Saturday, April 24, 2010

Tamron SP 400mm f/4 LD-IF 65B - It Has Arrived

I don't know why, but I have been especially anxious about receiving this lens. It could be due to my new found appreciation for the fast, super telephotos. It may be the sheer size of these beasts and an accompanying gratification that I am getting, at least in weight, what I paid for. Whatever the reason, it has arrived!

The Tamron SP 400mm f/4 LD-IF (65B) Adaptall lens is somewhat of a rare lens. After a lot of shooting with the Tokina 300mm, I realized I often attach the 1.4x teleconverter and just about always shoot at f/4 or more (f/2.8 is bit too soft). Because of this, I began looking for possible alternative prime lenses which were somewhere in the ballpark on price but perhaps a little more tailored to longer shots. I checked out some of the 300mm f/4 lenses too, which can be had for relatively meager prices these days, even with AF. But again, 300mm is a bit short and when considering I will want to use TCs to extend whatever lens I use (because why not always have the option for that little extra reach) somehow 300 2.8 and 400mm f/4 seemed to be the cut-offs. I was mainly looking at the Nikon 400mm f/3.5 but I have just been having a hard time finding one that hasn't been beaten to a pulp and isn't 2 grand. There is hardly any info out there on the Tamron SP 400mm and it was pure chance that I stumbled across this one.


Focal length: 400 mm
Model: 65B
Aperture Range: f/4-32
Angle of View: 6.2°
Optical Elements/Groups: 10/7
Min. Focus (From Film Plane): 118" (3.0 m)
Filter Size: 43mm (Rear), 112mm (Front)
Max. Diameter: 4.6" (118 mm)
Weight: 80.1 oz (2270 g)
Lens Hood: Bayonet #39FH

Physical/Cosmetics - First Impressions

This is my first Tamron Adaptall lens, ever. I know nothing of their build quality but I believe they have a great reputation according to many of the forum posters with their Adaptall and Adaptall-2 line. My first thought when I pulled this lens out of the bubble wrap was it seemed...lighter than I expected. Sure, I could have just read the weight on the site (and I did). But it is just different when you are holding the lens in your hand. As stupid an observation as it may be, when you flick this lens barrel, or give it a little knuckle tap, sure it feels solid, but the Tokina literally feels like a brick made of metal. In that respect the Tokina 300mm MF just seems a bit more indestructible. But given the age of this lens, and its condition, I am not worried about it lasting because it is still a professional quality lens.

The second thing I noticed when mounting this lens is that there seems to be a tiny bit of play in the setup. I have read a few reviews in various forums describing this lens as being poorly constructed, or at least less than ideal and specifically making comments about the adaptall mount. The adaptall mount system is universal. I think it is brilliant for a third party manufacturer; that is, in its more conceptual form. Making a lens mount system that can truly adapt to many brands, that is equal to an original OEM mount is a great undertaking. I think Tamron did very well! Yes there is some play in the mount. But I have used teleconverters with more play than this mount has. So this issue is acceptable to me. Also, the tripod mount on my lens is faintly ajar. I may be able to tighten this via the four visible screws. I only noticed when I mounted this lens on the tripod and even after being secured there was a faint bit of movement. The bayonet hood is another source of less than perfect tolerances. Being tension mounted, the hood doesn't sit 100% locked in place. Once the flanges clear the retention springs, the hood has a fraction of a millimeter to move. These issues are relatively small but I note them because I have not seen these types of mechanical shortcomings in my Tokina 300mm, my only comparably lens as of now. So despite the esteem of the optics and the price, don't expect to be wowed by the build.

It is possible all these slight inaccuracies are a result of wear over time. I am perfectly fine with that explanation. Because quite honestly, none of these factors affect the optical performance in any way. They may contribute to the overall confidence factor that a photographer feels about his or her gear. Design issues can be indicative of the mechanical reliability. I have only owned the lens a day and cannot comment on this yet. Though I can say, I have seen posts in the forums of photographers claiming others may take their Tamron 400mm f/4 "when they pry it from his or her dead, lifeless hands". So in the end, I'm not too worried!

