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12-22-2013, 04:23 PM   #1
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Old AF consumer zoom comparison

Recently I managed to get my hands on a couple of somewhat less common, older consumer AF zooms in mint condition. While I have bigger/better lenses, sometimes I like to travel light and take something smaller with me, and I didn't want to spend as much money as the 55-300mm costs (these were much less expensive). I was very curious how they'd perform and compare on my K-5.

The lenses are:

Tokina AF 730 II 75-300mm f/4.5-5.6
Optical Construction: 14 Elements in 10 Groups
Closest Focus Distance from Film Plane: 2.0m (6.6ft)
Closest Focus Distance from Film Plane in Macro Mode: 1.5m (4.9ft)
Magnification Ratio in Macro Mode: 1:3.9
Filter Size: 62mm
Diameter: 73.4mm (2.9")
Length: 126mm (4.9")
Weight: 685g (23.9oz)
Lens Hood: SH622, reversible

Quantaray Tech-10 LDO Macro 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6
(a Ritz Camera re-brand of the Sigma AF APO Macro Super 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6)
Optical Construction: 14 elements in 10 groups
Closest Focus Distance from Film Plane: 1.5m (4.9ft)
Closest Focus Distance from Film Plane in Macro Mode: 0.95m (3.1ft)
Max. Reproduction Ratio: 1:4.1
Magnification Ratio in Macro Mode: 1:2
Filter size: 58mm
Diameter: 74.5mm (2.9")
Length: 119mm (4.7")
Weight: 20.6 oz. (585g)
Lens Hood: included, reversible

From what I can tell, the optical formula for the Tokina AF 730 II was unchanged from the previous (and more common) AF 730, which was a push-pull zoom lens. The AF 730 was discontinued in 1995, and the AF 730 II was discontinued in 1997. The Tokina zooms were particularly notable for their construction, which is almost entirely metal, and very unusual for a lens in this class (though my understanding is they were some of the most expensive consumer zooms at the time). While the lens has "macro" printed on the focus scale, there doesn't seem to be any sort of way to move the lens into a special macro function - it just seems to be an indicator for what is the minimum focus distance of the lens. The zoom range can be covered by a half-twist of the zoom part of the lens barrel, and is very smooth.

The Quantaray is a rebadge of a Sigma lens which was introduced in 2000 (not sure when it was discontinued). Sigma had two 70-300mm lenses at the time, a DL Macro Super in the lower end, and the APO Macro Super in the upper end. The APO Macro Super contains three elements with Special Low Dispersion glass, which was an upgrade from the earlier version that contained only two SLD elements (the DL has one). The Sigma has a macro switch that you can engage at 300mm that extends the tube out further, allowing a magnification ratio of 1:2 instead of 1:4 (though not really a substitute for a true 1:1 macro lens). The zoom range can be covered by a little over a quarter twist of the zoom part of the lens barrel, and while smooth is a little higher friction, perhaps because of the nearly all-plastic construction. Combined with the short travel, it feels a little more difficult to find the right amount of zoom sometimes.

It's worth noting that these two lenses, despite their age, work great on the K-5. From what I've read, the same experience can't be had for a lot of Nikon and Canon users trying to use older third-party lenses on their DSLR bodies.

I took some test shots indoors in controlled lighting at 70/75mm, 100mm, 200mm, and 300mm both fully open and at f/8 for each lens. I also took a shot to test the close focus ability.

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12-22-2013, 04:47 PM   #2
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Original Poster
Here's a link to my Google Picasa album with the test shots (70/75mm, 100mm, 200mm, and 300mm both fully open and at f/8 for each lens). Shots were hand-held, which is likely how I'd use such a lens in practice. EXIF data should be present:

My initial thoughts are the Sigma controls chromatic aberrations better fully open, but has lower contrast and probably a bit lower resolution. At f/8 the Tokina has the chromatic aberrations under much better control and I feel it pulls ahead. The 1:2 macro on the Sigma is nice to have if you don't have a 1:1 macro lens in the bag, but the focus distance on the Tokina is not bad. I prefer the build and handling of the Tokina. Both performed better than I expected.

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