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Archive for the ‘Lenses’ Category

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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A Little Tele Talk

Today I am going to chat up a couple different Canon lenses. The Canon EF USM 70-300 IS DO and the EF-M 55-200 IS STM are my newest acquisitions. I also picked up a sweet little Kamlan 50mm f/1.1 for my M5. Yes 1.1 :D. I’ll save that for another day. I have been busy spending my son’s inheritance on some tele lenses and I figured I could present a few observations.

First the EF 70-300 USM DO. This is a much maligned product that Canon launched way back in 2004. The idea was that they wanted a high quality tele-zoom lens for full frame that was ultra compact and relatively free of common lens aberrations. Canon had already experimented with “Diffractive Optics”, which is where the “DO” comes from. That was the 400mm f/4.0 L DO. This lens is basically a “pro” version of the already spendy 75-300 USM IS which retails out in the $600 range.

Diffractive Optics are just a fancy name for modernised Fresnel lenses. That said, Canon has done a great job making a very short (albeit quite chubby) lens for such a long reach. The positives are that indeed the lens is nearly free of any disturbing aberrations, is built very well to nearly “L” standards (but no weather seal), and truly is compact when zoomed to the widest setting. The negatives are mediocre sharpness at the tele end, sub-par performance for the image stabilizer, and a price tag that makes Warren Buffett say, “How much was that again, really”? Yes Canon is quite proud of their 21st Century adaptation of the Augustin-Jean Fresnel 19th Century invention that bears his name. The lens currently retails for around $1400.

But I got mine for a sweet deal used, frankly a bit beat up. The optics however are in perfect shape so there is no excuse for any optical issues. Yet there are some optical issues. The 200-300mm range is a tad soft. It isn’t unacceptably soft if not for the gold-plated price. As I mentioned the IS is not up to Canon’s typical amazing standard. It does work mind you, but I don’t think it is much better than 1.5 to 2 stops on my DSLR and on the M5 it just sux. Honestly a lens with a f/5.6 opening at the tele-end needs a good stabilizer. It is however sharper than many people in the photographic review business suggest. I read several reviews that rated this lens pretty dismal on tele sharpness. Perhaps the expectation based on the King Midas list price effected the “sharpness” they did or didn’t see. I don’t know, but I found it to be moderately sharp at the tele end and razor-sharp at the 70mm setting. I have images at the bottom of the page from all the lenses in this post.

I do like how small the lens is when zoomed to 70mm. It fits nicely into my Real Estate photo bag. That is a Tamrac 612 with an EOS 5D Mark III and Grip, 16-35mm L, Samyang 12mm, EX 580 flash, and this lens. Optically it is good enough but again, at $1400 Canon needed this thing to be sharper. If it had to be soft somewhere, it should have been at the short end where fewer shots will be made. I got a sweet enough deal that I don’t mind its short comings. This lens, unlike the non ‘DO’ version has the true ring type ‘USM’ that offers full-time instant manual focus and a whole lot of that legendary Canon focus speed. Honestly unless you ‘steal’ one of these by sniping it on an eBay auction for less than $350, I’d stick with the cheaper non ‘DO’ or step up to the 70-300 L which other than size, is better in every measurable way, and only about $50 more money..

Before I start this next segment, I have to issue a Capitalism Alert! I do have a couple of lenses for sale right now on my ebay store that I may just mention in this post. OK, fair enough, I WILL mention in this post 😉 Some time back when I got my first EOS M camera, I bought one of those old Canon Rebel 35mm series compact tele lenses. The EF 80-200 f/4.5-5.6 USM. This was a lens that back in the 90s no one liked because it was an early adopter of the plastic lens mount. Ew, Yuck, plastic, so cheap… blah, blah, blah. Well plastic is a big part of our lives now and that doesn’t seem to bug people like it did back then. Well I bought one on the cheap to use on my EOS M body. It is so small and light and at that time Canon still had no native tele-zoom. Even with the bulky EF adapter that little lens was super handy. The lens is awesome for what it is. And these things can be had online or at camera shows, like the upcoming PhotoFair in Newark, CA on June 3rd. I issued a capitalism alert earlier that covers this shameless plug for our Camera Show 😉 Oh yes, I am selling the 80-200 here.

