The Tominon 35mm is not as well known in the photography world as it should be, these are some of the most underrated macro lenses on the market. The image quality of the 35mm Tominon (and 17mm f/4) are surprisingly good in their range of 2-4x. Tominons were made in the 1970s by Tomioka Japan for the Polaroid® MP-4+ technical camera system for copying, and photomacrography.
Update May 2018: Just finishing up a 2.1x magnification test comparison with 11-12 lenses and the 35mm Tominon did an excellent job and looks like it will be taking the prize in the price/performance category. More info coming soon.
Update Aug 2018: The latest 3x test is now online and the Tominon 35mm lens came in best in the price vs. performance value category. The full test and all the the comparison results are available here on Closeuphotography.com: https://www.closeuphotography.com/3x-lens-test
Update September 2018
2x test results are now upload with images from the Canon MP-E 65 for reference.
Image quality samples and comparison images coming soon!
The 35mm Tominons are excellent performers. They offer clean consistent image quality from edge-to-edge, from 2x to about 3x, with a great big image circle that easily covers 35mm full frame. Due to the slow f/4.5 maximum aperture, this lens can't compete with faster lenses, like the Canon MP-E 65mm f2/8 lens, but the lens makes up for it with great chromatic aberration suppression. In my experiences with a recent 2x test, the Tominon 35 has much better IQ than Rodagon, APO-Rodagon, Magnagon, Componon, and Compon-S enlarger lenses I have tried, and with a much larger image circle!
If you need more than 2-3x magnification, the 17mm Tominon will also beat the Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x at 4x with similar sharpness, and much better CA suppression. A detailed review of the 17mm Tominon and comparison of image quality is available here on Closeuphotography.com: https://www.closeuphotography.com/tominon-17mm/
The Tominons use all-metal barrels and aperture rings, but the Tomion 35mm (and 17mm) lenses have quite a bit of IQ variation between samples, so I would recommend buying lenses from sellers that accept returns. This way you can buy a couple of units to test them to guarantee that you get a good performer. In my experience the cleanest lenses are not always the best performers. I have tested 4 or 5 of the 17mm units in the past, and I am on my 3rd 35mm Tominon lens. The lens I own now was purchased as new-old-stock.
From a price/performance standpoint, this lens would be hard to beat in the 2x to 4x magnification range, the 35mm Tominon is probably one of the strongest and most underrated buys on the market today. While the 35mm Tominon does not have the wide magnification range (or auto-aperture) of the Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro Photo lens, it will get to within 95% of the sharpness at 2x, with much less chromatic aberration for about 5% of the cost of the Canon MP-E lens.
Availability and cost
The Tominon 35mm lenses are easy to find on Ebay with prices range from $15 for a unit that might be a little rough, without caps, up to maybe $100. For a boxed new-old-stock unit from a surplus dealer that I found thanks to Google, I paid $69 plus shipping. It looks like the supply on the used market has tightened up a bit in 2018, I did see that a lens sold in June 2018 for $15, so you can still get these lenses for not a lot of money.
Tominon 1:4.5 f=35mm lens
Type: Reproduction/Duplication lens
Focal length: 35mm
Optical Design: 4-element, 3-group. Reverse Tessar design. This is a very versatile formula developed by Carl Zeiss brand for reproduction and macrophotography.
Manufacturers recommended magnification range: 5 - 7.5x, according to Polaroid. See the real-world magnification note below.
Real world magnification range: This lens works great at about 2x. Due to the slow maximum aperture of this lens performance drops off past 3X. For better results at a higher range I would recommend the 17mm f/4 Tominon instead of this lens, or even better, a microscope objective.
A detailed review of the 17mm Tominon is available here on Closeuphotography.com: https://www.closeuphotography.com/tominon-17mm/
For a detailed review of the $17 4x objective see this article on Closeuphotography.com: https://www.closeuphotography.com/seventeen-dollar-plan-4x-objective/
Coverage: The Polaroid MP-4+ Camera System specs list the coverage from 35 mm to 4 x 5 film.
Working distance: With the 35mm focal length the working distance is not a strength of this Tominon.
Aperture range: f/4.5 - f/22.
Sharpest Aperture: I found the sharpest aperture to be from f/4.5 - f/5 in testing. Stopping this lens more than this will result in a drop in image quality.
Lens mount: M40 x 0.75
Mounting: M42 to M40 step down adapters are available on Ebay from $3 and up, with this adapter you can easiy mount the lens on low cost and easy to find M42 extension tubes.
Filter thread: Series 5 (30.2mm).
Lens hood: A lens hood is not needed with this lens, thanks to the recessed front element design.
