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01-15-2009, 04:05 PM   #1
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Size Matters: Vivitar 500mm f/6.3 M42 - PHOTOS ADDED!

Okay, I picked up one of these from eBay recently -- the price was right (about $50), and even if it turned out to be a lemon, I thought it would be useful to get my feet wet in extreme tele. (The second-longest lens I have is the ubiquitous Tamron 70-300 purple monster.)

There's not much information on this lens available on the net. So I'll give you my impressions here (and yes, I'll file a lens review once I have a more solid opinion of it).

Here are some snapshots of the beast itself:





Yeah, it's big. Not the biggest -- nothing like that ridiculous Sigma lens that looks like a green trashcan -- but big enough.

No pictures WITH the lens yet . . . I'll post some a little later, maybe tonight . . . but results so far have been mixed.

It's a preset lens with the familiar dual aperture ring. One has click-stops, the other moves smoothly between the selected stop and wide open. I like this design; it's easy to use, and I'm used to it with my Takumar 200mm f/3.5 and Peleng 17mm fisheye. It has a LOT of diaphragm blades, maybe 15-20, and the aperture is always a nice perfect circle.

I don't know what the filter thread size is officially -- a quick ruler measurement says 90mm or so. It comes with a screw-in metal hood to make it even longer, and the diameter at the end of the hood is about 96mm.

It's quite heavy -- all brass and glass, and very difficult to use hand-held. It's difficult to focus, even on a tripod (it does, thankfully, have a tripod mount). My split image focusing screen is almost entirely blacked out even at f/6.3. And handheld, it's very hard to hold it steady enough to eyeball the focus -- stuff jiggles around a lot.

Infinity focus isn't at the end of the focus ring travel. In fact, it's pretty far short of the end. That's OK -- it would be worse if it didn't get to infinity -- but it would also be nice to be able to just slam the ring to the stop and grab a photo of a distant mountain/airplane/UFO/whatever. I haven't tried taking it apart to rectify this yet. Simply loosening the setscrews on the focus ring didn't get me anywhere.

That having been said, I occasionally have been getting decent pictures from it. Getting sharp ones is a challenge, with the focusing issues, and probably a fair amount of operator imprecision as well. So I have had a lot of rejects and only a few keepers.

It's particularly hard at f/6.3. DOF is pretty shallow there, and I have a hunch the lens is a little soft wide open anyway, even under the best circumstances. It's going to take a little more work to confirm whether it's the lens or my focusing that makes f/6.3 such an ordeal. Stopped down to f/8 or f/11, it's much easier.

I'll sort through what photos I have and post some in a bit.


Last edited by Quicksand; 01-16-2009 at 12:09 PM. Reason: Adding photos in subsequent message
01-16-2009, 10:37 AM   #2
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Reminds me of a spoof movie where two characters compete by pulling out increasingly longer guns. This lens probably inspired the inventor of mirror lenses.
01-16-2009, 10:45 AM   #3
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just an observation but if infinity focus is not at the end of thefocusing travel, you could get one of those cheap flanged M42 adaptors and convert it perminantly to a K mount

also for vibration look into one of these

359 Bogen - Manfrotto Long Lens Camera Support (#3252)
01-16-2009, 12:00 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Lowell Goudge Quote
just an observation but if infinity focus is not at the end of thefocusing travel, you could get one of those cheap flanged M42 adaptors and convert it perminantly to a K mount
VERY good idea. The barrel extends while focusing, and I can see that there's about 1mm of longitudinal travel, maybe a touch more, between the end of the focus ring movement and where infinity actually resides. The flanged adapter would probably fit in there.

It's actually supposedly a T-mount lens, but the Fotodiox T-to-K mount adapter I have doesn't seem to fit it -- it extends the length just a little bit TOO far, like 2mm, and then I don't get infinity focus. The lens came with an M42 end attached, so I'll just keep that, and possibly add the adapter.

And now for some photos (some cropped a bit for composition, but otherwise straightforward processing):











These are all stopped down a bit, f/8 to 11 I think. I'll post a wide-open vs. stopped-down comparison with 100% crops a little later.

01-16-2009, 03:30 PM   #5
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Wow, you were able to shoot Twin Peaks from San Mateo with that lens
01-16-2009, 04:58 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Toshi Quote
Wow, you were able to shoot Twin Peaks from San Mateo with that lens
Actually, that was from Oakland -- not quite as far, but still 10+ miles. Besides, from San Mateo the lens would have had to see through San Bruno Mountain!



That pic is uncropped, by the way.
01-17-2009, 07:34 AM   #7
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That is quite a monster. I bid on one of those also but it ended up going for around a hundred and I quit at 60 I think. Nice to see some pics posted. If it does turn out to be a dud you're well prepared for softball season.
06-22-2012, 07:35 AM   #8
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I also have one of these monsters. I got it for "free" from a friend who was getting rid of a nice aluminium case. I have tried a few shots with it but I have been a bit underwhelmed. I do think I need to practice a bit more before I get rid of it. I got hold of the Godzilla 135-600 zoom recently and so far I think it has better IQ. I'll do some more testing and post my results.

The one gripe I have with this lens is the silly tripod mount which causes the lens to swing the moment you move the tripod to a funny angle.

06-22-2012, 10:14 AM   #9
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with this lens, all I can recommend for anyone serious about using it is to get a gimbal head and about a 4 inch acra swiss lens plate.

the lens plate can lock the tripod mount from turning sideways, and you will need about a 4 inch plate to center the mass.\
once ballanced on a gimbal head this lens is much easier to use.
06-25-2012, 02:04 PM   #10
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Oh hello thread, long time no see.

I still have this lens, but I very rarely use it. Almost never. It's just too big, too heavy, and (I'm sure this is akin to saying that the sky is blue) it's just not hand-holdable. The focus ring is right up against the camera, so as you're turning the ring the rest of the lens is this huge metal lever arm that swings around too much to actually focus on anything.

I agree with Chuckie and Lowell that it's not much better on a tripod. And I'm sure not going to spend 5 times the cash I spent on this lens to get a gimbal!

IQ-wise, I think my Tele-Takumar 400mm f/5.6 beats it easily. Plus that lens is marginally hand-holdable.

So for now, the Vivitar is primarily a home invasion defense weapon.
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