This article was first published at 35mmc.com March 4th 2022.
About five years ago a friend of mine showed me an old hard case that contained two old Pentax ME and a couple of Tamrom Zoom lenses with the intent to sell them to me.
I love to make a good deal and to expand my ever growing collection of analog cameras so I said I give the cameras a test drive before I decided. After establishing that both cameras worked really well, we agreed on a price and I have used them both, now and then, ever since. The lenses in the case were nothing really exciting so they just ended up in the cabinet where all my other photographic equipment waiting to be rediscovered.
Until today that is.
When I held the lens, a Tamron SP 35-80mm/2.8-3.8 CF Macro in my hand, I decided that I should try it out and to actually get to know if it is usable. I have always preferred prime lenses just because, I feel, prime lenses make me a better photographer. A prime lens forces me to get in closer to the subject and that usually just makes a more appealing photograph. This is a way of photography that works for me, we all find our preferred methods, but I may have become a little comfortable in my habits. So bear with me on this maiden voyage.
Since film photography has so many parameters that come together in creating a photograph, I try to test my lenses on a digital camera first. Mostly to have the same ground for comparing the results and knowing what exactly the lens brings to the table, so to speak. I love to use and shoot a wide range of different films and this makes it hard to compare lenses between each other when I most likely tried them on different cameras with different films, so I use my trusty Pentax K-5 digital whenever I try out a new lens.
The sharpness is really good and I start to get a bit of a surprised look on my face. My preconception against old zoom-lenses is about to undergo a metamorphosis. The lens is well built, has 9 elements in 8 groups and a large front element with a 62mm filter thread. On my lens is an old Toshiba UV-filter, so after cleaning the filter I was good to go. After hiding from the strong sunlight in the first picture I went out to test the lens and myself in the world of long shadows.
After a week with dark clouds and a lot of rain, the day for testing this lens is sunny. Sun is perhaps the worst weather possible for my way of shooting pictures. Mostly because I am too lazy to bring a flashlight most of the time. But in the Scandinavian autumn and winter the sun never manages to rise especially high in the sky so a sunny day here involves a strong light from the side with extremely long shadows. Not the simplest conditions for photography. But at the same time good conditions for testing a lens.
After just a few hours with this lens I started to fall for it. The sharpness surprised me a lot but with a good amount of contrast it seems like I had a hidden gem in my closet for the last five years. This Tamron lens is handling colours just as well as it handles everything else and I will probably keep using this lens more in the future.
After seeing the results from today’s shooting I can absolutely see myself trying to shoot some film with it. It will handle both color and black and white nicely.
The Tamron SP 35-80mm/2.8-3.8 CF Macro did a great job. It comes from an era in time of photography when zoom-lenses were something new and the different manufactures found and used different solutions for their lenses. I guess I have been put off by the large amount of low quality lenses that entered the market in the beginning. But when I look closely at the pictures I have taken with my Tamron I can’t find any visible distortion which was my main concern about using old manual zoom-lenses.
After using the lens I went out and looked for more information about the lens and on a couple of forums I found it seems to be a consensus that this was one of the best zooms of its era. Only really challenged by some contemporary Nikkor lenses…