1. This is a follow on to JDM's two threads on the Vivitar solid cat, and the Sigma mirror, just to have a thread to discuss mirror lenses in general, vs. those 2 specific lenses.

    To start, I have always been fasinated by the mirror lenses.
    And like many, I could not afford a Nikkor 500mm mirror when it came out.
    But now that film cameras and manual focus lens prices have dropped, I finally have one :). And I even used it to shoot tennis at my local high school, when I needed the extra reach.

    I am still amazed at how short the mirror lenses are, compared to the "stovepipe" simple telephotos. I estimate that my Vivitar 600mm solid cat is about or less than 1/5 the length of my brother's 600mm stovepipe.

    Rick's post about his Tameron Adaptall SP 500mm now has me curious about that lens.

    Although the next lens on my list should be the Nikkor 1000mm mirror.
  2. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    My Nikkor 500 F8 always seemed so large on my F - F3. In the digital world, it appears normal on my D 750. I'm always amazed at how big DSLR lenses are.
  3. I have always liked those mirror lenses. The 500/8 was at least in my car all the time and got used regularly for football and news photos. One of my favorite shots I've ever taken was done with it. I also had access to the 1000mm/11 and it is a big chunk of lens. Early in the space shuttle program I got media passes to shoot the liftoff. I had that 1000 on a tripod and the 500 handheld and shot two full rolls of 36 exposure Ektachrome as fast as the motor drives would go! Those lenses aren't for everything but they sure are handy.

    Rick H.
  4. I bought a Sigma 600 way back in about 1984 or so and at first thought it was a piece of junk. Then I learned how to use it, and I became amazed at how sharp that lens was. I sold it several years later, and wish now that I wouldn't have. Unfortantely, those big old Sigmas are variable in quality. I have a much more recent one now in EOS mount, which means it was made in the late 80s most likely. It isn't nearly as sharp as the original. But now I also have a Tamron 55BB 500mm and it is tack sharp. Tamron lenses tend to be more consistent in quality, so I can recommend them with much fewer reservations.

    Back in the 80s and early 90s I was a freelance motorsports photographer and I went to all the airshows I could fit into my schedule. My Sigma was a constant companion at those events. I was able to pull in some great shots with it that otherwise wouldn't have been possible with a shorter optic. At the auto races I typically had the Sigma mounted to a monopod, which was a nice setup. But at the airshows, I was typically shooting offhand. Shutter speeds at 1/500 and faster, and I was fine. Typically I had it mounted to a motor-driven Canon F-1, so all that weight actually helped to stabilize the shots. The Sigma had a very obvious "hot spot" -- some folks even thought it was vignetting, but nope, just a very noticeable hot spot, but honestly I didn't care as long as the photos were sharp. :cool:

    Here are a few that I think show off the old Sigma's capabilities. These are all dupes from slides, most typically Kodachrome 64. With two of the images, I've also supplied 100% crops from these images to illustrate just how much information that Sigma captured.

    And here are a couple of shots of the moon from my Tamron 500mm. The camera was a Sony NEX 7. 1/125 @ ISO 100.
  5. "Although the next lens on my list should be the Nikkor 1000mm mirror."

    - I have one that I got at a bargain price because the focus was seized almost solid, and it was dusty and misted inside. The repair and cleaning was reasonably easy, but basically I'm left with a lump of a lens that really doesn't 'earn its keep' in terms of image quality.

    I'm still unsure whether the limiting factor to its relatively poor IQ is atmospheric turbulance, or the lens optics. Either way, I get almost equal results from simply magnifying the image from a 400mm f/5.6 IF-ED conventional lens. The 400mm gives a sharper, brighter image and handles better. Whereas the 1000mm f/11 Reflex-Nikkor is a bit of a white elephant that only gets used for its novelty value.

    My advice; save your money and get a decent refractive lens instead!
  6. Nice work, Michael. I too had the Sigma 600 but it didn't perform nearly as well as your copy. I also have a Maksutov lens, the MTO 500mm f/8, which is big and heavy though it's optically pretty good, and a Soligor 500 f/8, a veritable doorstop. I rarely want to "bring things closer" with telephoto lenses, being more interested in compressing perspective and isolating subjects from the background, and the little Tamron Adaptall II 55B suits my purposes well, with it's exceptional ability to focus as close as 1.7m from the subject, unusual among mirror lenses. It's also very compact, light and very sharp. It's an earlier model than the 55BB and, along with the custom lens hood, comes with four colour filters for B&W work and a tripod mounting ring, accessories the later model lacks. It also performs very well with the Tamron SP 2x Flat-Field Tele-Converter.

    A description of the lens is here, on the excellent Adaptall-2 site:

    Tamron SP Adaptall-2 500mm F/8 Model 55B

    I'll post a couple of sample images below from a Sony A7r.


