Tamron SP for SPecial

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by davecaz, Jun 7, 2018.

  1. While researching an old lens I was planning to put on eBay, I noticed a quote from Herb Kepler praising the lens for being "greatly superior in sharpness" compared to similar zooms. According to Johan J Ingles-Le Nobel on extreme-macro.co.uk, "At 80mm and f5.6 to f16 this lens is tack sharp, especially at close focusing distances which is unusual. It thinks it is a prime."


    The lens is the Tamron SP CF Macro 35-80mm Adaptall 2 zoom lens. Mine came with a Contax adapter, but I've never gotten my RTS III cleaned/fixed (the viewfinder looks like there's a camo net over it), so I'd never payed any attention to this lens. I didn't know of its reputation when I got it with some other stuff. It doesn't look like much, as you can see. And, while I know Tamron make some fine lenses, I knew nothing about this one.

    I have a number of Adaptall 2 adapters, including one for my Canon EOS cameras so, after seeing the reviews it gets, I decided to test it out before selling it off. TamSP_20180607_151237-SM.jpg

    I'd have to say that it deserves its reputation for excellence, based on my informal testing.
    I did NO post-processing, at all, other than the normal import sharpening. This was shot handheld at 80mm for 1/320 at f/8 and ISO 1600 (because I was using it inside, and forgot to change it when I went outside) with the front element of the lens approximately 3 inches from the flower. This is one macro zoom that really IS a macro! And it doesn't rely on switches or buttons to put the lens into "macro mode". You just keep turning the focus ring as you move closer.

    And here's a 100% crop from it. It's just as sharp as 200%, and almost as sharp at 300%, which tells me that this may be the sharpest lens I've ever owned.
    Here's one of the indoor shots that convinced me to do more testing. 1/60 at probably f/2.8 and ISO 1600, probably also around 80mm.

    And one more, with the same settings. It's not particularly the sharpness in these shots that made me investigate further, but the color rendition and "the look". I realize that is a useless descriptor, but I don't know how to describe it. It's partly the apparent depth, partly the illusion of 3-D, and probably some other factors. If you can describe it better, I'd love to be educated on this.
    I actually took it with me when I went out to run some errands, hoping to grab some more test images, but my battery went from half-charged to dead in about six shots, most of which were out of focus, because I was wearing the wrong glasses. But, the end result is that, since they don't command the prices they're worth, you won't be seeing mine on eBay any time soon.


    marc_bergman|1 likes this.
  2. Nice results. This lens has long enjoyed it reputation for good performance.
  3. Bugger! Didn't see the duplicate images until too late.

    Thanks, Mike.
  4. You've discovered one of Tamron's better known gems. The SP 35-80 has an outstanding reputation. I resisted picking one up for years because it's "only" a 35-80mm focal length, but eventually I succumbed and added a nice example to my Tamron collection. Glad I did because it is one incredibly sharp lens. The 35mm end is great for street photography and the lens is small enough where it is relatively unobtrusive. The 80mm focal length on the long end makes it suitable for portraiture, but it's almost too sharp for portraits. I've found that, unless the subject is very young with no facial wrinkles or blemishes, people can be put off by images that are "too sharp." Eh, a filter with a smear of Vasoline on it works wonders.

    Congrats and enjoy!
  5. Thanks! I expect to. I agree about the range being a tad short, but the macro abilities make that less painful. I may try using this as my walk-around lens on my 6D for awhile, instead of the 24-105, which is about twice its size.
  6. SCL


    Years ago I picked one up to use on a recently acquired Leica R3, not wanting to invest in a Leica lens to start my journey with this body. I was impressed, and then used it on my other manufacturers' bodies....23 years later I still have and use this lens...on both film & digital bodies; it is an impressive lens for the era.
  7. Well, that's a heck of an endorsement! 23 years! And yet, you can buy one for $50 or less.
  8. So, I took the Tamron up to Sedona, yesterday, to see how it would do on my Canon 6D. I had mixed results. I found it rather difficult to focus accurately in the roughly 15-40 foot range. I'm guessing that 40 feet is about where infinity focus kicks in.