Stylistically, I love the look. The Tamron 400mm comes in the same military greenish tan color as its sibling the Tamron SP 300mm f/2.8 LD-IF (060B) telephoto lens (Another lens I would love to try). I find the unique turquoise ring (Tamron's little design queue denoting Low Dispersion glass) an excellent retro touch. The adaptall mount system is a great concept and so far isn't nearly as troublesome as many have made it out to be. Though, I have hardly used it in real-time and do realize that may make all the difference.

Some other features of the Tamron 400mm is a focus limiter. When shooting, you can dial in a point of interest such as home plate at a ball game. You can then quickly focus the lens to that point when necessary. It seems both the 400mm and the 300mm Tamron LD-IF telephotos originally came with a small palm rest accessory. The palm rest is a small knurled hardened plastic part that attaches to the base of the lens via the tripod socket used to make steadying the lens more ergonomic. I find it surpisingly useful!

I also received the original Tamron canvas bag that was marketed with the SP 400mm f/4 LD-IF.
The Tamron 400mm 65B
features 2 Low Dispersion elements to reduce flare, improve contrast and overall optical performance. It utilizes a large 112mm front filter which I have read may further improve sharpness but I have yet to test this. The 65B also utilizes the 43mm rear filters. In this day and age, we just leave the UV in and use filters in post.


Here is the sad part. The lens I got was in great condition. However, and it is a big however, the focus is not smooth. For some reason the action is coarse and stiff. I am hoping it is only the lubricant stiffening or something not involving a need to get parts. Because that will be nearly impossibly since this lens is relatively rare and has been out of production since 1995. Fortunately the seller (eBay) has offered to help with getting the lens serviced since this issue was not disclosed in the auction. Hopefully this beautiful piece of glass can be salvaged! I will have more on the performance soon!

Original Advertisements

These vintage ads can be found on the website found in the links/resources section below. I love these!


Adaptall-2 - This is a great resource for all Tamron adaptall products. They even have some of the original ads. I have requested permission for use of these ads for some time and haven't heard anything back. They are original Tamron ads (not original content of this adaptall site, who is not officially affiliated with Tamron).

Adaptall-2 Page on Tamron SP 400mm f/4 LD-IF


  1. Going from all macro to ... really long lenses or whatever, eh?

    So when are we gonna go to Busch Stadium and test this baby out?

  2. did you ever get the focusing issue fixed?

  3. The lens is currently out for repair and should be back to me in another week or two (so probably somewhere between May 20-30). Techs said just needs a good CLA. Nothing is broken so that's great, no worry about getting parts! I'm very anxious to get this back. Sending gear off is one of the worst waits in life!

  4. David, sorry-I'm too lazy to get a profile but am glad the lens is ok. I have used a 400/4 on and off-just re-bought it again in this dslr era..and it is fantastic! The focus is butter smooth when all is right. If you fall in love with adaptall and the 400/4 you'll need to check out the 180/f2.5-it's a perfect miniature of the 400/300 SP right down to the smooth IF as you'll soon see.
    Love the site!

  5. I just saw one of those go off on eBay the other day (180 f2.5) and was very tempted! This LBA thing is an aggressive ailment. I hear great things about each of the turquoise lined, SP lenses and will most likely try to 180 and the 300 at some point. Thanks for reading and if you come by a 180 you don't need...let me know :) haha Do you have any experience with the Tamron TCs? I have been asking around to get a feel for their performance. I hear the 200f (2x) is much better than the 01f. I'm more curious how they do relative to say the Nikon tc-14b (1.4x) or tc-301 (2x) with the Tamron lenses. Or if you shoot another brand, an OEM TC.

  6. David, I shoot Olympus and do know that the OM Zuiko 1.4x-a is slightly better than the Tamron f140. Not by alot. 2x I don't really know but am aware that people really do chase the 200F.
    Since digital is a different beast since access to easy cropping and photoshop, that tripods, raw or tiff and zoom and sharpen from a good file rather than starting with a degraded 2x image are the key. The old days of film was a tele-converter show unless you wanted to spend alot on enlargements to get the cropped shots.
    I have heard the 180/2.5 does not come across as well on a dslr as the 300-400. No idea why or it is is true.
    Things have changed so much in the photo world in a decade. I never knew a Tamron 400/4 would translate to a 800/4 (Olympus dslr 2x factor) and have in-camera image stabilizing to boot!

