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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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Seven Reasons for a 7

Today I want to spend some time yakking up the Canon 7 rangefinder camera. I own two of these cameras and taking an egregious capitalism opportunity, one is for sale right now 😉 There are many great reasons to own and use a Canon 7 and this article will discuss at least 7 of them.

  1. Great value
  2. Reliable
  3. Versatile
  4. Well crafted
  5. Huge lens selection
  6. Easy to use
  7. Major levels of Cool factor

Great Value:

Yes these Canon 7 cameras are in fact a great value. Sure there will always be some ultra rare versions that slip out of the value equation, but in general these Canon 7 cameras can be had for less than $200 and that is definitely deep in the value range. Canon made a series of these cameras with each model gaining some refinement over the seven years of production. Yes a camera named 7 ran for 7 years. Comparatively you will be hard pressed to find a better value for M39 Leica thread mount camera. This camera has features that even the mighty Leica M3 and M2 did NOT have and a clean M3 will cost you four times as much. To find a Leica anywhere near $200 would be a common IIIc and it will be beat up. The IIIc is cumbersome to load and much slower to operate than the Leica M cameras and any of the late Canon rangefinders.

Reliable:

Although some will say the Canon P is the best of the Canon rangefinders because the V, VI, and P were supposedly built on a sturdier chassis. The 7 seems to be every bit as tough and reliable as the P and it offers the additional refinements and versatility. These cameras are all over 50 years old and they just keep working.

Versatile:

The Canon 7 really is a very versatile camera. Its direct competitor back in the day was the Leica M3. You will not get any argument from me about the greatness of the M3. However it was far from perfect and Leica’s reputation has kept the prices on M3s astronomically high. The Canon is MORE versatile. Yes, the M3 can mount modern M mount lenses such as the amazing Zeiss ZM 35/2 Biogon which I own but cannot shoot on the Canon 7 body. It does however utilize the M39 Leica thread mount which has the most lenses ever made for any rangefinder camera. There are plenty of awesome lenses available. The Leica M3 only had bright line frames for 50mm, 90mm, and 135mm lenses. This allows the Leica to have a strong and bright 0.91x viewfinder, but needs a separate accessory viewfinder for any wide-angle lenses including the very popular 35mm focal length which needed expensive and clumsy “goggles”. The Canon 7 offers 35mm, 50mm, 85/100mm, 135mm frame lines. The 7 has a huge viewfinder that allows a generous 0.80x magnification while supporting the 35mm bright line frame! No Leica with a 35mm frame line offers as much as .080x magnification except a special optional 0.85x finder for the M6 beginning in 1998.

Well crafted:

The Canon rangefinders were not quite as deliciously detailed and refined as their counterparts from Wetzlar. Nor were they particularly pretty to look at. They were however exceptionally well made. Extremely reliable and delivered precision and new technology to the field. Canon’s commitment to quality was beginning to really show by the mid-1960s while the rise of Japan as the preeminent camera manufacturing nation began right around the time this camera was made.

Huge lens selection:

Yes I mentioned before that the Leica M39 screw mount is the king of lens mounts for rangefinder cameras. Quite literally then is an endless selection of lenses from just about every country that ever manufactured a lens. Of course, Canon is not alone in its ability to tap this mount. Leica M bodies such as the M3 can easily mount the lenses with a simple adapter and the focus still lines up. The Leica M39 mount is even offered on some modern lens designs from companies like Zeiss and Voightländer.

Easy to use:

Compared to the old screw mount Leicas and the Canon versions that copied them, this camera is much easier to use. Even the Leica M bodies are still a bit more cumbersome to load. I know there are people out there that don’t like the swing back, but there can be no doubt that it is the preferred system or every maker including Leica R bodies would not have adopted the design. Yes over time there can be light leaks from the old foam seals. But it’s a cheap and easy fix and only has to be done every ten to twenty YEARS! The Canon 7 has a simple easy to load design that will be familiar to anyone that has ever loaded and old SLR like a Canon AE-1 or a Nikon FE, etc. The lever wind is smooth and easy and can be multi-stroked or single stroked to advance the film.

Major levels of cool factor:

This is the deal, it is very cool to walk around town with an old range finder around your neck. Even people who are not into photography are gonna know something is up with that old camera. It looks sleek and yet classic. It has all that 1960s charisma, like Sean Connery in a ’64 DB5. It is vintage, yet so suave and sophisticated. It’s like Ricardo Montalbán in his later years, he just got cooler with age. You see the Canon 7 wasn’t James Dean cool, no that was the Nikon F. Dean was a rebel and the SLR was the wild new guy taking on the establishment in 35mm photography. If the Nikon F was James Dean, then the Canon 7 was Cary Grant. The 1960s SLRs were brash and new yet young and unsophisticated. The rangefinders were middle-aged and refined. They were the establishment enjoying the sunset of their lives, completely unaware that the end was near. The Canon 7 was the end of the line for the age of the rangefinder as the staple for news press photography. Leica would carry the mantle on and on, but when Canon retired the 7, and Leica the M3, the SLR was taking over. A great many legendary SLR cameras would follow and the rangefinder quietly slipped away into obscurity. Sure they were still used by the old school press, the court photographers, and some embedded journalists, but the SLR was the new king and it has remained up top ever since. But maybe not for long. The modern mirrorless body is the spiritual successor to the old school rangefinder, and if you read this blog much, you know how much I love that. So the Canon 7 is just as cool today as it ever was before. You can’t buy that much Cary Grant Suave for under $300 anywhere on the planet.

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