The Tamron Adaptall-2 135mm f2.5 is the first manual focus lens I bought since I started shooting with DSLRs. Before that, the only telephoto that I had is the Nikkor AF-D 80-200mm f2.8, bought second hand from a good friend of mine. Although the 80-200 is a professional calibre lens, it is also very heavy and anyone who has hold or even just seen that lens would agree that it is not something for carrying around daily or hiking on the mountains. Thus, I started searching for a more compact telephoto.
Since I did not having enough budget to buy the Nikkor AF-S 70-300mm VR or even just the Nikkor AF-S DX 55-200mm VR, I need to settle with either the non-VR version of the 55-200 or an used film-era zoom like the AF 70-210mm f4-5.6 and AF 80-200mm f4.5-5.6. The problem is they are all too slow and to get good quality images, they need to be stopped down to at least f8. Without VR, I will either need to use a shutter speed too slow or raise up the ISO too high to minimise camera shake. So I turned to manual focus primes and finally found the Tamron 135mm above on an Internet classified for only $50CAD.
The main advantage of the Tamron 135mm is that it is compact, durable and fast. The lens itself is very compact, only about the same size of the 55-200mm’s, and because of this, it is not heavy even the construction is all-metal. Optically, the lens is quite soft wide-open at f2.5 with image quality becomes acceptable at f2.8 (should this lens be made f2.8 instead?) . By f4, the lens becomes much sharper and maintain that all the way to f11. The only drawbacks on the optical quality is its lower contrast and less saturated colors but both can be easily improved in-camera if it is shoot digitally. Below is a sample photo taken with a Nikon D40 mounted with the Tamron Adaptall-2 135mm f2.5 at ISO200:
After seeing the satisfying results from this nice little telephoto prime, I started thinking about using it with a high quality teleconverter because of its fast speed. With a 2X teleconverter, the focal length of the system is 270mm and with the 1.5 crop-factor from the APS-C sensor, the 35mm equivalent focal length would become 405mm. This combined optical system, a highly compact 405mm f5, is much smaller and lighter than any prime or zoom with a reach of 400mm on 35mm full-frame. The teleconverter I bought, another $50CAD from an used camera store, is the Tamron Adaptall-2 SP 2X teleconverter 01F. “SP” means that it belongs to Tamron high-end pro-quality line of lenses while “01F” is added at the end of the name to distinguish it from another 2X teleconverter that is designed to be used with Tamron’s f2.8 super telephoto primes. This teleconverter only fits Adaptall-2 lenses (hence its name) because it sits between the lens main body and the Adaptall-2 mount (I have put some info. on the Adaptall-2 system at the end of this post).
After the lengthy talk above, it all comes down to optical quality. To me, the teleconverter when used with the 135mm lens I have gives surprisingly good results. I am not saying there is no loss in optically quality but it is really minimal. When stopped down, the results can be unbelievably good (see below, taken with D40 at ISO400).
For those who do not know about the Tamron Adaptall-2 mounts, it is actually a system introduced by Tamron in 1976 (the original Adaptall) which enables a single lens to be used on cameras with different mounts. For example, to use the Nikon mount Tamron 135mm above on a Pentax K mount body, the Adaptall mount (that fits the Nikon) will be detached from the lens main body and an Adaptall mount that fits the Pentax will be attached instead. It is thus an “one lens fits all” system. The original Adaptall was later replaced with the Adaptall-2 because camera manufacturers started adding functions on their mounts to provide more automatic features. Below is a photo of an Adaptall-2 mount for Leica R mount (specifically for the R4 in this case because of the design of the R mount itself):
Status: Lens In Collection, Converter Sold