When it comes to ultra-wide (non fisheye) vintage lenses, especially the photography ones that many of us now happily use for video, there are only a few options to choose from and most seem too expensive for what they are. When fast, sharp, ultra-wide modern lenses like Tokina 11-16mm F2.8 can be bought for under $300 used, many wonder why would they pay similar money for a vintage 17mm f3.5 lens, which is slower, probably softer wide open and lacks auto focusing (if you need it). Tamron Adaptall-2 17mm F3.5 is one of such lenses, so let’s see what all the fuss is about.
When you look on ebay, this lens does seem to be quite pricy for a “third party” vintage wide-angle lens. Every cheap modern kit lens seems to more or less matches such specs at the wide end; e.g. Sony E 16-50mm F3.5-5.6, Canon 18-55mm F3.5-5.6, Nikon 18-55mm F3.5-5.6; all 3 also have optical image stabilization.
So why so expensive? There are a few reasons why lenses like Tamron Adaptall-2 17mm F3.5 are more expensive than many other vintage primes and modern zooms mentioned above.
Firstly, the zooms I mentioned earlier only cover APS-C/Super35 sensor while Tamron covers full frame. Back in the days of 35mm photo cameras, there was no need for anything wider than 17mm as it already was and still is an ultra wide lens when used on a full frame camera. Think of any modern full frame 17mm prime lens (I’m not even sure if there are any) and suddenly Tamron is not that expensive. More than that, even on Super35 camera you can take advantage of its full frame coverage with the help of a focal reducer which will make it wider and faster. You can’t do that with lenses designed for APS-C/S35.
The reason why it’s more expensive that other vintage primes like 24mm, 28mm is again because back in 35mm film camera days, this would be the widest (non fisheye) focal length offered. These lenses were expensive then, so they are still expensive now.
More importantly, Tamron Adaptal-2 17mm F3.5 is actually a nice lens. Build quality is amazing. It’s a very solid; focus ring is dampened & smooth. Focus throw of about 135° will please everyone, as it’s not too short for a follow focus use, but short enough for easy focusing by hand. Closest focusing distance of just 0.25m allows you to create all sorts of crazy close ups and the wonderful Adaptall-2 swappable mount system means that you’ll be able to use this lens on just about any camera out there.
It’s not all great though. This lens like most others has its quirks and downsides. One of biggest for me is the absence of a filter thread on the front. Instead it has 3 in-build color filters that would have been useful for film photography, but pretty much useless for digital shooting. Saying that, Tamron used to make an optional “push on” lens hood, which accepts 82mm lenses. I’ve seen a few of these Tamron lenses sold with such hoods, so if you can find one you will be able to use filters with it. You can also take 67-XXmm step-up ring which fits quite snugly inside the lens and just use some glue to secure it in place. It’s not the most glamorous way of using filters with this lens, but it works. The other, filmmaking way of using filters with such lens is to use matte box. Thankfully this lens only extends by 2mm when focused, so use of matte box will not present any challenges. Personally I used a Fotodiox ND Throttle adapter to shoot my test video above and that worked out quite well for me. So even though there is no filter thread on this lens, there are plenty of workarounds.
OPTICS & CHARACTER:
Optical performance of this lens is a bit of a mixed bag. Some people will love it, some might even hate it. Being a wide-angle vintage lens, it’s prone to flaring and thanks to the 12 optical elements inside the lens, flares looks absolutely amazing. Most of the time I love flares, so this is a great lens for creative projects, but sometimes I just want a clean image and if the light is challenging, this lens will struggle no keep the flares out. Thankfully, overall image doesn’t loose contrast then lens is pointed at the bring light source (even the sun). More than that it’s pretty sharp, especially if stopped down even a little and chromatic aberration is pretty much non-existent. There is barely any barrel distortion, all the lines are nice & straight!
- Mount: Adaptall-2 (EF,M42,PK,FD,F,MD,OM,etc)
- Optical Construction: 12 Elements in 10 Groups
- Field of View: 104° (on full frame)
- Aperture Range: F3.5 to F22
- Aperture Blades: 5
- Focus Ring Rotation: approx. 135°
- Closest Focusing Distance: 0.25m
- Weight: 270g
- Filter Thread: none
So, is it a good or bad lens, worth the money or not? Let’s take a look at its pros and cons!
- Ultra wide angle lens with full frame coverage
- Good sharpness and contrast for vintage lens
- Beautiful flares
- Great built quality
- Adaptall-2 mount system is probably the most adaptable vintage mount out there
- Not “ultra-wide” on anything other than full frame unless used with a focal reducer
- Pricy for a 17mm F3.5 lens if used on APS-C/S35/M4/3/S16 without a focal reducer
- No filter thread
- Flares easily
- Not very fast at F3.5 wide open
Overall I like this lens! Using it is a pleasure and it produces really pleasant images. I absolutely love the Addaptall-2 mount as it’s really future proof, so this lens makes a great long term investment. For me, one question remains. Is it better than the popular Tokina RMC 17mm F3.5 that I reviewed some time ago? There is only one way to find out! I’ll be testing them against each other to decide which one to keep. Who knows, it might even lead to a Vintage 17mm Shootout; something like the 20mm Shootout I’ve done some time ago.
For now, all I can say is if you can find a Tamron Adaptall-2 17mm F3.5 for under £100/$150 don’t think about it twice as at these lenses generally go for much more and are absolutely worth it!
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