Resurrecting My Grandfather's Lens For MFT
Tuesday 10 June 2014 — Category: Equipment
As part of my small vintage camera collection, I have my grandfather’s old camera, a Miranda D from 1960, with an optional Tamron telephoto lens. The image to the right shows him holding this very same camera and lens combination.
A couple of months ago a wild idea popped into my head. Rather then letting that Tamron lens sit there on the dresser collecting dust, why not dust it off, get an adapter, and use it on my Micro Four Thirds (µ4/3) camera?
To tell you the truth, I had not looked at the lens much since I got it a few years ago, so the first task was to give it a thorough examination to see if my brainstorm was even worth pursuing. Looking closely at the front of the lens, I saw that it was in wonderful condition — not even a scratch! But knowing how meticulous my grandfather was, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised.
To give you a sense of scale here, the widest part of the lens barrel has a diameter of 63mm. The diameter at the very front of the lens is 59mm, where there are threads to accept 58mm filters. With the front glass element diameter measuring 48mm, you can see that there’s a whole lot of beautiful glass in this all-metal barrel!
You can tell this is an old lens because Taisei Kogaku was the original corporate name of the company, founded in 1950, which in 1970 changed its name to Tamron, which itself was a brand name registered in 1957. The word “converto” indicates that the lens came with 1.66x teleconverter which transformed it into a 225mm f/5.5 lens. This extender added 48mm to the length of the lens and about 100g to the weight.
Now that the lens had passed inspection, it was time to find the proper µ4/3 adapter. Looking at the other end of the lens, I saw that it had a screw mount, which because it attached to a Miranda camera, meant that it was an M44 mount. Therefore, I needed an M44-to-µ4/3 adapter. Unfortunately, this seems to be a rare item. Googling around the Web, I found only one source: a guy named Rami on eBay who apparently makes lens-mount adapters. His listing didn’t include the particular one I was wanting, so I decided to contact him.
As I was waiting for a reply, I was messing around with the lens some more, when, to my amazement, I found that the 17mm-wide silver band at the back of the lens could be screwed off! Then it suddenly dawned on me that the M44 mounting threads were only an adapter, and not the native threads of the lens. After further research, I learned that many Tamron lenses were made with interchangeable lens mounts, based on their own T-mount, which ended up developing into a common standard that is still used today in certain applications.
Without any mounting adapter, the Tamron 135mm f/2.8 lens weighs 432g. When focused to infinity, it’s 85mm long, as shown in the image to the right. When set to its minimum-focusing distance of about 5 feet, the lens is 100mm long, as shown in the image to the left. With this lens as the optical core, it was now time to start adding the accessories which would turn it into a functional µ4/3 lens.
a choice of adapters on Amazon. Although it was the most expensive choice — but still a reasonable $20 — this metal adapter by Fotodiox seemed like it would match the look of the Tamron lens, and it had great customer reviews as well. It is 40mm long, 60mm in diameter, and weighs 92g. There is no glass inside — it’s just a tube.
Once the Fotodiox adapter arrived, I eagerly screwed it onto the T-mount end of the lens. After I mounted the assembly onto my Olympus OM-D E-M5 µ4/3 camera, I noticed that the Tamron lens itself was not facing the right direction. One nice feature of this adapter (as well as others) is that you can loosen three set screws in the adapter, rotate the lens to its proper position (while it is still screwed in all the way), and then tighten the set screws to keep the lens in that position. Clever! The adapter mounts to the camera smooth and easy — better, in fact, than some of my native µ4/3 lenses!
As you can see from the photo to the left, the modern Fotodiox T-mount-to-µ4/3 adapter almost looks like it was made specifically for my grandfather’s lens which is at least 50 years old! Together, the assembly is 120mm long and weighs 524g — almost exactly the same weight as my Panasonic 100-300mm zoom lens, although the Panasonic is both a centimeter longer and wider. Both lenses make my smallish E-M5 feel somewhat front-heavy, but it’s manageable.
I took some test shots with the Tamron, but that’s a whole nother story that deserves its own future article. Back to the project at hand, there were still a number of accessories I needed to get in order to make this old lens ready to take on an outing. After surviving for five decades without a scratch on the front lens element, the last thing I wanted to do was to put that glass in danger by not protecting it properly. So I screwed on a clear UV filter on it right away. I know that there are some “experts” who refuse to use such filters, saying that they degrade the image quality. But when I tried to follow that advice, I quickly realized that scratching a lens will affect the image quality a LOT more drastically than a mere UV filter! Therefore I make sure to protect my investment in thousands of dollars worth of lenses by having UV filters protect the front of each one (except when it is not possible).
