Sunday, October 27, 2013

Cheap 'n Cheerful Lens Review

Since I have been able to acquire my favourite Black and White film, I've wanted to use more manual focus lenses on the Nikon F3HP. Trouble is (or was) that I had only a few manual focus lenses. So off to eBay to find some cheap n' cheerful (under 20$ US) lenses to test and shoot with.
Over the 40 some-odd years the Nikon F mount has been around, hundreds of no-name makers have put out lenses in that mount. I thought it would be fun to find some of those no-name brands, long forgotten, and put them through their paces.
I've not been successful in that regards.
What I have fouond, however, are some very nice well-known brand lenses. Starting with Tamron.
I've actually had this one for some time now, but I didn't have a proper mount for it. Way back when, Tamron had a brilliant strategy, rather than make lenses for each mount (Canon FD, Nikon F, Pentax K, Minolta MD, etc) and increase production costs, make one lens with a universal mount, then sell special mounts for each camera. Thus, Tamron's Adaptall mount was born.
This 135mm f/2.8 lens was bought for pennies (well under 5$ US) because it was advertised with a Canon FD mount. FD mounts are obsolete these days (Canon switched to EF and to a lesser extent, EF-S) and converting them to modern digital Canons is somewhat problematic, so FD lenses languish in the dustbin of history and as such are dirt cheap on eBay. But since it was an Adaptall mount, off the FD mount went, on went the F mount and the lens could have a new life. For starters, look at this lens, it's a work of art:

The lettering and distance lines are of a beautiful font rendered in a delicate shade of blue. The feet markings are in orange, easily distinguishable from the meters, the silver of the lens stands out and brings something special to the look. The knurled focus ring has the perfect amount of grip and the built in lens hood snaps in place with satisfaction. In short, this lens is a work of art. I wish modern lenses looked half as good as this one does.
But a stunning lens is nothing without the sharpness and clarity to back it up. Thus, a test was born.

In order to test the lens against the other ones I have, the test needed to be fair, and repeatable. All elements had to be identical, from lighting down to subject matter. For all my Cheap 'n Cheerful lens tests, the following parameters were in effect:

Nikon D2x
ISO 100
1/5 sec shutter speed
Two 150 watt hot lights on full burn
Xevoz Quick Slinger toy.

No PhotoShop or other alternations have been done to the subject. What you see, in terms of clarity and sharpness and all other factors, is what you get.

First image here, the full shot:

And here is a 100% crop of the above image:

Tamron produced this lens from 1976 through 1979. When it was introduced, the initial price (in Japan) was 24,000 yen, this (roughly) translates to 500$ US today. So the depreciation value is pretty much total. Given this was long before any kind of special coatings or optical tricks, or even computer aided design, the lens holds its own for sharpness and colour rendition. Now this is a "laboratory" experiment, under controlled conditions, and eventually this will only be used on film cameras, where the grain of the film will come into play, as well as the weather and so forth. BUt I am pleased with the lens, very pleased, and am actively seeking out other Tamron Adaptall lenses.


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