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Mirror, mirror on the wall...

by Bob Atkins, 2003


Inspired by Herbert Keppler's praise of 500/8 mirror lenses in the August 2003 issue of "Popular Photography" I thought I'd dig my old Tamron 500/8 mirror lens out of the closet and test its performance against a Canon EF500/4.5 using an EOS 10D 6MP digital DSLR. I wasn't expecting it to do particularly well...

Technical

These tests were done using a Canon EOS 10D body (6MP). The lenses compared were a Canon EF500/4.5L USM and a Tamron 500/8 mirror lens in a Tamron adaptall mount. A rare and hard to obtain adaptall mount for the Canon EOS was used to mount the Tamron lens on the EOS body. Tamron only made a few, so if you don't have one and you want one, you're probably out of luck. An alternative way to mount an adaptall lens on an EOS body is to get a Pentax Screw Mount (M42) Adaptall mount and an M42 -> EOS lens adapter. A Gitzo 1325 tripod with an Arca-Swiss B1 ball head was used to support the lenses. In each case the lens was used wide open, a nominal f8 for the mirror lens, f4.5 for the Canon. Since my experience with 500mm lenses is that 90% of the time you'll be using them wide open, I think these conditions are appropriate - and for the mirror lens there's no choice anyway!. "Film" speed was set to ISO 800. In previous tests I've established that resolution is essentially unaffected by shooting with the 10D at ISO 800 rather than ISO 100, though of course the noise level is higher.

The Lenses

tamron500-8a.jpg (50796 bytes)The Tamron 500/8 SP is, of course, a mirror lens - but that doesn't mean it's all done with mirrors. In fact the Tamron lens has, according to their literature, 7 elements in 4 groups, only two of which are mirrors. There is a front corrector lens (which isn't the shape shown in the figure). Most mirror lenses are of either a Schmidt-Cassegrain design or a Maksutov-Cassegrain design. The difference is in the shape of the corrector plate. For the Schmidt it's an aspheric element, for the Maksutov it's a deeply curved spherical meniscus lens. Looking at the Tamron it appears to be a Schmidt. There's not all that much theoretical difference in performance - much depends on how well each design is optimized and built - but the Schmidt is more complex and harder to produce and often (though not always) signifies a better lens. Really cheap mirror lenses tend to be Maksutovs since the corrector plate is cheaper to make and the secondary mirror can be an aluminized spot on the rear of the corrector plate. The additional small lenses are further corrective lenses and field flattening lenses (which are sometimes absent in cheaper designs). So although it's a mirror lens, it has refractive elements too. Theoretically a lens made ONLY of mirrors has no chromatic aberration, but the addition of the corrective lenses required to optimize the image quality could (in principle) introduce small amounts of chromatic aberration.

One Tamron catalog I have refers to the 500/8 using a mangin mirror, which is a second surface spherical mirror. Normally mirrors used in optics are first surface, which means the reflective coating is applied to the surface of the mirror and the light never passes through the glass of which the mirror is made. In a second surface mirror the light first passes through the glass, is then reflected from the rear surface and passes through the glass again on the way out. If the glass is of good optical quality, a mangin (2nd surface)  mirror can be used to correct for spherical aberration and coma and so one optical component can be used to perform several functions resulting in improved performance with fewer discrete optical components. The Tamron mirrors are also stated to be silver coated, which would give them higher reflectivity for visible light than the more commonly used aluminum mirror coatings.

canonef500a.jpg (38846 bytes)The Canon EF500/4.5L USM lens is a conventional refractive design using one fluorite element (shown in blue) and one UD glass element (shown in green) to optimize performance and reduce chromatic aberrations. Note the presence of a flat element at the front of the lens. This is to protect the fluorite element which is more susceptible to scratching than conventional glass.

Mirror Optics

Mirror lenses, by virtue of their central obstruction, will always have somewhat lower contrast than good refractive lenses as the above figure shows. The ratio of the center obstruction to the full aperture for the Tamron lens is about 0.44. This means that at, say, 60 lp/mm the MTF will be about 1/2 that of an unobstructed lens operating at the same f-stop as shown in the figure below. The figure is applicable to any lens operating at f8. Curve A would apply equally to a refractive lens like the Canon RF500/4.5L at f8 or to a mirror lens with no central obstruction operating at f8.

