Start line at Le Mans 1993

5 Frames on FP4 and a Tamron 70-210 at Le Mans in 1993 – By Nik Stanbridge

I was a devoted and habitual attendee at Le Mans in the late 80s and early 90s, having discovered it in my youth when the start of the legendary race was a rare and short item on Saturday afternoon sports TV. From those very early days, I knew that I had to attend one day. From what I saw, it all looked and sounded like the ultimate car race… and the cars… well, just incredible. Road cars and prototypes all in it together in a madcap French extravaganza of spectacle, endurance and huge/dangerous speed differentials between the slowest and fastest cars.

Start line at Le Mans 1993
The Nisso Trust Racing Team Toyota 93C-V that finished 6th (and 2nd in the C2 category), 17 laps behind the winning car.

For a very long time, I only had a 50/1.8 on my OM-1, but for Le Mans in 1993, I added a second-hand Tamron 70-210 zoom. The sharpness and resolving power of the lens is extraordinary given its weight and that these images were taken handheld and highly likely that I had it at max aperture (ish) and max zoom in the blazing heat and dust of June in France. Thinking through FP4 with Sunny 16, it would have been 1/1,000s at f5.6. Sounds about right.

Start line at Le Mans 1993
The Team Guy Chotard Porsche 962C that finished 14th overall having completed 308 laps. Powered by the type-935 3.0 L turbo flat-6.

It looks to me like it’s tack sharp edge to edge, which is also a testament to the FP4 Plus. I don’t have a record of how I developed it, but at that time, I was big into Rodinal (and Agfa Pan 100), so that’s likely what I used. This is ironic as my memory of my use of FP4 back then is more negative than positive (can’t exactly remember why), but this revisiting changes that view. And this is useful and prescient as I (and many others) come to terms with the escalating cost of Kodak stock. As a recent retiree, film costs are a significant outgoing for me (I shoot a lot of film). With the price rises, Ilford films are getting on for half the price of Kodak. From seeing these photos and my recent experiments with HP5 vs Tri-X, the switch is a no-brainer. And that from a long-time Kodak devotee.

Start line at Le Mans 1993
The Team Paduwa Porsche 911 Carrera 2 Cup that finished 26th overall having completed 266 laps. This is, almost, a standard road car.

My copy of the 70-210 was the multicoated and fast f3.5/4 variant which was, I distinctly remember, heavy (884g apparently). Unlike the cheaper/lighter/slower, f4/5.6, it had 15 elements in 11 groups (a lot of heavy glass!). I sadly no longer have mine but they can be had, amazingly for less than £20 (one went on eBay recently for less than £10 including postage). And to cap it all, it even close focuses and doubles as a 1:2.66 macro (I never tried this though).

Being a Tamron, it was a generic lens for which you needed brand-specific adapters for your particular camera. This made them very popular and less expensive than some bespoke lenses.

Start line at Le Mans 1993
The Peugeot Talbot Sport Peugeot 905 Evo 1B that finished 2nd overall, one lap behind its sister car (car #2) having completed 374 laps, a distance of ~3,200 miles (5,200km).

That’s all there is to say, really. I had planned for this to be more about Le Mans and less about an iconic old lens, but there you go. This article is about two unique and iconic things I suppose. One, the endurance race to end all endurance races. And two, a cleverly designed, high-quality lens that was a world beater in its day.

Start line at Le Mans 1993
The TWR Jaguar Racing Jaguar XJ220 that, while it finished the race and won the GT category having completed 306 laps, was disqualified one month later due to an “illegal exhaust”.

Go on, splash out some pocket money on one and give it a go – it’s stunning glass.

Negatives were digitised with a Sony A7R and Sigma 70/2.8 DG Macro lens. Negs reversed with Negative Lab Pro.

I’m on Instagram here, and my website can be found here.

