Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Can I Use Non-AI Lenses On My Modern DSLR?

This question seems to come up quite a bit so I felt I would take a short second to address it. The question is:

Can I use older, Nikon F-mount, what we retroactively call "Non-AI" lenses, on my modern DLSR. 

The short answer is: ONLY IF, the rear-most lip of the lens does not interfere with the AI tab, located on a rotating ring that is just outside the camera mount. In many cases however, this lip will interfere with the tab, ramming into it, and it can actually damage your DSLR.

There are a lot of great resources out there which cover the histories of Nikon's mount systems and the variations. I will try to link some at the bottom of this page. But for the impatient, the crash course is simply ensuring that the lens you wish to mount does not contact the AI tab located on the camera.

Nikon AI Mount (N/AI)

In the image below, you see a Vivitar 90mm f/2.5 (N/AI mount) mounted on a Nikon D750. This (1) is the indexing tab located on the lens mount, at the base of N/AI lenses. As you rotate the aperture ring to set it, this pushes the camera tab (2) further in it's rotation, telling the camera information about what aperture is being used.

These N/AI lenses have no electronic linkage to the camera so, after simply mounting the lens, the camera has no information about what lens is being used, what the maximum aperture is, etc. There is a solution for this. By navigating to the Wrench Icon in your menu and selecting "Non-CPU lens data" you can manually enter the focal length and aperture of the lens you are using. Now that the camera knows where to begin, it can calculate, via that little tab linkage between the lens and camera, what aperture you are using, as you rotate through different apertures.

Next, I have my Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art lens mounted on the Nikon D750. This lens is akin to Nikon's "G" mount lenses. The "G" stands for "gelded", which essentially refers to the removal of the manually adjustable aperture (and thus the AI tab) on the lenses. Since modern lenses communicate with the cameras electronically, there was no longer a need to maintain this linkage (Though, some users dismayed over this since these newer lenses now possess less backwards compatibility because some of the older film cameras cannot communicate with lenses electronically - it was all mechanical.). As you can see, the rear portion of the mount, clears the AI tab (3). It is said, though I have never owned any, that some older Non-AI lenses, especially those by third-party manufacturers, such as Vivitar, while not AI lenses, didn't have a very long rear mount and would clear the tab. These lenses can safely be used.


Now that you have seen what the Auto-Indexing linkage looks like. You can hopefully see what is meant about ensuring the back of the lens doesn't collide with the AI tab on the camera. To the original question: Can I use [Insert Lens] on my DSLR? You need to ensure the lens mount clears this tab, and doesn't ram into it when mounted. As long as this tab is free, you can use the lens. Albeit, at reduced functionality of an AI lens, or modified Non-AI lens (machined to index with the camera correctly).

Sunday, March 8, 2015

How I Nearly Missed Capturing Something Beautiful, While Thinking About Buying More Camera Gear

That lamp post is killing me! Only so much you can do while driving...By the time I made a second pass, the fog had changed.

I love gear. Many photographers do. For many of us, using the tools are as much of the experience as achieving our final product, beautiful, purposeful imagery. We are constantly, however, reminding ourselves and each other, gear is designed for an eventual purpose. And while we love to "nerd out" and talk shop on the forums, we ultimately own the stuff, to accomplish a goal. To make images. This is just another reminder.

Last week, I had just left work and I was witness to a rare-ish weather event. And even though I bring my camera along with me each day for just such occasions, I was feeling tired and mentally began making excuses for why stopping wasn't that important. At the same time, I began thinking about stopping by the camera store on my way home to see if anything new had appeared in their used gear case. It was at that moment that I recognized the irony of the situation and the inner dialogue went something like this. Wait, so you're not going to go capture this incredible visual event that you've never seen before because you feel tired? You've never seen this before in the 5 years you have been making this drive. Oh, good, better idea, go to the camera store and buy more gear to carry around and not make images with. Great idea, guy.

