Tamron Adaptall 2 SP 80-200mm f/2.8 30a Lens Review

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Tamron Adaptall 2 SP 80-200mm f/2.8 30a Lens Review

A detail about methods: All of my experience with this lens was using it in conjunction with a Fujifilm X-S10 and M42 adapter. All images included in this article were shot with this combination.


In 1985 Tamron released the Adaptall 2 SP 80-200mm f/2.8 (model 30a) lens filled the fast telephoto zoom lens slot in Tamron’s Adaptall 2 SP lineup. I believe it’s Tamron’s first swing at a fast telephoto zoom lens, and given the absolutely smashing quality (at least contemporarily speaking) quality of the Adaptall 2 SP lineup, it's no surprise that they knocked it out of the park. And given that it was produced all the way until the mid-90s where most of the Adaptall 2 lineup was discontinued, it's probably fair to say it was a well received lens in its time as well. This lens is big, heavy, made like a tank (and kind of handles like one), comes with superlative character and dreamy bokeh, and doesn’t break the bank, it basically has all the best qualities and characteristics you would hope for in a film-era vintage lens.

Quote from Adaptall-2.com:


This is an absolutely superb optical design which features a three element focus group incorporating one low dispersion (LD) element, plus a five element variator group coupled with a three element compensator group. Resolution and contrast, compared to similar OEM lenses, is excellent to say the least.

Overall, this lens is very slightly soft in the corners at F/2.8 due to extremely slight off-axis astigmatism and coma. Chromatic aberration and lateral color are extremely slight as well. Corner sharpness equals center sharpness by F/4, producing very sharp images across the entire film plane. Sharpness peaks at F/8 with images which are razor sharp and the equal of all but the very best moderate to medium telephoto prime lenses.

One of the main features of this lens is the Adaptall 2 mount system, which allows the lens to be used with a variety of different camera bodies, including those made by Canon, Nikon, Pentax, and others. This was an awesome feature at the time. It’s less relevant in the 2020s when we’re mounting these bad boys up on digital mirrorless cameras, the Adaptall 2 concept and execution is still worth giving a tip of the cap to. The adapters I’ve collected for this system are pretty amazing given that they all retain the auto exposure and metering features from the native mounts they adapted to. The adapters are quite cool little pieces of kit even if they aren’t functionally relevant any longer.

dripping ice
thick ice
frozen texas
A selection of shots from the Texas freeze in early February, 2023. These show a range of distance to subject from medium close to about 50 meters away.

Image quality: paint me a pretty picture! Image quality is fantastic, with caveats. There’s sharpness and resolution wide open, but being a lens of this vintage that sharpness comes with a healthy dose of glowing edges (not CA). For me, this is absolutely a positive. The color rendition, glowing, level of sharpness and decent resistance to optical aberrations make it feel like I’m shooting with a telephoto version of one of my all-time favorite lenses: the Super Takumar 50mm f/1.4. These image quality characteristics make this lens a blast for me, for my style of photography. If you’re more inclined towards clean, modern rendering this absolutely will not be the lens for you–but if that’s the case then I’m assuming you’re not looking at 40 year old glass. So if you’re interested in this lens, you’ve read this far, and you enjoy some character and imperfection out of your lenses: this is the tele zoom for you!

deer, lounging
pelican on a wooden pole
squirrel with a treasure
A selection of animal shots in the park. Manual focus telephoto wildlife photography is challenging, and probably shouldn't be a first-case usage, but it can work if you try hard enough and take enough shots! These shots hopefully also demonstrate that this lens has a broad range of contemporary uses.

The weakest aspect of this lens is the close-focus image quality. At the absolute minimum focus distance the image softens significantly, even when compared to 1.75m or 2m. Depending on the subject and lighting it can approach unusably soft and mushy. This only happens at the 200mm end, and can easily be worked around by backing up as little as a quarter meter or zooming out a touch.

