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Tamron Adaptall-2 SP Mirror (55BB) 500mm F8 Review RSS Feed

Tamron Adaptall-2 SP Mirror (55BB) 500mm F8

Sharpness 
 8.3
Aberrations 
 8.8
Bokeh 
 6.6
Handling 
 8.6
Value 
 9.3
Reviews Views Date of last review
28 96,395 Tue January 17, 2023
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Recommended By Average Price Average User Rating
96% of reviewers $146.33 8.67
Tamron Adaptall-2 SP Mirror (55BB) 500mm F8

Tamron Adaptall-2 SP Mirror (55BB) 500mm F8
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Tamron Adaptall-2 SP Mirror (55BB) 500mm F8
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Tamron Adaptall-2 SP Mirror (55BB) 500mm F8
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Tamron Adaptall-2 SP Mirror (55BB) 500mm F8 Tamron Adaptall-2 SP Mirror (55BB) 500mm F8
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Description:
"This later version SP 500mm F/8, introduced in 1983, is an optically revised version of the original model 55B lens first introduced in 1979. The major optical design change is the switch to a constant thickness meniscus main mirror in order to reduce close focusing spherical aberration. The change in the main mirror design also necessitated changes for the two smallest lenses located within the middle of the optical design. This model 55BB also discards the earlier model's detachable tripod mount and the set of four filters for B&W photography. The later model 55BB is also readily distinguished from the original model by its diamond knurled rubber focus grip and the lack of the locking screw used on the earlier model 55B's built-in rotating tripod mount ring. Thus this lens does not feature any built-in tripod mount whereas the original lens featured a detachable tripod mount." - adaptall-2.com

Manufactured from 1983 to 2005... probably the most common 500mm cat. on the market. Easily distinguished from its predecessor the 55B by the square dotted rubber grip and absence of a tripod mount.
This and the other two tamron mirrors (55B, 06B) are designed to be used with a 30.5mm rear filter in situ, this screws on to the end of the rear group at the mount end.
The fixed aperture means that there is no advantage to a PKA mount. any PK mount will do and you can use Av.

Minimum aperture: fixed at f/8. Note that there is a significant difference between f stop and t-stop with mirror lenses.
Elements/groups: 8/5
Minimum focus distance: 170 cm
Maximum magnification: 1:3
Minimum length: 87.0 mm
Maximum length: 91.5 mm (dependent of the adapter)
Diameter: 84.0 mm
Weight: 0.595 kg
Front Filter diameter: 82mm
Rear Filter diameter: 30.5mm (screw-on)
Hood mount: screw-on. Normally comes with deep flock lined metal hood that inverts for storage.

Accepts SP 2X tele-converter #01F and SP 1.4X tele-converter #140F. Note: TC's are reviewed in miscellaneous lenses - TC's.

Good discussion/review of mirror lenses including 06B by Wayne Grundy. And Bob Atkins has also done a detailed comparison with a Canon 500mm f4.5.

U-tube review by Gary Reed (sony apsc, kenko 1.4x tc).

Comparison of 500mm mirror lenses (Tamron, Canon, Nikon) by Ching Kuane Shene
Mount Type: Third-party (adapter required)
Price History:



Add Review of Tamron Adaptall-2 SP Mirror (55BB) 500mm F8
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Pentaxian

Registered: December, 2013
Location: West Virginia
Posts: 2,618
Review Date: January 17, 2023 Not Recommended | Price: $150.00 | Rating: 7 

 
Pros: Nice size since it's a mirror lens
Cons: My copy wasn't very sharp
Sharpness: 7    Aberrations: 7    Bokeh: 9    Handling: 9    Value: 9    Camera Used: K-S2   

I think I had a bad copy of this lens. Although it looked mint, it just wouldn't produce a sharp image.
I'm currently looking at getting an older Pentax 600mm mirror lens - costs double what this one cost.

I posted some images, here in the forum, comparing the SMC Pentax DA 1:4-5.8 55-300mm ED lens to the Tamron. I cropped images from the Pentax so that they were the same size as the images taken with the Tamron at its 500mm.

Here are some comments that users made when they compared the two lens.

"My judgement would be you're better off using the 55-300 in every case."

&


"I agree with the others that the cropped 55-300 images appear more detailed than the Tamron mirror"

&


"Your copy seems to be unusually soft."

So, the Pentax images taken at 300mm and cropped, to be the same size as images from the Tamron's 500mm, produced sharper and nicer looking images than the Tamron's 500mm images. This shouldn't have been the case, but it was.

