Sunday, November 8, 2015

Tamron SP 60-300mm f3.8-5.4 - Revisited

Last time I looked at this lens here, I didn't mention its macro capability, so here is another look.

There are couple of very well known zoom lenses with macro capabilities.  By macro I don't mean the garden variety 1:4 ratio that pretty much every zoom lens possesses.  The Nikon Micro-Nikkor 70-180mm is probably the most popular, but expensive macro zoom, that can focus to 1:1.33 ratio at 180mm.  The Vivitar Series-1 90-180mm f4.5 Flat Field Macro Zoom is a cult-classic that can do 1:2 half life size at 180mm.  These two lenses were designed with macro capabilities in mind and thus the image quality in macro mode is much better than other zooms with macro features as an afterthought. One lesser known lens, the Tamron SP 60-300mm f3.8-5.4, has very capable macro mode, and deserving of a look if you are looking for a zoom lens with macro capabilities.  This lens has a maximum magnification ratio of 1:1.55 at 60mm, but majority of owners of this lens, if they do not read the instruction manual, would not know how to access this macro feature.

To activate this macro mode, you need to collapse the lens to 60mm, then focus the lens to minimum focus distance of 1.9m, and when you hear the focusing ring stop, apply more force and continue to turn the focusing ring until the yellow macro line on the focusing ring is aligned with the macro line on the lens barrel.  The special macro mode is now engaged.  If you slide the zoom ring outward, it will reveal the 1:1.55 mark that's normally hidden.  The biggest negative of this mode?  The focusing ring is locked and you can not use it to focus.  You can only move back and forth to focus.  It awkward and unnatural to use than a true macro lens, but if you don't want to spend the money to buy a true macro lens, this lens can be used in a pinch.

Aside from its macro capabilities, the Tamron SP 60-300mm lens has a very versatile zoom range.  Many people dismiss this lens because it's not very sharp wide open, especially the corners and edges, but at f8-f11, it is very acceptable across the frame.  True, it lacks micro contrast the gives the pictures "bite", compared to a prime, but the 5x zoom range is more than makes up for it, and the macro capability is definitely a nice bonus.  I am not a zoom lover, but I like this lens a lot.  The only downside, is the weight and size.  The lens itself is not very large in diameter with a 62mm filter size, but it's very dense and long, weighing more than 2 lbs.  One of the biggest advantage of this lens against the Nikon's micro Nikkor and the Vivitar, is the price.  It's often sold for around $60USD or less, compared to around $1000 for the Nikon, and around $150-$300 for the Vivitar.

All pictures below were taken with Tamron SP 60-300mm f3.8-5.4 & Sony A7

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Topcon RE Auto Topcor 135mm f3.5

Got this lens from the camera show a couple of weeks ago, and it was a bargain for $5.  The lens is in pristine condition, both cosmetically and optically.  The RE Topcor lenses are beautifully made and this one is no exception.  The fit and finish is first rate.  A turn on the aperture ring reminds me of a precision instrument, and it's crafted like one.  The click is crisp and precise, and the sound is angelic.  Of all the lenses I have, and I have a few, no other lenses have an aperture ring that feels and sounds like this one.  I can feel the passion, and painstaking care the designer put into creating this piece of awesomeness.  Even if the lens performs like crap optically, it would still earn my utmost respect.

Topcor 135mm f3.5 on Sony A7

The attention to details can be seen clearly with the built-in hood.  In most Japanese lenses that have built-in hoods, 99% of them are useless, because they are way too short.  But, this lens has a two stage collapsible hood, similar to the one in the Leica-R Summicron 90mm f2, and extends to about twice as long as most built-in hoods.  While still not the proper length for this lens, it's much better than most.

The precision feel of the lens extends to the focusing.  The focusing ring is rubber with ribbed textured, and has the right amount of damping.  One turn of the ring and you feel like slicing butter with a hot knife.  It's smooth with a quality feel.  Again, the fit and finish of the rubber is just amazing; it looks and feels like a unified body part of the lens.

The modified EXA mount may pose problem if you use it on Canon bodies, but it has no problem with the NEX-EXA adapter that I have.  The 4 extruding pins on the mount will prevent the lens from mounting properly on EF-EXA adapters.  More reason to go with mirrorless cameras if you are really into manual focus lenses.

Lens mounts perfectly on the NEX-EXA adapter.  Note the 3 pins in the space between the adapter and the lens.

Attempted to mount lens to Canon-EXA adapter.  Note the pins are preventing the lens from mounting flush with the adapter.  On a normal Exakta mount, there is usually one one locking pin.  Not all RE Topcor lenses have these pins.  My RE Topcor 10cm f2.8 and 5.8cm f1.8 have only one pin.

In the image quality department, I can only evaluate the images that is in focus; the adapter I have is just shy of attaining infinity focus, unfortunately.  All the images at infinity appears to be sharp, but it's just not quite there.  I know the lens can do better as in medium distance, it's really sharp.  I guess a new NEX-EXA adapter is needed.

I quite like the rendering of this lens.  I was worried that a lens this well designed and built, might perform like crap, but it doesn't.  Sure a larger maximum aperture would be nice, but for close ups, it still provides very thin depth of field.  Check the picture below.  It was shot at f5.6 and the depth of field is still very thin.  The large sensor on the A7 helps.

Fallen leaf -- RE Topcor 135mm f3.5 @ f5.6 & Sony A7

Having used this lens, I am worried that I might start looking for other RE Topcor lenses.  They are not very common in Canada and price is not cheap at all.  I guess those who own these lenses know how good they are.

Bokeh - RE Topcor 135mm f3.5 & Sony A7

Island Ferry - RE Topcor 135mm f3.5 & Sony A7

Autumn Leaf -- RE Topcor 135mm f3.5 & Sony A7

Another Bokeh Shot - RE Topcor 135mm f3.5 & Sony A7