Any 500mm f/8 Zeiss lens owners around?

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by graham_martin|2, Jan 9, 2010.

  1. I have a 40 year old plus Zeiss 500mm f/8 which I use on my 500 c/m. I'm trying to decide whether to sell it or not. I don't use it very much. I prefer the wider angle lenses for landscape or portrait photography. Before I sell it, and later regret my decision, I would be interested in hearing from folks who have this lens or had one in the past.
    I'd like to know what type of subjects you felt this lens is best suited for. While 500mm on a 35mm DSLR camera can easily be used for wildlife that is not the case in the medium format world. So what would you consider to be the highest and best use for this lens?
  2. Graham, they aren't worth that much money now days. I've considered selling my older C version to buy an APO, but I find it fairly difficult to accurately focus at f/8. I bought mine for bird photography, but really don't use it much either. I use it for compressing landscapes every so often. I've also thought about selling it to get another 350mm, which I found I used a lot more.
  3. Graham,
    I have one of the early silver shutter models and can't imagine selling it, even though I make only a handful of exposures with it each year. Occasionally it is just the right lens for a specific portrait situation where I want total isolation outdoors. The same thing often occurs with details on abandoned buildings or architectural assignments, and once in a while it is the perfect glass for compressing a range of repeated subjects in cityscapes or nature landscapes. I have used it for wildlife in semi familiar situations like the elk and bison herds at Yellowstone and the Tetons where the animals are relatively tame and easy to follow optically, but would not opt for it in more active wildlife situations.
    Like any other tool, it's usage is limited by its design and more importantly by the imagination of the user.
  4. Michael, that's exactly the problem that I have with this lens. Recently I was at our local bird rookery where the birds are really close up. I used the 500mm but had great difficultly with the focusing, and wasn't particularly pleased with the results. My thought would also be to try the 350mm lens. I have a 250mm and I like that lens for some shots. I probably couldn't get more than $700 or $800 on a lens that was built in 1965. However that is pretty close to what I would have to pay for a 350mm lens from KEH.
  5. The 500mm Sonnar is still a good lens for nature. To convert from 21/4 to the 35mm equivalent, multiply by .62, so a 500mm lens is the equivalent of a 310mm in 35mm.
  6. I think Scott's comment is worth paying attention to. It should illustrate to small-format users the lack of need to use so-called multiplying factors at all.
    Of course, what Scott is saying is that a 500mm lens on a 35mm body will include a picture area equivalent to a certain focal length lens on a 6x6 camera .
    However, for most 35mm users, they already know that a 500mm lens on a 35mm camera is a 500mm lens.
    A 500mm lens is a 500mm lens on ANY format, it's just the "normal," "telephoto," and "wide-angle" designations that change with the format.
    Converting to 35mm equivalents in an APS-C camera makes equally little sense.
    We just need to know that "Normal" is 300mm on an 8x10", 150mm on a 4x5", 80mm on a 6x6, 50mm on a 35mm, roughly 30mm on an APS-C, and so on.
    Oh, and keep your 500mm Sonnar, you'll regret it always if you dump it because you's find it impossible, nor nearly so, to replace. It's worth a lot more to you than you'd ever get for it, even if you only use it once in a while.
  7. JDM, it is called effective focal length. Most of the people who frequent this forum have never used a medium format camera, much less large format, so for them 35mm is their reference point. Until I got comfortable with the Hasselblad, I used to do the exact same thing and I still do it for 4 x 5. I am well aware that 500mmm is 500mm regardless of the camera, that's a big "duh". But when you take into account the format, the effective focal length changes, or if you will, the magnification ratio. 10x for 35mm, and only about 6x for 6x5. A 90mm lens on 4 x 5 is a wide angle lens, though it would be considered a short telephoto in 35mm, or a moderate telephoto in DX. That is the point I was making, and he did reference a DSLR in his question.
  8. Scott, you are correct that the point I was trying to make is that a 500mm on a MF body has nowhere near the "reach" that a 500mm has on a DSLR (non full frame) that has a 1.5X magnification factor thus having the same effect as would a 750mm lens on a 35mm camera. I was trying to illustrate the point that this lens cannot be effectively used for "fill the frame" shots of wildlife unless the subject at hand is far closer than one would need it to be with a DSLR. As such, the lens is not meeting my needs in that respect.
    I went to the PBase website and I couldn't find any images there taken with this lens. Since this is not a commonly used MF lens it started me wondering what types of pictures are taken by owners of this lens.