The thread where I compared the two lens images is at:
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/10-pentax-slr-lens-discussion/437054-tam...omparison.html







   
Site Supporter

Registered: June, 2010
Location: Wiltshire
Posts: 32
Review Date: April 4, 2022 Recommended | Price: $112.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Light, compact and well constructed; despite its age, still capable of good performance under the right circumstances and with practice (more than a little patience also helps); can be bought in good condition for relatively little money.
Cons: Fixed aperture; critical focus requires eye-piece magnifier in conjunction with focus confirmation; shooting hand-held is an act of faith and requires masses of practice, patience and determination
Sharpness: 8    Aberrations: 8    Bokeh: 6    Handling: 5    Value: 9    Camera Used: Pentax-K5, K3 and K3 III   

Don't buy if you are easily deterred and aren't prepared to work (hard!) on your technique.

Do buy if you like a challenge and occasionally wish you had a 'Super-telephoto Lens' that didn't cost the proverbial 'arm and a leg' and doesn't get too heavy to carry within fifteen minutes of leaving the house (or car) on foot or on a bicycle

   
Pentaxian

Registered: January, 2011
Location: Kamloops, BC
Posts: 599
Review Date: September 24, 2021 Recommended | Price: $60.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Very light and compact means I'm more likely to bring it me with than a traditional lens of a similar focal length. It was also very cheap, with very good image quality under the right conditions. But with the right conditions and a bit of practice, it ca
Cons: Bokeh can be very busy, can be hard to nail the focus.
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 7    Bokeh: 4    Handling: 8    Value: 10   

I bought this lens on a whim because it was really cheap, and I had never tried a mirror type lens before. Mine is the older 55B. Focusing can be frustrating with a modern DSLR focus screen, but when I am able to nail the focus, the results are awesome. Whether it's atmospheric haze or the lens,or both, it seems to be much sharper for close up photos than when focused at infinity. I do really like this lens for sunsets where there's a distant object that I want to silhouette against the sky. The colours in those shots generally end up looking great, and the relative lack of contrast in a mirror lens can end up being a bit of an advantage. Even with a fairly decent tripod and head, mirror lockup is necessary for me to get sharp photos with slower shutter speeds, unless I'm just using the tripod to support it and tracking a moving object with the ball head loosened off. All example photos taken with a Pentax K3.

Pretty good details in the trees, considering they're about 4 miles away, and the way it shows off the sky is great. 1/160s, ISO 100.


A little bit of a crop. Taken directly into the setting sun on a fairly smoky evening.


This was taken basically as close as it will focus using a tripod and onboard flash 1/10s, ISO 100.


Experimenting in my yard well after sunset. Taken using my tripod with the ball head loose, 1/30s, ISO 1600, about 15-20' away.


Handheld at 1/500s, ISO 400 with the in body stabilization turned on, and cropped to 2400 pixels on the long edge. Bright highlights in the background are showing up as donuts, but not too bad. The detail in the head of the sheep looks pretty good to me, and the in body stabilization with a Pentax makes a lens like this much more useable for me.


This one was handheld at 1/2000s, ISO 1000. It is possible to really isolate the subject and blur the background into oblivion if you're careful about it. I don't think I would have been able to get this shot with a shorter lens, as I would have had much more area in the background, and it would have been much busier as a result.
   
Loyal Site Supporter

Registered: January, 2008
Location: Paris, TN
Posts: 3,299
Review Date: June 25, 2021 Recommended | Price: None indicated | Rating: N/A 

 
Pros: versatility
Cons:
Camera Used: Q   

Simply intended to note the versatility of the Adaptall design. Combined with the Q bodies this lens offers extreme close-up potential at a reasonable cost in a very small package. Small, dangerous or shy subjects are easily accessible.

   
Loyal Site Supporter

Registered: February, 2014
Location: Pennsylvania
Posts: 2,214
Review Date: August 4, 2020 Recommended | Price: $120.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Sharp & Contrasty for a Mirror lens, light, small
Cons: Best at closer distances, it’s a mirror lens
Sharpness: 8    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 8    Handling: 8    Value: 10    Camera Used: K5iis, K3, KP   

The Tamron Adaptall-2 55BB is probably the best catadioptric “mirror” lens for the average photographer. I’ve owned four CAT lenses, the 55BB, Tokina 500/8, Celestron 500/5.6 and Opteka 500/8. This Tamron is far and away the best, well worth having in ones kit.

Sharpness is very good, I’d have given it an 8.5 if the rating were available. Closeup capability is a strong point- no other 500mm lens that I know of can focus into macro range. The lens is quite hand holdable with proper technique and Pentax DSLR Shake Reduction. You need a body with excellent high ISO performance since the T-stop of this lens is f/10, not f/8. In bright light, contrast is high and colors are saturated. In dull light, images need a boost in both areas.
Out to about 150 feet, this lens is very sharp and images respond well to PP sharpening. Past 150 feet, images begin to degrade somewhat.

