering and the long manual-focus throw is a nice contrast to my AF macro.

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