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Old Oct 2, 2006, 11:28 PM   #1
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Hi All,

I was getting a little shaky from LBA, waiting for the K10D to start appearing on the shelves -- haven't bought a lens in quite a while, so I've been researching bargain-priced long lenses in the meantime.

Saw a post on another forum about the Tamron SP 500 f8 mirror (catadioptric) and was impressed. Cats have gone out of favor, mainly because of the "donut" bokeh caused by the mirror optics, so this looked like a good prospect. Found one in EX condition with a hood at KEH that had just been marked down to $105, so I ordered it.

It came today, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it already had a KA mount on it -- almost like they knew what I wanted. The KA mount adapter goes for @ $45 if you can find one now, so the way I see it, the lens only cost $60, or maybe a bit less. As always, KEH undergrades their lenses, so this one's pretty much LN.

It's been dark and rainy all day, so I didn't think that I'd be able to get any pics, but it stopped raining for a little while, and the clouds thinned a bit, so I took a walk to mail some bills. On the way back, the swans in the complex's lake were close to the shore, so I carefully strolled over to them. It was really too dark to get anything good, so I popped up the flash and tried a couple of shots that way.

Here's the best one:



I'll hold off final judgement until I can shoot with it in good light, but I'm certainly not disappointed. It's less than 4" long, and weighs just over a pound, so it's about half the size and weight of the FA*300 with the f 1.7x AFA, but it is a fixed aperture f8, and will show the funny bokeh, so it won't be replacing the Pentax stuff soon. . . but it is neat!

I'll post some more stuff when I get some good weather, though it'll probably be sparrows, starlings or such. I'll also try to show the donuts, and what can be done with them for those who might be interested.

Scott


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Old Oct 3, 2006, 11:57 AM   #2
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Hi again,

I was able to go out this morning with some decent light before the new wave of storms arrive. The only subjects were some of the sparrows that are always around. I couldn't get too close, but got a few shots.

I'm liking this lens.

First is full frame, reduced in size and sharpened just a little to simulate the look of the full size frame. Notice the donuts in the foreground. This was taken from @ 20 ft away, ISO 800, 1/350.




This is how I would normally crop and PP this shot.



This last is a cropped and PP'd shot. This was from at least 30 ft away, ISO 800, 1/500.



I'd say that this lens is a keeper for me. Besides being very cool looking, it's very small and pretty light -- after shooting the FA*300/4.5 and the 1.7x TC all summer, it almost feels too light -- I can see a lot more shake in the VF whe trying to focus handheld.

It's got a fairly narrow DOF, and because you can't change the aperture, you have to deal with it -- not too hard -- and an advantage is that it really "snaps" into focus, and is easier to gain critical focus than most standard optic MF lenses IMO.

Another thing is that there is no CA or PF, even with some very high contrast areas -- NONE. I'm sure that there's an explanation for this, but I don't know what it is.

With some PP skills, the donuts can be dealt with. In PSPXI, I used a duplicate layer, applied Gaussian blur to the background layer (increasing the level until the donut shapes almost disappeared), erased the area of the donuts on the duplicate layer, then merged the layers.

I'd say that this lens is one that any nature/bird shooter should at least consider if:
1. You're on a strict budget, or
2. You want a lot of reach in a small package. (or both, of course), and
3. You can deal with using a relatively slow MF prime. and
4. You don't mind the bokeh, or can work with it in PP.

IMO, you absolutely cannot get this kind of reach and optical quality any way for under $200, especially in such a portable package. It has definitely exceeded my expectations, at least so far.

Scott

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Old Oct 4, 2006, 4:52 AM   #3
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not bad at all scott..
especially for handholding a 500mm..

roy
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Old Oct 4, 2006, 7:00 AM   #4
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Tech has really made a lot of changes. Mirror lens used to be almost unuseable garbage. Now with pp and digital format, anything is possible. At least you talk about comparing it with * lens. The pix has shown what it can be done. And it is cheap and handy. What more would you need when you are out in the field shooting birdie?
Congrat on your find. I will not underestimate mirror lens any more.

Daniel

snostorm wrote:
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Hi All,

I'll hold off final judgement until I can shoot with it in good light, but I'm certainly not disappointed. It's less than 4" long, and weighs just over a pound, so it's about half the size and weight of the FA*300 with the f 1.7x AFA, but it is a fixed aperture f8, and will show the funny bokeh, so it won't be replacing the Pentax stuff soon. . . but it is neat!

I'll post some more stuff when I get some good weather, though it'll probably be sparrows, starlings or such. I'll also try to show the donuts, and what can be done with them for those who might be interested.

Scott

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Old Oct 4, 2006, 11:26 AM   #5
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Those shots sure look good to me. Congratulations on a good find.

Tim
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Old Oct 4, 2006, 2:13 PM   #6
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What I really appreciate about this thread is that you give the negatives and then the work-arounds. To me, that's the biggest help - knowing what the limitations are for something going into it.

Thanks, Scott!
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