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Thread: mirror lens anyone?

  1. #1

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    mirror lens anyone?

    I am considering addingg a long lens for bird/wildlife photography and run into the upper range limit of 500mm without an extender...with all the problems they introduce. Has anyone had experience with mirror lenses? Would long normal glass lenses, even with fixed apertures be better? Thoughts and/or opinions appreciated.

    Jusoljoe

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    Re: mirror lens anyone?

    A Nikon 1000mm reflex lens recently sold at auction for I believe $98,000.00 US. If you have that much kicking around you might find one of the few others made.

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    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: mirror lens anyone?

    Hi Joe,

    I take it you are aware of the mirror lens' "special" kind of bokeh?

    Type "mirror lens bokeh" into google images for lots of examples - sometimes artistic, but other times not.

    Cheers,

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    Administrator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: mirror lens anyone?

    I've looked at these lenses several times in the past and after testing them backed right away. The fact that none of the major manufacturers make them any more should tell you something.

    First of all they are quite quite slow; f/8 or f/11 is not unusual. The bokeh Dave mentions is quite ugly; little rings or donuts. I find this quite distracting. Aperture adjustment is not available and you have to put on a ND filter to reduce the light hitting the sensor. They don't autofocus, and it's hard enough to get a focused shot with autofocus at 400 - 500mm, and of course they are not stabilized, so a tripod is a must.

    You can get third party manufacturers that do turn them out and they are not all that expensive.

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    Re: mirror lens anyone?

    I have the Rokinon 500mm f/6.3 and it is good for stationary subjects, daylight only, and manually focuses only. With the lens alone it is difficult to get a shot with decent contrast, so almost all images will look out of focus. i purchased a UV filter and this improved the contrast enough to get some decent shots. Also, aperture is fixed to whatever specific lens you buy, most are f/6.3-f/10.

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    Re: mirror lens anyone?

    Thanks all! Any suggested alternatives that won't break the bank?

    Jusoljoe

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    Administrator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: mirror lens anyone?

    Quote Originally Posted by jusoljoe View Post
    Thanks all! Any suggested alternatives that won't break the bank?

    Jusoljoe
    Get closer. It can't get any cheaper than that. I'm not trying to be funny either.

    mirror lens anyone?

    We got so close to the leopard that (it was tracking some impala) I was able to shoot with my f/2.8 70-200mm lens, driving in reverse on a dirt track and shooting out of the passenger side rear window.

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    An inexpensive alternative...

    Tokina once produced a 400mm f/5.6 ATX lens in a variety of different mounts. I had one and the image quality was really quite good. It was close to the Canon 400mm f/5.6L lens in IQ but, the autofocus was not good enough for it to be considered a decent bird in flight lens.

    However, if you can find one, it should be pretty inexpensive. I paid $100 (USD) for my copy and sold it for $150 (USD).

    Don't confuse it however with the non ATX Tokina SD model which did not produce as good image quality...

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    Re: An inexpensive alternative...

    Here is a shot right out of the camera taken from a distance of about 200 feet.
    mirror lens anyone?
    I've browsed various websites on mirror lenses and no one has ever praised the lens for its quality of images, most state that it's a fun accessory that takes a lot of patience to capture an image that could be done other ways for a few hundred dollars more.



    http://www.photozone.de/mirror-lenses

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    Re: An inexpensive alternative...

    The problem at 500mm is that cost is always going to be a problem over quality. what camera do you have?

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    Re: An inexpensive alternative...

    Have you looked into an adapter for a spotting scope? Birders use this all the time for bird pictures.I know Nikon makes one and You Tube has videos on their use. The spotting scope is the "lens" so to speak.

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    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: An inexpensive alternative...

    Quote Originally Posted by Vrgl View Post
    Have you looked into an adapter for a spotting scope? Birders use this all the time for bird pictures.I know Nikon makes one and You Tube has videos on their use. The spotting scope is the "lens" so to speak.
    Hi Mary,

    Good suggestion as an alternative, I have never used one but ...

