Mirror lenses aren’t for everybody, in fact they can be frustrating at times, but I’ve hung onto the one I have, a Sigma 600mm f8, as something of a contest of wills.
I’ve had people tell me the 3M-5A-MC CCCP 500mm F8 Russian made mirror lens performs well but I’ve yet to run across one – I’ve also had people tell me the Tamron SP does so as well, but having tried a friends copy I wasn’t impressed.
My experience with Russian made lenses has been restricted to the Helios 44m-4 58mm f2 and I am impressed with it’s performance and build quality.
My lens collection in the vast majority consists of “vintage” manual focus lenses – over time when using such lenses you develop something of an acute sensitivity to the adjustment of focus, a hand/eye coordination born of necessity.
Nonetheless achieving an exacting focus on this particular lens has been and remains something of a challenge and led to a love hate relationship.
Corrections to a degree can be made in the more sophisticated editing programs such PS, ACDsee, Lightroom, and others.
But for the me the real value of lens is it’s ability to produce an image entirely capable of standing on it’s own as a starting point.
JPEG is the format most people shoot in as they aren’t interested in “developing” DNGs, digital negatives.
A characteristic of mirror lenses is the lack of resolution, the primary reason why shooting a photo with one should be done in the RAW format, which captures significantly more detail.
I may be more critical than others but I find that generally only one of multiple photos I’ve taken with this lens pass muster.
And the main reasons why I use it only attached to a dslr where the advantage of the RAW format is available.
Others may argue that, but having used it on both film and digital bodies I find the advantage to be digital if for no other reason than the cost of wasted film.
This is a big lens weighing in around a couple of pounds, though fairly light for it’s size due to the use of mirrors rather than optical glass – it is also a lens that will turn heads and prompt questions.
At 600mm on a cropped sensor you effectively have what amounts to a 900 mm lens at what can be a cheap price judging by examples offered on ebay – but it isn’t a lens I would recommend for everyone, especially those with a type A personality as it can at times have you questioning both the nature of your existence and personal sanity.
My go to long lens is a Asayhi Takumar 300mm f4 that weighs significantly more, magnificently constructed, and produces much better results.
On occasion though I resurrect the 600mm from the crypt and accept the challenge as I’ve done today, predicated by first looking at the case, opening it to take in hand, and then the commitment of attaching it to the camera, in some cases via an adapter.
Once attached the die is cast, and though I may procrastinate a little I’m compelled to venture forth and begin the ritual of discerning what will or won’t produce the “doughnut” bokeh, flare, or CA, while paying acute attention to the location of light source.
This marked tendency to flare necessitated the inclusion of a large metal hood with the original manufacture.
There are various filters that will address such concerns, but at 95mm they aren’t cheap, and I believe can contribute to an additional loss of resolution on a mirror lens
Perhaps not though if you avail yourself of those mutli hundred dollar filters which are beyond my reach.
This lens is an anachronism of sorts, something from an earlier time, perhaps on some level one of the reasons why I’ve kept it, that and what may be a misplaced belief that some magical formula I’ve yet to discover exists that will soothe the furrowed brow.
I’ve seen claims of hand holding this lens, if so then surely by an individual caught in the grips of rigor mortis, as it is painstakingly sensitive to even the slightest of movement being a large manual lens at f8 and the reason it comes with a tripod mount.
My advice for any willing to take the challenge this lens presents is not to even think about foregoing the use of a tripod, and to forget about a monopod unless you first cast it in concrete.
If you’re heavy handed consider in addition to a tripod either a wireless or cable release means of shutter activation – and don’t forget to set your camera to RAW.
I’ll either root through the external and post a couple of photos taken with this lens or add something more current after braving the elements.