Vivitar Series 1 600mm f8 solid catadioptric telephoto lens

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by JDMvW, Aug 25, 2017.

  1. Vivitar Series 1 600mm f8 solid catadioptric telephoto lens
    probably Kadlubeks# VIV 1480

    The contemporary ad pretty much says it all:
    1 Vivitar-Series-1-600mm-f8-solid-cat-1976-05-MP.jpg
  2. For the older eyes amongst us, here is a rough scan of the text:

    Vivitar Series 1 600mm f8 solid catadioptric telephoto lens
    This lens represents three major advances in catadioptric lens design. it offers the photographer extreme compactness, inherent environmental stability, and superior relative illumination; characteristics that have until now been unattainable in long focal length reflex lens for 35mm photography. The optical design of the aspherical 600mm solid catadioptric lens is derived from the Cassegrain telescope objective used extensively in astronomical work. The extreme Series I 600mm so lid catadioptriC lens compactness of this lens is attributed to the achievement of a seven-to-one ratio between focal length and barrel length. This compares with a 1.2 to 1 ratio for traditional non-mirror telephoto lenses and about four-to-one for previous reflex lenses. The short physical length of this lens helps to lessen the effect of minor in-camera vibrations such as mirror bounce on image sharpness. Highly acceptable hand-held shots at relatively slow shutter speeds are entirely possible. The photographer can safely violate the rule for normal telephoto lenses that minimum shutter speed should approximate focal length in hand held shooting. (A 600mm lens would require 1/500 second or faster shutter speed.) Stability has been another major problem in catadioptric lenses. In conventional designs, the optical ] groups of the lens are separated by large air spaces. Temperature variants often create serious optical alignment anomalies, decreasing sharpness. These lenses are also susceptible to severe mis-alignment caused by minor shocks and vibrations. In the 600mm f8, spherically shaped elements are pieced together to form what is a virtually solid element. As all the optical elements share similar temperature coefficients, the lens is temperature stable even in extreme climates. This near-solid construction also makes the optical alignment highly resistant to damage from impact. The troublesome "hot spot" present in conventional mirror lenses is almost entirely absent in the Vivi tar Series I 600mm. This " hot spot" results from a difference in illumination between axis and corner of 50% or more.
    But in the Series I solid catadioptric lens fall-off has been reduced to less than 30%, the equivalent of about 112 .f stop. As with all mirror telephoto lenses, the Vivitar Series I 600mm f8 is a fixed aperture lens. Exposure is controlled by camera shutter speed and the use of neutral density filters. In this lens, filters are placed behind the lens in the T-mount, thus allowing the use. of smaller Series I 35.5mm close tolerance VMC filters. The lens focuses very quickly, since the entire main body of the lens (with primary and secondary mirrors including the afocal double) moves relative to the elements forming the Barlow group which remains at a fixed distance from the film plane. This focusing system requires about one-fourth as much axial travel as would be required if the entire optical system moved as a single unit. The lens can be rotated 360° inside its tripod mounting ring and can be locked in any position. A safety catch holds the lens securely during rotation. One more unique feature of the Vivitar Series I 600mm f8 solid catadioptric lens is its development and manufacture entirely by U.S. sources. Working with the Perkin-Elmer Corporation, a world leader in global science and astronomical systems, Vivitar has incorporated the principles of intricate astronomical optics into photographic lenses for the professional and advanced amateur in 35mm photography. The 600mm f8 is the first of a family of solid catadioptric lenses, with 800mm f11 and 1200mm f1 1 versions scheduled to follow. The production of Series I solid catadioptric lenses, including the 600mm f8 is an exacting, time-consuming process. Optics of this type do not lend themselves to automated, assembly-line manufacture.
    They are produced individually, each lens being assembled and tested almost as though it were the first one to be built. For this reason, these lenses will be in limited supply. Optical Specifications Construction: 9 elements 7 groups Angle of acceptance: 4° Minimum focusing distance: 7 meters (23 feet) Aperture range: f8 (fixed f stop) Mechanical Specifications Length: 8.4cm (3-5/ 16 in.) Weight 1.36kg (3 lbs) Diameter: 1 0.6cm (4-3/16 in.) Filter provision : 35.5mm at the rear of the lens, inside the T-mount . Filters included are Series I VMC close tolerance UV haze, K2, 4X NO, and 25A. Screw-in hood, detachable tripod socket, filters, lens case , front and rear lens caps included. Mounts available to fit Universal Thread, Nikon/Nikkormat, Canon, Minolta, Konica Autoreflex and Olympus OM cameras. Vivitar Series I Program In recent years, remarkable progress has been made in solving some of the classic problems of optical design. Intensive work in the field was spurred on by the demands of space exploration and military applications and vastly aided by the growing sophistication of computer technology. Vivitar optical designers, working with programs devised for highly specialized optical tasks, have used computer generated designs to develop for Vivitar a new series of lenses capable of performance unreachable until now. Each Vivitar Series I lens so far introduced represents a breakthrough in optical design . The 135mm f2.3 and the 200mm f3 are among the fastest automatic telephoto lenses in their respective focal lengths. They are unusually light and compact. Each has a uniquely positioned rear compensating element that automatically corrects aberrations at all points from the closest focusing point to infinity. The 70-210 f3.5 automatic zoom lens and the 35-85mm f2.8 auto variable focusing lens are likewise definite advances in lens design, both offering extremely close focusing capability and remarkably compact configuration. To come? Look for a 90mm f2.5 macro, a 28mm f1.9 wide angle, 800mm f1 1 solid catadioptric and 1200mm f1 1 solid catadioptric telephoto .tenses. There will eventually be a complete optical system of more than twenty Vivitar Series I lenses, each representative of advanced technology and demonstrably superior to other lenses currently available. Vivitar marketed in the U.SA by Ponder &Best, Inc. Corporate Offices: 1630 Stewart St., Santa Monica, CA 90406 In Canada: Precision Cameras
  3. According to KEH, the lens was originally created for the U.S. Military by Perkin-Elmer. Other sources (originally at Solid Cat - Luminous Landscape with comparisons) further indicate