The increase in MTF at high spatial frequencies is real, but is of no practical benefit in photography for two reasons. First the drop in MTF at low frequencies will greatly reduce the perceived sharpness of an image. Second, it's at too high a spatial frequency to be of use since the 10D has a resolution limit of <70 lp/mm and even on film it will be lost in the noise.

 

obstructed.gif (30270 bytes)

The out of focus regions of the image will always have that "mirror" look with harsh detail rather than smooth blurring. Both are consequences of basic optics and there's no way around these limitations. The lower contrast is due to the effect of the obstruction on the lens MTF, not due to the use of mirrors as is sometimes suggested. BTW mirror lenses have the same DOF as refractive lenses of the same aperture, despite anything you might read to the contrary on some "less than accurate" websites.

The Tests

I used my trusty old resolution test chart from Edmunds Scientific for the testing. As you can see, it's seen better days but it's still effective. Shortly after this test it was caught in a torrential downpour since it was left out in the garden and a thunderstorm caught it (and me) by surprise - it will soon be replaced by a brand new copy!

500a2.jpg (24183 bytes)

500mm lens view

500tc2.jpg (23726 bytes)

500mm lens + 1.4x TC view

Above is the field of view of the 500mm lens and 500mm lens + 1.4x Tamron TC. I'm showing this so you can get an idea of where the enlarged segments of the images which are shown below were taken from. The red squares show the approximate locations of the samples. In each case below the Tamron 500/8 mirror lens sample is on the left and the Canon EF500/4.5L sample is on the right,

Note: All the image  presented below are directly from the camera. No sharpening or other manipulation has been done, other than cropping unless otherwise noted

The Results

Image Center - No TC used - 200%

500m-center.jpg (15777 bytes)

Tamron 500mm mirror

500r-center.jpg (16231 bytes)

Canon EF 500/4.5L

Well, here's a bit of a surprise. Not all THAT much difference. Sure the Canon lens is better but not by as much as you'd expect. Now I KNOW for sure that the Canon lens is very, very sharp. In fact 500mm lenses don't come any sharper. What we're seeing here is something of the limits of digital resolution. The 10D sensor just can't resolve more than about 60 lp/mm - and before you suggest the same test using a 1Ds, remember that the pixel DENSITY (hence resolution) is higher on a 10D than a 1Ds - the 1Ds just more pixels but they are spread over a wider field, so the 1Ds pixel pitch is actually larger (8.8 microns on the 1Ds  vs. 7.4 microns on the 10D).

 

Image ~ 70% of the distance to the corner. No TC - 200%

500m-edge.jpg (14750 bytes)

Tamron 500mm mirror

500r-edge.jpg (15963 bytes)

Canon EF500/4.5L

In this case the difference is quite a bit more significant. The Canon lens is sharper, no doubt about it. Note that we're not all the way out to the corner either. So now let's add a 1.4xTC and see what happens

Image center - 500mm lens + 1.4x TC - 200%

500mtc-center.jpg (14817 bytes)

Tamron 500mm mirror + Tamron 1.4x TC

500rtc-center.jpg (15273 bytes)

Canon EF 500/4.5L + Tamron 1.4x TC

Actually the first thing that happens is that the Tamron lens and 1.4x TC won't work on the 10D! Manual focus lens mounts (and lens adapters) are different from AF mounts in that they don't contact a microswitch in the lens mount of the 10D (or any EOS body) which tells the camera to look for an AF lens. The Tamron TC is autofocus, so it  trips this microswitch, which is fine as long as you then attach and AF lens. If you attach a manual focus lens, the body still looks for an AF lens and when it doesn't find one it generates an error condition. The solution is to rotate the Tamron TC slightly so it's not locked into place. This untrips the microswitch and all is well with MF lenses. Just beware of the lens accidentally falling off!

When it comes to performance, again we can see the Canon lens is clearly better. Not a big surprise. A bigger surprise is that the mirror lens holds up as well as it does.

