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Tair 3a 300mm f/4.5 soviet rocket launcher shoots bus stops


andrewk

Link Posted 20/06/2014 - 14:23
I picked up a Tair 3A 300mm f/4.5 M42 lens a month or so back, based largely upon its reputation and the previous owners assurances about its condition. The 3A is the more normal looking and focussing version of this lens, not the Photosniper variant. It has a built-in tripod mount with both 1/4 and 3/8 UNC fixings.

First impressions are of a very solid, very heavy lens with a hugely stiff focussing ring, so stiff in fact, that I decided to dismantle the lens and re-grease the focussing helicoid. The focus is now a lot better but it's still much stiffer than on any other manual focus lens that I've used. The glass, though, looks very good. Oddly, when set to f/4.5, the aperture is not fully open. It does open beyond that setting and could be f/4 when wide open. It came in a very impressive, almost new looking, leather case.

This morning, I spent a little while taking test shots at each aperture setting over the garden fence towards a bus stop that is at least 100m distant. The shots were taken as RAWs using a K30 and processed pretty much as I normally would in Lightroom 5.3. I then exported full size JPEGs from Lightroom and used Elements to take some 500 pixel square crops.

This was the full frame, taken wide open



Crops at:

f/4.5



f/5.6



f/8



f/11



f/16



f/22



On balance, I think the Tair's reputation is probably justified. It seems to be pretty sharp at all apertures and, as might be expected, is best around f/8 or f/11. Although I haven't yet done the bus stop test with my Pentax 55-300mm zoom, I *think* that the Tair wide open just might be as sharp or sharper than the 55-300mm at 300mm, at any aperture. I'm also rather pleased that the amount of fringing is small and only rarely seen and that there is just about zero CA.

Anyone considering buying one of these Tair lumps should note that:

* There are a number of variants of this lens. The Photosniper variants pretty much always come with a fixed M42 mount, though I think one or two others might be available. The 300A version I have has an interchangeable Russian A mount. This is VERY similar to a T-mount, so similar in fact that a T-mount to PK adapter fits the lens well and allows correct focussing at infinity. The above shots were taken after fitting a T-PK adapter.

* It might be different for others, but I found it impossible to fit an M42 adapter to the K30 and then screw the Tair to the mount without introducing loads of dust into the K30 and onto the sensor. Since converting the lens to PK mount using an adapter, this is no longer a problem.

* The lenses are heavy - nearly 5lb when fitted on a K30, according to my bathroom scales. Use on a tripod or monopod is pretty much mandated for this reason alone.

* Focussing on all of these Russian lenses is very stiff, even when they are working as intended. I find it almost impossible to focus when hand-held, even after the strip and lube job - though it's easy enough, especially using focus peaking on the K30 when fitted to a tripod.

* Although metering on Av is possible on preset lenses, it only really works to some extent on the Tair. The full frame above is probably pretty close to an average scene, but needed +1 stop compensation when wide open. Progrssively increasing amounts of compensation seem to be needed at smaller apertures - but I took all the shots at +1 and pushed them in Lightroom, which explains the obvious increase in noise that can be seen at f/16 and f/22. You can see by checking the EXIFs for the crops that the shutter speed isn't falling as you might expect. Practically, I think I might use M mode rather than Av in future, meter wide open +1 stop compensation and then manually correct the shutter speed after stopping the lens down to take the shot.

The Tair is eccentric for sure and needs a number of accommodations to get it to work. Having said that, it's about 10% of the cost of a DA* 300mm but seems to provide much more than 10% of the DA* performance. I think it's probably quite a bargain.

Andrew

McGregNi

Link Posted 20/06/2014 - 21:07
Thanks for a most detailed rundown on this old lens and the M42 system. It is clear that you have got a great value telephoto solution there. It would be very interesting to see comparisons between that and the modern 55-300mm. No doubt the sharpness of the old lens will stack up well.

One thing I have become aware of with some old lenses (I have noticed it with my 28 & 135mm primes) is a rather purple/magenta cast on parts of the image, generally areas that are hazy or of lower contrast. It is not easy to sort out in PP either, doesn't seem to respond to normal colour balance or saturation adjustments I have found.

However your 300mm sounds brilliant Andrew, a great find. The sheer physicality of using these types if lenses is such a pleasure with tactile handling and rick solid operation. I've been enjoying messing around with extension tubes on my old glass .... I suppose it might even be worthwhile to take some pictured as well !!
My Guides to the Pentax Digital Camera Flash Lighting System : Download here from the PentaxForums Homepage Article .... link
Pentax K7 with BG-4 Grip / Samyang 14mm f2.8 ED AS IF UMC / DA18-55mm f3.5-5.6 AL WR / SMC A28mm f2.8 / D FA 28-105mm / SMC F35-70 f3.5-4.5 / SMC A50mm f1.7 / Tamron AF70-300mm f4-5.6 Di LD macro / SMC M75-150mm f4.0 / Tamron Adaptall (CT-135) 135mm f2.8 / Asahi Takumar-A 2X tele-converter / Pentax AF-540FGZ (I & II) Flashes / Cactus RF60/X Flashes & V6/V6II Transceiver

1stEverPentax

Link Posted 20/06/2014 - 22:16
Very interesting article Andrew. I'm always interested to see how the old timers perform against their newer replacements. There is something re-assuring about Soviet era optics despite their limb breaking propensities...always excellent value for money. A Zenit-E was my first foray into 35mm...built like a T34 but it was surprisingly good..the standard 58mm lenses weren't bad at all...ideal for us hard up teenagers.

