The Tamron Adaptall-2 SP 300mm f5.6 (54B) is a rather specialist telephoto lens because it close focuses down to 1.4m and features flatfield macro reproduction down to 1:3.3. Given its slow maximum aperture the lens is very light and compact, yet retains the beautiful build quality of the best Tamron Adaptall SP lenses.
|List Price when new||¥49,000|
|Angle of view||8°|
|Optical Construction (Groups / Elements)||5 / 6|
|Minimum Focus||55.1″ (1.4m)|
|Maximum Macro Magnification ratio||1:3.3|
The Tamron Adaptall-2 SP 300mm f5.6 (54B) accepts the Tamron SP 01F 2x tele converter. One useful optional extra is an all-metal tripod grip that this lens shares with the SP 70-210 f3.5 (19AH).
The Tamron Adapall-2 SP 300mm f5.6 (54B) was marketed by Tamron as a breakthrough lens thanks to its close focusing ability. According to Tamron is was down to ‘innovative research and refusal to accept traditional design concepts’. What Tamron did – to solve the problem that close focusing by extending the front elements caused ‘focus-dependent aberration changes’ – was to create an ‘additional group of cemented compensator elements placed in front of the diaphragm’. These elements are ‘specially computed to be over-corrected for spherical aberration’ caused by close focusing moving the front elements, this new compensator group automatically absorbs this aberration as the lens focuses.
What further improves this lens as a true macro lens (despite 1:3.3 sounding like a relatively modest maximum magnification, most 300mm lenses from this era could not manage better than 3-3.1m) is that the f-number does not change at any focus setting – including macro. The lens is positioned as being ideal for capturing images of skittish bugs, given the increased working distance versus the standard 90-100mm macro lenses of the time.
Background & Availability
The Tamron Adaptall-2 SP 300mm f5.6 (54B) seems to be a well-respected lens, combining good handling and sharp images even wide open. Like most Tamron Adaptall lenses – especially at this focal length – purple and green fringing is a big problem on digital sensors. Despite this, thanks to Lightroom and similiar software it appears a few people use this lens with mirrorless cameras with success.
The lens is not common, but copies appear on Ebay frequently enough to pick up a copy every other month or so. The tripod ring appears a little more infrequently and I’d imagine that it would prove very useful if you were doing macro work. Expect to pay anywhere from £25-100 depending on condition and general availability of the lens at any given time.
Performance and handling
The Tamron Adaptall-2 SP 300mm f5.6 (54B) is a very light and compact 300mm lens, but it retains the beautiful metal build of the Tamron Adaptall SP series. Focusing is very smooth and offers speed of turn for more distance subjects, whilst offering plenty of precision for closer focusing distances.
This lens is sharp, even wide open, and is capable of lovely wiped-out backgrounds when photographing isolated subjects. I have used this with small birds at close distances with plenty of success and the close focus gives this lens great flexibility versus other primes of this focal length and from this era – Canon’s exceptional 300mm f4L only focuses down to 3.1m for example.
The lens’ only real drawback is color fringing in high contrast areas – bird photography with any hint of backlighting for example. This is a test for any lens, and most Tamron SP lenses from this era perform similarly, albeit those with low dispersion glass fair a bit better. The best way of avoiding this with nature photography is to work harder to avoid shooting backlight subjects – which would improve the end photo anyway.
Fringing aside, I think this is a very flexible little nature lens and I think it will be seeing a lot of use this summer when you want a lens with a decent focal length that can also double-up as a decent macro lens. It should be perfect for random wildlife as well as butterflies and dragonflies. I’ll update the gallery below as I get more samples.