Tarmon SP 500mm F8 Mirror Lens, Real world review
When you make a start in the world of Photography, Sooner or later you will want to own a dedicated Long Telephoto lens. These lenses offer the ability to get some great images in the world of (Landscape, Wildlife, Portrait and Sports) Photography.
Fixed focus (None Zoom) Telephoto lenses come in many focus lengths, but the most usable are 200mm to 600mm, depending on how much magnification of distant subjects and objects you need. The cost of these lenses my surprise many starting photography and to be honest even many long term photographers, they can start in price range from around €800 and end up way into the many €1000’s.
There is however an alternative option with this type of lens, this being to look at what are called Reflex or Mirror Lenses. These kind of lenses replace some of the glass elements within their construction with two Mirrors both used to fold the light entering the front glass element in much the same way as a reflex telescope does.
i.e. NASA uses this method in the Hubble space telescope that has produced some amazing ground braking images of the cosmos.
Third party and OEM Camera manufactures started making these lenses in the 1970’s and continued through to the 1990’s, today mostly only third party lenses are available. The quality of these Early OEM/Third party – mirror lenses was very high, even second hand some of these lenses can set you back some €300 to €800 on ebay, even today in 2017.
I purchased a Reflex lens made by Tamron (500mm SP F8) way back in 1988 and in this post I just wanted to share my thoughts on some of its upsides and some of its downsides.
To be honest, I have not used this lens very much, for two main reasons.
Firstly : at 500mm and with an lens aperture of F8 it needs to be Tripod or at the very least mono pod mounted in order to create very sharp images. This maybe a little unfair as this is true for most long lenses but Nikon VR lenses are so good at helping go handheld!
Secondly : these lenses have one very different down side to that of refactor (Glass only) lenses, they produce a doughnut ring effect on bright out of focus objects or even just areas in the image that have a bright, lighting than the darker areas around them. I have included some examples at the bottom of the posts images below.
With the first point above, today in 2017 with the high ISO abilities of SLR cameras such as the Nikon D7200 and D750, this issue has been made redundant to a great extent! When this Tamron lens was produced, 35mm film could only produce clean images at a rating of no more than ISO 400.
Today the Nikon D7200 can work very well between ISO 3200 and 6400 with very little help from good noise cleaning software in post processing, this up-rates the usable shutter speeds for hand held work for even a lens of 500mm at f8, letting you work handheld more than ever before !
Remembering that even on a DX sensor slr, you need for some 750mm (X 1.5 DX factor!) to keep a shutter speed of 1/800th to 1/1000th to create fully stable images, If you have a steady hand. Even on a cloudy day ISO 1600 gives a shutter speed of around 1/1600th and ISO 1600 on a D7200 is little to worry about! noise wise. It is for this reason that I am starting thinking of trying using this lens again.
For the rest of this post and review of the lens, I will let the following images do the talking, with a small amount of comments made in each of the related image types.
Tarmon SP 500mm F8 Mirror Lens – sharpness and quality
To test for the image sharpness and quality I placed the camera on a tripod, I don’t use a remote release, so there could be some small effects but all in all these are sharp images.
You can see from the below image that this lens can produce some very sharp images under the correct conditions, its just as good as some much more expensive glass only lenses from Nikon.
I have no worries here and would be very happy in trusting this lens to produce sharp images from corner to corner of the frame.
Above : Nikon D7200 with Tamron SP 500mm Mirror lens, Tripod Mounted
As image sharpness has been tested above, what about color fringing and other detects, color fringing is visible in an image at bright edges in the frame, so I used the wires and other equipment on the telegraph post in this image, I see no fringing Green, blue or otherwise in this image.
So again I would trust this lens to produce sharp and clean images that need little or no post processing to clean them up later.
Using the lens – in the Landscape
The following images speak for themselves, just general landscapes and animal images from medium focus distance subject to long distance landscapes, the town and wind farm in the last landscape is some 8km away from the location of taking the image, crazy!. Again its sharp enough taking into account the haze of the atmosphere, no color fringing problems in the wind turbines.
With the main set of images here, I am less happy with the out of focus effects as the bokeh of this lens is not great!, anything bright and a little out of focus (i.e. The grass!) takes on a distracted look, feeling tangled and distracting with the image smoothness, Most noticeable in the two images of the sheep sitting down.
Those Doughnuts !! OMG!
As you can see from the photo of this lens sitting in my camera bag at the top of the post, a mirror lens is constructed very much like a reflecting telescope, like this diagram :
You can see that the center of the front glass element is used to hold the housing for the smaller secondary mirror in the construction, that folds the image light back down the lens and into the camera.
This system works amazingly well but for one problem!
For in-focus areas of an image the central lens obstruction is never visible, however for brighter areas of an image that are out of focus this central obstruction created by the secondary mirror housing, created a bright doughnut effect.
In the below images this is very clear!
The light gaps in the trees below turn into bright cycles, the rain on the table in the background focus also does the same.
In some images you can work around this effect and even use it as an interesting advantage?, you just have to get to know when this kind of lens is and is not usable !!!
For the most when you have a subject that has the potential to create this circle effect ! it just distracting and not likeable. This is the point at which the little price you paid to get a budget Telephoto lens €300 not €2000 starts to gets you back !!!
Getting Arty , MayBe?
Like any camera lens, Mirror lenses have their down sides (Slow, bright Cirles, Manual focus, etc …), you just have to get to know these features and ether use them to your advantage or don’t !!!
Some people love the bright rings and make good use of them 🙂 , one use could be nighttime street photography ?
