Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Great Smoky Mountains

Last week, The Girl and I took a decidedly necessary vacation. Some weeks back, while we were both knee-deep in internships (which run through mid-autumn), we realized life was only going to become more hectic when classes began here in August. If we were going to get away, the time was now!

Without a specific destination in mind, we needed to be able to make the trip in a day and relatively inexpensively. We also both knew we had to escape the featureless plain that is the Midwest. Southern Missouri (Ozarks) was out of the question. A little too close and not quite scenic enough. Landlocked in the center of the country leaves the ocean out of the question with drive-time. The Great Lakes are beautiful but having been to Chicago on our last trip, we were feeling like heading a different direction this time. Also we wanted something more "outdoorsy". Finally, someone suggested a cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Jackson Mountain Homes Inc.

The vacation could not have gone better. We left on a Wednesday, took a 9 hour drive over to Gatlinburg, TN, stayed in a cabin for 4 nights, and came home Sunday. It was one of the most relaxing times of my life. The cabin rental company, Jackson Mountain Homes Inc. was excellent! Not only were they extremely knowledgeable with just about everything vacation, they didn't miss a thing! And on top of all this, they were the nicest people we spoke with the whole trip (and we met some very nice folks). They showed no exasperation when we called multiple times having gotten lost in various parts of town and were never hesitant to help.

Our cabin was beautiful; Tucked away on a small mountain top overlooking the Smokies complete with kitchen, california-king sized Tempur-Pedic mattress, and.....HOT TUB! We had a number of hikes planned for the few days we were there. We only managed to get to one. For no other reason than we were so worn out from work and summer school that we wanted nothing more than to just relax in the hot tub and gaze over the Smokies. Though I have never rented a cabin in Gatlinburg before, I recommend this place whole heartedly. They forgot, nothing.

We even made some new friends!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Tamron SP 300mm f/2.8 LD 107B - An Elusive Adaptall

For photographers (specifically the lens junkies like myself and probably you since you're reading this), lenses can be like family heirlooms. Surprisingly, they can become vessels of immense sentiment. Like a ship to her captain, lenses are a means to our livelihood. While shooting we make images and memories alike. Although some may feel as though we are merely viewing the world through a preconceived, mass-produced optical perscription. I cannot help but feel as though all sorts of various things combine to form a unique "personality" for many of my optics. My newest find has had me since Day 1.

I randomly decided to check out a website I found some time back while "googling" craiglists that searches ALL craigslists within a specified area. I know, I know, that sort of defeats Craig Newmark's whole concept behind craigslist, "Deal Locally". But sometimes I can't help it. If there is even 1 of what I am looking for, for sale in the world, I want to know where it is! In this instance, I wasn't even looking for what I found. I was actually looking for a Tamron 200f TC (and continue to search). So I type in my search what do I find?:

An exemplary looking sample of Tamron's ellusive, one-year production model 300mm f/2.8, the 107B! Complete with tan leather case and lens cover. Then I saw the price, $400. I couldn't sit still. For a 300mm f/2.8 more than reasonable. For a rare, Tamron rumored to be of awesome capabilities, that's exquisite! SO I e-mailed the gentleman and let him know that I'm just a camera junkie/blogger looking to give the lens a wonderful home. This is where that "personality" begins to form.

The seller's name was Gordon. He is 90 years of age and has decided to let his photographic gear make its way into other photographer's bags. I began a short dialogue with Gordon and he told me the types of imagery he used to make as well as list some of the gear he used. He took great care of his equipment. Gordon agreed he could ship the lens so long as I showed I was good for the money. It was here that a Post Office fiasco ensued, in which they temporarily lost my money in the Registered (Pay more for more accurate, secure handling...yeah right!) and all hope of this transaction actually happening was nearly lost. 12 Days later, the money arrived and Gordon shipped the lens.

It's a marvel of a lens. I can't even begin to describe the excitement I had over unpacking this one. The build is just magnificent. The slightly off-white, glossy enameled finish. Everything is just smooth! Focus, rotating tripod mount, all just awesome. OEM hood with Tamron decals intact. The front element has some very minor abrasion but I don't think that will be much of an issue.


Manufacturer designation: 107B
Focal length: 300mm
Max. aperture: f/2.8
Min. apertures: f/32
Angle of view: 8ยบ
Elements/Groups: 7/6
Min. focus (from film plane): 118" (3.0 m)
Filter size: front 112mm, rear-tray 43mm
Diameter: 4.6" (117.5mm)
Length at ∞: 7.8" (199mm)
Weight: 4.6 lbs. (2071 g)
Lens hood: Bayonet, #38FH, reversible

NOTE: It seems whoever owned the domain for has let it expire and currently a mirror is running at The specs are from this site.


See HERE for a comparison with a few of the other Tamron SP's.

I have just now begun shooting with this lens and I have to say my initial impression is that I am shocked. I really didn't expect this lens to be this good. It just seemed with older technology and all this would probably be a "good" lens but not amazing. So far, it is slightly soft at f/2.8 but still extremely useable and very sharp. It shows some CA wide open, to be expected. The OOF looks beautiful! In reading, the Adaptall-2 claims the 107B was initially designed without a 43mm filter in place and that the addition of the filter without adjustment to the optical formula means shooting the lens without a filter in place should be a bit sharper. I tried this and so far have found my lens performs optimally with the 43mm filter IN PLACE. Awesome.

Another thing I kept wondering about was since this lens does not have IF (Internal Focus), just how long does it get when focus from nearest to infinity? Well, as you can see above, not far. Honestly, I haven't had an issue with this non-IF design at all so far. It may be a bit of a con but only in the same way MF is now that we have lightning fast AF. The lens focuses smooth and there is absolutely no creep.


As I said above, this truly is an extremely unique lens. The finish is aesthetically awesome. The heft and shape just sings of robustness. I am especially intrigued by the accessories marketed with the lens. Gordon even included the manual (which I will be scanning and putting up soon!) as well as original receipts. Based on some online calculators, suggested MSRP of this lens was around 265000 japanese yen in 1983 which equated to $1093 USD. Gordon's receipt shows he paid $1600 USD from Adorama in 1984. Now, from the calculator, it seems the original suggested retail price equates to a little over $2300 (as of 2009). It would appear the lens cost Gordon more than this even.

This lens has lived a good long life, and still has many, many years left to offer. I am overjoyed at the prospect of getting to use this historic piece of glass! I'll keep posted on specifics of the performance!


NEW!! I received the owner's manual with this beautiful lens and have since scanned it into a PDF format.
click HERE to download the User's Manual for the Tamron SP 300mm f/2.8 107B