Bargain Parrots: Cheap-as-chips bits from the Bay, for and against

Posted on by Mike Evans

My friend and fellow Australian blogger, John Shingleton, was obviously cut to the quick by Bill Palmer's condemnation of cheap third-party accessories bought from well-known auction sites. Bill's ire was raised by a faux teleconverter for the Fuji X100T. Conclusion: He would have been better to throw his £20 note into the fire. He also waxed eloquent against cheapo lens-mount adapters covered in swarf and rattling like a fleet of 1920s Ford Ts.  

Shingleton, on the other hand, is obviously made of sterner stuff and is surrounded by a medley of cheap-as-chips unapproved accessories. As well as a rare old collection of exotic wildlife as it turns out. 

He decided to prove his point when this colourful parrot landed in his coastal demesne in Terrigal this very morning:

This was taken with a cheap optic—a  200mm f/4.5 Minolta lens that I bought off a Japanese seller on eBay for US$12. There were no other bidders. I took it about 30 minutes ago using the Sony a7 and an $11 (no swarf) adapter, also from eBay. The parrot was sitting on the swimming pool rail right outside the window.The parrot's partner was nearby. Let Bill know there are bargains on eBay.

Yes Sir! Over to deepest Surrey where Bill has added his two penn'orth:

There's a key point here. As I type I am looking at my 400mm Tokina lens—I could say it was bought for a song, but it was cheaper than that. It was barely a whistle. I choose to mount it to my Fuji X-T1 with a decent adaptor; a well made and robust Kipon Olympus OM to Fuji X—because I didn't want swarf on my sensor, the lens rattling or dropping off at an inopportune moment, being off-centre, or the plane of focus to be out of alignment. The lens itself is cheap as chips—but there is a huge difference—it wasn't cheap when it was new. 

Bill's X-T1 with 400mm Tokina: Quality is a constant but values fall to almost nothing over the years. Cheap is not always nasty

It is cheap due to the passage of time. A lot of engineering and design went into that lens when it first came out, and it sold at a price that was appropriate to those development costs.  It wasn't turned out of a bit of aluminium tube on a dodgy lathe in a back street along with dozens of its "friends".  Before it left the factory it was subject to stringent QA tests—as would any Minolta lens have been. It wasn't just stuffed in a cheap cardboard box and popped on the 'Bay.  It was offered with a warranty, and after-sales support. It's older now. It has depreciated in value, but it is still capable of exceptional results—given the right mount. 
One of the joys of the rise of mirrorless is that because the flange to sensor plane is less than that of old film SLRs there is a plethora of excellent lenses that have outlived the bodies for which they were originally designed. Fill your boots with such lenses, say I. But I don't run the risk of putting cheap tyres between my car and the road, and I'm not advocating putting cheap accessories between your sensor and your subject.

I'm staying out of this one.  Except I did point out to John, not to be outdone, that I too have parrots in my chilly London garden. They're smaller and emerald green, rather downmarket parakeets if truth were known, but belonging to the parrot family nonetheless. On the plus side, I have no poisonous creepy crawlies, nor the odd lurking snake to worry about. Better a scraping of swarf than a funnel web any day

You can track down the players in this little drama lurking at their respective blogs:

Bill Palmer at Lightmancer

John Shingleton at The Rolling Road


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