Review: Tamron 200mm f/3.5 Model 04B (Adaptall-2 System)

(2010-06-04)


 

This story begins as follows: I have made a great bargain and bought a Tamron Model 04B on eBay in the UK  for 54.5 GBP + shipping! A baragin??? More than 54 pounds for a simple (not even SP) prime???? Now it is surely gone mad for him!!!

 

No, not quite, because one of the two accompanying images in advertising showed that the lens was fitted with an Adaptall-2 mount and a quick zoom showed that this was the quite rare and expensive PKA mount, that is occasionally being offered by professional traders on eBay at prices currently around GBP 60. For those who do not know, this is the mount with electrical contacts for program operation on Pentax cameras; meaning that so all program automation - except autofocus – can be used with Tamron Adatall-2 lenses on both old analogue as current digital Pentax camera bodies.

 

This PK-A adapter was not mentioned in the ad text. The seller only wrote only that he had no knowledge of camera lenses and, therefore, included a picture of the mount. An e-mail to the seller guaranteed that he would ship to Denmark for GBP 4.84, and then it was just waiting until the auction expiration date approached. Unfortunately, another buyer had also gotten the scent and it ended up fighting right to the mark. Well, I won and was allowed to pay. Of course, there will always be some risk in such a deal:  As a matter of fact, seller had mentioned or guaranteed absolute noting about the mount, so I just had to wait for the big day.

 

Then came that day. Not any knowledge about lenses? Indeed not! The seller had sent the goods in a bubble envelope lightly wrapped in bubble wrap! It was with trembling hands that I opened the envelope, but 'Lo and Behold' the goods were unharmed as we shall now see.

 

 

And here we have the very crux of the deal:



 

One notes the three large and one small electrical contacts (Genuinel Pentax KA lenses, I think, have 6) plus a small switch just below my thumb. It is this one that permits switching Adaptall-2 Tamron lenses into "AE" mode (in Pentax terminology just A-mode), and in this all Pentax auto-functions can be used apart from AF, (Auto, P, Sv, Tv, Av - and of course M).

 

We should not forget the lens itself and here we have it mounted on my Pentax K200D:





 

and for comparison’s sake shown along with a Tamron 35-80 mm f2.8-3.8, Model 01A plus an S-M-C Takumar 135 mm f/3.5.




 

First impressions of the lens:

The lens, which was produced from 1979 - 84, makes a good, solid impression, perhaps not quite as sturdy as the two above comparison lenses, but definitely solid metal and glass throughout. No plastic here - and much more solid than, say, my Tamron 103A zoom.

 

The built-in lens hood appears practical - but also quite short. It must stand the test of time but otherwise the lens is fitted with 58 mm thread, so other fittings may be used.

 

The lens with its weight of 540 g is relatively heavy, but feels really good in the hand; the broad focus grip is coated with real rubber – again, not something with plastic here. Focus movement is almost "Takumar-like". In actuall use, I became instantly familiar with it and can already tell that this is a lens that will be used a good deal.

 

The manual aperture setting is, as among the better for the Tamron Adaptall-2 lenses that I have had in my hands, though not quite as smooth and pleasant as with a good Takumar lens.

 

But all in all I can sign on to that http://www.adaptall-2.org are right when they write that "Ergonomics are superb." As usual you can find excellent specs. and optical schematics for the lens on that site.

 

The PK-A Adapter:

My adapter is in good condition although one can tell that it has obviously been used  - probably just as well because it shows that the previous owner actually found good use for this lens + mount!

 

I have read in several places that some Pentax users have had problems with the contacts and there are many tips on the web about how to scrape / grind selected screws free of lock-tite residue; twist adapter slightly to gain contact ...... In short, it is with some skepticism that you first mount your lens + adapter on your camera.

 

But really! I just had to mount the lens, set it in AE-position and, right away, lens settings could be read in the viewfinder and top LCD displays. I can preset the aperture in Av mode, exposure time in Tv, sensitivity in Sv or leave it all to the full-automatic P- and Auto modes.

 

And more: I now have the benefit that all Exif data is recognized and written to the image files. (The camera will ask you to enter the focal length manually if you use older, manual lenses, provided that image stabilization is enabled).

 

And last: My Tamron SP 01F teleconverter is also designed to transfer these settings with the proper adapter and thus, I also got "auto-TC" functionality.

 

When you're used to operating old MF-lenses purely manually, it now feels like wild luxury that you do not have to worry about exposure, but only about focus. Until now, with my Pentax K200D and with ordinary PK-M mounts I have had first to set the aperture manually and then to remember use of "the green button" in order to get the proper exposure time (in M-mode, and on my Pentax *ist DL, I even need to use both DOF and the "green button" - - - and of course I always tend to forget that in the heat when it is most needed and / or one needs to press the shutter release right here and now to catch the subject while it is there. It is a huge advantage of Pentax  DSLRs that there is backwards compatibility to the KA-mount (that was introduced in 1983) and, of course, even further back to the PK-M and – with an adapter – the M42 mounts.

 

Thus, it turned out that easy to get Pentax A-functionality on my old Tamron lenses with my Pentax K200D house. Whether it is my house and my adapter that match each other particularly well, or, whether those reporting problems have been just unlucky, and whether I shall eventually into problems, time will tell .....