And for a tad background, I live in a wonderfully convenient, kempt mid-western suburb. And while I can appreciate the many virtues of living there, it's hardly a photographically inspiring place. In contrast, I work 40 miles away, in an historic rivertown, Alton, IL, along the Mississippi River. The town is built up the the bluffs which skirt one side of the river and is home to a beautiful suspension bridge which has become a symbol of Alton. My point is, for me, there's a much higher chance I will find things of interest to photograph in the town where I work, than when I get home. Therefore, I bring my camera with me every day.

So, in getting back to the story, I made it a couple miles before my inner monologue successfully shamed the lazy part of me into turning back. I'm glad I did. As you can tell by this point, the weather event which I referred to, was fog. And not just any fog, a low-lying blanket which was sweeping toward the city at the moment I was leaving work. The result was a half-revealed, previously frozen landscape, reminiscent of a windy tundra.

Clark Bridge from the Alton marina

A shot of the bridge from the Missouri side of the river. The city of Alton is located off-camera to the left.

The granary pictured is located just before the town of Alton. A road to the right of it leads back into town. To the left, houses can be seen located up at the top of the bluffs. 

Admittedly, the images aren't mind-blowing. Though, I do especially love the last couple posted here. After a short while, the fog enveloped the city and things looked like a typical, uniform fog. But I'm glad I got out and made images. And as always, we make many images, some better than others. I shared some of these with some co-workers and the images gave them great joy. And in the end, that is another facet of image making. As the maxim goes, we are our own worst critics. I'm happy that my work could be enjoyed by those around me.

So that is how I almost went to look and lust after gear, instead of using what I have, to do the very thing it was designed to do. 

In the interest of keeping with the tech aspect of this blog though, I will share these images were made with the Nikon D750 and the Nikon 24-120mm f/4G ED VR. This combo has proven an excellent solution for grab-and-go scenarios. Had I known about the fog, I would have definitely brought something longer for more detailed images of the houses on the bluffs, but we do what we can! Images were processed in LR. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art is Everything They Say, and Then Some

**UPDATE: Allow me to say up front, I have never used the Zeiss Otus 55/1.4 and I make no claims that this lens is as good or better optically, than that lens. For that, see the scientific comparisons on the web provided by the various labs such as DxO Mark. Also, I fully believe there is more to an optic than just the hard and fast metrics (sharpness, lack of aberrations, etc.). What I can say is this lens has blown me away and raised the bar for what optics are capable of technically.

Generally speaking, I don't fall into the hype of new products. I mean, look at this blog. I am getting psyched about lenses and gear that were released 20-30 years ago. I tend to wait things out, let them prove themselves, and then check them out when the bugs have been worked out. (Not there is anything wrong with being the first to try and experience things, it's just not been my compulsion.) But recently, I came across some images on a photoblog captured with the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 and I was just blown away. I certainly love and appreciate the virtues of vintage glass as much as anyone I think. But let's face it, the digital world is very different from film. As you likely know, lenses designed for film accounted for light striking the emulsion and being recorded a certain way. The digital sensor however, is a very different animal. Lenses that once were the pinnacle of sharpness, are in some cases, completely different when used in conjunction with a DSLR. On top of that, the technological advances in design and manufacturing have come so far in recent years, better optical performance is an inevitability.

This being the case, I found myself looking at the images from the Otus, and yearning for a lens that could truly utilize the 24 MP resolution of my D600 sensor. Unfortunately $4k is a little out of my price range...for a 50mm normal lens. Enter: Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art.

Sigma has made huge waves recently having announced a new dedication to designing premium optics. Better than simply announcing it, they actually did it. The Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art along with several other lenses have proven to people, Sigma isn't kidding around. The latest release in their Art line is the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art. What's the big deal about another 50mm lens? The Sigma aimed at competing with that $4k Zeiss, but at a far better price point. $949 to be precise. And as the test labs got ahold of new copies of the lens, it seems, Sigma wasn't far off the mark optically.

