Tamron Adaptall 35-70mm 1:3.5 Model 17A

I’m building quite a collection of Tamron Adaptall lenses now, so it’s about time I started using them and testing them. To start with, here’s a quick review of the Tamron Adaptall 35-70mm 1:3.5 Model 17A. According to the adaptall-2.org website, this lens was somewhat of a mid-range zoom lens in it’s day, featuring reasonably good optical performance for it’s price bracket, but not matching the near legendary 35-80mm Model 01A (one of which I would very much like to acquire one of these days). This particular copy came to me via eBay, mostly for the M42 Adaptall mount it had with it. It was in much better condition than I expected, especially given the bad experience I had purchasing one of these the week before that (listed “mint”, arrived… not mint).

Tamron Adaptall 35-70mm 1:3.5 Model 17A

Obligatory photo of the lens, shown here with a Minolta MD Adaptall Mount, hence the blades being stopped down.

It’s a pretty solid little lens, as is typical of these older manual focus lenses. Focus is very smooth and well damped on my copy, although it was very loose on the incorrect one I was sent, so your mileage may vary. The zoom is also quite smooth and well damped, no chance of zoom creep at odd angles in this example. Interesting to note is that it is at its shortest overall length at 70mm, and extends as you zoom out.

Maximum magnification is around 1:2.8 at 0.25m at 70mm, although the further you zoom out the less closely you can focus until at 35mm the MFD is 0.9m. In practice this is quite a reasonable macro capability, as some of the test images later will show. Additionally, unlike my Minolta MD 35-70, there’s no button to push to focus into the macro zone – at 70mm focus is a continuous turn from 0.25m to infinity, covering nearly 360°. It is also worth mentioning that the front of the lens rotates with focusing. Not a problem for me at the moment, but for any users of directional filters that is something to keep in mind. The only usability issue I have encountered so far is that the zoom ring, which is actually two separate sections on either side of the lens. For someone with hands the size of mine this can be difficult to locate without taking your eyes away from the viewfinder.

There was also an earlier  Tamron Adaptall 35-70mm (Model 09A), although it wasn’t constant aperture (3.5-4.5), and this lens in itself came in a few different versions, all still bearing the 17A model number. Also available was the previously mentioned Tamron Adaptall SP 35-80mm 1:2.8-3.8 Model 01A, which has an excellent reputation, and I plan to do a review of that as well, as soon as I can find one.

If you’ve found this page by searching you’ll know this, but for those who don’t know, as part of the Adaptall series, this lens is able to be mounted onto most of the 35mm SLR body types available at that time, simply by changing the mount on the back with one of the correct type. So far I have at least one each of Pentax K, Minolta MD, Olympus OM, Canon FD, Pentax M42, and some kind of Nikon Mount. Many of these mounts are then able to be adapted to EOS, although Tamron did make a Canon EF mount, it is very difficult to find. There are also non-genuine Adaptall mounts available for many newer cameras, including the various mirrorless bodies and Canon EF, some of which have an AF confirm chip. In my so far limited experience I prefer the Olympus OM Adaptall-2 mount with the depth-of-field preview lever on the side, then adapted from OM to EF. This makes using these lenses on EOS bodies a lot easier, because you can focus wide open and use the DOF lever to step down as you take the shot, partially mimicking the electronic stop down we’re all used to.

Anyway, enough about the lens itself. Time to move on to the test shots. These are nothing special, just messing around in our front yard, but, I have to admit I’m quite impressed. All these were shot with the lens mounted on my 60D via an Adaptall M42 mount with an M42-EF adapter. Focus was by both AF-confirm and split prism, and no processing has been done other than resize/watermark. Other than that these are straight from the camera. After the first gallery I have included a gallery of 100% crops from the first images under a drop down for anyone who’s interested.