Eventually I decided I wanted a stabilizer. Serious once you go ‘stable’ there is just no going back. So I found another fantabulous deal. It’s a word, I just invented it, so it’s real. I bought a Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS. This lens had already been replaced with a Mark II version so it was around a hundred bucks used in minty condition. In all fairness it was nearly twice the size of the 1990s full frame 80-200 but this lens had a stabilizer and 20% more tele-reach as well as some additional room at the wide end. This lens of course is only APS/C so it would not work on my full frame DSLR. I tossed the old 80-200 rebel lens in my Realtor® bag as an emergency back up tele in case I needed some reach on a shoot. I never like carrying my relatively bulky and heavy 200/2.8 L in the small real estate bag. Anyhow, that little 55-250 is a truly amazing lens. Sure it is cheaply made and there is no USM, but this is a lens that can be found under $100. It is very sharp, I mean genuinely sharp. I have three L lenses, I know sharp! The stabilizer works amazing. It gave me legit 3-4 stop performance and remember on a crop sensor camera like the EOS-M, any Rebel or xxD bodies it shoots like a 400mm. BAM! I could nail tack sharp shots at 1/30th at least 1/2 the time and almost every single time at 1/60th fully zoomed in 🙂 But this lens needed to be mounted on the EF adapter to work on the M series cameras and that made to overall package chunky in the little travel bag I use with that body. I finally came to the conclusion that I needed to bite the proverbial bullet and just buy the native lens for the body. This amazing 55-250mm is for sale here.

The native tele-zoom for the EOS M series cameras is the ridiculously small, EF-M 55-200mm STM IS. Canon is quite proud of this little plastic fantastic and now that I own one, I see why. First, it is sharper than the Rebel 80-200 but not quite as pin sharp as the EF-S 55-250mm. That 55-250 is ridiculously sharp for a econo lens. But this lens needs no adapter, so it is smaller by far than either of the other tele-zooms mentioned above for the purpose of using on an EOS M series body. I waited a long time because frankly the biggest turn off was the stupid slow f/6.3 at the tele end. f/5.6 is slow enough. That was my major hang up other than Canon’s USA list price of $350. I kept justifying the bulkier EF-S lens because it was faster and longer, there for better. It was also cheap 🙂 The native lenses however come with their own advantages. First they do focus quicker than a EF or EF-S lens on the adapter. They also have the full-time manual focus override that automatically zooms the focus window to 5x and activates the focus peaking feature (you have to enable these in the settings first). No need to switch a button or change modes, just twist the focus ring (while keeping light pressure on the shutter release) and presto! That is very cool. The IS works nearly as well as the ridiculously good EF-S 55-250mm. This lens is so crazy tiny that I can get an additional lens in my travel kit. What the hell was I waiting for?

So there is a tele-zoom bonanza and I will be reviewing the Kamlan 50mm f/1.1 lens that is available for a variety of mounts including NEX, 4/3, and EF-M in the future. Photos with the lenses in this post are below.

dog barking

Maggie barking at the wind. EOS 5D Mark II with EF 70-300 USM IS DO

picture of cat yawning

Muffin is tired, again. EOS 5D Mark II with EF USM 70-300 IS DO

picture of dog

Maggie on the back stoop, EOS 5D Mark II with EF 80-200 f4.5-5.6 USM

man cutting hair

Hair cutting demo at trade show, Canon EOS M5 with EF-S 55-250 IS

picture of cat

Socks, EOS M5 with EF-M 55-200 IS STMpicture of cat

Muffin, EOS M5 with EF-M 55-200 IS STM

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