Again, I have not really been the hype-type but ever since the announcement of this lens and the subsequent lens test results (by DxO and others) which proved that this lens was indeed what it was claiming, I knew, this is something I absolutely wanted. I found myself on the Sigma site and other blogs, watching like a hawk for the price announcement and release date.

On April 14th, I ordered this lens directly from Sigma's site. It arrived May 23rd. Immediately I discovered for myself, the performance I have been looking for.

This lens is amazing, pure and simple.

This weekend, my wife's band, Ian McGowan and the Good Deeds is on tour and things could not have aligned better. I literally picked the lens up from UPS, got home, loaded up the car, and left for a three-city tour. The 50mm f/1.4 hasn't left my camera (save for a couple times I made some images of it, and was instantly called a 'nerd' by Nikki's bandmates). I have enclosed a few of the images made with it so far and intend on doing a more thorough write-up in the future. As usual I have posted the images at reduced size, but included some 100% crops from key areas of the image.

Allie Gordon (Vocalist) with Ian McGowan (Lead Singer/Songwriter)

It seems I missed focus slightly if I was focusing on Allie's face. The plane of focus seems to be sitting just beyond her eyes. Regardless, it is gorgeously sharp even wide open. With a lens this sharp, I am learning I need to be much more careful assessing focus.

Nikki Kovaluk (Wife/Violinist) playing at The Bay in Warrensburg, MO

We begin to see the low-light limitations of the Nikon D600 here. This image was made at ISO 3200. Still, shooting wide open, the lack of aberrations, specifically chromatic aberration and softness, just amazes me. Furthermore, I have read some complaints about this lens' bokeh. I personally think the lens does a fine job blurring the background. The 9-bladed aperture is designed to maintain a soft, round circular shape across all apertures as it is stopped down.

Nikki Kovaluk (Wife/Violinist)

Another great example of how the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 handles the background and maintains sharpness wide open. I am surprised to find as many folks claiming the cost isn't worth the performance and talking about sticking with their current 50s. This thing seriously blows the doors off all of the other 50mm lenses I have ever used. Yes, we may be talking about in a smaller series of circumstances, but for my shooting habits (often shooting wide open, low light, craving razor sharpness in the plane of focus.) this lens has become my new standard.

Tree @ f/1.4 (using ND filter)

Crop 1
Crop 2

Crop 1 is nearer the center of the image, and I know, I have been ranting...but the sharpness wide open! And look at the contrast! A beautiful balance between maintaining contrast but not getting overly punchy as much of the detail across even the darker portions of the image is maintained. Crop 2 continues to demonstrate the resolving capabilities of this lens off-axis.

I have been playing around with flare and trying to achieve some of those more ethereal images. This image may be too much but I love it. It has been retouched and cropped in PS. Have a look at the original image.

Clearly the contrast is reduced but the shot is straight into the sun. I have been impressed with how this lens handles flare and how tough it is to actually significantly impact the image in other areas, by composing an image, in the face of a bright source of light.

More to come! This lens is awesome.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Vivitar 2x Macro Focusing Teleconverter: More Than A Gimmick

I came across this Vivitar 2x Macro Teleconverter in the local camera shop years back and thought it looked pretty interesting. Against my usual judgement, and because I needed to spend a few extra dollars to get a deal on something else, I picked it up. It was only recently I began playing with it and upon discovering it's very capable nature, I did some web crawling and found it has quite a following (and for good reason it seems). So I figured, what better way to see what it's capable of, than compare it to a couple of my favorite manual focus macro lenses? The Kiron 105mm and the Tokina 90mm (Vivitar Series 1 90mm could be also considered as they are optically very similar).

