If photography needs to make sense you are probably not doing it right.
But with the addition of a recently acquired A Mount to E Mount AF adapter two more lenses pulled at me.
- Minolta Maxxum 28-135mm f/4-f/4.5: The so-called “secret handshake lens”. Read that some once believed that this was a lens that was sold by Minolta at cost to customers to show their appreciation. Sounds nice. Makes no sense. What drew me in was the wide, usable zoom range, near constant fairly bright aperture, and very reasonable price. My copy has marks on the front glass element that I do not expect to impact image quality in any noticeable way. At the price I paid this is no issue. So no compromise large zoom range then? Nope. There are a couple. More on that below.
- Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 (non-IS): Will just say it. I love this lens by Tamron. First gave one a try early on in my interchangeable lens journey and it afforded me a photography experience that far outpaced its modest price and my budget. Bottom line once I realized this existed in an A Mount it was inevitable that I would buy it no matter how much inner logic attempted to argue otherwise.
- First on the first APS-C camera I owned, the Nikon D3300:
- Second time was my first go around with Pentax and the wonderful APS-C K-3ii:
- Third time was my second go around with Pentax and the also wonderful K-1:
- Now on the Sony A7Rii with the added bonus of using it on the Maxxum twins:
One would think that the newer Zeiss offering would be better and you would be right. But at about $99 for the secret handshake and little more than $200 for the Tamron the two A Mounts offer phenomenal value. I will not quibble about IQ. Suffice it to say that the Zeiss is better, sure. But could I get as good a result using these lenses as I did at a recent photo shoot where I could not tell the difference? Could likely tell the difference, but either would do as a backup lens if need be. The Zeiss was a beast admittedly. Could I produce results close enough with these two lenses that most customers would not see a difference? Would these be close enough when producing social media sized files? Definite yes and yes.
Ultimate IQ: So I will put pixel peeping aside. The Zeiss would win, but that misses the point. Starting out or on a budget these will do quite nicely.
Field of view: Using wildly unscientific shots of a ceiling fan.
For reference here is the wide end starting with the Zeiss, then Tamron, then Handshake:
For reference here is mid tele end starting with the Zeiss, then Tamron, then Handshake:
The Zeiss and Tamron lenses trade focal distance advantages with their slightly different coverage, but the Handshake’s party piece is that extra bit of 135mm oomph.:
So while the Zeiss and Tamron offer an acceptable portrait focal length at their wide ends the Handshake actually comes within spitting distance of the excellent Maxxum 135mm f/2.8 portrait machine. It is mighty close to the aperture spec at f/4, is reasonably sharp, and costs much less.
It only costs $99 and says macro on the side too? So game over. Handshake for the win right? Not so fast. There is no free lunch. With that impressive focal range and near constant aperture spec come some compromises. Not showstoppers, but definitely need to be considered. More detail in the pluses and minuses below.
For the noticeable vignetting with the older 2 lenses I did not take the time to see if it was the superiority of the Zeiss lens optics, lens profile correction in Lightroom, or some combination of the two that rendered little if any light fall of at the corners. Honestly with that blue Zeiss badge and at this price I would expect no less. Handshake certainly predates PCs and, while I did not find a definitive date online, I am fairly certain the Tamron predates the iPhone so I will cut both some slack. Both could likely benefit from being hit with the Lightroom stick a bit. Used Lightroom’s auto adjust algorithm across the board for as even a playing field as I could muster.
Will not bother listing the pluses and minuses for the Zeiss. It is the bogey here and is perfect in nearly every way. It’s only crime is its high cost of entry compared to the other two and still not being it’s more costly and larger f/2.8 brother.
- Very good IQ from what I can tell so far.
- Quick to focus with a caveat.
- Very nice all purpose, walkabout focal range… with a caveat.
- Very good construction.
- Caveat 1: That macro mode. Only available at the 28mm wide end, utilizes manual focus only. Plus macro is a misnomer despite what the blue font says. Even with manual focusing it really only does adequately compared to what the other two can do at their long ends with AF. Case in point in the slideshow below there is a shot taken with the Zeiss at 70mm as close at it will focus, the Tamron at 75mm (also professed to be a macro in the loosest sense) as close as it will focus, and the Handshake at 28mm using manual focus.
- Caveat 2: When not in macro mode this lens will not focus closer than about 5 feet at the widest end and not much better at the longest. Thought close focus was broken until I checked the specs. Not a deal breaker and perfectly suitable for a Zoo/tourist type of situation, but not as flexible as the other two between 28mm and 70 mm.
- So to summarize this leaves quite a gap in coverage from a few inches to about 5 feet.
- Excellent IQ. For my money this lens gives some of my primes a run for their money subject isolation wise and renders the out of focus areas in a way that outperforms its relatively humble aperture. And sharp. On center even wide open, which is how I shoot it 90% of the time. Corners good stopped down a bit, but I have never had an issue with the corners either.
- That aperture. While f/2.8 does suffer in comparison to brighter primes it is better than either of these other lenses even when you take the 1/3 stop of light lost with the LA-EA4.
- Love the way this lens renders colors.
- Certain something. Cannot put a finger on it, but I am nearly always pleased with what this lens produces regardless of the brand or sensor size it is in front of. That portrait of my wife on the footbridge especially. Have had a few photographers ask about what lens I used and all were surprised to find out that it was a 3rd party f/2.8 zoom and not a prime.
- Light and relatively compact given the f/2.8 spec.
- Will admit the build quality lags behind the other two, but definitely does not feel fragile by any measure.
Which would I choose? Yes.
Zeiss: If I had known that an adapted Tamron was an option I would have likely never purchased the Zeiss. But given the deal I got and the results I have seen it stays. A keeper as the bread and butter zoom.
Handshake: Loving the wide focal range. It will definitely be my walkabout lens of choice when unsure what I will encounter out in open spaces. But it’s lack of coverage any closer than 5 feet means one of the other two would be used in tighter spaces. I already see it living on the Maxxum 7 since I mostly use it for landscapes and portraits. A perfect era fit and they look the business together.
Tamron: This is what I see myself using on the daily. It is that good and since it is not as precious as the Zeiss it makes a perfect knock about lens.
So once again a la the Grand Tour (formerly Top Gear) I have not rendered a definitive decision. Not really the point here. Was looking to provide my experiences in hopes that it could assist someone else if they were looking for a way to go.
What I will say is that these lenses now expand my ringing endorsement of the LA-EA4. This adapter and a handful of vintage and second party lenses could save someone a good chunk of change.