10 May 2013

surprising $35 lenses

That $35 number seems to be a rather magical one for me in recent times.

The Rikenon 28mm f/2.8 was maybe closer to $39, depending on Canada-USA exchange rates - but close enough for my work here!  An excellent all-manual lens that has given me several great images like this one:

I recently picked up a $34.99 Sigma/Quantaray 28-90mm f/3.5-5.6 1:2 'macro' lens, and for about $70 both a Promaster 28-200mm and Sigma/Quantaray 100-300mm f/4.5-6.7 telephoto.  The two Quantaray lenses are familiar from my SonyAlpha days when they served me well.  The 100-300 put out great color and decent sharpness, but its contrast was a bit low; this often looks like softness but is quickly fixed in nearly any software.  Come to think of it, the 100-300 also put in an appearance in Pentax mount for a while - it was used here, though this is quite heavily cropped:
I paid $50-75 for earlier copies, so $35 feels like quite a steal.  

As to the 28-90?  Well it's quite small and very light, and can do 1:2 closeups - which is pretty much as close as I've done with my dedicated Promaster 100mm f/3.5, since it requires a filter-mount adapter to do 1:1 imaging (and then cannot focus to infinity).  While f/3.5 is quite a bit faster, one learns swiftly that macro imaging often uses more depth of field to do its work, so it's a toss-up which would serve me best.  I am not a true Macro type, so foregoing 1:1 imaging will not do me harm - but giving up on a prime lens for a zoom?  Test images on more distant images show the Q-ray to render better, showing more natural colors and decidedly less destructive contrast.  Closeup tests will come soon - but hey we're comparing a $35 zoom lens to a $180 prime, after all.

Then there's this 28-200.  I owned a Tamron XR Di IF &c &c in my Alpha days, and above 120mm I did not like it much - images softened and color fringing burst forth.  I figured this could attempt to match the 28-90 and have the high end for emergency use, since Promaster lenses are Tamron/Promaster generally, a lot like Sigma/Quantaray in that regard.
This lens surprised me though: it's actually an older throwback than I had expected, with 80 grams more weight and 72mm filter threads (so much for my lonely 62mm c.Polarizer).  I shall have to do more work to see where the weaknesses are with this copy, but its 1:4ish closeups are no decent match for the 28-90.

Still, it's a $35 lens - and that seems to be a sweet spot for me.  We shall see.

p.s. The 28-200 is indeed a curious one!  This is an older design than the XR Di IF &c Tamron that I used before, 100g heavier and takes 10mm larger filters.  Despite all that (?) it performs a bit better at the long end.  The Tamron with my Alpha A200 was notably soft after 120mm, and this shows less softening.  It does have similar fringing characteristics, sad to say; it could use a rinse with software to remove the color edges.  Not bad, but I have other lenses to do this work that I like better.  I'm keeping the 100-300 for sure though!