Tominon 35mm f/4.5 test at 2x
The strength of this lens is the coverage and the chromatic aberration correction.
At 2x sharpness is very good sharpness in the center, beating the Canon MP-E 65, and good out to the corners where there is a little drop off in sharpness but the CA correction is pretty strong over the entire frame. Compared to the Canon MP-E the Tominon looks better from center to the edge but the MP-E has a sharper corner crop but that is offset by chromatic aberration issues. Looking at the test results here Canon places a sharpness priority over chromatic aberration suppression. The Tominon image quality is much more clean and balanced, the engineers at Tominon did a fantastic job!
PROS AND CONS
What I really like:
Chromatic aberration suppression
Consistent center to corner image quality
Outstanding price/performance value
Small, compact profile
What I dislike:
M40 lens mount
Conservative maximum aperture
set-up for macro photography
Mounting this lens is easy, you would need just 2 adapters and a set of extension tubes.
For the simple set-up below I used the following:
Camera Mount Adapter - E-Mount to 42mm x 1.0 threads
For this set-up I used a common 42mm x 1.0 threaded adapter made by Raf Camera. This will allow me to use 42mm extension tubes.
Extension tube set - 42mm x 1.0 threads
Here I used a 42mm x 1.0 a variable extension tube, but a rigid extension tube, or even a bellows would work well also.
Lens Mount Adapter - 40mm x 0.75 > M42mm x 1.0 Adapter
There are a few M42 > M40 step-down adapters on Ebay ranging in cost from $17 to $28.
Note that In the set-up below I used a Raf Camera 42mm variable extension tube instead of a normal tube. The plate below the body is an Quick Release plate used to mount the camera on a tripod or monopod, and also mount a flash bracket for handheld flash macro work.
For a recent test I mounted a Tominon 35 on my standard M52 studio set-up, as you can see below. More details on the M52 set-up is available here on Closeuphotography.com: https://www.closeuphotography.com/52mm-setup
The Bottom line
You cant go wrong with the 35mm Tominon 2-3x range, especially for work with a large sensor. It beats all the enlarging lenses that I have tried including, Componons, Rodagons, and APO-Rodagons especially in terms of coverage.
If you are looking for a little more magnification, look at the Lomo 3,7x, see this article on Closeuphotography.com: https://www.closeuphotography.com/lomo-3-7x-objective and the $17 4x objective: Closeuphotography.com: https://www.closeuphotography.com/seventeen-dollar-plan-4x-objective/
If you can live without an adjustable aperture and slightly less magnification, around 2x, the Minolta DiMAGE Scan Elite 5400 is unbeatable: https://www.closeuphotography.com/minolta-dimage-scan-elite-5400-lens/
the History of Tominon
Tominons were made in Japan by Tomioka, which later became part of Yashica, and finally part of Kyocera. Tomioka is still around but they are now part of Kyocera-Optic Japan Co., Ltd. The original Tomioka plant is the same factory where Contax lenses, Zeiss’s flagship 35mm lenses, were manufactured under contract for Carl Zeiss Japan.
From the Kyocera-Opticcompany website:
Kyocera Optec, originally founded in 1949 as Tomioka Optical and Mechanical Manufacturing Co., Ltd in Ome City, Tokyo, has constantly developed leading-edge lens manufacturing technologies since its early days. In 1974, the Company started manufacturing Carl Zeiss Lenses for Contax cameras through technical support from the Carl Zeiss Foundation in Germany; which were regarded as being among the world's highest quality lenses. Since joining the Kyocera Group in 1983, the Company has diversified its product focus and brought new standards of excellence to a wide range of optical equipment manufacturing fields.
Tominon Macro Lenses Made for the Polaroid MP-4 System
Tominon 135mm Lens (#44-65). 4-element, 3-group Tessar-type all purpose lens: f/4.5 to f/32.
Tominon 105mm Lens (#44-66). 4-element, 3-group Tessar-type all purpose lens; f/4.5 to f/32.
Tominon 75mm Lens (#44-67). 4-element, 3-group reverse Tessar-type copying lens; f/4.5 to f/32.
Tominon 50mm Lens (#44-68). 6-element, symmetric triplet-type macro lens; f/4.5 to f/32.
Tominon 35mm Lens (#44-69). 4-element, 3-group reverse Tessar-type macro lens; f/4.5 to f/32.
Tominon 17mm Lens (#44-70). 6-element, 4-group macro lens; f/4.0 to f/22.
LINKS for more info
Tomioka, the maker of Tominon lenses is still around, but they are now part of Kyocera-Optic Japan Co., Ltd.
More info on Tomioka on Camera-pedia site:
Polaroid MP-4 System Manual PDF