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Super-Secret Spy Lens Shoots at 90 Degree Angle

Jeremy Richter , Dec 11, 2008; 05:29 p.m.

For all street photographers who thought you were discreet, here's the ultimate in conspicuous technology. This fabulous device allows the user to stand at an angle perpendicular to the subject. I'm also certain it's optical abilities are unsurpassed. JR


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Bob Atkins , Dec 11, 2008; 05:36 p.m.

They've been available on eBay for years. I once had the chance to try one. The optical quality of the mirror in it left a lot to be desired

Hector Javkin , Dec 11, 2008; 05:39 p.m.

It's no secret

These things have been around a very, very long time. Typically, they have front surface mirrors, which can get scratched if you look at them the wrong way. I wouldn't call them " fabulous."

Maris Rusis , Dec 11, 2008; 05:49 p.m.

All spy lenses have a serious disadvantage for street photography. If you encounter a grumpy subject an ordinary camera can get you off the hook because, hey, it only takes ordinary pictures. If you are challenged while being in possession of a SPY LENS then that constitutes absolute proof that YOU HAVE BEEN SPYING!
Try discussing that at the local hospital emergency department when you explain to them..."You have a camera and lens, where?!"

JDM von Weinberg , Dec 11, 2008; 05:51 p.m.

Old news, actually, but not many under 30 would know. Spiratone, much lamented of memory, and many other vendors offered these in several versions over the years. The earliest were just boxy right-angle mirrors (Mirrotach), the later ones, like the link above, tried to disguise themselves as long lenses (Circo-Mirrotach)

Mirrotach and Circo-Mirrotach attachments from Spiratone

Michael Axel , Dec 11, 2008; 06:00 p.m.

I remember these in photo magazines from the '70s.

Lex Jenkins , Dec 11, 2008; 06:01 p.m.

Ahh, the good ol' days of the back page ads in Modern Photography. The "Girlwatcher" lens (the ubiquitous 500mm f/8 T-mount preset tele). The sideways-look periscope lens, an idea cribbed from mirror peepsites used in WWI trench warfare (the new version looks a bit sleeker).

Big boys versions of comic book ads for X-Ray Specs.

Mike Gammill , Dec 11, 2008; 07:01 p.m.

I knew someone that actually bought on of those right angle attachments. I said, "instead of sneaking a photo of the young lady, just ask her politely if you can take her photo. You will get a better picture, and if you're lucky, her phone number."
Lex- I think Tele Astronar used the "Girl Watcher" text in their ad copy. If I'm correct, they offered both 400mm and 500mm versions.

Lex Jenkins , Dec 11, 2008; 07:30 p.m.

Yup, the 400mm f/6.3 T-mount preset was also somewhat popular, but never as ubiquitous as the 500/8.

Of mild interest to trivia buffs, Vivitar also sold a 300mm f/5.6 T-mount preset that was at least a notch above the 400/6.3 and 500/8 in optical and build quality. Not very common, roughly comparable in performance to an early 300mm f/4.5 Nikkor I tried (the pre-ED version).

Spiratone... brings back memories of my misspent youth in the late '60s, early '70s. They had a store in NYC. When I was around 12-13, a buddy and I used to haunt that Spiratone store looking for bargains, pestering the staff to let us look at the goodies advertised in their catalogs. They were really grumpy. "Hey, ya gonna buy sumpin', kid? What's yer name? Lou? Looky Lou? Hey, Lou, ya got money? Nah? Giddaddaheah, ya boddah me."

It was great. Spiratone was the epitome of a generation of photo geeks, closet comic book readers and kneebiters.

Ronald Moravec , Dec 11, 2008; 08:17 p.m.

I remember it well when I had to save to buy a filter.

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