Looking at life through the lens

Back in the 1970’s I was taking photos with a Contax RTS. I had my prime 50mm Zeiss lens and a medium zoom lens (multi-focal length lenses were not common back in those days). My style of photography has always been more about telephoto than wide angle, and I wanted a lens that would truly bring my subjects in close. I fulfilled that need with a Spiratone 500mm f/8 mirror lens.

spiratone-500mm-f8-8-mirror-lens-t-mount-vgc-minitel-m-plura-coat-1-3-macro_201527268117

Spiratone was (basically) a mail order photography company which developed unique products for the photographer. Their line of lenses were produced to be able to fit any camera then on the market by way of a screw-on flange that you could buy separately which contained the proper mounting for that camera. I naturally bought mine with the flange for the Contax RTS. Spiratone went out of business in 1990.

A mirror lens – with that unique solid circle in the middle – gets its telephoto abilities in a short barrel by bouncing the light off of a series of internal mirrors (like a telescope) to get the necessary travel distance. It has some distinctive characteristics that quickly mark a photo taken with one if the photographer is not careful. The most obvious is in what we today call bokeh. It does not produce a very pleasing out of focus area, and the spot highlights come out as round donut like marks. (You can see the effects here) I usually used it to take pictures at sporting events where it worked like a charm – as long as there was plenty of sunlight so I could use a high shutter speed.

Today I am using a Nikon DSLR and the 500mm lens was sitting gathering dust. It dawned on me that Nikon had been using the F-mount since the days that I originally bought the lens. Since Spiratone is no longer in business, I couldn’t call them to order a new flange for my current camera so I started looking on Ebay for the flange. As expected, none were listed, but soon I found a lens for sale which had the very flange I was looking for. I bought the lens (it was very cheap) and when it arrived, removed the flange (I wasn’t interested in the lens itself) and replaced the Contax RTS flange on my old lens. Lo and behold it worked! I could now take pictures (in Manual mode only) on my digital camera. (The lens does not have any of the automatic features of today’s lenses, and the camera doesn’t even recognize that a lens is attached, which is why I can only use it in Manual mode.)

Yesterday was the first time I actually had a chance to go out and try it in a real life situation. I headed back to the duck pond where I always check out new equipment. Here is one of the first photos taken with this lens in at least 25 years …

Aperture: f/8
Shutter speed: 1/800 sec
ISO: 400
Lens: Spiratone 500mm mirror
Focal length: 500 mm
Nikon D3200
© Mark L. Fendrick

While it is not a great lens – inexpensive mirror lenses never are – I think the result is quite acceptable. What do you think?

Since I was at the duck pond, I spent some time documenting the end of summer and the lush green look it currently has. In about 2 weeks, Autumn will arrive here in NYC and the Fall colors will start to be seen. The wildlife here also seemed to be quietly taking in the last of the warm days before the cold of the northeast starts to make its presence felt. (The following pictures were taken with a Nikon D3200 and my other lenses, not the 500mm.)

Aperture: f/8
Shutter speed: 1/30 sec
ISO: 100
Lens: Nikkor 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED IF AF-S DX VR
Focal length: 200 mm
Nikon D3200
© Mark L. Fendrick

Aperture: f/8
Shutter speed: 1/100 sec
ISO: 100
Lens: Nikkor 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED IF AF-S DX VR
Focal length: 200 mm
Nikon D3200
© Mark L. Fendrick

Aperture: f/8
Shutter speed: 1/15 sec
ISO: 100
Lens: Nikkor 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED IF AF-S DX VR
Focal length: 200 mm
Nikon D3200
© Mark L. Fendrick

Aperture: f/11
Shutter speed: 1/15 sec
ISO: 400
Lens: Nikkor 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED IF AF-S DX VR
Focal length: 200 mm
Nikon D3200
© Mark L. Fendrick

Aperture: f/9
Shutter speed: 1/100 sec
ISO: 400
Lens: Nikkor 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 AF-S DX VR
Focal length: 18 mm
Nikon D3200
© Mark L. Fendrick

If you look closely, you can see the leaves just starting to turn already.

Aperture: f/6.3
Shutter speed: 1/150 sec
ISO: 100
Lens: Nikkor 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 AF-S DX VR
Focal length: 55 mm
Nikon D3200
© Mark L. Fendrick

Aperture: f/6.3
Shutter speed: 1/125 sec
ISO: 100
Lens: Nikkor 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 AF-S DX VR
Focal length: 55 mm
Nikon D3200
© Mark L. Fendrick

And now we will take our leave of you until the next time when we will come back to the pond to show the arrival of the Fall foliage.

Aperture: f/6.3
Shutter speed: 1/125 sec
ISO: 100
Lens: Nikkor 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 AF-S DX VR
Focal length: 55 mm
Nikon D3200
© Mark L. Fendrick

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Comments on: "New Old Equipment and the End of Summer" (3)

  1. Mark, I am glad you are enjoying your 500 mm mirror lens again, after so many years. The photos look great!

    Like

    • Thanks Jonathan. Your dad was a remarkable man and the company he started was responsible for much of my photographic equipment for a long time. I was excited to get the lens out of hibernation and back in use where it should be.

      Like

  2. Carrie Joyce said:

    Mark, your journey is just amazing and I so appreciate you sharing your journey and your knowledge with the world. You continue to give me encouragement to bring out even my older equipment and get happy doing what makes my heart the happiest. Taking awesome photos.

    Like

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