  9. It would be better to talk about the angle of view, and not about "effective focal lengths": a 320 mm lens on 35 mm format has the same horizontal angle of view as a 500 mm lens on 6x6.
    Same here. The focal length is too 'extreme', the lens too hard to use too, to be of much use. So the lens gets used very, very, very little.
    I use a teleconverter more than the long lens, and i use a teleconverter perhaps once every two years.
  10. Good point Q.G. "Angle of view" is definitely a more accurate and concise description. It makes me feel better that someone with your credentials has had the same difficult experience as I. I'm glad I tried the lens, but I could use the extra cash and so I will be putting it up for sale.
  11. "Angle of view" is exactly what "Effective focal length" means. The problem is no one thinks about the exact angle of view a certain lens has. Tell someone a lens has an angle of view of 30 degrees and you get a blank stare. Tell them its like a such and such mm lens on 35mm film and they will know exactly what you mean.
  12. I'd accept "angle of view" as a reasonable designation, but my point is and was that it only makes sense to speak generally of 'normal', "tele-' and so on.
    Actually converting it to a non-existent focal length "equivalent" is simply confusing for newbies, and should not be necessary for persons experienced in different formats.I don't look at my 80mm Biometar and think "oh, that would be the equivalent of a 50mm lens on my Praktica" -- I just think, "that's my normal lens, where did I put the telephoto?"
    Scott: And I am quite aware of what you're saying and why-- it's not that I don't understand, it's that I disagree with you that this is a "good idea."
    Since this is a medium format forum, I suppose that most people know what focal lengths are what. I would hardly call 500mm on a 6x6 "extreme" - it's a long, but not exceptionally long, telephoto. On 35mm cameras, lots of people shoot 300mm lenses all the time. Does it really help to note that it would take a 480mm lens on a 6x6 to get the same angle of view?
    Of course on 6x6 it's not the focal length that makes it awkward to use, it's the weight and size necessary to cover the larger format.
  13. I have used 250mm with extension tubes in the garden for close-ups without scaring off the subjects, a butterfly for example. The 500 with extension would provide even more safety distance. I first learned of this years ago from an early Hasselblad booklet. After that experience with the 250, I began using it with extension, mostly 21mm, for tight-cropped portraits with stunning results. Before offloading the 500, may I suggest you try some close-up photography with it. It offers a whole new scale-range of potential. Most people think of tele lenses for pulling in distant subjects and that's all. But as Q.G. suggests, think of the angle of view, and what you can do with it. I would love to have one ;-)
  14. Of all the Hasselblad Carl Zeiss lenses, the 500 mm F/8 Tessar C seems to have the worst reputation. Though some of this may be justified, I feel that a substantial portion of the criticism comes from users without the patience to overcome this lens's limitations with more care to one's shooting technique. I can not really judge the relative amounts, as I have not used the 500 mm in its C version. I own and have used the Apotessar CF version of the lens and have used it for lunar and guided astrophotography and for skylines. This lens belongs on a tripod. The original C lens had a shoulder stock accessory to aid in steadying the lens when used handheld. I would guess that it wasn't very successful, but whether it was for lack of sales, or lack of appreciable effect on the photographic results, I have no idea.
    All that said, I like my Apotessar a lot and am pleased with the results I get when I pay attention to my technique. I would hazard to guess that very few Hasselblad owners have seen, much less used, the 500 mm lens. Now, while it is not an easy lens to use for wildlife photography, when used properly under the right conditions, I would suspect that the results would be surprisingly good. Birds in nests or on perches or grazing animals would be better targets than birds in flight or running animals, especially when well lit by the sun.
    Another issue with this lens, is that the vignetting in the viewfinder in the upper part of the image is very pronounced on the older bodies without the Gliding Mirror System. I rarely, if ever use the 500 mm on my 500C/M. If I plan to use it, it is with my 503CW or 200FCW bodies as a goo sixth of the image is not visible in the viewfinder (it will illuminate the whole area of the film, though).
    Feel free to search the forum for prior discussions of this lens.
  15. Thanks Taras. Since I only own the 500 c/m it does seem that my best option is to sell the lens.
  16. Taras.
    Just to add a bit to your comments about optical issues with this lens. You are completely dead right that this is a tripod only lens. I would add that it is also best used (when you can), with the mirror locked up to avoid the vibrations that mirror slap can cause. Finalize that with a good cable release to further reduce any jarring of the camera and you've have the technique to maximize this lens's abilities.