Image edge - 500mm lens + 1.4x TC - 200%

500mtc-edge.jpg (14359 bytes)

Tamron 500mm mirror + Tamron 1.4x TC

500rtc-edge.jpg (15271 bytes)

Canon EF 500/4.5L + Tamron 1.4x TC

Well, not much difference here. Both show some chromatic aberration, probably due to the TC as much as the lens. The Canon less is very well chromatically corrected and the mirror lens should have no intrinsic chromatic aberration. Though the Canon lens is at f4.5, and so would be expected to show more background blur than the 500mm f8 lens, this is still a valid comparison since normally you'd be shooting with the 500mm lens wide open.

Bokeh of 500mm lenses (no TC) - 100%

500bokeh2.jpg (36664 bytes)

Tamron 500/8 mirror

500bokeh1.jpg (35895 bytes)

Canon EF500/4.5L

Here we have a clear, no doubt, hands down winner, just as we would expect. The mirror lens produces a very confused background with lots of false detail due to effect of the central obstruction inherent in the design of all photographic mirror lenses. The conventional refractive lens produced a much smoother out of focus region.

Macro

The Tamron focus down to 1.7m (1:3) while the Canon only focuses to 5m (1:9) - however performance does drop when the Tamron is used in the Macro mode, thought it may still be acceptable. It's also fixed at f8, so you can't stop down for more DOF and you have the typical mirror lens "bokeh" (distracting background blur) to contend with. Not an ideal macro lens, though certainly handy. Getting the EF500/4.5L to focus down to 1.7m would need an awful lot of extension tubes!

 

macro1.jpg (95224 bytes)

Tamron 500/8 focused at 1.7m (1:3) Image downsized to 600x400 pixels

 

macro2.jpg (45396 bytes)

100% crop from original, sharpened and levels adjusted

Other Stuff

The Tamron lens does seem to have one interesting property, and that's that maybe you can get away with shooting (static subjects) at slow shutter speeds with the lens on a tripod without using MLU (Mirror Lock Up)and/or a remote release. The lower mass of the lens and the smaller size makes it less susceptible to "wobble" induced by shaky hands! In a test I took 4 images at 1/4s shutter speed. Both the Tamron mirror lens shots were sharp. One of the Canon shots was almost as sharp, but one was clearly blurred by camera induced movement. Maybe I could have used ISO 100 instead of ISO 800 for all these tests and shot everything at 1/8s instead of 1/60s!

1-4second.jpg (46180 bytes)

I think one reason for this behavior is that with the Tamron 500/8 you can (indeed have to) mount the camera on the tripod rather than the lens. With the EF 500/4.5L you have to mount the lens on the tripod, which puts the camera body about 9" from the pivot point of the (locked down) ballhead. Now if you push left or right on the camera with, say, 1lb of force and it's 9" from the support point you put 0.75 ft-lbs of torque on the system and you get quite a deflection. When you let go that stored energy appears in the form of vibrations. If you push with the same amount of force on the camera and the camera is directly over the (locked down) support point, you put no torque on the support and the deflection is zero.When you let go, nothing much happens. If you bang the end of the EF500/4.5L you'll see the shake through the viewfinder go on for a second or so. If you bang the end of the 500/8 you won't see any shake at all (except maybe from the direct impact if you hit it hard enough!). Note that this is on a Gitzo 1325 Carbon fiber tripod (legs not extended) and using an Arca-Swiss B-1 ball head, so the tripod support isn't by any means flimsy.

Verdict?

I declare the Canon EF500/4L the winner!!

However keep in mind that the price of a new Tamron 500/8 lens is $400, while a used Canon EF500/4.5L will probably cost you around $3000 - and its replacement, a new EF500/4L IS, will cost you at least double that. The Tamron weighs about 19oz, while the 500/4.5L weighs 6.6lbs and the 500/4L IS weighs about 8.5lbs. The 500/4L IS and 400/4.5L are just over 15" long, while the Tamron 500/8 is about 3.6" long. The Tamron gives you 1:3 macro, the Canon 1:9.