I have not used a ton of optical adapters in my life. This is due, in part, to a commonly held photographic tenant that says: adapters, teleconverters, or any optics placed between your lens and the camera will degrade image quality. If you are unfamiliar with this concept, consider this: Prime lenses, lenses with a single focal length, are designed for a fixed angle of view (e.g. what you will see in the frame). And to this day, no lens exists that is devoid of all optical aberrations. These greatest lenses we have still have aberrations, albeit far less prominent than their average counterparts. To complicate things, consider the zoom lens. Zoom lenses introduce new problems because now we are attempting to do the same thing as mentioned above, across a range of focal lengths, which inevitable taxes the design even further. Inevitably, we find more aberrations in zooms (Though again, there exist some AMAZING zoom lenses, that is to say, the output still looks amazing for printing and even enlargement, so we are still speaking in relativities). Now consider the adapter, be it a teleconverter or macro adapter, or what have you. This optic, especially those from third party manufacturers, attempts to accept the image coming from a range of optics (designed by different companies), and manipulate it (increase magnification, etc.). The adapter must do this despite already present aberrations from the primary lens AND try not introducing too many more aberrations. Because of the introduction of more glass into the formula, we already lose some light (stops). Tell me that's not a tall order.

But, as I say, keep in mind, the relativity of this concept. All lenses have aberrations. And yet, everyday we make and see amazing imagery coming from these lenses. The key is understanding each lens' strengths and weaknesses and using them appropriately. And thus, we come to the point of why I bother pixel-peeping and writing. It is quite simply, to answer the next, and more oft asked questions, 'How much is the image degraded? Does the optic enable me to capture something I would otherwise not have been able to record, and with acceptable enough quality to match my desired output?" This answer will inevitably be different for everyone and again, I stress, the whole purpose I write is to share my findings, and let you decide (though I obviously throw in my 2 cents!).

Setting the Stage

Recently, my wife asked me to photograph jewelry she made, to begin listing it on etsy. I decided on a backyard shoot, in the grass. I naturally grabbed a beer first (given the weather, a New Belgium's Summer Helles seemed appropriate!), my favorite macro lens, the Tokina 90mm f/2.5 and begun making images. I had also recently been conceptualizing a post about this Vivitar Macro Adapter and realized this would also be the perfect opportunity to explore the adapter's capabilities. After completing the 'job', the day was simply too gorgeous to go inside and I began tinkering (montage to the day pictured above). Using a piece of her jewelry as my subject, I grabbed my Kiron 105mm f/2.8, the Tokina 90mm f/2.5, and the Vivitar 2x Macro Focusing Teleconverter which I attached to my Nikon Series E 50mm f/1.8.

Also, I have begun using a GGS Swivi LCD Viewfinder to achieve critical focus. I cannot recommend one of these more! For me, it functions in several ways: Most importantly, I found I was having trouble achieving pin-point accuracy of focus, especially when using larger apertures (shallow DoF). This finder enables me to use the live view mode, zoom into my images to find precisely where my focal plane is, in my frame, even in bright sunlight. I will likely be reviewing this further in the future.

Source: The teleconverter's user's manual.

Optical Construction: 7 elements, 5 groups
Coating: Multi-coated for increased light transmission
Diaphragm Coupling: Fully automatic
Weight: 282g (10 oz)
Length: 44.2mm (1.74")
Max. Barrel Diameter: 66.1mm (2.6")

Manufacturer: It seems to be suspected that Kenko-Tokina was the producer of this optic, and a few variations in branding have been reported, though all seem to be the same 7-element optical formula.
Other Brandings: Teleplus, Panagor

As a 2x teleconverter, this optic doubles your focal length and reduces light transmission by 2 stops. So in the case of this article, my Nikon Series E 50mm f/1.8 becomes a 100mm f/3.5. Macro reproduction can achieve 1:1 with this teleconverter.

Build and Handling

This little adapter feels solid in the hands, and the focusing helicoid turns smooth as butter. It appropriately harkens back to the solid lens builds of it's day. Overall, it is a pleasure to use.


I want to emphasize that this article is about my experience with this optic. As with any optic, so many factors can contribute to skewed results. Consider that element is amplified ten-fold with the Vivitar Macro Teleconverter since it is an adapter, to be used in conjunction with so many other lenses. Someone using a different lens (than the Nikon Series E 50/1.8) will likely have a completely different set of results. That is, in some ways, the exciting nature of the optic. Experimentation!


