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Vivitar 500mm f8 Mirror Lens

Reviews Views Date of last review
2 30,044 Wed April 24, 2013
Recommended By Average Price Average User Rating
100% of reviewers $55.00 6.00
Vivitar 500mm f8 Mirror Lens

Aperture: f/8
Angle of view: 5
Construction: 7 elements / 6 groups
Length: 86mm
Weight: 360g
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Minimum focus: 1600mm
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Senior Member

Registered: December, 2012
Location: BC - On the 49th parallel
Posts: 234
Lens Review Date: April 24, 2013 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: None indicated | Rating: 6 

Pros: 500mm focal length
Cons: Not as sharp as you'd like
Sharpness: 5    Aberrations: 6    Bokeh: 6    Handling: 4    Value: 8   

I recommend this lens for someone who will only occasionally need to shoot at this focal point. The images are a little "soft" and dark for my liking - reminded me of when I've used a 2x teleconverter - but not as pronounced. As the previous review said, I would not use it for an indoor lens.

I bought this over 10 years ago and it has mostly just been sitting on my shelf. But, on the occasion I know I'm going to need to photograph birds, and other things far away, it has let me obtain a shot when no other lens (like a 200mm zoom) could have done the job. It takes practice and patience to use but you can get decent results if you try.

A tripod or a stable platform is nearly mandatory with this lens for decent sharp shots. I haven't extensively used it with my K30 and its image stabilization, but I'm sure it would fare better than purely by hand.

It's a good lens to have, and is better than other similar lenses I've seen on other friend's cameras, but don't spend a lot on it.
Veteran Member

Registered: September, 2006
Location: Denver, CO
Posts: 10,686

2 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: August 15, 2009 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $55.00 | Rating: 6 

Pros: small, light, well made, inexpensive
Cons: dimmer than aperture suggests, not as sharp as better mirror lenses

This lens is made by Samyang and also sold as Phoenix, Opteka, Quantaray, and probably others.

I have used the Sigma 600/8 mirror, which is definitely better, but is quite a lot bigger, heavier, harder to find, and usually more expensive. Even though the Sigma is still smaller and lighter than most long true telephoto lenses, I wanted something more portable still. The Samyang-made Vivitar is one of the few such lenses in current production, and is enough smaller than than Pro-Optic 500/6.3 that I didn't really consider the latter (other reviews had seen suggested they would be similar in image quality).

This lens is not great, but for what it is, it's not as terrible as some reviews - mostly from people who don't understand mirror lenses in general - might suggest. With any mirror lens, you have to accept the manual focus, the small fixed aperture, the low contrast, the sharpness not at the level of lenses most of us are used to, and the donut-shaped bokeh. You have to be prepared for the shallow DOF that comes with this focal length, and you have to be able to control camera shake, which isn't easy on a 500mm lens with an aperture of f/8 but light transmission more like f/11. So even the best mirror lenses can be hard for many people to get decent results with.

As I said, this Vivitar is not as good as the Sigma, but nor is it all that much worse. Images I've seen from the Tamron suggest it too is noticeably better. But while you may see reports that the Vivitar is just unusable, once you get the hang of using mirror lenses (focusing accurately, doing whatever you need to get a fast enough shutter speed, and doing appropriate PP), it can do OK. And for whatever reason, the donut bokeh is not as pronounced on the Vivitar as on some. Viewed on screen, images from the Vivitar might not be a whole lot better than the results from cropping a shorter telephoto lens, but it takes a lot of cropping to get a 200mm or even 300mm lens to provide the same field of view, so the Vivitar images should stand up better to printing.

Again, it's clearly not as good as some other mirror lenses, but the alternatives are all more expensive, harder to find, bigger, and heavier. By all means, choose a different mirror lens if IQ is your only concern, but if you are also weighing price, availability, size, or weight into the decision, then the Samyang-made 500/8 lenses, including the Vivitar, are certainly worth your consideration.

Here are some appropriately post-processed (I increase contrast and sharpness via a preset, then do other tweaks as necessary) images:

Here's one shot indoors, at a small concert hall with just enough stage lighting to get something usable; I wouldn't normally recommend this as a low light concert lens:

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