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LENS PORN: Tamron 400mm f/6.9 (Model FO-69 of 1963)

Tamron 400mm f/6.9 (Model FO-69 of 1963)
Tamron 400mm f/6.9 (Model FO-69 of 1963)






Here is the Tamron 400mm f/6.9 (Model FO-69), an old model from Tamron that went into production from 1963-1969. Tamron usually makes several versions of the same lens, and I like that they indicate the model number for easy identification.

Restoration history: It looked dusty and the glass needed rescue from fungus. It was in M42 mount, which I later converted into Nikon mount. The focusing and aperture ring were stiff like welded metal. After my restoration and conversion, now it looks glamorously glossy and smooth to operate (smoother than your 50mm prime!). WD-40 sure is a nice product to bring back the shine to rusty old metal!

What's left now is that the rear glass had a little 'balsam separation' resulting in a flower-like bubble formation between the cemented glass. It had no effect on images unless you stopped down to f/32 which will show a tiny dot on the photo, but I doubt you'll ever use that (I usually set it to f/16 max).

This is a long preset lens (the opposite type which is called 'mirror lens'). Its size looks intimidating in the photos, but just so you get an idea, it's just about as long from my elbow to my wrist, or no longer than your typical 70-300mm when fully extended. It is also surprisingly VERY LIGHT. My D5200 weighs twice as heavy. Plus, I never had trouble operating this lens handheld. Get the picture?



Please hover the mouse on the image below and scroll left/right

Tamron 400mm f/6.9 (Model# F0-69)

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SPECS


Tamron 400mm f/6.9

Model# FO-69

Years in Production: 1963-1969

Focal Length: Fixed 400 mm

Minimum Focusing Distance: 15 feet / 9 meters

Focus Throw: 180 degrees

Maximum Aperture: f/6.9

Lowest Aperture: f/32

Filter Thread Size: 62 mm

With built in rotatable tripod collar.

Made in Japan

Tamron 400mm f/6.9 (Model FO-69 of 1963)

Tamron 400mm f/6.9 (Model FO-69 of 1963)

Tamron 400mm f/6.9 (Model FO-69 of 1963)

Tamron 400mm f/6.9 (Model FO-69 of 1963)

Tamron 400mm f/6.9 (Model FO-69 of 1963)

Tamron 400mm f/6.9 (Model FO-69 of 1963)

Tamron 400mm f/6.9 (Model FO-69 of 1963)

Tamron 400mm f/6.9 (Model FO-69 of 1963)

Tamron 400mm f/6.9 (Model FO-69 of 1963)

Tamron 400mm f/6.9 (Model FO-69 of 1963)

Tamron 400mm f/6.9 (Model FO-69 of 1963)

Tamron 400mm f/6.9 (Model FO-69 of 1963)

Tamron 400mm f/6.9 (Model FO-69 of 1963)

Tamron 400mm f/6.9 (Model FO-69 of 1963)

Tamron 400mm f/6.9 (Model FO-69 of 1963)

Tamron 400mm f/6.9 (Model FO-69 of 1963)

Tamron 400mm f/6.9 (Model FO-69 of 1963)

Tamron 400mm f/6.9 (Model FO-69 of 1963)

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Summary


Pros

Very light weight, it only weighs half of my Nikon D5200.

Compact size can fit in the bag -- no bigger than the 70-300mm when fully extended!

Mechanism is compact to operate, you can easily handheld this lens.

The coating on the glass handles flare and backlight well, considering it was made in 1963 (some lenses from the 1980s perform worse, taking into context that multicoating was introduced in the mid 1970s!)

After restoring the lens, the focus and aperture rings were very smooth to operate.

This is a preset aperture lens. Meaning, there's a second ring that closes and opens the aperture. That second ring is de-clicked and ideal if you shoot videos.

Has a built-in tripod collar, that you can also rotate.

This lens can easily be bought at a cheap price, but it is a high quality optics.

It takes in 62mm filters, which is common (I'm sure most of your lenses would have filter thread sizes of 52mm, 62mm or 72mm)

f/6.9 is too dark? I've shot night scenes with this lens!

The 180-degree focus throw feels comfortable enough to shoot moving subjects and nail focus quickly.



Neutral

Does not have vibration reduction. This shouldn't be an issue when shooting images handheld. For videos, it is best to use a tripod or to rest the lens on a stable surface.



Cons

When subject is backlit with strong lighting (eg. the sun), the edges may exhibit some visible color fringing, which is a common characteristic of lenses in that era.



Conclusion

400 mm is your ticket to the true telephoto range. This lens is much cheaper than any 500 mm mirror lenses out there (which is about 5x this lens would sell), and it also affords you high quality vintage optics for wildlife, sports, surveillance, and other purposes. It's very cheap but has high quality optics, it wouldn't really hurt to give it a try.


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Further Reading


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Samples

Shot with Nikon D5200.
All photos are unedited.
No filters or lens hood were used.

Camera Settings:
Size - Basic/Small
White Balance - Preset
Picture Profile - SD (Standard)
HDR/ADL/Flash/Noise Reduction - Off

Tamron 400mm f/6.9 (Model FO-69 of 1963)
Just for reference, this scene was shot in 18mm.

Tamron 400mm f/6.9 (Model FO-69 of 1963)
Didn't they teach you in school to never shoot against the light?

Tamron 400mm f/6.9 (Model FO-69 of 1963)

Tamron 400mm f/6.9 (Model FO-69 of 1963)

Tamron 400mm f/6.9 (Model FO-69 of 1963)

Tamron 400mm f/6.9 (Model FO-69 of 1963)

Tamron 400mm f/6.9 (Model FO-69 of 1963)

Tamron 400mm f/6.9 (Model FO-69 of 1963)

Tamron 400mm f/6.9 (Model FO-69 of 1963)

Tamron 400mm f/6.9 (Model FO-69 of 1963)

Tamron 400mm f/6.9 (Model FO-69 of 1963)

Tamron 400mm f/6.9 (Model FO-69 of 1963)
For the next scene, we will shoot the crack in the wall 15 meters away.
This image was shot in 28mm.

Tamron 400mm f/6.9 (Model FO-69 of 1963)
f/6.9

Tamron 400mm f/6.9 (Model FO-69 of 1963)
f/32

Tamron 400mm f/6.9 (Model FO-69 of 1963)
With a 2x teleconverter, this lens becomes 800mm.
On my DX camera with 1.5x crop factor, the net focal range is effectively 1200mm.

Tamron 400mm f/6.9 (Model FO-69 of 1963)



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The Nikon D5200 as my weapon of choice.

Vintage lenses are my poison.

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