Abberations are extremely well controlled, surprisingly good. Bokeh? Well it gives the classic CAT/mirror lens “donut hole” out of focus highlights. Used creatively, this can be fun, otherwise it is a bit distracting.

Please use this lens with the straight Pentax K/M Adaptall-2 adapter and not the PK/A version. The K adapter allows shooting with the camera on Aperture Preferred with no fiddling around. Plus, the K adapter is far less expensive.

I definitely recommend this lens. Small, light, smooth focusing, reasonably sharp and easy to take with you.
   
Loyal Site Supporter

Registered: December, 2009
Location: Christchurch, New Zealand
Posts: 2,419
Review Date: October 27, 2019 Recommended | Price: $145.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Sharp for a mirror, low CA, relatively small and light, bokeh
Cons: bokeh
Sharpness: 8    Aberrations: 10    Bokeh: 7    Handling: 8    Value: 10    Camera Used: K-1   

This is the 3rd 500mm Mirror I have got. The first one was riddled with fungus and not sharp at all, the second was a Opteka 500mm which is very small for a 500mm but average sharpness (although usable for some uses) and really tricky to focus. Then I saw a Tamron for sale and went for it.

Its a lot better than the Opteka and a lot easier to focus too. For me Tamron is a viable telephoto that I can carry due to its compact size and light weight (for 500mm at least). Contrast is not super high but thats a mirror thing in general.

Bokeh can be an advantage and disadvantage. For a start, in the many scenarios (depending on background and distance to background) the bokeh is fine, and when its painting donuts sometimes that can work well in photos too but then it depends on the scene and your point of view.

Overall I'm pleased to have it in my toolkit.

Some samples:
Moon (https://www.flickr.com/photos/kiwi_jono/40775770575)

Hawk (https://www.flickr.com/photos/kiwi_jono/39392588940)

Seagull (https://www.flickr.com/photos/kiwi_jono/41355787141)

Bokeh (https://www.flickr.com/photos/kiwi_jono/27434930318)
   
Seeker of Knowledge

Registered: August, 2016
Location: Topeka, Kansas
Posts: 24,316
Review Date: March 19, 2019 Recommended | Price: $70.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: seems well made, sharp, great value
Cons: hood when rversed is friction fit only and does slide off easily, mirror lens problems
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 5    Handling: 9    Value: 10    Camera Used: K 3 or K 3 II   

I just got this lens having found it on EBAY and the seller willing to make a deal off of his initial price

does have some visible loss of coatings on lens but on very edges and has no effect on the photos

I like it but there is a learning curve and has the typical mirror lens limitations

so far trying it hand held, braced at times,

no real opportunity yet to use it to its full potential as a true telephoto
   
Site Supporter

Registered: May, 2015
Location: Hampshire
Posts: 892
Review Date: March 12, 2019 Recommended | Price: $60.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: No ca problems, great value for money, adaptall.
Cons: In the review body.
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 8    Handling: 10    Value: 10    Camera Used: K-5   

Yet another lens with fungus bringing the cost down, a clean lens would be worth much more than the one I bought.
This was auctioned as having the fungus but was in good condition otherwise and after reading up in the forums about how to clean it I bought it had a go myself. I did not break anything so maybe I was lucky but after the event a forum member in North Wales did point out that the method I used (entry through the front element) could have resulted in a poorer IQ due to the very tight tolerances. Any inexperienced dabblers beware. Thank you Marcus.

I am very pleased with this lens, it may not vie successfully with the better refractive lenses lenses but it is the best 300mm plus lens that I own.
There is no CA apparent as far as I can see , it is quite sharp even hand held! and can be focussed by eye in bright sun quite easily. Not that I would be tempted to use it much without some sunlight.
It has a close focus ability that makes it better than my 300mm plus lenses in that regard.
The ring bokeh can be awful but can also be used for effect.

On the down side, my using it hand held when my aging body is continually moving and my hands tremble does mean some images OOF due to it's small depth of field.

Yet another Tamron SP adaptall that is good. On todays modern digital cameras with focussing aids and ISO 800 plus abilities, it is probably great for it's cost.
There were apparently lots of these sold so no reason to avoid buying one and enjoying it.
   