I was happy to discover that the Tamron lens takes a 58mm filter, just like my mainstay Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 and 35-100mm f/2.8 lenses, as well as my Olympus 75mm prime. Because of this, I can share my other 58mm filters among these four lenses — like my polarizer filter and my neutral density filters.
lens flare in certain lighting conditions, but they work with the UV filters to help protect the lens from damage. I found this out the hard way when I dropped an expensive lens in the middle of the street! The lens hood absorbed the majority of the impact force, thereby saving my lens from a shattering experience! Because it’s a whole lot cheaper to replace a hood than an entire lens, and because it’s easier to eliminate lens flare when taking the shot than trying to remove it later in Photoshop, I always use my lenses with a lens hood.
All of the lens hoods I have were made for the specific lens on which they are mounted, therefore they have some method of attachment which was designed into the lens. Because this was not the case with the Tamron lens, I was going to have to get the screw-on variety. And because this lens is not a zoom, and not a wide angle or normal lens, but a telephoto, I for sure didn’t want one of those huge, collapsible rubber lens hoods! UH-GLEE! After looking around quite a bit, I finally found exactly what I was looking for: a black, metal, telephoto, screw-on hood. And for only $5.45, which included free shipping from China! What a deal! It arrived nine days after I ordered it — not too bad! The hood is 38mm long, 65mm in diameter (only 2mm wider than the lens itself), and weighs a modest 36g.
To finish outfitting this legacy lens, I merely needed a cap on each end. A genuine Olympus µ4/3 rear lens cap took care of one end, while a generic 58mm snap-on lens cap fit just perfectly on the UV filter inside the lens hood.
To the left you can see the entire assembly of the lens and the accessories — the rear lens cap and T-mount-to-µ4/3 adapter on one end; the Sigma UV filter and the metal lens hood (with the front lens cap inside) on the other. The total length now comes to 164mm, and the total weight is 584g. If you didn’t know better, you would think all those parts, each made by a different company, were simply made to go with each other! I’m very, very pleased with how it all turned out!
Because my cute little Pelican case is already packed to the gills, there was no way I was going to be able to fit this Tamron lens assembly into it. Therefore the final accessory I needed in order to complete the package was a lens case. I was hoping that I could use the original leather case which came with the lens, but with the lens hood attached the case was just slightly too short. For various reasons, I want to keep the lens hood permanently on, so it was obvious I was going to need a slightly bigger case.
After looking around at all the many offerings on eBay, I settled on a case which seemed the right size. As an extra bonus, it was a Tamron case — perfect for my Tamron lens! It cost me a reasonable $12, including shipping. Externally, the case is 200mm tall and 80mm in diameter. Internally, the 65mm diameter is a perfect fit! It was about an inch too tall, but a circle of foam inserted into each end took up the extra space, and added some additional padded protection as well. On top of the lid is embossed the specifications for the lens the case was originally designed for: Tamron 80-210mm f/3.8-4.0 Adaptall 2.
Because Micro Four Thirds camera have a focal length multiplier of 2x, this Tamron 135mm telephoto has a 35mm equivalence of 270mm when mounted on my OM-D E-M5 camera. Even though it is manual-focus only, my grandfather’s half-century-old lens will make a nice addition to my prime lens kit — here’s the complete line-up:
Click on the image above to compare my legacy Tamron lens assembly with my Panasonic 100-300mm lens.
I have to say that this fifty-year-old lens (plus new accessories) and two-year-old camera make a very handsome couple — almost as if they were made for each other! Well, I guess this brings the introduction to my “new” Tamron lens to a close. You’re definitely going to hear more about this lens — soon I’ll be sharing about the first test-shots I took with it a while back. And because it will be accompanying me on my future prime-lens-only outings, there ought to be some interesting reports from the field as the summer progresses.
MARCH 2015 UPDATE — After a couple more prime-lens-only photo outings, I have now come to my final verdict on prime-lens-only photography.
On July 6, 2014, Gloria Byrd wrote:
My Mom wrote: I don't ever remember seeing this picture of Dad. How did you learn all about these lenses? You should open your own camera shop and help people to pick out a camera.