    This is partly due to my eyes getting old, partly due to the lack of any focusing aids in the viewfinder, and partly due to the lens having only a tiny range of about 10 degrees of focus ring travel between 15 ft and infinity. That's as opposed to the roughly 250 degrees of travel between 2 ft and 0.9 ft. But, the results were good when I got the focus right (or close enough).

    Detail of the shelter at the Bell Rock parking lot

    Rocks to the East of Bell Rock. Color looks a bit off.

    Bell Rock 20180625-6842-SM.jpg

    Rocks to the West of Bell Rock 20180625-6839-SM.jpg

    Rocks with dead tree. Note all the houses in the middle distance.

    Ho hum... more scenery 20180625-6907-SM.jpg

    Dead trees are so much more interesting than live ones

    This one required a bit of a hike to reach

    Another dead tree. Note the two little specks on the top of the hill below the branch. They're 6 foot tall adults.

    We do also have some water in Arizona. This is Oak Creek, where it runs through Sliding Rock State Park. Not enough water for sliding at this time of year, but still enough for rock jumping. That's a middle-aged man in mid-air.

    The lens is fairly prone to flare.

    But it's quite easy to prevent. I just used my left hand to shade the front element, but a hood would be nice.

    And sometimes the flare adds a bit of interest

    And then, it can do this. 20180625-7042-SM.jpg

    And this.. 20180625-7042-SM-2.jpg

    And this...
    So, I'm pretty pleased with it, overall. I guess I just need to avoid that 15-40 foot range.
  9. Nice results, Dave. I particularly like the macro capabilities of this lens. For general use I think I prefer it's stablemate, the Adaptall II 35-70mm CF Macro f/3.5 (Model 17a). It's also very sharp and fare less prone to flare. Grab one if you come across one for sale; they're often quite reasonably priced.
  10. Thanks, Rick. I appreciate the info on the 35-70. Have you used either the 28-70 or the 28-80? If so, how do they compare?
  11. Davecaz said :
    I have the 28-70mm f/3.5-4.5 (model 44a) and don't find it quite as crisp as the two we've been discussing, though still a good performer. I've not used the 28-80mm, though it has a great reputation. All you want to know about Tamron Adaptall lenses can be found here:

    Tamron Adaptall-2 lenses | Adaptall-2.com
  12. Thanks! That's a very useful website. What you say makes sense, based on the test results published on that website. The 28-70 has considerably lower contrast than the 35-80, even though its resolution is excellent. I looked, but didn't see any 35-70's at a price I'd be willing to pay. They were running around $50 plus shipping.

    Interestingly, there were at least 2 versions of the 35-70 that performed identically, but one had a constant max aperture. And there were at least 3 versions of the 28-70 (44A, 59A, 159A), the last 2 of which were pretty mediocre, with the 44A being the one to own. The Adaptall-2 website only lists the 44A. I found the others on the Pentax Forums after seeing them for sale, and realizing that they weren't the 44A version.

    While searching for the 35-70, I came across a 44A in what appeared to be gorgeous condition with an adapter (Sony/Minolta), caps, original box, and original paperwork for $30, shipped, so I bought it. It may end up being a catch-and-release, but if it is I don't think I can lose too much on the deal.
  13. SCL


    Overall I've had good results with a variety of Tamrons...most now gone, but I kept the 17/3.5, 28/2.5, 90/2.5 and
    35-80/2.8-3.8, and they all get good use.
  14. Interesting. I take it you find that Tamron's primes stack up against the "Big Guys'" primes.
  15. SCL


    For the work I do, yes, some of them do, some don't. It really depends on what you want to achieve and the conditions you are shooting under, as well as your ability to manage light to control things like flare.

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