Veteran Member

Registered: January, 2011
Location: Houston, Texas
Posts: 982
Review Date: May 28, 2018 Recommended | Price: $100.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Lightweight, very sharp, long focus throw, great hood
Cons: No tripod mount -- although not really necessary

My review is for the Tamron 55BB, but I've seen lots of photos taken with the 55B and it appears to be every bit as good.

I find this lens to be exceptionally sharp for a mirror lens, and also to have better than average contrast. I especially like the 55BB's very long focus throw -- almost a full 360 degrees.

I have found, from my early experiences with a Sigma 600mm f/8 I bought in 1984, at which time I was an advancing amateur, that it takes a fair amount of practice before one can expect to reliably produce good images with a long mirror. There were days way back then that I was convinced that Sigma was junk, but as my technique improved, my impressions of that lens's capabilities improved. You can't just expect to mount this lens and then shoot snaps with it, and expect much from the results. No you need to pay close attention to accurate focus, and because it's a 500mm lens with a fixed f/8 aperture, you need to pay extra special attention to shutter speed and sturdiness of the camera's mount. In many cases, when the shutter speed is low, if your camera has mirror lock-up, it should be used, or in the case of a digital, at a minimum, the self timer should be employed. Paying attention to anything that might induce vibration will reap rewards in the final image.

Here's a shot of the moon taken with the Tamron mirror. The camera as a Sony NEX 7, set to ISO 100. Shutter speed was 1/125. Note that this is not a grayscale image, so the Tamron allows one to see the actual colors of the Moon's surface.


Here is a double image I put together of the crescent moon, showing images taken with my old Century Precision Optics Tele Athenar II 500mm f/5.6 refractor, set to f/8 and the Tamron 55BB. I put the two images together to show how well this mirror stacks up with a very good refractor of the same focal length. There are some white balance differences, and the CPO seems to have just a bit more contrast than the Tamron, but I can't tell a difference regarding sharpness. Image size was adjusted in post processing to take into account the NEX's 1.5x magnification.


I can highly recommend this lens. It can often be found for a very good price these days, and as such, I think it should be a no-brainer since sometimes there is just no substitute for mm's.
   
New Member

Registered: February, 2012
Posts: 17

3 users found this helpful
Review Date: October 21, 2017 Recommended | Price: $55.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Light, sharp, adaptall mount gives flexibility
Cons: None
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 7    Handling: 10    Value: 10    Camera Used: Samsung GX10, GX20, Pentax K-x   

I bought this lens to fill a gap in my Adaptall collection. I didn't think I needed it, because I was happy with the Samyang 500mm f6.3.

I bought my 55BB eBay. The low price is indicative of the fungus infestation that was clearly visible in the item photos. However, even with the fungus, it was obvious as soon as I looked through the viewfinder that the lens had potential, and it turned out to be fairly easy to clean it up.

The distance scale is held on with 6 grub screws. If you undo these, the scale can be slid towards the mount, exposing the screws that hold the stop on the top half of the lens. Undo these, and the the front section of the lens can be unscrewed. Mark where the two halves separate so you can start the reassembly at the right point.

The cleaning (inside and outside the front element, and the glass over the main mirror), is simple in theory, if tedious.

Xylene (paint thinner) seems to be poisonous to lens fungus, it removes organic non-ionic material, and dries streak-free. Unfortunately it doesn't remove ionic material.

Distilled water removes ionic material, but not grease.

Alternating between the two I gradually ended up with bright clean streak-free scratch-free lens surfaces.

Reassembly was then the disassembly process in reverse. As long as you start the screw-in process from the right point, it all just works.

In addition to his review of this Tamron lens in comparison with a Canon non-mirror lens referenced above, Bob Atkins has this excellent review of the Samyang 500mm f6.3, which also refers to this Tamron.


http://www.bobatkins.com/photography/reviews/pro_optic_500_f6-3.html


The Tamron:
  1. Is smaller
  2. Is the same effective speed as the Samyang
  3. Has a larger depth of field
  4. Has slightly better sharpness
  5. Has much better contrast
Hand held I'm hard to pressed to see evidence of point 4, and shooting raw and boosting contrast my pictures from the two lenses become virtually indistinguishable, but points 3 and 5 translate to easier manual focusing of the Tamron.

I have one other mirror lens, the Tokina 500mm f8. This is the smallest, and mechanically the nicest of the three, but it is slower, and not as sharp as the Tamron; it is similar to the Samyang.

The Tamron has one further advantage over the both the Tokina and the Samyang.

All Pentax-K Adaptall mounts have (non-functional for this lens) aperture levers.

This means that, unlike the other two mirror lenses I have used, Catch-In-Focus and the Pentax-F Autofocus adapter do work with this lens if the light is good enough and there is sufficient contrast in the target.