The Canon lens is also autofocus and f4.5. The Tamron lens is manual focus and nominally f8, though closer to f9 in practice. That's two stops plus AF - a huge advantage for the Canon lens in practical field use. In fact to shoot the images above I used ISO 800 in order to keep shutter speeds up above 1/60s with the Tamron lens to make sure that sharpness wasn't affected by camera movement (though this might not have been necessary in light of the observations above - but it never hurts to be safe). Focusing on the Tamron 500/8 mirror lens is very smooth, but very sensitive. You're also at f8, so the viewfinder isn't as bright and the extra DOF makes deciding when something is in focus a bit tricky. You have to rock focus back and forth a few times to make sure you've got good focus. You need a pretty delicate touch to optimize focus. If your subject is moving you're probably going to have a tough time tracking it with focus, in fact I'd go as far as to say that attempting to track a moving subject with a manual focus 500mm mirror lens is pretty much doomed to failure. Even following focus a bird hopping around or an animal grazing and constantly moving it's head could be tricky. Forget about flying birds.

The Canon lens also has a rotating tripod collar, so it's much easier to rapidly switch from horizontal to vertical format than with the Tamron 500/8 lens which doesn't have a tripod collar and so is supported on the camera. Some mirror lenses (but not the cheap ones!), do have a rotating tripod collar

So how much of the apparent equality in optical performance is due to the use of digital rather than film? Probably quite a bit, however if you are shooting digital you probably won't care, since digital performance is what you are interested in. I've previously tested these lenses using Velvia and I saw a greater difference (obviously with the Canon lens still being the winner!).

Should you buy a mirror lens?

Well I used to say no, it's not a good idea. I still don't think they are great, but based on this test I'd say that if you're shooting with a 10D and your budget is limited, a mirror lens might be worth considering. However note that a $60 "no-name" mirror lens may be significantly worse than a $400 Tamron 500/8 SP which does have a reputation of being one of the better mirror lenses. The Nikon 500/8 is reputed to be even better, but the gray version currently sells for $630 and the US version for $860, which makes it less attractive. I suspect the Contax Zeiss Mirotar T*500/8, which has a street price around $1800, is better still. Even in mirror lenses, you usually get what you pay for. For not all that much more than the price of these "better" mirror lenses (and significantly less than the Contax) there are a number of conventional 500mm lenses available, such as the Sigma 50-500 ($900) and 170-500 ($600), which not only give you zoom capability, but autofocus and aperture control as well, in addition to a stop or so of extra speed.

The manual focus fixed-aperture mirror lens can't be beaten on size, weight or cost, but it's certainly second in terms of convenience and overall performance when compared to autofocus refractive lenses with variable aperture. If I was going to attempt to climb Mt Everest or run a marathon carrying a 500mm lens, I'd go for a mirror. If I was planning to visit Yellowstone in the fall, I'd still drag my EF500/4.5L along with me. On a limited budget, it's a tough call. A mirror lens may be the best you can do if you really need 500mm and you only have a few hundred dollars to spend. There are under $200 500mm f8 refractive lenses sold. These are usually fairly simple 4 element lens designs. None of the major lens manufacturers make them, but they show up from time to time under "house brands" or names you don't recognize. Again it's a 500mm lens and it costs under $200. Don't expect miracles. They are usually much longer than a mirror lens and their optical performance isn't great, so whether you go for a cheap mirror lens or a cheap refractive lens is more a matter of convenience than optics.

The other thing to consider is whether you actually need 500mm? If you're shooting with a 10D, a 500mm lens will give you the same field of view as an 800mm lens on a full frame 35mm camera (due the the 1.6x "multiplying" factor - which is really a 1,6x cropping factor). An 800mm lens is pretty long -  in fact longer than most serious full frame 35mm nature photographers use.. A 300mm lens on a 10D gives the same field of view as a 480mm lens on a full frame 35mm camera and makes a very good general purpose telephoto. You can get 100-300 zooms, or if you want the ultimate, a 300/4L IS lens. With 1.4x TC a 300mm on a 10D gives you the equivalent view of a 672mm lens on a full frame 35mm camera. Something to think about anyway.