Bokeh is one of the big draws of the lens for me. A fast tele zoom with a decent close-focus range (1.5m, about in line with modern tele zoom offerings) is all about that blown-out, blurred background goodness. The lens produces smooth, pleasing bokeh and has good transitional areas without abrupt harshness or anything that detracts from that creamy look. The backgrounds can be a bit busy if you’re not minding subject-to-background distances, a problem exacerbated somewhat when shooting with ASP-C (but even my venerable Super Tak 50mm can be a bit nervous and busy if I don’t tend to these factors). Overall I have nearly zero complaints about the quality of the out-of-focus rendering on this lens.

afternoon fishing
under the bridge
through the trees
The combination of this lens and the Fujifilm film simulations is a superb combination!

The bad stuff One of the big negatives of the lens is the weight. This thing is a beast. All metal and glass, weighing in at 1.36 kilograms (3lbs on the dot), it can be a chore to drag around. It’s not terrible for me, but a total rig that’s pushing 4lbs with a modern mirrorless camera might be a bit too much weight for some folks, especially for an ASP-C setup. Realistically, it's not bad compared to full-frame DSLR setups with an equivalent lens, but you don’t get the benefit of internal zooming, image stabilization, or autofocus with the Tamron. I am a large, in-shape outdoorsy type, so the weight doesn’t hold me back from loving this lens, not to mention I tend to hike like a masochist with way too much gear lugged along.

a lovely fisher spider, guarding her nursery
green sprouts and golden light
small pink flower
Here are some shots take at or near the minimum focusing distance of 1.5 meters. At this range the lens starts to soften, and CA gets significantly worse. I feel like I'm able to create close-focus keepers and get good shots at this range, but it becomes challenging and your expectations for sharpness and resolution need to be adjusted. Not the worst performance, but certainly not clinically sharp.

My copy of the lens, which (unless it's a common characteristic of this model) may be completely down to how my copy was treated over the past 30 or 40 years: it is fairly loose. Zoom creep isn’t a question, it happens as soon as you start tilting the lens up or down. The focusing collar is a tinge loose and rattley, and the aperture ring is very plasticky (in the worst ways of that word). I only have my copy to compare to see if this is a common way these lenses wear. Finding a more pristine copy of this lens is very tempting, since other than the loosey-goosey focusing collar I really quite enjoy using this lens and I’ve shot some photos that I’m legitimately proud of.

I have used this lens… I’ve had this lens for about six months. I don’t like writing about stuff I’ve had for less than at least a few months, because the shine hasn’t worn off and I still give new lenses the puppy dog eyes that my tried-and-true go-to gear don’t get. It's been rained on. I’ve shot it in the briney breeze of the Texas coast, the dusty trails in the woods and hills of central Texas, and used it as a walkaround lens on about a dozen photowalks. I have more than 350 published keepers at this point that I’ve shot with this lens, so I feel like I have a good hang of how to handle this beast. So far it hasn’t disappointed in any scenario, location, lighting, etc. It’s been an absolute joy to use, and has very quickly come to be one of my favorite lenses (on a short list with the likes of the Fujifilm XF35mm/1.4, the Pentax Super Takumar 50mm f/1.4, and the Fujifilm XF23mm/1.4). It’s a really decent lens, it’s the cheapest entry into the world of fast telephoto lenses you can find, it produces awesome images, and is just a joy to use for the most part. This lens gets two enthusiastic thumbs up for my style of nature and detail photography.

pelican and seagulls on a light post a disheveled vulture jellyfish in the water beach path, mustang island, tx texas beach egret in the reeds grackles white flower cluster autumn plants no vehicles sand dollar long-legged sea bird flock of seagulls yellow leaves autumn skyline snail shell mushroom tiny cactus and dead plants life under a rock fresh green cactus dried flowers curly umbrella on a fence gargoyle orange leaves, gnarled branches headlights icicles on a pallet ice-encrusted cactii icicles and rusty steel icy branches a lonely bird, contemplating life under the bridge fungus on a stump forkcicles duck family i forest scene resting on an autumn hike swimming along

Written on Monday, 13 February 2023, by Aaron Brown. Last edited on

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