The Tamron Adaptall-2 28-200mm f3.8-5.6 Aspherical LD IF (171A) was the final manual focus Adaptall version of Tamron’s 28-200mm ‘Super’ zoom lens. The model before (71A) which was manufactured between 1994-98 seems to be easier to find for sale than the 171A which was manufactured from 1998-2006.
However, the significantly redesigned 171A model offers critical improvements over its predecessor, namely: internal focus (IF) – meaning the front element no longer rotates, low dispersion elements (LD) and a much closer minimum focus distance – 0.8m vs 2.1m. A further added bonus is a much better petal-shaped lens hood that caters for the longer end of the zoom as well the wide end – the lens hood supplied with the 71A was tiny and only really suited to wide angle shots. Cosmetically it has changed its zoom and focus grip, making handling a little better.
|List Price when new||¥55,000|
|Angle of view||75° / 12°|
|Optical Construction (Groups / Elements)||14-16|
|Minimum Focus||31.5″ (0.8m)|
|Maximum Macro Magnification ratio||1:6.3|
Reversible lens hood, model D5FH.
The Tamron Adaptall-2 28-200mm f3.8-5.6 Aspherical LD IF (171A), despite featuring a lot of cutting edge technology (aspherical elements, low dispersion glass and internal focusing), was marketed as a consumer grade product and was labelled as ‘Super’ largely to refer to it’s zoom range and compact size. This lens really marked Tamron’s departure from fixed focal length lenses towards what we now commonly refer to as ‘super zooms’. It was also one of the last Adaptall lenses, and the only non-SP Adaptall lens to feature low dispersion glass. Tamron has had a long history of producing compact zooms, but it was not until the advent of Aspherical elements and modern designs that allowed such a significant zoom range to be squashed into such a compact lens.
Background and availability
The Tamron Adaptall-2 28-200mm f3.8-5.6 Aspherical LD IF (171A) is not as easy to come by as the 71A model and you’ll have to search hard to avoid the auto focus versions of the lens which often do not offer manual aperture operation. Expect to pay £50-100+ on Buy-it-Now deals for the 71A model and around the same for this model – if you can find it. This lens family seems very overpriced because not many manual focus zooms matched this range with the relatively compact dimensions of the lens (i.e. older 28-200/210 lenses were very long and wouldn’t fit in a small camera bag like this one). If you watch Ebay a lot you will find auctions with low starting bids and no reserves and these lenses will usually sell pretty cheaply. I picked mine up attached to an OM-1 camera which I intend to sell on as soon as possible, the lens has cost me whatever I paid for both, minus what I sell the camera and accessories for.
If you do pick one up cheap, just grin when you think about how much an auto-focus native NEX 18-200mm would cost you, makes it worth focusing manually and losing image stabalisation.
Should come with its hood if possible, but should be plenty of these hoods around as I believe the auto-focus model (71D) had the same hood and sold in greater numbers as manual focus lenses were on the way out when this very late Adaptall lens was launched (hence why it is quite rare). If you are searching for one, finding those magical ‘LD IF’ markings on the lens barrel is the key if the seller doesn’t really know what they’re doing.
Performance and handling
The trouble with owning very good lenses is that you’re loathed to take a step down to lenses like this. No disrespect to this lens but its well understood that a lot of compromises are made to produce fairly compact zoom lenses that offer a large focal range, especially in earlier models before lens design got better at coping with the optical challenges. This lens is not going to compete with decent primes, or zooms dedicated to a shorter range. However, those lenses are also a compromise, not in terms of image quality, but in terms of practicality. Put simply: this lens may not offer the best image quality, but it will more often than not allow you to capture an image that might not have been possible if you had a fixed length lens on, or a limited zoom.
Image quality with a ‘super’ zoom also has a related problem: because the lens needs (at least at the longer end) to be stopped down for best performance, and the lens is already quite slow, then light becomes an issue. In my opinion the 171A is a great sunny-day-out lens when you can happily stop down to f8 and just treat the lens as a 28-200mm f8 lens (or stopped down to f5.6 at the wider end). Using the lens in this way I think most people would be happy with the performance on offer. Added to the compact design of the lens which allows it to fit in a small camera bag and you have a capable lens that goes wide enough and long enough for most needs.
If I wanted really good images to cover this range I could instead pack my Tamron SP 24-48mm f3.5-3.8 (13A), my Canon FD 35-70mm f4 (which is a cracking lens), perhaps my Canon FD 50mm f1.4 and my Tamron SP 80-200mm f2.8 LD (30A). You get the idea. Whenever you put a lens on a camera you compromise in some way. If you put on the 24-48mm you’ll get some stunning quality wide shots, but you’re knackered if you quickly need to go longer, the opposite applies to the 80-200mm and so on. You will get quality photos, but you know you’ll miss other opportunities.
If you’re a professional photographer, you’ll have a specific purpose in mind when you go out and you’ll select the appropriate lens. If, on the other hand, you’re out with the family and it’s a nice sunny day, then you can do a lot worse than use this lens. In fact, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.