Which Mirror Lens?

Well, that depends on your budget and which camera you are using. If you really want a mirror lens, here are a few choices:

  • Tamron 500/8 SP (fits any camera via adaptall mount)
  • Nikon 500/8 (fits only Nikon, though some adapters can be found)
  • Contax T*500/8 (fits only Yashica/Contax)
  • Minolta 500/8 -and it's autofocus! (Fits only Minolta)
  • Sigma 600/8 - yes, a 600mm lens. (Available for many MF and AF lens mounts)
  • Vivitar 500/8 - it's cheap, but you usually get what you pay for... (available in several common lens mounts)

And of course you should definitely buy them from one of the vendors below, who support photo.net on orders made on the web via these links!

  


© Copyright 2003 Robert M. Atkins All Rights Reserved

Article created 2003

Readers' Comments


Add a comment



Kelly Flanigan , July 15, 2003; 02:04 A.M.

Hi Bob; I use the same Edmund 24x36" targets sometimes. One I have mounted on 32x40" rigid foam core; in the center....Around the edges; and in the blank white areas; are added other NON standard things to check lenses with.....Some areas have some scraps of 7.5 minute detailed USGS topo maps; different point sizes of text; canned test charts that are from our color copier; line artwork of human faces; and a piece of a dollar bill...........Another interesting thing to add is a lower contrast version of the USAF chart....This really drops the resolution numbers; closer to really world objects....Another nice addition is a scale; in inches and millimeters.....This is a good double check for the actual magnification; which is needed to calculate the line pairs/mm....In a couple of decades; sometimes a goof is made; the scale is always true...Mine also has a data area; for postit notes; or 3x5 cards; to sharpie in the aperture; lens and shutter speed.......Regards; Kelly

Bernhard Mayr , July 15, 2003; 03:37 A.M.


Rubinar vs Planar

When facing the decision to buy a really expensive real telephoto or a cheap mirror I went for a really cheap mirror, the russian rubinar 500mm/5,6 for at that time less than $200. Although others might argue differently I wanted to spend as little as possible for a suboptimal lens and te rubinar fit the bill perfectly for me. I try to attach a JPG with a quick and dirty comparison to my Planar 100/2.0. I basically came to same conclusion as Bob: Mirrors are behind but not as far as one might think and the real problem are the donuts. And I have some shots that I wouldn't have gotten other wise (http://www.photo.net/photodb/photo?photo_id=1193502&size=lg), so for me it paid off.

Bob Atkins , July 15, 2003; 02:41 P.M.


Tightrope Walker - Tamron 500/8; EOS 10D

Here's a hand held macro shot using the Tamron 500/8. Of course I had to use a high speed setting but after cropping and processing to reduce noise and reducing size for the web, you can't tell! Not sure a 12" x 12" print would look as good.

C.G. Ouimet , July 15, 2003; 06:33 P.M.

By any chance, any idea how the "old" Vivitar 600m f/8 and 800mm f/11 Solid Cats and the Vivitar Series 1 450mm f/4.5 fare in this context?

Yaron Kidron , July 15, 2003; 08:09 P.M.

There is one more aspect concerning mirror lenses. Bokeh of highlights and light-sources turns into aweful (IMHO) circular rings. Other than that and being very slow, they're more than any normal shooter would need, considering that most of us don't lug around a 500/4 lens everywhere we go.

Bob Atkins , July 16, 2003; 12:15 A.M.

"By any chance, any idea how the "old" Vivitar 600m f/8 and 800mm f/11 Solid Cats and the Vivitar Series 1 450mm f/4.5 fare in this context?"

Absolutely none, sorry.

We may not all lug a 500/4 around with us all the time, but some of us do lug a 500/4 around quite a bit of the time, and most of the time that we don't, we wish we had it with us (but carried by someone else of course).

Bernhard Mayr , July 16, 2003; 02:17 A.M.

Solid Cat Vivitar: Michael Reichmann (luminous-landscape.com) did a test while back, you'll find it on his website. In brief, he was disappointed.

Jim Leonard , July 16, 2003; 12:16 P.M.