The following is the full frame I opted to use to do my comparison. I found a busy log, and place the shiny bracelet on it. It is, indeed, a cluttered shot (and this is the point). For me, the frame was about finding a frame that contained depth, lots of detail, and a range of highlights and lowlights. There will be some differences in lighting as the sun did pass behind some clouds now and again, and because of the varying focal lengths, the magnification of the subject within the frame will shift slightly (though they are pretty close). Also, I noticed the focal plane is shifted ever so slightly between images, though it shouldn't be difficult to see where focus is and assess accordingly. The full image is reduced resolution, but all crops are 100%.

Full Image

Wide Open Crop (Near Center)

Wide Open Crop (Off Center)

Crop @ f/5.6, f/5.6, and f/7.1 (Near Center)

Crop @ f/5.6, f/5.6, and f/7.1 (Off Center)

For this comparison, I only posted the results wide open, and then stopped down 2 stops to summarize my findings as I look at the results with all apertures. Wide open, using the Series E 50mm, the image quality suffers from some massive issues. It looks downright terrible (to me). Significant chromatic aberration is evident, some serious coma is occurring out at the edges, the bokeh is awful, sharpness across the frame is laughable. It's poor. But, no kidding, as soon as I stopped the lenses down to f/4 (and effectively f/5 for the Vivitar), the Vivitar quickly began falling in line. And by stopping down 2 stops, to f/5.6 (and f/7.1 effectively for the Vivitar), we can see the teleconverter/50mm combo becoming an actual contender, or at least an optic worthy of comparing.

Here is another impromptu comparison between an image I made, of a little bug on a leaf, first with the Tokina 90mm and then with the Vivitar/50mm combo. The framing is different, the plane of focus is slightly different, but again, consider it for what it is.

Bug on a Leaf
Tokina 90/2.5 (1/400 @ f/5.6)

Bug on a Leaf (crop)
Tokina 90/2.5 (1/400 @ f/5.6)

Bug on a Leaf
Nikon Series E 50mm and Vivitar 2x Macro Focusing TC (1/320 @ f/10 effectively)

Bug on a Leaf (crop)
Nikon Series E 50mm and Vivitar 2x Macro Focusing TC (1/320 @ f/10 effectively)


Clearly the Vivitar 2x Macro TC is capable of producing some impressive macro results, technically speaking. I mean, for a TC I am very impressed and pleased to own it. I love the concept of experimentation and will definitely be trying it with my other lenses.

But where I find issue with this TC is simply it's lack of robustness. In order to get solid results, many variables must be accounted for. The user must have a proven lens to mate with the teleconverter. He or she will likely need to stop the lens down a bit to achieve significant results which means losing even more light than the 2 stops this 7-element TC already absconds with. So any f/1.8 or f/2.8, which becomes an f/3.5 or f/4 just by attaching the adapter, becomes an f/7.1 or f/8 once stopped down to the sweeter spot. That means we need to have a fairly well illuminated subject to be able to capture sharp images devoid of any camera shake (and the use of a tripod becomes all the more important, which isn't necessarily convenient).

I bought this TC for something like $30. I bought my Nikon Series E 50/1.8 for nearer $40. Glancing on eBay, I see many of these TCs for sale, for around $40+. So consider, we achieved the image quality above for ~$70.  In my experience, I have found plenty of macro lenses for around this price. Heck, an old Nikkor 55mm f/3.5 would run you the same price as the adapter sometimes. The occasional Vivitar 90mm f/2.5 (Komine made version) will go for between $75-150. The point I am making is, you can find a dedicated macro lens that will likely outperform this adapter (plus whatever you stick it to) for around the same price or slightly more (or less if you really find a deal!).

BUT, all that said, should you happen into one of these, for the right price, let it not be said, it is a poor optic. Quite the contrary, this little TC can enable you to capture some very beautiful, high-magnification images.

