I’m often asked about cheap vintage wide angle primes and the two that I always recommend are the Tamron Adaptall-2 17mm F3.5 and Tokina RMC 17mm F3.5.
While they do not sound very exciting when compared to lenses like Tokina 11-16mm F2.8, it’s important to remember is that these vintage prime lenses offer “full frame” coverage and for a full frame lens, 17mm is almost as wide as it’s possible to go, unless you are ok with a fish-eye look.
17mm is considered as ‘ultra wide” on full frame cameras, but since many of us use Super35 cameras and I currently do not own a full frame camera, my comparison will be based on Tamron’s and Tokina’s performance on S35/APS-C sensor camera.
On Super35 both these lenses are equivalent to 25.5mm on a full frame camera, which is not ultra wide, but still wide enough for most of my needs, plus both are compatible with my Lens Turbo II focal reducer, so I can get most out of them even on S35 camera.
Image Quality & Character:
I’ve shot the video above in an attempt to compare these lenses optically and it turned out that they are very similar in almost all aspects.
They are both far from perfect wide open with strong light falloff and softish, but not unpleasant images.
Tamron has a slightly colder and cleaner look, while Tokina has warmer, lower contrast look.
This is also mirrored in the lens flares these lenses produce. Tamron has distinctively blue, clean flares, while Tokina glows much more and produces some funky rainbows that I really like because they remind me of my beloved Helios 44-2.
In terms of image quality Tokina certainly goes better with “character” lenses like the 44-2 and other Russian primes, while Tamron will mix much better with higher contrast lenses like Pentax SMC, Zeiss Contax, Canon FD and even some modern lenses, so it’s impossible to pick a winner in this category. Which one to choose will depend on what other lenses you are planning to use it with.
Built Quality & Usability:
Both lenses are super solid because they are made fully out of metal. Both have very nice, smooth focusing rings with very similar focus throw, but there are a few distinct differences too! Tamron doesn’t have a front filter thread, but has a very flexible Adaptall-2 mount, which can be adapted to most common mounts. Tokina though has a filter thread but, as with most lenses, you are locked into one mount, so if it happens to be FD or MD mount, you won’t have much luck using it one Canon EF cameras. With Adaptall-2 you remove the mount completely rather than add the adapter, so even if it happened to be FD or MD, you can swap it out to other mounts, even a native Canon EF mount. Another minor difference between the two is that Tamron has an F4 setting between the F3.5 and F5.6, while Tokina is either wide open at F3.5 or F5.6 and so on, which isn’t helpful when you want to stop down the lens a little, but might not want to all the way to F5.6. Again, I have no clear winner in this category either. Some will prefer to have a filter thread, while others will prefer the flexibility of the Adaptall-2 mount.
To settle this once and for all, let’s round up the advantage of one lens over the other!
Reasons to choose Tamron Adaptall-2 over Tokina RMC:
- Higher Contrast, cleaner images
- A bit less barrel distortion
- Flexibility of Adaptall-2 mount
- More aperture settings
Reasons to choose Tokina RMC over Tamron Adaptall-2:
- More character
- A bit shaper wide open
- Has front filter thread
Even at this point I just can’t choose a winner. Choosing one will depend largely on which features and/or look suits you better. If you are on a budget I highly recommend checking these two out though.They might not sound cheap, but if you compare them to any modern full frame equivalent, then you’ll realize that they are real bargains!
If you’d like to learn more about them, you can find the Tamron review here and Tokina review here.
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Hi! Great comparison. I’m assembling a set of pentax and takumar and I don’t find a cheap alternative. Do you know if any of these two can match well with Pentax in terms of contrast or color rendition?