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05-06-2010, 11:00 PM   #1
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Mirror lens

Has anyone had experience with long telephoto mirror lenses? I have seen a lot of 500mm mirror lenses for $75 - $200 new and used but know absolutely nothing about them. Is the IQ good/bad, great/horrible? Are there any advantages/disadvantages of using them on my Kx? Any and all information will be appreciated. Thank you.

05-06-2010, 11:21 PM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by KxBlaze Quote
Has anyone had experience with long telephoto mirror lenses? I have seen a lot of 500mm mirror lenses for $75 - $200 new and used but know absolutely nothing about them. Is the IQ good/bad, great/horrible? Are there any advantages/disadvantages of using them on my Kx? Any and all information will be appreciated. Thank you.
Mirror lenses are extremely small, light and inexpensive for their focal length. The trade off is in image quality and the weird, ring-like bokeh in the background of all your photos. I think they're all MF as well, I haven't seen an AF yet.

It certainly won't replace a legitimate 500mm lens, then again it's usually much less than 1/10 the cost.
05-07-2010, 12:48 AM   #3
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Mirror lenses were made to be compact. They do create the odd doughnut bokeh which can be very disturbing or quite nice in a shot.
Although it must be said, more often than not, it does not compliment the picture.
Most are also F8 (500-600mm) or F11 (1000mm), with a few offerings at F5.6 and even F4 I think (Sigma and russians).
Quality can be good but you have to know what to buy. These modern one sold new on ebay don't seem to compete with the likes of Tamron adataptall-2 and Tokina or Sigma (600mm F8).

I find them great bang for the buck, and if you are trying out something that involves good light or you have a K-X (my K10D doesn't do high ISO well) then its worth a shot.

Some more info on my experience with the Tamron 500mm F8 here and here.
05-07-2010, 01:41 AM   #4
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MF mirror lenses are practically useless except for moon shots, (but very fun) IMHO. I've got both the 1000mm/11 and the 400-600mm/8-12, neither of which have produced anything reliable compared to regular tele lenses.

If you can get your hands on an AF mirror lens, then you might be in business.


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05-07-2010, 02:48 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
MF mirror lenses are practically useless except for moon shots, (but very fun) IMHO. I've got both the 1000mm/11 and the 400-600mm/8-12, neither of which have produced anything reliable compared to regular tele lenses.

If you can get your hands on an AF mirror lens, then you might be in business.
Why would AF make the lens any better if you think they're so bad?

I've never shot one myself.
05-07-2010, 05:39 AM   #6
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I have a 1000mm Celestron C90 (F11 effective)

There are a few things to consider with a mirror.

first, it generally suffers from low contrast, but PP can fix this

Second, there is a real issue with any lens and vibration at this focal length, but with mirrors I fond that they are so light that there is nothing to dampen the tripod vibration. You need to adda bout 10-20 pounds to the tripod to keep it stable
05-07-2010, 06:24 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
MF mirror lenses are practically useless except for moon shots, (but very fun) IMHO. I've got both the 1000mm/11 and the 400-600mm/8-12, neither of which have produced anything reliable compared to regular tele lenses.

If you can get your hands on an AF mirror lens, then you might be in business.
I wholeheartedly disagree. A good mirror lens will be very sharp and can produce excellent images. You just need to be aware of the donaut shaped background blurr and the slightly lower contrast, than a comparable refracting lens.

Bad mirror lenses will produce rubbish images, but the same is true for bad refracting lenses. Good mirror lenses seem to include the Tamron Adaptall modells, the diminutive Tokina 500/8 (I've used that for many years with film) and often those by the camera makers. Very intersting are the solid-cats by Vivitar, if you get one.

But none of these good mirrors (and I did not even mention the two Zeiss Mirrotars) are not that cheap, but compare favouriably pricewise with good refracting lenses.