A trick that I saw used at Perkins Observatory (in Ohio) with their _big_ Cassegrain lens is to create a mask covering the front of the telescope with a circular hole cut to the side of it so the diameter of the circle was from the edge of the telescope to the edge of the center obstruction. This should have the effects of stopping down the lens (on the tamron lens described, with the largest unobstructed circle you get f/29, I don't know if you'd want much smaller of an aperture than that), create a more "normal" bokeh and should produce somewhat greater contrast and sharpness (this last bit was their stated goal, they didn't much care about bokeh). This makes it almost unusable for anthing other than static subjects but it should be more usable for most macro subjects.

Bob Atkins , July 16, 2003; 04:05 P.M.

Off axis aperture masks won't work very well on a 500/8 mirror lens, mainly beacuse of the abysmally small aperture which results. The small aperture not only means long shutter speeds (or high ISO) but diffraction will kill off sharpness and contrast even more than the central obstruction does.

It works for telescopes (and I've used it myself) because the central obstruction isn't usually so large and large f-ratios aren't so important since you can compensate with longer focal length eyepieces. There are also issues of looking through a smaller "slug" of turbulant air and see "seeing" can improve even though resolution drops.

You could make an unobstructed mirror lens, and I've seen designs for some, but the complexity of the optics required to get a good image and the added mechanical design required means they'd probably cost as much as a refractive lens, plus they'd be significantly larger than conventional cassegrain based mirror lenses.

Jordan Viray , July 21, 2003; 03:42 A.M.

Coming from an amateur astronomy background, it has always been my understanding that Maksutov designs tend to be more expensive than Schmidt ones. Creation of Schmidt type telescopes is more complex and costly up to a point - but larger aperture Maksutovs are very expensive to manufacture since their giant meniscus lens requires so much more glass, grinding, and polishing time than an equivalent size corrector lens in a Schmidt design.

Also, the large secondary obstruction in the Schmidt designs tends to leave images less contrasty than Maksutov ones which would seem to be a strong reason to favor Maksutov designs in photographic applications.

I think Schmidt designs are more popular because they are usually a few stops faster (which is a huge consideration in photography, less so in astrophotography where Maksutov scopes form a healthy minority).

Jay Hector , July 24, 2003; 08:29 A.M.

Real-world use of a quality 500mm mirror lens, such as my first gen Nikkor Reflex F8 that I've used since 1976, is not a negative in relation to a regular lens design. I sold my first Formula 1 shot to Road & Track back in 1978 with my trusty mirror lens, and sold many more over the years with it too. Here's a scan of a well-worn tearsheet of the shot (Nikon F2S/500mm Reflex/K64):

http://www.jaypix.com/pix/villb01.jpg

It was only years later that I learned the 500mm Reflex was too slow, too soft, had a hot-spot, couldn't be hand-held and the viewfinder was too dark.

Jay J. Hector

Bob Atkins , July 24, 2003; 11:44 A.M.

The effect of the secondary obstruction is really related only to its size relative to the primary mirror. For a given aperture and focal length I don't think there's any significant difference between Schmidt and Maksutov designs. The Maksutovs can be cheaper because you can I think (with the right design) just silver a small spot on the back of the corrector plate rather than having to fabricate and use a second mirror and somehow fix it to the Schmidt corrector. Also I believe tha Makstov design uses a corrector with all spherical surfaces, which can be easier (thus cheaper?) to make then the complex aspheric corrector used by Schmidts.

In the end it probably doesn't matter much which design is used. It's probably the care taken in manufacture and the accuracy of the surfaces which are the most important factors in determining the image quality produced by the lens.

Tor Johnson , July 27, 2003; 02:03 P.M.

I've been extremely satisfied with my Nikkor 500 F/8. I generally shoot it hand-held (which theoretically should result is fuzzy images but in practive doesn't). It's light weight, reliable, and is sharper than some of my other lenses with TC's hooked on. I'm sure that a real 500mm glass lens made my Nikon will be sharper but I'd still have to carry the blasted thing around.