    These are effectively a "nocular"

    Half a binocular and built (I believe) the same way; with prisms to fold the light path and a front element which, compared to a telephoto lens, is quite small.

    I suspect this means they will have both a fixed aperture and be quite 'slow', be manual focus, plus the prisms will give lower contrast images (compared to a trad. telephoto, but probably similar to a mirror lens). However, this issue can be addressed in PP.

    Never-the-less it was worth suggesting, it'll be interesting to see if anyone here has tried it, after all, astrophotographers do it like that. (why does that sound like a bumper/fender sticker )

    Cheers,

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    Re: An inexpensive alternative...

    Hey John, thanks for the photozone url. Their outline and discussion made sure clarified facts from fiction abut the miror lens.

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    Re: mirror lens anyone?

    Quote Originally Posted by GrumpyDiver View Post
    Get closer. It can't get any cheaper than that. I'm not trying to be funny either.

    mirror lens anyone?

    We got so close to the leopard that (it was tracking some impala) I was able to shoot with my f/2.8 70-200mm lens, driving in reverse on a dirt track and shooting out of the passenger side rear window.
    A very ligitimate point! However, there are those of us who, for one reason or another, can't get closer. My immediate project is to picture nesting water birds 50 yards or so out into water. I took no offense at your remark and quite agree, if one is able! At any rate, with an APC-C sensor Canon, I am now looking toward some zoom with a 400mm long range. Thanks for all the suggestions of all in this thread.

    Joe9

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    Administrator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: mirror lens anyone?

    Quote Originally Posted by jusoljoe View Post
    A very ligitimate point! However, there are those of us who, for one reason or another, can't get closer. My immediate project is to picture nesting water birds 50 yards or so out into water. I took no offense at your remark and quite agree, if one is able! At any rate, with an APC-C sensor Canon, I am now looking toward some zoom with a 400mm long range. Thanks for all the suggestions of all in this thread.

    Joe9
    The reason for my comment is that there will always be the shots one can't get and the "magic" solution always seems to be a longer lens, which won't necessarily work.

    I own two long lenses; a Nikon 80-400 and a Sigma 150-500 (which is technically my wifes, but we share). On the longer end of both there are times that atmospheric conditions (a.k.a ground heating, etc.) cause distortion and make it difficult to impossible to get a good shot. Longer lenses are much harder to use (certainly to hand-hold)and one often needs a tripod to get decent framing and exposures and are much more sensitive to atmospheric conditions.

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    Re: An inexpensive alternative...

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Humphries View Post
    Never-the-less it was worth suggesting, it'll be interesting to see if anyone here has tried it, after all, astrophotographers do it like that. (why does that sound like a bumper/fender sticker )
    Birders use digiscoping a lot for proof pictures, but the image quality isn't very good. You're probably better of with something like a nikon1 plus a lensconverter and then use the longest tele(zoom) in your collection. The crop-factor will give you a lot of extra mm's 'enlargement'.

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    Re: An inexpensive alternative...

    I spotted this kinda late but I'm going to comment cos I've recently been in the same situation. I spent well over a year wondering what to do. The longest lens I had was a tamron f5.6 70-300 mm. As I spend lots of time in the forest "shooting" birds and wild animals I wanted something A. longer and B. faster. The tamron lens was slow to focus and .... loud! The mechanism scared away the birds! Clearly something had to be done. I spent ages looking at forums. I spent yonks reading reviews. I even wrote to Nikon for advice. Here's what I learned...

    1. Don't buy any reflector (mirror) type lens. These are are *circular* rather than just round. The difference is important. Nearly all camera lenses are round, including mirrors. Mirrors, however, are circular and have an empty spot in the centre. It is this empty spot that produces those annoying donut type bokeh patterns. All the producers of these lenses (think folks like samyang or similar) say their lenses are compatible with all SLR cameras but that is only true through the use of an adaptor which prevents the use of autofocus. Clearly, you don't want that. Most of these lenses don't feature autofocus anyway. Lastly, these lenses are fairly dark, as a general rule, and f8 is pretty common. If you want to shoot landscapes at f8, you probably don't need such a long focal length.