All in all a really nice piece of kit. Recommended.
   
Forum Member

Registered: November, 2014
Posts: 97

1 user found this helpful
Review Date: July 28, 2015 Recommended | Price: $150.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: sharpness, focus throw, super small, super light
Cons: none
Sharpness: 8    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 6    Handling: 9    Value: 10    Camera Used: K-3   

Spent several weeks reading mirror lens reviews on the net. Finally I decided for the Tamron because of its long focus throw.
Unlike other mirror lenses (Samyang et al), this one has a focus throw of almost 360°. Still, the DOF is so thin that every milimeter on the focus ring counts.

The key is to use a tripod, mirror lockup and be very accurate with focus, then this lens provides perfect results. My first 5 shots or so were bad, then I learned that I absolutely have to use a sturdy tripod, mirror lockup, 2 second timer and remote.
Also, with 500mm, air pollution and air movement suddenly becomes an issue.

If you're doing it right, this lens provides stunning images.

My guess is that the bad reputation of mirror teles is mostly due to people not being able to use them correctly. They handle like kit lenses, that's probably why noone bothers using a tripod and then blames the mirror construction for the bad results.

   
Site Supporter

Registered: August, 2011
Location: South Florida
Posts: 31
Review Date: November 6, 2014 Recommended | Price: $200.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Very sharp for a mirror
Cons: None
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 7    Handling: 9    Value: 10    Camera Used: K-3   

Great lens, great optics, great quality. I tried other mirror lenses and long teles and this one was light years ahead. The price was very reasonable which is good for a lens that has limited use. I put it through my usual lens tests and it performed surprisingly well, almost matching other Pentax telephotos. The colors are quite good too.
   
New Member

Registered: August, 2013
Posts: 11
Review Date: February 14, 2014 Recommended | Price: $160.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Sharpness, compact
Cons: Needs sunlight
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 7    Handling: 10    Value: 10   

What a great lens! A compact 500mm that provides great pictures with a really good IQ and sharpness. Turned into a 750mm with my Kr, it is really impressive how it can shoot far things.

The perfect condition is sunlight, a bright day so you can shoot at hogh shutter speed.



Taken at 1500m distance


Taken at 1200m distance
   
New Member

Registered: November, 2013
Location: Port Orchard, WA
Posts: 10
Review Date: January 24, 2014 Recommended | Price: $100.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Massive zoom, Small for focus, Close focus, Crisp.
Cons: Donuts, Slow aperture.
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 8    Bokeh: 5    Handling: 10    Value: 9   

My copy of this lens was purchased used, but appeared near new when it arrived. I use it with a UV filter and the hood attached at all times. I don't think I would ever use the lens without the hood, as it seems a little too exposed. My lens did not come with the additional small filters and only had the normal small filter.

I have used this lens with both the K-3 and my former Canon 10D and 20D. Despite the issues that come with handling a lens like this (donuts, stabilization, and fixed superzoom), I absolutely love this lens. While it isn't especially versatile, I have such a fun time with this lens. The close focus ability makes pseudo macro shots with this lens easy. I got frustrated using this lens due to the f8 with my Canons, but I really enjoy using it with the K-3 as I have so much more ISO headroom. The internal stabilization really helps as well getting shots when it is cloudy or I am in the woods. This lens is easy to carry around, is not too large or heavy, and is reasonably easy to handle without a tripod or monopod. You will have better results with a monopod or tripod, but I have not found them to be 100% necessary--especially on sunny days. I would actually prefer to carry this lens to my 70-210 due to the weight of the 70-210.

Here are some samples:
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/members/64969-knotmetoo/albums/7767-tamro...cture68851.jpg
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/members/64969-knotmetoo/albums/7767-tamro...cture68852.jpg
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/members/64969-knotmetoo/albums/7767-tamro...cture68853.jpg
   
Forum Member

Registered: September, 2013
Posts: 62
Review Date: December 26, 2013 Recommended | Price: $150.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: short, not expensive, fast enough
Cons: "macro" option is useless
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 10    Bokeh: 8    Handling: 9    Value: 9   

overall everything is good. hood included.
"rings" bokeh - known and not SO MUCH bad thing.
f/8 - fast enough for mirror lens, aberration... sharpness... but:
who the hell is really need this stupid "macro" range of focusing? Mirror lens at close range is nonsense!
this option is useless, and just affecting long distance focusing, at LR distances focusing ring travel is too short.

overall not bad at all. if You need 500 mm compact and cheep lens - try it, not a big-deal.
Add Review of Tamron Adaptall-2 SP Mirror (55BB) 500mm F8



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