Usually I would only recommend 500mm mirrors, as the 1000mm mirrors are hard to use without a massive tripod setup. One would need a tripod setup several times as expensive as the lens (the Russion 1000/11 are quite good) to achieve anything useable.

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05-07-2010, 07:52 AM   #8
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soligor 500mm f8



05-07-2010, 08:43 AM   #9
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QuoteQuote:
Mirror lenses are extremely small, light and inexpensive for their focal length. The trade off is in image quality and the weird, ring-like bokeh in the background of all your photos. I think they're all MF as well, I haven't seen an AF yet.

It certainly won't replace a legitimate 500mm lens, then again it's usually much less than 1/10 the cost.
+1.

I have the 500/6.3 Pro-Optic sold by Adorama. It is "OK" for $159. It would not be so hot for $559.

I had the Sigma 600/8 in my film days which might be a bit better, but it sold/sells for $379.

The doughnut highlites can (mostly) be fixed in post-processing if desired.

I think there is a "mirror lens" thread right here on the forums which might be a good place to look for info.
05-07-2010, 12:24 PM   #10
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Original Poster
Thanks for all of the info.

I was un aware of the doughnut shaped "blurr" in the pics, but the picture posted by Malakola does not show any "O" shaped blur, or am I just not seeing it?

I would like to use a mirror (500mm) lens for some bird shots (not in flight), moon shots, and just general wildlife from a distance but seems I might have to look else where for a lens.
05-07-2010, 12:41 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by KxBlaze Quote
Thanks for all of the info.

I was un aware of the doughnut shaped "blurr" in the pics, but the picture posted by Malakola does not show any "O" shaped blur, or am I just not seeing it?

I would like to use a mirror (500mm) lens for some bird shots (not in flight), moon shots, and just general wildlife from a distance but seems I might have to look else where for a lens.
You're just not seeing it. Look closely around the main subject plant. It isn't evident throughout the photo but it IS there. Some of these lenses are quite sharp.. I had a Tamron SP version a while back that was actually quite nice. I sold it, without regret, after it just sat for 6 months.

05-07-2010, 12:42 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by KxBlaze Quote
Thanks for all of the info.

I was un aware of the doughnut shaped "blurr" in the pics, but the picture posted by Malakola does not show any "O" shaped blur, or am I just not seeing it?

I would like to use a mirror (500mm) lens for some bird shots (not in flight), moon shots, and just general wildlife from a distance but seems I might have to look else where for a lens.
You're not seeing it???? It's all over the place, especially in de reds!
There is a mirror lens club, with many photos, you have to look there! I will find the link for you.
05-07-2010, 12:43 PM   #13
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Here it is: https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-slr-lens-discussion/71775-mirror-lens-club.html. Have fun!
05-07-2010, 01:30 PM   #14
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There is very little DOF, and you can't stop down. Thus, the slightest hand motion (assuming you're not on a trippod) is an immediate killer to the focal point.

AF-C would theoretically solve that problem.

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05-07-2010, 01:34 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by KxBlaze Quote
Thanks for all of the info.

I was un aware of the doughnut shaped "blurr" in the pics, but the picture posted by Malakola does not show any "O" shaped blur, or am I just not seeing it?

I would like to use a mirror (500mm) lens for some bird shots (not in flight), moon shots, and just general wildlife from a distance but seems I might have to look else where for a lens.
I like Malakola's photo. If you weren't really looking for donuts to be irritated by, it looks fine.

Here is the worst mirror lens image I have taken. I used the well-regarded Tamron Adaptall-2 55BB 500mm f8:



And this is my best one so far, the same lens with the 01F 2X teleconverter:



The difference is the background. I took the first image to compare the Tamron with the Korean-built Vivitar 500mm f8, sold under several names. The Vivitar's reduced contrast actually creates a better image in this case, because most of the image is background contrast. The background is similar to what you might get with a bird in a tree, so it's important for your usage.

I saw the opportunity for the second photo because that background was perfect for a mirror lens.
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