    2. Digiscoping equipment - is a viable alternative to buying a superzoom. You'll need either an SLR type camera, an adaptor, and a scope that is compatible with the adaptor or a compact with the appropriate bracket and scope. If you want a quick solution for long-ish range photography as a tool for documentation, you'd be well advised to buy a ready built kit of the compact variety. Nikon pretty much give away compact cameras with their scopes. Look here for more on that or click here to find gadgets that help you connect your camera to a fieldscope.

    3. Superzooms - If you own a Canon or Nikon dSLR, and you want original Canon or Nikon lenses, you're going to have to be prepared to pay for them. Last time I checked here in Poznan, a Nikon 500mm cost in the region of 25000 Polish Zloty... around 5000 UK pounds. Be aware though, that there are sensible alternatives. I don't recommend that you buy a no-name lens. I would check around though because you will find that Tamron and Sigma sell considerably cheaper alternatives. In the end I chose a Sigma 150-500mm zoom which cost 3900 PLN (about 738 pounds or 1191 dollars). I'm very happy with it. It is fast (it goes bzt instead of buuuuuuuzzzzzzzzzttttttt) and it is quiet (hypersonic motor!) and the images are pretty sharp. I'm having lots of fun with it. Add to that the fact that my camera isn't an fx model so I can add a little for the crop factor, and I can say I've got a focal length of about 750mm in terms of 35mm equivalents. Add to *that* a 2x teleconvertor bought second hand from an e-bay type service and you've probably got your hands on equipment most amateur astronomers would envy. (I'm hoping to win an auction in 4 days time )

    Attention! : Teleconvertors are tricky beasts and are not compatible with all lenses. Check that your lens is compatible before buying a convertor! Also, not all convertors will maintain auto-focus features available with the lens alone.

    Long story cut short: There is no viable cheap alternative. Money spent on a mirror lens is money wasted. You will not be happy with the result. Digiscoping gear or a superzoom from a reputable producer (other than the big boys) will cost similar amounts of money - hundreds (but not thousands) of pounds. I chose the Sigma zoom because I don't need to carry it much. I have a little folding stool and a tripod so I can sit and wait. If you do a lot of walking with your kit, you might want to choose a scope.
    Last edited by Szczur; 10th May 2012 at 10:16 PM.

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    Re: mirror lens anyone?

    Quote Originally Posted by GrumpyDiver View Post
    Get closer. It can't get any cheaper than that. I'm not trying to be funny either.

    mirror lens anyone?

    We got so close to the leopard that (it was tracking some impala) I was able to shoot with my f/2.8 70-200mm lens, driving in reverse on a dirt track and shooting out of the passenger side rear window.
    Good click mate . . . .

  19. #19
    Administrator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: An inexpensive alternative...

    Quote Originally Posted by Szczur View Post
    Attention! : Teleconvertors are tricky beasts and are not compatible with all lenses. Check that your lens is compatible before buying a convertor! Also, not all convertors will maintain auto-focus features available with the lens alone.
    .
    The other problem with teleconverters (other than quality issues, focus issues, etc) is that you will lose 2 stops of speed using a 2x teleconverter. So your 150-500mm Sigma, which has a maximum speed of f/6.3 at the 500mm setting will be a very slow f/13 lens. If you use a 1.4x converter you will lose about 1.5 stops or f/10. The mirror lens will actually be a bit faster.

    Spotting scopes that you mention are slow optically as well. I have not been able to determine their optical makeup (no information on number of optical elements, etc).

  20. #20
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    Re: mirror lens anyone?

    Joe,

    I would check out the Sigma 150-500mm. It is a great lens for the price and with certain cameras you may add a TC to extend the length. Frankly, I have a TC for my lens and haven't gotten great results. But the Sigma lens on my Nikon D7000 has yielded some very good images and I haven't found it to be as clunky as some of the reviews. I suspect it is about two to three times as much as a 500mm mirror lens but it is worth the money to be sure.

    I guess the other option would be a trusty raft! Sometimes one has to do strange things to get the shot they want.... Just a thought.

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