    The mount on it as I purchased it was a T-mount Canon FD mount, but the EOS or any other T-mount adapter works fine. Mea culpa: the camera was an EOS 50D digital- it’s the lens we’re concerned with here

    The lens came with 4X ND in place, but I didn’t notice until I wondered why the view was so dark. It made the speeds rather slow for handholding, as I found out.

    The camera (EOS 50D, APS-C body) was mounted on my “iron boy” tripod with mirror lockup and a remote release.

    Here’s the Carbondale Polyspheroid Watertower at the full image (1.6X factor from APS-C):
  5. Here is a 100% crop (full size) from that image:
    3-Vivitar-solid-cat-048 100%.jpg
  6. Even though I had to adjust some overexposure, the sharpness is pretty much the best I’ve seen in my obsessive testing of catadioptrics. One factor is probably enhanced contrast from the lack of air-surface loss.

    In my also obligatory shot down Ennuisgaten (on the street where I live), I didn’t get the focus (always a difficult matter with these long lenses) quite on, but the general idea is close enough, I hope:

  7. And the 100%, genuine, not quite focused crop:

  8. That's a descendant of the original "FatCat"! a very nice bit of oddball glass.

    The Solid Cats

    One of the least known yet most interesting of the Series 1 lenses was the 800mm f/11 Solid Catadioptric lens. It was originally designed and built for the U.S. military by Perkin-Elmer.

    IIRC the NASA version was a 650mm?
  9. some of my earlier obsessions

    Mirror lenses Kadlubek Nr Report
    MTO 500mm f/8 Maksutov RUS1500
    Spiratone Mirror Ultratel 500mm f/8
    Reflex-Nikkor 500mm f/8 lens (non-AI) NIK3560 Reflex-Nikkor 500mm f/8 lens (non-AI)
    Sigma 600mm f/8 (gray/green) SIG0250 Sigma Mirror Telephoto 600mm f/8
    Zoomar Sport-Reflectar 500mm f/5.6 ZOM0110
    Spiratone 300mm f/5.6 Mirror Mintel-S - Spiratone 300mm f/5.6 Mirror Mintel®-S
    Spiratone Minitel-M 500mm f/8 - Spiratone Minitel-M 500mm f/8 vs. Quantaray 500mm f/8 Mirror -some images
    Quantaray 500mm f/8 - Spiratone Minitel-M 500mm f/8 vs. Quantaray 500mm f/8 Mirror -some images
  10. BTW:
    I have no lens cap for this one. It looks like the original was a "push-on" 105mm. I got a pinch lens cap in 105mm, but it is too large by just a little.

    I haven't yet found any plastic container lids that will work (as the "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" lid works on the Reflex Nikkor).

    ALSO note that this original Vivitar company has nothing but the name in common with the current company marketing under the name Vivitar and Series 1.
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2017
  11. Great stuff, JDM; I've not come across this fascinating lens before. The Tamron 500/8 is the smallest CAT lens in my possession, and this little beauty is smaller by far. A great find and an excellent write-up; thanks for your efforts.
  12. Looks like a fun lens. Thanks for posting.
  13. Interesting, amazingly short !I'd never run across it either, thanks!
  14. Last edited: Aug 29, 2017
  15. Hello everyone. Sometime around late 1965, NSA or CIA got some data that small, man pack size radars were being deployed to the then E. German / Czech border areas, so I was given one of the various 500mm Cad's mentioned & "asked" to play around in the spring time mud/snow of W. Germany, for 6 weeks. Oh what fun! Nothing came out of the "recon" but the lens stayed in the detachment for a year. Guess who got to take the lens out for "various reasons" !!! I got pretty decent with panning for some of the car races I attended. I was also sent out in high summer for another "look" but these lenses are worthless in the heat. . .too many thermals wreck the image. Never knew "exactly" who gave us the lens. Bill
  16. Of course, the Celestron 1250mm f10 was also sold as the Celestron 5 telescope, which was fork mounted with a clock drive in the base. It still continues today as the Celestron 5 SE.
  17. Pretty neat. I have the 500mm series I, which I believe is not solid.
  18. Here is a larger image of the lens design from the ad at the beginning.

    I also found more information at MFlenses - LINK, where it is said that the lens cap is 106mm - not sure if this is for the push on that it came with, a direct measurement, or for a pinch-style cap.
  19. Original was a metal slip on with "VIVITAR" in raised letters.

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