Sunday, 9 December 2012

Tamron Zoom Macro 85~210 f/4.5

Yesterday I got a call from a gentleman who sold me Tokina RMC 28-85 zoom lens couple weeks ago. He said that he found another relic in his attic and wants to give it away to me for free. This time it was Tamron Zoom Macro 85~210 f:4.5 BBAR Multi C. It came with Adaptall 2 for Minolta MD mount, in pristine condition with manual, protective filter and carrying case.

According to Tamron this lens (model Z-210) was introduced in 1973 at  ¥ 33,800 (about $400) price tag and had 12 elements in 9 groups. Not bad. 
I couldn't find any additional information or reviews about this lens other than this manual , so I did my own tests and was very much surprised with the outcome.
Made in Japan around 1975, it's very well built and reminds me some fine Chinon/Tomioka lenses. Long but fairly light and compact (smaller than Canon 70~200 F/4 L), focus and aperture rings are smooth. But I was very skeptical about its optical performance. Tamron Zoom Macro lens from 70's??
So I tested it with X-Pro1 against some superb prime lenses: MC Rokkor-X 85 /1.7, Nikkor AI-S 105/2.5 and Minolta MD 200/2.8, all were set to about f:4.5
Sure Tamron is slower, but on eBay it costs several times less than each of  those popular fast prime lenses.
Test results just blew me away.

Close if not better, huh? I retested it three time, same results.
But where this lens really shines is a macro territory. The macro range varies from 1:3 to 1:8 and ring is also very smooth.

The lens produces superb images, with low chromatic aberration and surgically sharp.

Tamron 85~210, macro mode @ 4.5

I would never expect such an excellent performance (other than bokeh) from an old Tamron zoom (!) lens. I almost feel that my test results are too good to be true and I should retest it again. But as of today this lens is a keeper.



  1. Pretty nice, bit colored bokeh (LoCA), but good, especially considering price. :)

    Macro lens often tend to be very good but when its macro telephoto zoom, then its something quite unusual.

    Tho Tamron is decent in this department even today, they make some good macro lens. I guess they maybe do them for long time now, saw some old AiS from them too.

    1. Very unusual lens. About 10 years ago I had Tamron SP 90 and it was exceptional (and may be still is), but didn't expect similar performance from an old zoom lens.

    2. Today Tamron 90mm f2.8 is considered as one of very good macro lens. I guess its maybe pretty similar design to that old one.

      Yea old lens are sometimes quite suprising. Reminds me old 55mm f1.2 Nikkor non-Ai, soft at f1.2 (dreamy look), but really sharp from f2 and pretty much without any CA. And very nice bokeh, almost on par with Summicron 50 for R.

    3. Hi got one of these 3 years ago on ebay , used on my sony and now my pentax k5 very good lens for its age

    4. I should say surprisingly good for its age and zoom range

  2. I got one a few years back in a bag of other lenses and cameras and never really tried it, but today I did. I should have done it sooner, it's a great lens. It's slow, but in good light it performs with the best. It's a keeper.

  3. Hello,
    Nice review of this lens. My girlfriend recently bought me a Tamron 85-210 4.5 lens at a thrift store for $25. I have a stupid question: How do I get this lens into Macro mode? There is a ring with "Macro" printed on it with a small silver button. I'm assuming that button is supposed to be pressed in to allow the macro ring to engage, but the button does not move. Is it defective or am I doing something wrong? Thanks for any replies.

    1. Hi!
      The lens has two modes, normal zoom (85-210) and macro (1:8, 1:5, 1:3) . The tiny metal button on the zoom ring (next to number 85) supposed to be pressed to rotate the ring to the right beyond 85 and choose your desired macro value aligned to a yellowish MACRO arrow. To exit macro mode press it again and align number 85 to a white vertical line next to the word MACRO.
      May be the button just stuck?

  4. Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
    thank you :)

  5. I also have this lens...its a killer. I have done lot of actors portfolios with this lens...OOF details are like butter and sugar. I also wrote a review of this lens on my blog. Have a look...


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