Other Sample Images

Nikon Series E 50mm with Vivitar 2x Macro Focusing TC @ effectively f/7.1

Dandelion (crop)
For fun, I threw the Tokina 90mm f/2.5 with it's matched macro extender on the Vivitar Macro Teleconverter and in conjunction with an off-camera SB-600, captured a few images of this little jumping spider that appeared on my windowsill.

Jumping Spider (cropped)
Tokina 90/2.5 with 1:1 Extender and Vivitar 2x Macro Focusing TC @ effectively f/22 (-3 stops)

The image above is a crop, has some post-processing applied and some sharpening because of it has been resized down using the 'bi-cubic sharper' setting in PS. Still, after using both the Tokina 90mm macro extender and the Vivitar Macro Teleconverter, I was able to really get in tight (while still maintaining 8-10" of working distance, with this jumping spider. As can be seen, chromatic aberration is present but I am still very impressed.


Pentax Forums thread with a good amount of user input on this TC:

The Chens blog - write up with User Manual!

Another User's Write-up

Manual Focus Lenses forum post

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tamron SP-200 2x Teleconverter Sample Images

Cardinal (cropped)
Tamron 300/2.8 with Tamron SP-200 2x TC @ f/16

Over the Easter holiday, I spent the afternoon over at my aunt and uncle -in-law's home. The weather was simply amazing and they just happen to have an array of bird feeders in the back yard. So I brought over my D600, the Tamron 300mm f/2.8 107B and the SP-200 2x teleconverter. I set up about 50 feet from the bird feeders, beneath the deck umbrella, and set the tripod in such a way so as to allow me to fully lounge, whilst still being able to preview my images through the viewfinder. Throw in a tall sweating glass of iced sweet tea, and we just might have my absolute favorite moment of the spring so far...

I've not done a whole lot of birding, so forgive my ignorance in the matter. These images are more to further demonstrate the quality one can achieve using the Tamron SP-200 and one of Tamron's oldest 300/2.8 lenses, even today. I have done some minor color and exposure adjustments but no sharpening has been added.

Cowbird (cropped)
Tamron 300/2.8 with Tamron SP-200 2x TC @ f/11

Gold Finches
Tamron 300/2.8 with Tamron SP-200 2x TC @ f/16

Above: I realize the composition of this image is strange. It was actually done to demonstrate the off-axis sharpness that can be achieved with the SP-200. Have a close look at both the Finches and the details in the anti-squirrel plate for the bird feeder, located in the bottom left side of the image.

Woodpecker (slight crop)
Tamron 300/2.8 with Tamron SP-200 2x TC @ f/11

Woodpecker (cropped)
Tamron 300/2.8 with Tamron SP-200 2x TC @ f/11

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Tamron SP-200 (200f) Teleconverter vs. Tamron 01F: Worth the Premium?

Well that's just a loaded question, isn't it? I mean, who am I to determine if the performance of Tamron's rare SP-200 2x teleconverter, is worth whatever premium someone is trying to get for it on eBay, over just asking someone on the street to give you the 01f (because I am pretty sure everyone has one of these). Obviously I speak in jest. But truly, for those of us interested in the Tamron Adaptall line,  and especially those of us focused on the 300/2.8 lenses of the series, we've undoubtedly seen and heard myths of the elusive Tamron SP-200, or otherwise known as the 200f, 2x teleconverter. There is no doubt, in my opinion, that the SP-200 is a better TC. But, often going for roughly 10x the price of the 01f, we have to wonder, "How much better can the SP-200 be? Does it merit such a price hike?"

The short answer to this is, 'No'. The long answer is, inevitably, 'Yes'.