    I have one 24x24 print done with this lens on Plus-x film that I will match against any of my large format prints. This is of back lit trees and reeds on the far side of the Snake River in the Tetons and it's contrast range and extreme sharpness are every bit the technical match of any of my large format prints (and I am very demanding in my print quality). It was made as described. Lens lugged down tight on a sturdy tripod, mirror locked up after composition and focusing, exposure was made with a long and flexible cable release.
    The result was a wonderfully contrasty and sharp neg and that is from the old and original "C" version of this lens which should not perform as well as your much newer "CF". The many other images I have made with this lens are equally sharp as long as I have used those techniques.
    Great optics!
  17. To Tim and Taras, you both speak of work that is of great interest and I've just been to your site Taras.
    (I'm on a an extremely slow internet connection for a while so it takes ages to view images)
    Is there any chance of seeing an image on this thread? One Lunar image maybe? :)
    Thanks, Kevin
  18. Taras is correct about these 500mm lenses being "tripod" lenses.
    Consider the angle of view/35mm equiv equation. As a general rule, the lowest shutter speed you should hand-hold with decent results, is the speed closest and equal to the focal length. (A 350mm would be 250th of a second, 500mm a 500th, etc.)
    However, as a technician, I speed test many leaf shutters. I have found that the highest marked speed of a 500th is actually more like a 325th. Rarely over a 400th of a second.
    With this knowledge and in light of the general rule above, Taras' comments become even more true. Hasselblad in their directions for the 500mm Tele- Apotessar, avoid explaining the shutter's shortcomings and simply state that the lens is so sharp that a tripod is highly recommended.
    A 500mm hand-held on a Hasselblad is parallel to: "With my 80mm, I took a picture hand-held at a 30th of a second, why isn't it sharp?"
  19. Thanks Gus, I totally agree that this is a tripod only lens combined with a cable release. What I did not know was the fastest shutter speed was actually less than 1/500 second. At 1/325 that's like adding almost a full stop. Would I be wise to use 1/325th on my exposure meter in order to determine the f stop even if I have the shutter set at 1/500th?
  20. The recommendation to use a tripod has not a lot (if anything at all) to do with any shutter shortcomings, i think. It's about the angle of view thing.
    The longer the lens, the smaller the angle of view. And the smaller the angle of view, the more it approximates the angle of hand induced shake. The effect of hand induced shake grows reversely proportional to the angle of view.
    That's the reason behind the reciprocal shutterspeed advice. So not yet the reason why it is not about shutterspeeds per se.
    The thing with long lenses is that not just the focal length is rather large, but the lenses themselves are too. You can't hold them like you would a camera with, say, an 80 mm lens.
    And that messes up the reciprocal shutterspeed rule rather seriously. Even with a perfect shutterspeed of 1/500th, you wouldn't be able to get sharp pictures using a 500 mm lens hand held.
    By the way: you always (!) get sharper pictures when using a tripod. Even when using (accurate) fast speeds and a short lens.
    So a tripod is not just something highly recommended, but obligatory. Only when there are pressing reasons why you absolutely can't use a tripod, you are allowed to hand hold a camera.
  21. "The recommendation to use a tripod has not a lot (if anything at all) to do with any shutter shortcomings"​
    Q.G., I think that my main point with this little know leaf shutter fact, is that you can't even reach the minimum hand-holdable shutter speed with a 500mm mounted to a Hasselblad.
    Furthermore, as you can barely make out from the image that I'm providing, the 350mm doesn't have a tripod mount designed in to it like the 500mm. (Certainly not the 250 or 150mm)
    Graham yes, a 1/2 to 1/3 stop (under) correction for ambient light situations would correct this design limit.
  22. Gus,
    I agree that it should be mentioned that leaf shutters have troubles reaching their top speeds. People who haven't heard about it yet should perhaps google shutter efficiency, and learn too how that varies with aperture too.
    But still, i will insist that that is not the main consideration, if at all, behind the recommendation to use a tripod. ;-)
    The tripod mount on some lenses, not on others, thing is still another thing. Again nothing to do with shutter speeds.
    The camera has a tripod mount, so there is no problem using a tripod with any lens. So the reason why the (physically) long 500 mm lens has a mount (and the later versions of any lens longer than 250 mm) and why there was a separate collar available for the 140-280 zoom lenses, is because - being long, and heavy - they move the center of gravity forward.
    Fix such combinations of camera and lens to a tripod using the mount on the camera, and you will not get the most stable fix. Hence the mounts on the lenses.

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