Spiratone 300mm f/5.6 Mirror Mintel®-S

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by jdm_von_weinberg, Mar 15, 2013.

  1. Spiratone 300mm f/5.6 Mirror Mintel®-S

    Kadlubeks Objectiv-Katalog does not list Spiratone lenses, but this may be the same lens as the Soligor SOL0350 300mm f/5.6 lens.
    There were variants on the Minitel® form- a Mintel-T and this Mintel-S, at least.

    Most of the "house" brands tended to go with the same suppliers at any given time.


    Needless to say, this is yet another of my chain of posts on catadioptric (mirror) lenses and also on Spiratone gear.

    I had intended to do my 'new' Russian MTO 500mm f/8 lens, but that will need more effort than my flu-(w)racked body is capable of at this time (I am on the mend, though). Especially since the Russian lens will have to be done on a film body and with tripods and all.

    However, it is over 70° F here today, and so I stepped outside my door and took some snap shots. This lens is definitely in the "Classic Manual" era, and it is the lens that is the issue. I shot these on a Canon 5D mkii "full-frame" body. The images are completely unedited as they came out off the CF card.


    I had been bidding on the Spiratone (and a few other) 300mm catadioptric lenses for some time now. Never won. So I finally zeroed in on one and went all out. As has been the case before, this lens typically goes for more than most 500mm mirror lenses. However, this time I got one for only a little more than I paid for my Reflex-Nikkor 500mm f/8.

    Why was this one so sought after?

    Collector demand?
    I don't think that the 'critical mass' has yet been achieved in those trying to accumulate the Spiratone legacy, although that might be comforting to my heirs were it true.

    Small Size?
    Even the 500mm versions are relatively "hand-holding" lenses, but the '300' is even more compact and small (326 grams without adapter). I am sure that is part of the attraction.

    and the issue I was most interested in

    Is it good enough that it is still wanted as a shooter?
    You can judge for yourself below. There are other sample shots at places all over the internet, such as http://www.dpreview.com/galleries/8109623540/albums/spiratone-300mm-reflex-lens . A 1973 notice is in Popular Mechanics of November 1973 ( http://books.google.com/books?id=ldQDAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA198&lpg=PA198&dq=Spiratone+300mm&source=bl&ots=7RlVj1-IGY&sig=mjzY9EVdkVizJj0RcuXN3XM_iYw&hl=en&sa=X&ei=4G1DUaXFNZbj4AOhwID4Cg&ved=0CPIBEOgBMBo#v=onepage&q=Spiratone%20300mm&f=false )

    The Lens

    Here is an ad for the Mintel-S as offered by Spiratone in Modern Photography in December, 1983.

  2. And here is the lens. Note the 35mm film can next to the lens to get an idea of scale. The reddish-pink UV filter is a joke, speaking of bottle glass filters. A 62mm UV filter in this color cost something like a couple of bucks. Surprisingly, I have to admit that it actually isn't all that optically bad a protection filter, but it was off the lens in the pictures below. So this is not a continuation of any series on filter quality….

    Will it disguise my Spiratone as a Canon L lens? Perhaps not.
  3. Look, I'm no shape for aesthetic judgments here, so here's what I did. Here are snapshots showing what the 300mm mirror lens can do, handheld.

    First, my standard shot taken down Bohring Staße toward the intersection with Ennuisgaten. ISO 250, 1/1000 sec. Of course, all at f/5.6.

  4. Here is a 100% crop from that same image:

  5. Here is my obligatory (for me, that is) shot of the "Polyspheroid Water Tower". ISO 250, 1/2500:

  6. And here is the 100% crop from that image:
  7. The little lens also does pretty well close up, as well.

    Here just for the sheer giddiness (accompanied by nausea from the bokeh) is a rotting magnolia cone on the pavement.