This first gallery is a selection of shots at different focal lengths and aperture settings to show the variations in IQ through the ranges. Unfortunately due to wind on the day I took these I wasn’t able to get comparison shots at ƒ16, ƒ22 and ƒ32, but there is wide open, ƒ5.6 and ƒ8 at 70mm, 50mm, 40mm and 35mm.

17A Testing @ 35mm ƒ3.5 17A Testing @ 35mm ƒ5.6 17A Testing @ 35mm ƒ8.0 17A Testing @ 40mm ƒ3.5 17A Testing @ 40mm ƒ5.6 17A Testing @ 40mm ƒ8.0 17A Testing @ 50mm ƒ3.5 17A Testing @ 50mm ƒ5.6 17A Testing @ 50mm ƒ8.0 17A Testing @ 70mm ƒ3.5 17A Testing @ 70mm ƒ5.6 17A Testing @ 70mm ƒ8.0
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17A Testing @ 35mm ƒ3.5
17A Testing - 100% Crop - 35mm @ ƒ3.5 17A Testing - 100% Crop - 35mm @ ƒ5.6 17A Testing - 100% Crop - 35mm @ ƒ8.0 17A Testing - 100% Crop - 40mm @ ƒ3.5 17A Testing - 100% Crop - 40mm @ ƒ5.6 17A Testing - 100% Crop - 40mm @ ƒ8.0 17A Testing - 100% Crop - 50mm @ ƒ3.5 17A Testing - 100% Crop - 50mm @ ƒ5.6 17A Testing - 100% Crop - 50mm @ ƒ8.0 17A Testing - 100% Crop - 70mm @ ƒ3.5 17A Testing - 100% Crop - 70mm @ ƒ5.6 17A Testing - 100% Crop - 70mm @ ƒ8.0
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17A Testing - 100% Crop - 35mm @ ƒ3.5

My main observations from these tests are that apart from some chromatic aberrations (green and purple fringing on some petals of the flower), this lens performs quite well wide open. It does appear to be treated differently by the 60D’s AWB setting when it’s wide open, the images at ƒ3.5 seem to be warmer than after stopping down. Since I’m shooting in RAW on digital it’s more of a curiosity than anything else. Given my normal shooting subjects, corner sharpness wasn’t something I was really trying to test, I’ll have to try some of that before my in depth review after I’ve used it for a while. Center sharpness was pretty good wide open, although noticeably better at ƒ8, by which nearly all of the CA was gone as well. Much like corner sharpness, I wasn’t really trying to test for distortion, hopefully I’ll have some good examples for that by the next post. Out-of-focus rendering is really nice at 70mm ƒ3.5 and ƒ5.6, although it was less pleasing to my eyes at shorter focal lengths, especially at 35mm. No surprises there.

And now, here’s a quick gallery of random shots from throughout the garden using this lens. I’ve noted the settings in the caption of each image, along with any thoughts I had whilst taking the shot. Once again, please note there has been no post work done on these other than resize/watermark.

Overall, for such an affordable lens, the Tamron Adaptall 35-70mm 1:3.5 Model 17A has been quite impressive to shoot with. The macro capabilities are quite good, especially for a non-dedicated macro lens, image quality is good, especially after stopping down to ƒ5.6 or ƒ8. Sharpness is quite good, and chromatic aberration is reasonably well controlled. Once I’ve used it a little bit more, including on some of my old film bodies, I’ll be in more of a position to comment on issues like flare and corner sharpness, but I think I will be using this lens more than I thought I would when I bought it, primarily for the Adaptall mount that came with it. There isn’t a lot of them available on eBay at the time I’m writing this, but I paid $50 including shipping for my near mint version with an M42 mount and it’s original Tamron hard case. I have seen them sell for much less than that in average condition (but with good glass) and with less desirable mounts, so if you’re in the market for a bargain manual focus standard zoom, it’s worth looking at.

Shannon Walters

An amateur photographer who also spends time making chainmaille and doing too many other things to mention.

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