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Tamron SP 70-210 f/3.5

Tamron SP 70-210 f/3.5 "19AH"
Weight: 30.3oz
Filter Size: 62mm

   The Tamron SP 70-210 f/3.5 has a small cult following.  It's a manual focus lens that as one of the Tamron Adaptall 2 lenses, with the correct adapter it can be fitted to any SLR. It's also been called "the best telephoto ever made" by some. A large part of this is because of one very unique feature. The further you zoom in, the more the barrel extends to cover the front element.  It's also pretty rare these days and can be hard to find. I searched around for a month, not really knowing what to expect to pay when an inquiry led to a free lens.

Tamron SP 70-210 f/3.5 "19AH" zoomed to 210mm.

   The 19AH is an interesting lens. It's considerably heavier (12oz) than the Nikon 75-150 for only 60mm of gain at the long end. It's considerably lighter (less than half) than the 67oz Nikkor 80-200 f/2.8 AI-S, which is a rare bird too. For less than half the weight, it's only 2/3 of a stop slower. Size wise, I've never handled the Nikkor 80-200 f/2.8 AI-S but the Tamron 70-210 f/3.5 is a lot larger than the 75-150, and it's even longer than the modern Nikkor 70-300VR.

Similar size and four ounces heavier, even without a focus motor or VR.

The extra weight comes from all metal construction and lots of glass. Shame the lends hood is cheap plastic.

   How about some in the field use? I found that the Tamron 70-210 f/3.5 really shines for whitewater kayaking.

Charlie Center, Grand Canyon of the Stikine

Nikon D700, Tamron 70-210 f/3.5 @ 1/1000 f4 ISO 640

Some chromatic abberation, but not bad at all for 210mm and f/4! 100% crop unsharpened.

Less contrasty lighting and wide open, Rush Sturges doing some cooking on the Homathko.

100% unsharpened.

    So far this review has been glowing, and it should be as it's a fantastic lens. Tragically for Nikon users it has a fatal flaw. The focusing operates in the opposite direction of all Nikon lenses. Combining this with a Nikon manual focus lens is a recipe for missed shots and might even be a road to insanity. There is another major downside for whitewater too. The lens is not an internally focusing lens, thus the front element moves while focusing. This makes it a true pain to use with a polarizer. Couple the rotating front element with the lens hood and barrel extending while zooming and it's damn near impossible to use with a polarizer.

  Build: 7/10                   - Nice all metal construction. The Adaptall 2 mount is not the most beautiful thing and makes the lens a bit clunky. Shame about the plastic lens hood, and you can't attach a screw in metal hood either.
  Handling: 8/10             - One touch focus/zoom collar. Smooth to zoom and focus.
  Performance: 8/10       - For the size and weight it's an incredible lens, arguably the best manual focus fixed aperture 3.5 zoom, which is saying a lot.
  Value: 8/10                  -  Often far more expensive than the Nikon 75-150 f/3.5 Series E, but performance is better too. Can be had cheaply for the patient.

  Overall: 8.5/10             - A step ahead of the Nikon 75-150 in terms of optical quality, build, size and weight.

Practicality for kayaking: 8/10 . Practicality for me: 4/10.  For Nikon shooters the focusing is tedious at best and often infuriating when shots are missed. Wouldn't be as much of an issue if this was your only manual focus lens and you adapted to focusing in the opposite direction.

Other links:
Adaptall 2