    Decay Pnet.jpg

    A Rush of Agapanthus

    A Rush of Agapanthus Pnet.jpg

    Summer Country

    Summer Country 002 Pnet.jpg

    Last edited: Dec 5, 2017
  7. As I have pointed out before, when it comes to mirror lenses,
    "I'm just a boy who cain't say no".

    Every time I think I've been able to stop acquiring them, something different always crops up to keep me going.
    I wish that these were all of them :(
  8. Come to think of it I have a friend who has the 500/8 and it sits in his closet pretty much all the time, I doubt it has been used more than 3 times since new. I keep trying to get him to sell it to me, could be time for another phone call....

    Rick H.
  9. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    A couple of the Vivitar out there on the Bay, one even sort of "reasonable"...
  10. I got both the 600 and 800 :D
    JDM is a bad influence on me.

    BTW, anyone know how to redo the foam lining of the Vivitar plastic cases? After all these years, it is turning to foam dust, YUK.
    Sandy Vongries likes this.
  11. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    What does the foam look like? I have gone to a foam / upholstery supply store and bought closed cell sheet foam and a special (inexpensive) glue which won't eat the foam an used that on cases in the past. If you do that, you need to allow a good bit of drying / airing time before use. If it is dimensional, you might be able to use egg crate / pluck foam type used in replacement foam for hard cases. That eventually degrades as well, though it takes quite a while.
  12. SCL


    Over time I've had a 500 Canon, Nikon, Leica and Tamron mirror lenses. In my comparison tests the Tamron beat the others in IQ (as well as price).
  13. I haven't posted a photo here since the big change but here is one of my favorites with the 500/8 at maybe 15 feet, Tri-X and my faithful F2.

  14. Celestron and Minolta both made 500mm f8s. Are those in your collection? I find the Celestron unimpressive, and never tried the Minolta despite hearing it praised.
  15. Not all mirror lenses are compact. For example, Questar

    JDM, why don't you get one?
  16. The Questar is a superb optic. Who cares if it isn't small? It's really a telescope.

    Speaking of telescopes, both Celestron and Meade have made telescopes/spotting scopes/camera lenses in the 1000mm range. The Celestron C90 is pretty ubiquitous and often can be found on the bay for reasonable. The C90 was made in more than one focal length though, so one should be aware of this before purchase. Meade's 1000mm offerings are not quite as common. The earlier ones look like longish Schmidt-Cassegrains, whereas the C90 is a Maksutov design. The newer Meade 1000s look to be Maksutov designs also. Both were typically 1000mm f/11 optics, although Meade also made a 1000mm f/10. Both Meade and Celestron build top quality telescopes, so it stands to reason that their smaller ones should also be good. I've never owned any of the 1000mm Meades, but I've owned a couple of the Celestron C90s and they were excellent lenses. As for Meade, I've owned both a 6" and 8" Newtonian mirror telescope, but the only folded optic of theirs that I've owned was a 10" f/10 LX-3 Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope. I've used it as a lens and 2600mm can be quite interesting for terrestrial photography, albeit a bit extreme in some cases. :cool:
  17. I've been able to reach out to really long focal lengths with the reflex lenses (including a Celestron 1250mm) and a NIkon TC-1 or a Vivitar (2X, original co.) telextender.

    Results are amazingly good (LINK)

    It has somewhat dampened (I am glad to say) the urge to buy ever longer and longer mirror lenses.
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2017
  18. I don't think that the 700/8 Questar has much in common with Questar's 3.5" reflecting telescope. See Questar introduction and history

    About Celestron C-90s. The absolutely worst lens, as incapable as delivered of producing color transparencies that I was willing to show in public, I've ever owned was the C-90 I bought in late 1978. It had terrible astigmatism, as in couldn't bring vertical and horizontal lines in focus simultaneously, Bad central hot spot. And soft soft soft. After I convinced myself that the problem wasn't operator error -- operator error can't create astigmatism or a central hot spot, can cause poor resolution -- I returned the beast to Celestron. They replaced it on warrantee. The replacement was a little better -- it seems that in those days Celestron had QC problems, had shipped my first lens without the necessary extension tubes -- but was still unusable and is the second worst lens I've owned.

    Modern C-90s may be better and Celestron QC may have improved. Having been burnt, and having a Q700, I'd never ever buy another C-90.
  19. Just to demonstrate the Tamron 55B matched with the Tamron 2x Flat-Field Tele-Convertor. The first image is at a "standard" 50mm focal length, the second at 10000mm. The rather dull light limited exposure speed to 1/1000, as I didn't want to push the ISO any higher. The image would probably have been a little sharper at 1/2000th.


    Full Frame Pnet.jpg


  20. Again, my Celestron 1250mm was inconvenient to use because of the focus mechanism, but produced fairly decent optical results when mounted on a tripod and even with a teleconverter (see the Link given above)
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2017

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