  7. Just listed a nice one on ebay..

  8. The used to have the Tamon 300/2.8. The Adaptall mount would sometimes unlock, and allow the mount and camera to fall off the lens. After the first time this happened I always used both the lens and camera strap. BTW, the Tamron 300 was a very nice lens, though not quite as good as the Canon. I expect the 400 is also a very good lens.


  9. Geoff-

    Wow I haven't heard of anyone's adaptall lenses falling off the camera like that. I suppose with more moving parts, the risk of such an occurrence certainly does increase! One question for you, when you say the 300 wasn't as good as the Canon, how so? I haven't been able to afford any of the big Nikon/Canon glass just yet, but I am always curious how well they perform. On lenses such as the Tokina 300mm and the Tamron SP 180 f/2.5 (which I now own and use) I consistently find PF or CA wide open. Is this always an optical shortcoming of wide apertures or is the Pro glass so good, you don't even see PF/CA? I also notice softness wide open. I am expecting the Pro glass to be a bit sharper if not very sharp wide open. Are my expectations too great?

    The above question is open to anyone who uses the Pro glass from the major camera brands.

  10. Hi David, I am the earlier poster with the Olympus background. I have been lucky enough to have shot with many of the nice big lenses. Canon 600/4, 200/1.8 EOS , Nikon 600/4 600/5.6 manual lenses,
    Olympus Zuiko 350/2.8, Tamron 400/4 300/2.8 adaptall, Tokina 300/2.8, Canon FD 500/4.5 400/2.8, 300/2.8..thinking.. that may it it.
    In my opinion. the Canon EOS lenses blow the others away. I mean, there are some great lenses here, but the Canons are just unreal..I liken the quality to that of my Contax G system lenses. Plus, the fast autofocus saves 10x the amount of pics because of shallow depth of field and manual focus with animals on the move..
    But I have the Tamron 400/4 for now (I think the Nikon 600/5.6 ED is about the same in great sharpness) but will be using a Canon 500/4 IS ($6K) and the 800/5.6 ($10k) when funds allow down the road.

  11. price? I have a Canon 50d thanks

  12. So, whatever happened?

  13. Whoops I never added links to some of the samples I made with the lens. Eventually I got the lens back, cleaned up and ready to go. It's an excellent lens. Here are a few articles with samples.

  14. I had the Tamron SP 4/400mm and now I have the Sigma Apo 5.6 / 400mm tele macro auto focus from 1996. It was the last 400mm prime lens from sigma. It performes much better than the big and heavy Tamron SP. I know that some people love that Tamron but there can be issues with the adapter and manual focus is not easy with that long focal distance. You certainly need a tripod for that big lens. The sigma can easily be used without it on my Pentax K-5.

    1. -wanted to add this to this link as others will surely come here for info
      on this great lens. I bought a copy of this lens on ebay for $575. It shows up and within a few turns of the focusing grip, it totally locks up!
      I send it on to for repairs-$50 shipping (yikes) and a little over 4 weeks it is back and it cost me $245 for repairs. KEH did get it to focus again and it is ok, not up to full specs BUT they made two iscratches on the front element -not there before-and made two very ugly marrings on the filter ring-a little inside so it will still take filters but really, really crummy work for the cost. I sent an email and no answer. REALLY disappointing from a company I had respected for as sellers. but no way recommend them for repairs.
      Tamron 400/4 is a super lens and glad to have it after paying near $900 for my lens w/ repairs.

  15. Hi David. I've used the Tamron 400/4 and the 180/2.5 for 11 years, from 1991 to 2003, both great lenses.
    I suggest you to check the internal screws of the 400/4 (you can find them removing the tripod socket).
    In my experience I had some problems about them. These screws aren't steady locked and during the normal lens use (transport, mounting and dismounting the tele lens on tripod) they goes unscrewed! Finally i resolved using a thread locker glue.

    I've used a lot of time the TC1.4 Adaptall 2 on 400/4 and for me it's a great combo.
    Moreover I remember that I've used the couple TC (the Adaptall 2 1.4x and 2X together ) in 2002 at Coto de Donana Spain, trying to take a picture of Imperial Eagle at the nest but the pictures obtained wasn't quite good.
    But it was the time of chemical photography, probably today with digital technology you can get best results!

    Your blog is wonderful, I've saved it in my "Preferred"