I have owned most the more impressive fast primes and telephotos in the Tamron SP Adaptall series including the 180/2.5, 300/2.8, 400/4, and even the 200-500/5.6. And with each of them (save for the 200-500), it seemed I always received the Tamron 01f 2x Teleconverter, like it was a lens cap. To say these are common is an understatement. Most unfortunate for the sake of this comparison, I said "ownED". While I have loved running this test using several of these lenses, my financial situation dictates otherwise. As with many lenses and pieces of photo gear I have owned in the past, they were all a part of a rotating kit really. Fortunately, stability in my job in recent years and more wisdom into my own behaviors, (that is, I tend to go buy these lenses again because I miss them) has led me to a new outlook, in which I simply wait to own the next piece of gear, rather than hock stuff for the immediate pay off. Unfortunately, that came too late for this comparison and so, to date, the only of those large SP lenses I still own (and can never let go) was the Tamron Adaptall 300mm f/2.8 107B.

The 107B is an awesome lens for a variety of reason. Heck,  how I acquired it, to me, is reason enough! At the same time, it has it's short comings. I have learned more and more why everyone appreciates the 60B's internal focus (IF). I certainly loved it on the 400/4 65B. The 107B does not have IF (it actually physically changes length as you focus), so using the 107B in practice can be a bit more challenging, as I have to often work against the weight of the camera (since the lens is what is mounted to the tripod). For our purposes, this was merely an inconvenience. Below is a couple images of a brick wall with no teleconverter, at select apertures, and at full resolution so you can get a feel for what comes straight out of the 107B:

Tamron 300mm f/2.8 107B @ f/2.8

Tamron 300mm f/2.8 107B @ f/5.6


First, let me just reiterate the relative casualness of my findings. I try to be thorough, but especially after reading a lens review on DxO today, well, suffice it say, I feel like a middle school science project trying for the Nobel prize. On the other hand, I think we can all appreciate that,  the labs of DxO and the like is very different from the everyman(woman) picking up a lens and going out to have some fun. OK so I did shoot "the brick wall...", so perhaps not quite so natural.

That being said, for this comparison, I essentially set up my Nikon D600 (which has just returned from Nikon Repair Services having had the free shutter replacement) on a tripod, about 30-40ft from a brick wall. I set the camera to mirror-up shutter (first shutter click flips the camera's mirror up, then a second click opens the shutter, allowing the user to pause between the two to prevent any vibration from the mirror flip to affect the exposure). I used a remote shutter, so that I was not touching the camera, again, in effort to prevent vibration. Using ISO, I adjusted to maintain a shutter speed above 1/600th of a second (using the rule of thumb to account for image vibration during the exposure with long telephoto lenses), usually closer to 1/1000th to be safe. I focused using the live view monitor and a screen loupe. The weather was awesome by the way. It was about 75 degrees F and a very slight, soft breeze.

The crops are 100% with only some slight exposure compensation in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) to even things out for this comparison.

Let's get to the side-by-side, shall we?


Above is the entire image, with each of the 5 selected crops highlighted. I tried to select areas with a noticeable detail that made for a good point of comparison, while also getting a good spread across the whole frame.  So for each image at a given aperture, there are 5 crops. The first image you see is the Tamron 01f. Recall that beginning with an f/2.8 lens, and adding a 2x TC, typically knocks us down 2 stops so we begin at an effective aperture of f/5.6. 

Jump to: f/5.6  f/8  f/11  f/16  f/22  f/32

Hover to see the results of the Tamron SP-200.

Hover to see the results of the Tamron SP-200.

Hover to see the results of the Tamron SP-200.

Hover to see the results of the Tamron SP-200.

Hover to see the results of the Tamron SP-200.

Hover to see the results of the Tamron SP-200.


My understanding from performing this comparison is that the SP-200 (200f) definitely produces sharper images across the frame, including, as stated, off-axis. By f/11, you can see the 01f and SP-200 are nearly identical, though crop 4, out of the corner, shows us that off-axis performance of the SP-200 still bests the 01f quite well. 