  8. Conclusion

    I personally find the performance of this lens to be superior (sample size=1). I'm convinced that the prices reflect the considerable utility of the lens. There's no more convenient way of carrying around a 300mm telephoto than this one, at any rate.

    For those who want more detail, here is a pdf file of the instruction manual for the Spiratone 300mm f/5.6 Mirror Mintel®-S:
  9. Now I will go and get back in bed... sniff...
    Neither flu, nor cold, nor dark of night shall stay me...., etc.
  10. Another interesting write up JDM. I have always had a bit of an odd fascination with cat mirror lenses. Maybe something to do with me always rooting for the underdog. It seems their one purpose in life is to offer range, portability and economy at the expense of optical performance and bokeh quality. Not, at first glance, a trade off that any serious photographer would consider.
    I must say that your copy is indeed very small and compact. The very essence of a mirror lens. I am the owner of 500mm Makinon in Nikon mount that came to me by way of a gift. It seems to be larger then the one shown here.
    Its odd as well because I have really been pondering mirror lenses recently (over the last few months) and I have a strange desire to in some way work the lens into my shooting regimen. Telephoto shots are not something I often shoot so this is in a way a challenge to myself to think about photography in a different focal length as well as use an odd bit of kit for some interesting results.
    What I have come across is an strange effect that my lens has when specifically applied to out of focus tree limbs. The lens give the limbs a very hollow effect, sometimes almost like an x-ray. I have done a little bit of experimenting with it and I am pleased with the effects.
    So I have determined to use mirror lenses while playing to their strengths (range, portability) while trying to negate their weaknesses (IQ and bokeh). The bokeh issue I just play around with and the lack of IQ I simply hid by over processing the image. If I needed a lens in the field to get great tack sharp images of birds I would not even consider a mirror lens. But shooting birds for artistic effect....that is where the cat mirror can shine with a little creative thinking.
    Here are some sample from my Makinon.
    omoide (showing the hollow limb effect)

    bird in flight (artistic bird with hollow limbs)


    so still (hollow limbs)


    a broken composition (artistic bird and over processed)


    a dark path beckoning (long exposure sidewalk at night)


    high voltage (I was actually surprised at the sharpness here)


    flowers and strangers (long exposure at night, a light is illuminating a sign that is out of the frame on the left while highlight some flowers. two streaks in the background are car headlights that went past)


