Today I'll be looking at an older and less common lens. The Tamron SP 300mm f/2.8 LD-IF Model 60B.
This lens is part of the Adaptall line, which featured an interchangeable lens mount. Each of the different mounts had all of the connection tabs for reporting aperture information to the different camera lines. Later Pentax mounts actually had electronic contacts for manual focus confirmation on Pentax AF bodies. While the Canon EF mount adapter was never officially introduced by Tamron, many 3rd party manufacturers produce a mount adapter for Canon EF with AF confirmation chips! This lens was originally produced from 1984-1992 and shipped with a beautiful leather shoulder bag designed to fit the lens with the hood on in the correct position. It's quite a nice piece, and common for most professional lenses to ship with cases. Notice the beautiful brass nameplate. They were quite proud of this lens.
The focus ring on this lens is so nice. It's buttery smooth with just the right amount of resistance. It's a fairly good size too with nice distance markings. It's really great since this is a manual focus only lens. Above the focus ring is a second smaller ring which you can use as a focus limiter or focus preset. You loosen the little black knob and turn the focus ring. The second ring will then turn with the focus ring. Once you have the focus where you want it, tighten the black knob. There will now be a small stop indent at that position like on an aperture ring.
Build quality of this lens is excellent. It's an all metal body construction except for the hood, which is made of metal on the mounting ring, and very solid plastic for the rest. The hood is strong enough to support the entire weight of the lens and camera. I've stood it on the hood many times. The lens weighs in at 2096 grams, so eat your Wheaties and lift some weights!
The lens is a dual filter design. A 112mm filter in the front, and a 43mm in the back. The lens achieves optimum sharpness with both filters in place as the optical design was optimized for the filters to remain in place. So even if you aren't using a colored, neutral density, or polarizer filter in the rear filter slot, you should keep the clear filter in place.
The tripod collar is not removable, but has a removable palm rest which screws into the bottom of the tripod collar mount. It features full 360 degree rotation with small stop indents every 90 degrees like stop indents on an aperture ring. It also has two strap lugs for mounting a shoulder strap directly on the lens. The lens did ship with the optional shoulder strap, but that was the one thing missing from my copy when I bought it used. I had everything else including the original box. It's a pretty big lens, but not that much longer than your average 70-200mm. It's front element is significantly bigger however. 112mm compared to 77mm.
Image quality is quite good, especially considering how old this lens is. Sharpness wide open is good. Obviously a newer lens like the Canon 300mm f/2.8L or Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 is sharper, but the Tamron is more than sharp enough to provide usable results. I would not use teleconverters with it wide open though. It gets a bit too soft. Stop it down one stop and you are all good to go. Contrast wide open is very good.
One of the really spectacular things about a 300mm f/2.8 is being able to get closeups of performers on stage, especially when paired with a high resolution body or a 1D series camera with the 1.3x crop factor. One of my main combinations for shooting orchestras used to be the Canon 1D IIn with the Tamron 300mm f/2.8 until the 1DIIn bit the dust a couple months ago.
It's also a superb portrait lens when you have the working distance that allows you to shoot with a 300mm. The bokeh is beautiful, and might be my favorite behind the 85mm f/1.2. The telephoto compression at 300mm is amazing and yields a very shallow depth of field at f/2.8.
Even at a distance, the subject isolation is very apparent. When I used to shoot the horse races, it was always fun to grab photos of people in the crowd and create a sea of bokeh around them.
Although the lens is manual focus, you can shoot sports with it. It takes some practice, and having a chipped adapter that provides manual focus confirmation helps a lot. In addition, Magic Lantern's trap focus system is brilliant. You can set it to automatically take a photo during manual focus when focus is achieved. All you need to do is half press the shutter and manually focus. The minute it's in focus, it automatically fires. You don't even have to press the shutter all the way.
With just a little practice, manually focusing and tracking subjects is pretty easy. I mean, photographers did it that way for decades, and some people are still doing that. Rangefinder cameras dont' have AF, and plenty of mirrorless users (Sony, Fuji, Olympus, Panasonic) are adapting manual lenses and manually focusing all the time.
The only real fault with this lens is the longitudinal chromatic aberration. That's the slight colorization seen on high areas of contrast in front of and behind the plane of focus. In front is usually purple, behind is green. It's an older super fast telephoto lens, so it's almost a guarantee it will be present. Most large aperture lenses suffer from it, particularly prime lenses. Even the Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM has chromatic aberration. The great news is it's super easy to remove in Lightroom and takes all of 2 seconds, so it's not really that much of an issue. I think that the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 even has more chromatic aberration than the Tamron 300mm f/2.8.
Looking at the images above, it's not all that bad, and easy to correct, and pretty much every fast aperture lens will have this problem except for the newest 300mm f/2.8 lenses like the Canon 300mm f/2.8L IS and Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 OS.
Over all this is a really nice lens. I shot with it for several years, and it was my go to lens for stage and event work when I worked for the Jacobs School of Music Publicity Department. I shot many operas, orchestra performances, and ballets with this lens. The image quality and build quality are fantastic, and this lens definitely does make a statement with it's large size and army tank green paint!
I ended up replacing it with the Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 EX DG OS APO HSM (a lens with too many letters) for the image stabilization, auto focus, and ability to zoom. My old Tamron 300mm is currently being borrowed by my brother until I tell him I want it back. I never plan on parting with it as it is such a little known and beautiful lens.
If you are in the market for a relatively inexpensive 300mm f/2.8 lens, you like to manual focus, and shoot multiple systems, I highly recommend the Tamron SP 300mm f/2.8 LD-IF. It's a one of a kind lens since it has the ability to change mounts with ease. I've shot this on Canon EOS, Minolta MD, and Nikon F mount. There are of course many modern AF options out there, but there is something very special and charming about this old 300mm f/2.8.
To view other photos from this lens and view photos in high resolution, head over to my Flickr page where I have the photos posted in full resolution, and check out the results for your self!
In addition, you can find the original specifications and tests here:
The original brochure scans located on the Adaptall-2 website
The adaptall-2 website has a wonderful amount of resources on these little know early Tamron lenses. There are some real gems in the early Tamron SP line besides the 300mm f/2.8 like the 400mm f/4, 180mm f/2.5, and 90mm f/2.5 macro to name a few.