 

Brochure: Tamron Adaptall-2 Custom Mount for PKA (adapted from complete user's manual)

 

Results:

For a reasonably un-biased test, one will either need “objective” measuring equipment (I have not) or extensive experience (I have not) or, at least, that one refrains from making visual “improvements” by adding extra sharpness, saturation of colors, etc. in post-processing of test images. So in the following I show JPEG straight-out-of-the box, with color intensity, contrast and sharpness preset to the "soft side" in my camera. With this in mind, let us take a look at a few selected characteristics found for my lens.

 

Focus and contrast:

Actual shooting conditionsActual shooting conditions, such as air calmness and clarity, are - especially for the longer telephoto lenses – of major importance in regards of sharpness and contrast. On the day of my tests conditions were were decent, but no more. Just look at the following:



 

Waves in the concrete beams are not due to a mad architect; the distortions are caused by air turbulence on a hot, sunny day! But otherwise, I think,this image was a promising start. Focus Confirmation was here and in all subsequent examples quite straight, fast and accurate regardless of contrast and light.

 

Distortions / aberrations:

Typical of many lenses - especially the cheaper zooms - from the '80s there may be some CA in the purple end of the spectrum. It reveals itself quickly around backlit edges, so here is a chimney (100% crop) of about half a kilometer’s distance captured with two old Tamrons (Model 04B and Model 103A) and a modern Tamron (18-200 mm) with autofocus. All at 200 mm focal length and f / 8:



(Tamron Model 04B)


(Tamron Model 103A)


(Tamron AF 18-200 mm)
 

The difference between 04B and 103A speaks for itself!(I will not exclude that the 103A has been damaged - I got it on QXL for a 7 EURO - but then, it does tell that there will be differences in quality of used lenses that you buy uninspected on the web).

 

This series was  taken at f / 8 for the sake of comparability, as the newer 18-200mm has f/6.3 as its widest aperture at 200 mm. Equally interesting is how the 04B performs at maximum aperture, f/3.5:



 

- and that is actually quite decent, isn’t it??

 

Finally, for completeness sake a series of close-ups taken with the same lenses of a subject in a few feet distance, again at 200 mm f / 8:



(Tamron Model 04B)


(Tamron Model 103A)


(Tamron AF 18-200 mm)
 

Here the results seem more comparable. Note: The Model 04B has a minimum focusing distance of 1.7 meters. Tamron calls this a "close focus" lens – to me this appears more like an euphemism that this is NOT a lens designed for macro shooting!

 

Sharpness, straight lines, colours, etc:

Here are simply some first impressions that will hopefully more or less speak for themselves:














 

The last 3 images were taken with full auto (P-mode) and I think the PK-A adapter and camera work well together in this mode.

 

Camera settings / post-processing:

Finally just this: As mentioned earlier, I have the deliberately chosen soft values in the camera pre-settings. Others may have a different taste and must of course not  judge the lens from my settings. As the below shows, there is a wide span for you to decide upon which type of result you would like to end up with:



"Before"


"After"
 

Conclusions:

Tamron 04B is not one of Tamron's most recognized and well-known models, there are relatively few reviews and descriptions to find on the web, but those I have found are in general  "mildly positive". Personally, in just one day I became very much in tune with this lens and, together with my splendid PK-A adapter I have no doubt that this is a lens that will be set to o good deal of work once again.

 

Of the value, it is difficult to speak. I know of a few retailers in Scandinavia, who have this lens for sale (with full warranty) for between 75 and 140 EURO. On eBay, it is not seen that frequently, but I've heard that it is typically traded between 20 and 30 GBP. I recently saw a completely refurbished copy go for GBP 65, which was a "buy now" price. In any case, I think that with the enclosed PK-A adapter I've got a wonderful contribution to my modest collection of manual lenses and I've got good value for my money, 59 pounds sterling and 34 pence - incl. postage and bubble wrap.

 

Addendum, (2010-06-06)

Tamron 200mm f/3.5, Model 04B with Tamron 2X SP Model 01F Teleconverter:

I have now tried my Tamron 04B + PK-A adapter together with my Tamron 2x teleconverter SP 01F and, as hoped, AE automatics work fine here also. There is just the “snag” - which I never thought of before - that it will be the lens aperture- and not the system's actual focal ratio, that will be recorded in the EXIF data; anyway, the camera gets the exposure right and that is what matters most.

 

Here then, are my very first image samples taken at 400 mm focal length. As usual, all images are JPEG straight from the camera (except for the last example) and all pictures are taken handheld. Long live image stabilization – this type of handheld shooting would not have worked in 1982 when I got my first Tamron!

 

The EXIF data shown are as the camera stores it. One should therefore multiply the f-ratio by two to get the true focal ratio of the system combined.



ISO 400 - 1/125 s - f/3.5 - Program Mode


ISO 400 - 1/90 s - f/11 - Aperture Priority



ISO 1600 - 1/250 s - f/5.6 - Program Mode.

 

A black cat on a pale dirt track in the evening sun

– THAT must provide color noise, but do notice the whiskers.



ISO 800 - 1/180 s - f/4.5 - Program Mode


ISO 800 - 1/180 s - f/4.5 - Program Mode


ISO 800 - 1/125 s - f/3.5 (full aperture) - Program Mode


ISO 400 - 1/250 s - f/5.6 - Program Mode


ISO 400 - 1/180 s - f/8 - Shutter Prioroty.


Same as above - 100% crop

 

A little cropping and a little finishing in PhotoImpact,

and you have a fairly decent close-up of a butterfly

sucking nectar in the top of a small lilac tree

– from 3 ½ meters away!

 

View: Sample Images Slideshow

 

Brochure: Tamron 200mm f/3.5 Model 04B (extracts from master brochure)

 

 

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