Regards,

Karlo
Last Edited by 1stEverPentax on 20/06/2014 - 22:17

andrewk

Link Posted 20/06/2014 - 22:40
One thing I forgot to mention is that it has 16 aperture blades, so the aperture is almost a perfct circle at any f stop. Bokeh looks very good to me.

Andrew
Flickr photostream

andrewk

Link Posted 11/11/2015 - 23:28
Over a year on, I happened to be pointing my Pentax DA 55-300mm over the fence after setting the micro focus adjustment. The is a 100% crop using standard phase detect focussing at 300mm, f/11.




Yes, they have changed the bus stop. It's interesting to compare the result with that for the Tair lens above. Not much in it, is there?

Andrew
Flickr photostream
Last Edited by andrewk on 11/11/2015 - 23:49

Algernon

Link Posted 12/11/2015 - 09:15
The lettering on the Tair isn't black until f/16

--
Half Man... Half Pentax ... Half Cucumber

Pentax K-1 + K-5 and some other stuff

Algi

andrewk

Link Posted 12/11/2015 - 10:12
The bus stop is over 100m away. The DA 55-300 shot is sharp enough for me to leave the Tair in retirement, I think.
Flickr photostream

Algernon

Link Posted 12/11/2015 - 10:38
I still use the 55-300mm with Jessops 1.7x TC in preference to the DA*300mm + 1.4HD TC (because it's a zoom) and Sigma 150-500mm although I do like the in lens stabilization of the latter from a viewing POV

--
Half Man... Half Pentax ... Half Cucumber

Pentax K-1 + K-5 and some other stuff

Algi
Last Edited by Algernon on 12/11/2015 - 10:39

andrewk

Link Posted 27/05/2017 - 11:54
I did the same test this morning of the DA 55-300mm against a XR Rikenon 300mm f4.5 APO prime that I have had lying around for years. Interestingly, the DA 55-300mm zoom at 300mm f/8 is significantly sharper than the Rikenon. The Rikenon also has lots of blue/purple fringing which is difficult/impossible to remove without leaving evidence all over the frame.

I think the bottom line here is that it just isn't worth bothering with old primes. I have been considering buying the new PLM version of the 55-300mm - but I seem to have a very good copy of the older lens and, despite its focussing eccentricities, I am not convinced that it is worth the risk of pensioning it off just yet.

Andrew
Flickr photostream

McGregNi

Link Posted 27/05/2017 - 18:09
andrewk wrote:
....

I think the bottom line here is that it just isn't worth bothering with old primes.
Andrew

Thanks Andrew, this will save many of us around here a lot of money and finally brings hope to the thousands of LBA sufferers Ricoh will no doubt be pleased with the big increase in new lens sales figures as well!
My Guides to the Pentax Digital Camera Flash Lighting System : Download here from the PentaxForums Homepage Article .... link
Pentax K7 with BG-4 Grip / Samyang 14mm f2.8 ED AS IF UMC / DA18-55mm f3.5-5.6 AL WR / SMC A28mm f2.8 / D FA 28-105mm / SMC F35-70 f3.5-4.5 / SMC A50mm f1.7 / Tamron AF70-300mm f4-5.6 Di LD macro / SMC M75-150mm f4.0 / Tamron Adaptall (CT-135) 135mm f2.8 / Asahi Takumar-A 2X tele-converter / Pentax AF-540FGZ (I & II) Flashes / Cactus RF60/X Flashes & V6/V6II Transceiver
Last Edited by McGregNi on 27/05/2017 - 18:10

davidwozhere

Link Posted 28/05/2017 - 00:47
I use Meyer Optik old glass regularly. It needs a belting sharp contrast before you get coloured fringes off either the 135 or 200. The 300, I admit is not too good !
Both the *istDS and the K5 are incurably addicted to old glass

My page on Photocrowd - link

johnriley

Link Posted 28/05/2017 - 09:41
I had a look at an old Soligor 400mm lens here: https://www.ephotozine.com/article/soligor-400mm-f-6-3-t2-classic-lens-review-30...
Best regards, John

PeterT

Link Posted 27/06/2017 - 21:40
If you extend the Tair to infinity, and remove the finish/coating on the extended section, the focusing becomes noticeably easier.
Life is frequently annoying... to the point of making you want to swallow your eyebrows.

andrewk

Link Posted 04/09/2017 - 22:09
McGregNi wrote:
[quote:3496ace15f="andrewk"]Thanks Andrew, this will save many of us around here a lot of money and finally brings hope to the thousands of LBA sufferers

Dunno about that - but I have tested the original Pentax 55-300mm zoom against a number of old primes and it blows them all away. The primes included Tair 3A 300mm f4.5, XR Rikenon 300mm f4.5 and Vivitar 200mm f3.5. It is also a LOT better than the "classic" Vivitar Series 1 70-210mm f3.5 (Version 2) zoom.

Andrew
Flickr photostream

andrewk

Link Posted 29/11/2018 - 15:19
My search for a decent (cheap) long prime continues ......... I have just happened across a Pentax-A SMC 400mm f5.6. It arrived this morning and I took a few snaps. I haven't managed to shoot any bus stops yet - but it's cold, wet and very windy outside, so maybe I will some time, but not now.

This one is wide open (f5.6) - with the coke can maybe 4m away from the lens. It looks very respectable.



and this is a 100% crop from that image. It is a bit soft - definitely sharper at f11 and f16 but still pretty respectable.



So, when we next have a dry day, I will shoot a bus stop or two so that I can tell whether I can get sharper images from this lens - or from a resized shot from my DA 55-300mm PLM. I am very hopeful that I will.

Andrew
Flickr photostream
Last Edited by andrewk on 29/11/2018 - 15:21
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