Surprisingly, there are some areas, such as crop 5 at f/5.6, where the 01f appears sharper than the SP-200. This could simply be the case, or it could also be a result of a variety of factors as, again, this test borders on scientific/methodical but I am no scientist. I did not go as far as to ensure I was perfectly square and perpendicular to my subject (such that the image plane lined up precisely with the wall). I eyeballed it. Also, I was shooting a likely, imperfect wall. There's no guarantee the wall runs that perfectly straight, so it's possible it is more convex or concave along the surface. Etc. The possibilities go on, when we aren't in a perfectly controlled lab. But as is always the case with what I do, when are we all shooting in a perfect lab? How do these results look to you, given what you know about how you shoot? Are both TC's sharp enough? Or do you need that extra snap in your images, especially around the edges? Are you willing to pay ten-fold for it?

Chromatic Aberration

Sharpness isn't the only factor in evaluating an optic obviously. But with these TC's, it certainly seems to be the most prominent, defining difference. Chromatic aberration appears to me to be well controlled, but then, my understanding with the Nikod D600 is that there is automatic CA suppression (with no ability to turn it off) so I don't know that I can truly say anything about the optics with regards to this. Suffice it to say, with my Nikon D600, CA with these optics appear nearly identical with this subject in exhibiting little-to-no CA (some extremely minimal lateral CA).

Other Aberrations (Fall-off, Distortion, etc.)

Regarding light fall-off, distortion, and so on, there was no noticeable difference to me, between the two TCs. Both TCs exhibit some light fall-off in the early apertures (wide open) but the problem reduces noticeably as they are stopped down. 

There is a highlight in crop 3, noticeable most at f/5.6 and f/8, that looks indicative of Coma. The SP-200 appears to control this much better than the 01f. But this isn't this brick wall isn't the best subject matter to analyze that.

Also, you will notice the images jump a bit between the 01f and the SP-200. There is possibly some relation here to different distortion between the two optics, but also consider, if you have ever used adaptall, because of the nature of the various moving parts in the mounts, the camera can actually rotate a slight degree (some play) whilst still being properly mounted. So the images between the two teleconverters were actually off from one another (one was tilted a bit) and I had to align them in post. I did my best, but some of the shift is likely a result of that as well as possible differences in distortion patterns.

The difference in color rendering is also potentially due to this being done at 5-6pm in the midwest amidst a setting sun. The light was warmer and occasionally passed behind clouds. I tried to wait and make images when the light was most consistent and direct, but one cannot keep the sun from setting!

They truly do perform quite similarly on most fronts, based on this test, except for in sharpness.


The Tamron SP-200 is sharper overall, than the Tamron 01f. For me, the improvement in sharpness is certainly nice. But back to the original question: Is the rare Tamron SP-200 (200f) Teleconverter as good as they say, and worth the search and a 10x premium price than that of the readily available 01f? Since saying both 'Yes' and 'No', makes me right either way, let me explain.

I say 'No' for the following reasons: For this kind of money (I paid $300 around the time of this post for mine), one can get a modern TC with much better performance, depending on the lens used in conjunction. But let's face it, if I am doing a professional job, I am using more modern lenses. Not my Tamron Adaptall stuff. So no, the effort to find an available copy of the Tamron SP-200 and then pay whatever that seller is asking (assuming they are aware of the rarity of their item) just isn't worth the increased performance over Tamron's 01f.

I say 'Yes' because, it is true, the SP-200 does indeed demonstrate better off-axis sharpness. And if I am going to make images using a 2x TC with my adaptall lenses, I might as well be making them with the best TC available. Moreover, it is very worth it for me, to own a unique, hard-to-find piece of Adaptall history! I could see collectors and enthusiasts sharing this opinion especially if he or she owns the 60B, 107B, or 360B. I have even heard people using it on the 63B (180/2.5). It was every penny worth it, to me, to have answers to this question about the optical performance difference between the two teleconverters! (Lucky day for that seller!) Rare, desirable items, will always fetch higher prices. It is the way of things.

And that is how I can say it is definitely not worth the price hike, and agree, yes, it is worth the price hike. Though I would be singing a very different tune if I had, instead of paying the eBay premium, been the guy to find this in someone's old box of Dad's photo stuff at a garage sale and walked off with it for $30....this post would potentially read very differently.

More Information

Sample images of more than a brick wall, using the SP-200.