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23 thoughts on “5 Frames on FP4 and a Tamron 70-210 at Le Mans in 1993 – By Nik Stanbridge”

  1. Excellent pictures, very well composed too. Last year I acquired too Tamron Adaptall lenses, a 135mm f2.8 and a 28mm f2.5, both are excellent performers, even on a DSLR! The 135 cost me £30 and the 28 £39, both with Nikon adapters. As you say, pocket money.

    1. John, I had the Tamron 135, too, and what an excellent lens it was. It was also f2.5. Could it be that your memory is playing tricks?

  2. Very nice photos, they really show the excitement and action of the race. I had the same lens in the day as did many people I knew. The great thing about the adaptall system was that if you changed your make of camera your lens could be adapted to the new body, very clever design. I used it on Nikon bodies.

    1. No Terry, your 2.5 is an Adaptall 2, mine is the predecessor of that model and is 2.8. I also had gifted, a Tamron SP 35-80 f3.8/4 with Nikon mount and it too is remarkably good.

  3. I love these photos! Very crisp and they feature the cars nicely. I myself have a very nice Tamron Adaptall-2 90mm f/2.5 SP macro lens, with adapters for Canon FD, M42, and Contax/Yashica lens mounts. It’s a very nice short telephoto and portrait lens and offers a 1:2 native macro capability without extension tubes. These Adaptall lenses really do perform well generally and the different lens mount adapters are not expensive at all, costing between $10-20 USD, so it’s pretty easy to have multiple and be able to use these lenses across multiple different camera systems. I’d also like to make a plug for the Vivitar Series 1 lenses as good-performing alternatives to the Adaptall lenses and the more expensive native glass. A couple years ago, I picked up a mint 70-210mm f/3.5 Vivitar Series 1 lens (constant aperture version, made by Tokina) for under $20. I’ve been consistently impressed with the lens feel and image quality, both on film and adapted to digital. These are totally worth picking-up if you can get them.

    1. Craig Schroeder

      I also have the 90 macro (also used on C/Y duties). It’s been more than favorable in practice. I use rangefinders when doing wider captures and didn’t want to spend Leica money on a wide angle for my R bodies. A Tamron 24mm adaptall was a great answer for this limited use optic for my needs. It has surprised me when I’ve fallen back on it. It’s rewarding to have affordable surprises. I’ve had a few Series One lenses over many years and have had good luck with them, too. I recently discarded a 28 ƒ1.9 (Konica AR mount) that locked up and proved non-repairable but this is the only mechanical failure that I recall with 2nd tier glass.

  4. Daniel Castelli

    Hey Nik,
    I love the shots! I admire your past bravery in choosing FP-4 when you had reservations. It must have been an exciting time just to be among all the crowds and festivities. in 2015, my wife & I visited Itay. We took a day trip out of Florence that included a visit to the Ferrari Museum. Seeing these race cars up close give one an appreciation of design, style and mechanical function. Art on four wheels.
    Thanks for sharing.

  5. Awesome photos! Sad that group C had its demise the way it did with the 3.5 Litre regs. I’m with you with switching to Ilford films for BW. I recently tried Delta 400 and was quite amazed at how smooth its tonality and look is compared to HP5!

  6. Love the compositions! And to think, the winning car travelled 3200 miles flat out! Wow.

    As for the Jag 220… I remember the excitement when it was announced – meant to have a big V12. People put money down, then the production version was a turbo V6. And people asked for their deposits back!

  7. Very nice, I did the Le Mans Classic a few years ago with my brother; a really great weekend and some lovely cars. I had a Tamron back then with a Pentax K mount I think; it was a great budget option, maybe I should take a look at them again now.

  8. Lovely photos of some amazing racing cars. I was lucky enough to visit Le Mans a couple of years ago, but it was in the middle of winter so obviously no action on track. Still, the museum was super cool and it was great just to be there.

  9. Lovely frames Nik, although I personally don’t drive I grew up with motorsports, yet never photographed one.
    I loved that Peugeot, beautiful car! And I am glad you were able to trace back all those memories from that race. Very good sports reportage.

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