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I did a video a few weeks back touting the deals I am seeing on the Tamron 300mm 2.8 Adaptall series lenses. These amazing lenses are now found in the $500-$700 range on sites like eBay and at camera shows and vintage camera shops. A 300mm F/2.8 lens is an exotic lens my friends. To buy such a lens from Canon or Nikon to fit your modern DSLR will set you back some six large, that means $6,000 if you’ll pardon the Vegas casino mobster parlance.

Back in the 1990s I had both a Canon FD 300/2.8 L and a Tamron SP 300/2.8 and had fabulous results with these lenses for sports, wildlife and even portraits. I had long ago sold those 300/2.8 lenses but recently managed to find a very clean Tamron Adaptall 300/2.8 in a local Portland camera shop and snatched it up!

The Tamron Adaptall lenses were fairly unique as they utilized an interchangeable camera mount. This was not unlike the old T-mount  system in its adaptability but differed in that the camera mounts were 100% compatible with the host camera. T-mount lenses had no coupling to the body so the lens had to be stopped down to meter and as such most T-mount lenses were cheap mail order units. Tamron lenses were exceptional quality products for the most part.

The Adaptall lenses were excellent and Tamron’s SP line of lenses were their professional grade. Tamron introduced the original SP 300/2.8 in 1983. It was gloss white and did not feature internal focusing. The lens was noted as being well corrected but a little soft. The second generation came just one year later and represented a complete revision of the optical system. This allowed for a slimmer design that was notably sharper and much more contrasty than the original. It also had internal focus.

This second gen version is easily identifiable from the original by virtue of its gunmetal gray-green finish. This is the one to get and frankly they made a lot more of them than the original which was short-lived. Collectors may prefer the original, shooters should definitely get the second gen lens. These are both manual focus lenses and are not to be confused with the current line of Tamron AF lenses. Tamron does make a modern 300mm F/2.8 for modern cameras as does rivals Sigma and Tokina.

wild beast

Shot with Canon T90 and Tamron 300/2.8 ©1994 rodsager

The 300/2.8 is a great long telephoto lens with a very bright opening. Although sports and wildlife seem like an oblivious use for this type lens, portraits can also be quite amazing with these. 300mm naturally delivers a shallow depth of field, when coupled with the unusually fast f/2.8, the background simply melts away. The longer tele lens allows for a head shot or head and shoulders shot from a comfortable shooting distance of 12-15 feet. This creates a flatter image on the subject’s face and some find this pleasing to the eye.

picture of girl

Model shot with Canon F1 and Tamron 300/2.8 ©1993 rodsager

These lenses are not small my friends. The Tamron 300/2.8 lens featured here weighs 5 lbs and uses a 112mm filter. There is a filter tray that slips in towards the rear of the lens that supports 43mm filters.

Modern DSLR cameras can often utilize this lens via the old school camera maker Adaptall mount. However custom modern mounts can be found as well for cameras like the Sony A7. On a film camera I felt that the Tamron lens was nearly as solid as my previous 300/2.8 which was the legendary Canon L series lens for the FD system. I switched to this lens because in the early 1990s I was transitioning out of the FD system and into the EOS system. The Tamrom lens would work on both!

I am enjoying this Tamron beast on my EOS 5D Mk III and the image quality remains outstanding, but modern glass has no doubt gotten better over the years especially on digital images. I however am not interested in parting with some $6000 to get a modern Canon EF 300mm F2.8 L. The image stabilization and autofocus are highly desirable, but for me I enjoy the delicious bokeh and the face flattening effects of this old school exotic from Tamron. If you find one in the $500-$700 range you have done well and will not regret the purchase.

Get the 1.4x tele-extender from Tamron which yields a 420mm at F4.0 or the Tamron 2x extender that gives a 600mm F5.6. Nominal loss of quality mostly in softer contrast but still amazing none-the-less. Note that the Tamron tele-extenders will only work on Tamron Adaptall lenses.

Here is the video I did a while back on this lens.

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Zeiss-a-licious Super Ikonta

While back I wrote about my Mamiya 6 folding rangefinder camera. I love folders and I also have owned and used the amazing, Zeiss Ikon Super Ikonta cameras. The Zeiss camera has one specific advantage really over the Mamiya and it is the overall build quality. These old Zeiss cameras are just so finely crafted and the attention to detail is at a Bentley level. Honestly as a shooter I prefer the little Mamiya 6, but as a classic folder the Zeiss is just a masterpiece of precision and quality. The camera feels like it was fashioned from a solid block of metal.

There were a great many versions of the Super Ikonta Cameras and I can only really chat up a few I have had over the years. My favorites remain the 6×6 models and preferably later units with coupled shutter release and advance. They also had some awesome 6×9 cameras. Those were a bit bulky but offered a 2×3 format (same as 35mm) on a bout the largest piece of medium format film outside of extra wide format camera.

The 6×6 cameras are more compact and do not require the user to change the camera position to compose vertically. This to me makes the handling characteristics much better. My Super Ikonta is featured in this review and it was a fairly late-model with film advance auto stop and shutter lockout for double exposure prevention. It is difficult to find these 50-70 year cameras with a clear and crisp viewfinder. I am fortunate to have found one.

These cameras are well-known for being a bit persnickety and mine was no exception. But the image quality is quite good and appreciating the camera’s quality feel never gets old. For those looking to use a folding medium format camera I would stick with the later models as they offer the Zeiss T lens coatings that are among the world’s best. This helps increase contrast, saturate color, and minimize lens flare.

The 2.8/80mm Tessar lens found on many examples of these cameras is an outstanding lens. The Tessar design is old but effective. It is very crisp and sharp although Tessars are not the sharpest of lens designs they are quite contrasty. It is a reliable and simple lens design that serves the folder well. Zeiss gives us a nice fast F/2.8 on these late-model cameras as well and that can be handy for separating the subject from the background and for shooting with slow film or in low light conditions.

The next PhotoFair is this Saturday! November 18th and these old Super Ikontas and other cameras like them can be found at the show!

I did a video review on the camera shown in this article, check it out and be sure to visit the PhotoFair!

 

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