My main complaint with the lens is related to the tripod collar. It's small and very close to the base of the lens. This makes it useless on My D1x and F5 since they have the extended grip. If using a tripod collar is important to you, many mirror lenses won't be helpful.

Frank Uhlig , July 27, 2003; 04:08 P.M.

Two remarks:

My Tamrom mirror lens shows much nicer out of focus blurr (= bouquet or "bokeh" as phnetters tend to bastardize this word ..), when the out of focus stuff is in FRONT of the focal - plane. It admittedly gets kind of kinky when I focus in front of a coarsely structured background such as trees, houses, ... .

Secondly, I have had really nice results in sky/moon shots with this lens. I was going to give it away, when the lunar ecclipse came around several weeks ago. I am so impressed with its pictures in "astronomy" that I have decided to keep it and experiment instead.

Thomas Malitsky , August 01, 2003; 02:15 A.M.

I don't know if this is appropriate or not here, but coincidental to Bob's posting of this article. . .a Nikon 500mm mirror lens has turned up for sale in the Classifieds on Photo.net :^)

nathan ray , January 15, 2004; 06:04 A.M.

I'm interesting about the Rubinar 500mm 5.6, I couldn't find enought information about it...It can fit with Canon fd and eos? Is necessary to work in stop down? Thanks.

Don Peterson , March 23, 2004; 09:59 P.M.

I purchased a Phoenix / Samyang 500mm f8 Mirror lens brand new for $98.00 I think this is the cheapest one on the market in the US. I am a beginning photographer and have shot four rolls of film with this lens so far. It can take pleasing photos if you understand its limitations and practice using it properly. Here are two photos taken with this lens:



As you can see, the lens is capable of a reasonable degree of sharpness. The limited depth of field is evident in these photos.

I am sure that with experience, I will take better shots with this lens. For those of us spoiled by "auto-everything" cameras it will take a bit of patience to master a 500mm f8 lens. Here are a few guidelines for this lens. Use at the minimum, 200asa film on bright sunny days for easier focusing. That will give you a shutter speed of 1/500 with the lens fixed f8 aperture on a sunny day. Always compose knowing that you have a very limited depth of field. Also, keep your backgrounds as simple as possible to minimize the donut shaped highlights. Finally, have fun learning to master it!

Alan Myers , July 03, 2004; 05:10 P.M.

This interesting article was just pointed out to me.... by the person to whom I sold my Tamron 500/8! Perhaps I should have kept it!

The reason I'm commenting here, though, is that I am curious if anyone else has ever physically compared the Nikkor 500/8 alongside the Tamron 500/8. I had the opportunity to do this closely a couple years ago and I swear the two came off the same assemly line, with only minor cosmetic differences such as a different focusing ring grip. I seem to redall the specifications of the two lenses seemed identical, too. I've not had the opportunity to compare images from the two, side by side.

One caveat I'd add for using the Tamron 500/8 or any other mirror lens is that you will be tempted to try to handhold the lens, due to the compact size and light weight. Don't! Always try to use at least a monopod, or better yet, a tripod. Your results will be worth it.

Over the years, I got many good shots with the Tamron, only reluctantly sold it because my main user cameras are now EOS (see comments above, about the very elusive Adaptall-2 for EOS) and I have other lenses providing the same focal length.

Bart Peeren , December 22, 2008; 07:42 A.M.

I am aware of the fact that I am a "bit" late entering this discussion but, any lens has it's uses if not virtues! I do not disagree with any of the stated disadvantages of catadioptric lenses BUT:

I use an ancient MTO 1100mm/f10.5 lens which, proves to be very hard to handle most of the times. However, when responding to the question "which lenses do you use, and why", I went out and tried to show why I use the 3 KG, 7 lbs MTO. One set to provide an idea is here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bartpeeren/sets/72157602912301914/ Pentax Ist-DL with 50/2.8 AF macro and EOS 350D with the MTO from same position, about 1/4 mile/400meters. A second, to show the bokeh does not always distract is here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bartpeeren/136006122/

I do know it is not a 500mm, but I'd say not bad for 1100mm!

comments, and a reopening of this discussion welcome!

Bart.


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