    All in all I love the range it provides and it doesnt take up to much space in the bag. But I really get lazy when I shoot with it knowing I will just cover up flaws with processing effects. But its fun to do. I have been tempted to splurge for a Zeiss Mirrortar to see if a really high IQ Cat Mirror is possible.
    By the way, is that hollow limb effect Nissen bokeh?
  11. Well that looks like it performs well. I have never owned a mirror lens, but did try a Tamron 250mm back in the day. Got to love those little doughnuts in the oof areas, should try it with sparkling water!
    Spiratone lenses seem to have quite a following amongst after market lenses, although they are rarely seen here in Australia.
  12. I suspect the demand for 300 or 350mm lenses is due in part to their relative rarity compared to 500's. I have a Tamron SP 500/8, and while it was easy to find at at a price of $110, I have very seldom seen the 350/5.6 for sale. When I did it cost more than a 500 in similar condition.
  13. Oh, to save Marc the trouble, I do have the issue of Modern Photography (1983-05) mentioned in the Spiratone ad:
    Here it is in a 876KB pdf file
  14. Vignetting was usually more noticable with the 300 mm mirror lenses which may have limited their appeal. However, JDM
    your skill at composition minimizes the effect. The longer mirror lenses have less vignetting, but are bulkier and usually
  15. Nice shot of the corner. Not many tele lenses have such a good resolution. Get well soon. Thanks, sp.
  16. Nice performer and so compact. Thank you for another interesting and well produced article.
  17. Here is the Modern Photography test of this lens from November 1983.
    Hope you feel better soon.
  18. Thanks everyone.
    I think I'm on the mend, but the cabin fever wants me to push out and I am trying to resist the temptation to do so and then exhaust myself. The antibiotics seem to be dealing with the inevitable accompanying infections. It seems to have been flu after all, although I had only slight fevers (other than the cabin variety). I had the shots again this year, but the shots were the most ineffective in years.
    Thanks Marc, I actually had that issue, but totally overlooked the test when I searched for it.
  19. As an aside, I also wonder if the Spiratone Mintel-T and Spiratone Mintel-S, could refer to lenses made by Tamron and Sigma? Both companies often supplied Spiratone with rebranded lenses. I think Tokina also, but more rarely.
    By the way, here are the list of T-mount 300mm lenses available in November, 1983 in that same issue of Modern Photography (just in time for Xmas!).
    Elsewhere in the same list, I don't see any 300mm mirror lenses in dedicated mounts other than the Soligor referred to at the beginning.
    As Keppler pointed out in his notice (pdf above), they aren't necessarily all the manufacturer and optics.
  20. "all the same manufacturer" in the end of the last post.
  21. Nice article with a good demos JDM; I am now starting to look at these "babies". Kepler used to talk favorably about them, but that donut stigma has kept me away for years. Thanks to you I am shopping for one now :). I want to go for a used 800 though and see what happens :).
  22. Excellent write-up, JDM. The sheer portability of the lens makes it attractive, and the IQ seems better than I would have anticipated. Hot lemon drinks with a dollop of brandy are my pancea for the flu, or even the other way round... Lovely series of creative images, David.
  23. The limited DOF at f5.6 for 300mm is actually a good thing for most subjects at medium distance. I once had a Rokkor 250mm f5.6 that I often used for medium distance shots. I also paired it with a 1.5X teleconverter for an effective 375mm lens. When my family owned a camera shop we stocked a Soligor short mirror lens, but I can't remember if it was 300 or 350 mm. The biggest issue users had was at that time most of our customers were using ISO 400 color print film and the f5.6 aperture required neutral density filters to avoid overexposure. In addition to the rear mounted filter, my Rokkor 250 took a front 62mm so I found it easy to attach a neutral density filter there.
    JDM, this is an excellent and informative post.
  24. I own a 500mm f/8 Vivitar. My experience is that lines are good, contrast is bad, and focus is hard. The 300mm seems an easier job to use. I have several good pictures from mirror lenses, because they are portable and therefore available. They are definitely fun.
  25. My sample is a recently-acquired Questar 700mm F/8. The doughnut-shaped bokeh isn't an issue for the kinds of landscapes I shoot, but the low contrast takes some getting used to. Herbert Keppler called this the sharpest mirror lens ever tested by Modern Photography, but critical focus is more difficult than with other long lenses I've used.
    The Spiratone ad brought back fond memories -- I always enjoyed looking through those ads for unusual photo gear. My Spiratone camera bag from 50 years ago continues to serve me well.
  26. Watch here at CMC for coming attractions:
    I am waiting for the full heal to kick in as well as for the cold rain to stop. At the intersection of those events, I will get out with my Soviet MTO 500m mirror lens.
    In the meantime, here a couple of earlier posts on my adventures in "Done with mirrors and smoke" series:
    500mm (several) - http://www.photo.net/classic-cameras-forum/00RaKy
    & my having broken my pledge to abstain, sort of...
    Sigma 600mm http://www.photo.net/classic-cameras-forum/00XSrL
  27. More than you ever wanted to know about the MTO 500mm lens, together with some comparisons with this lens and others toward the end:
  28. JDM or, you could hold a pair of 7x50 binoculars in front of a P&S. :) I agree with Rick, great write up. Very entertaining. I'm from the time when one could actually buy accessories from Spiratone. I had a 1960's Spiratone polarizing filter for my Rolleiflex T until I sold all last year. Thanks for the nostalgic trip down memory lane. Best, LM.

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