So then ?
So if your looking for a cheep way to get a telephoto lens into your camera bag, a Mirror lens is well worth looking at in my own opinion. Don’t expect to work quickly with them or be lazy in your approach, however – but then most telephoto lenses need hard work to get good images, with a mirror lens you just have to add a little on top!
In the end, just like with all of your image making, you get out what you put in !!!!
Will I take this lens out more than I have? Maybe ! most likely not !! Watch this space ?
If I was starting again with few lenses and wanted a low budget long lens, would I get a Mirror lens , Hell YES !!! , With Great high ISO SLR’s even more so !!!
Sometimes the harder you have to work to get good images , the more you learn !!!!
Also see : Mirror Lenses – how good? Tamron 500/8 SP vs Canon 500/4.5L, a older review, ISO has moved a long way since this article but its a great comparison test (€300 Tamron v €2000+ Canon).
Round Tower and Church
Located in county Kilkenny, Aghaviller Round Tower and Church are together one of the most interesting of Irish Historic sites. Based on the presence of the round tower, it is believed that the Agherviller monastic settlement was once a relatively high-status ecclesiastical foundation dating back to Early Christian times. The church and a holy well not far from the site have been dedicated to St Brennain. We don’t know who founded the monastery but it could have been St Brennain. The round tower is built on top of a square stone plinth, an unusual feature which is only found in one other place in Ireland –at nearby Kilree. Sadly, only the lower 9.6 metres of the round tower survived.
The original NE facing round-arched doorway is in its customary location about 4 metres above ground level, although a ground-level lintelled doorway has been added in more recent times. The sandstone tower was unfortunately in deep shade from the nearby dense woods on our late afternoon visit, but it is worth a return trip in morning light to photograph the stonework which is beautifully dressed to the curve inside and out. There is a southwest facing square-headed window at the second storey level.
The church dates to the 12th Century but was significantly modified in the 15th by the addition of a massive tower over the chancel that served as a residence. Only the foundation of the nave remains. An archaeological excavation revealed a gully filled with kiln material and a sizeable ditch/boundary running north–south with stone revetting on its eastern side. This ditch is believed to have surrounded a second or outer enclosure, a common feature of high-status monastic sites.
Its easy to think that the best lens to spend a full day of Photography with would be a zoom lens, however my favorite and most respected lenses are all prime lenses(fixed focus lenght lenses).
One of my most respected and trusted lens is my Nikon 50mm f1.4, its fast , can work very well in low light and even at 75mm on my DX D7200 body (50mm on an FX) it makes me think in a very creative way. You have to frame you shots well before you click the shutter button, I find this much more creative that just walking around and zooming in and out at everything 🙂 although this can be a very fun experience.
While you need a zoom lens in order to make sure you can capture some subjects, Prime lenses make you think about the subject you want to capture!
So what kind of images can you produce if you only take one lens with you , A 50mm Prime?
Nikon AF-d 50mm f1.4 Gallery
These images from yesterday include a morning walk and then an evening walking alone the strand at Tramore, County Waterford
These June time Mornings and evenings can offer some wonderful light for landscape images, this week I am going to use black and white only to try to pull the best images from our local area ……
St Anne’s Pier is a Victorian era pleasure pier in the English seaside resort of St Anne’s-on-the-Sea, Lancashire. It lies on the estuary of the River Ribble. The pier, designed by A. Dowson, was completed in 1885 and was one of the earliest public buildings in St Anne’s, a 19th-century planned town. The pier was originally intended to be a sedate promenading venue for the resort’s visitors, but attractions were later added. Changes made to the estuary channels to improve access to Preston Dock left the pier on dry land and ended its steamer services to Blackpool and Liverpool.
A Tudor-style entrance was built in 1899. Early 20th-century additions included a Moorish-style pavilion in 1904 and the Floral Hall in 1910. The Moorish Pavilion was destroyed by fire in 1974, shortly after the town’s centenary; the Floral Hall burned down in 1982. Originally 914 feet (279 m) long, the pier was reduced to 600 feet (180 m) by the demolition of the seaward end. English Heritage has designated the pier a Grade II listed building.
Robin Hood’s Bay is a small fishing village and a bay located within the North York Moors National Park, five miles south of Whitby and fifteen miles north of Scarborough on the stunning coast line of North Yorkshire, England.
“Bay Town” is its local name, in the ancient chapelry of Fylingdales in the wapentake of Whitby Strand. The origin of the name is uncertain, and it is doubtful if Robin Hood was ever in the vicinity.
An English ballad and legend tell a story of Robin Hood encountering French pirates who came to pillage the fisherman’s boats and the northeast coast. The pirates surrendered and Robin Hood returned the loot to the poor people in the village that is now called Robin Hood’s Bay
This Village on the Yorkshire Coast is one of the most Beautiful villages in the UK, Here I share a collection of Photographs taken during a visit at the start of May 2017, I hope that I have captured a small sense of this idyllic English sea side village as I enjoyed our time spend here very much and will look back with very fond memories …..
Robin Hood’s Bay, A Sense of place ….
His Dream Of Skyland
The seafarers tell of the Eastern Isle of Bliss,
It is lost in a wilderness of misty sea waves.
But the Sky-land of the south, the Yueh-landers say,
May be seen through cracks of the glimmering cloud.
This land of the sky stretches across the leagues of heaven;
It rises above the Five Mountains and towers over the Scarlet Castle,
While, as if staggering before it, the Tien-tai Peak
Of forty-eight thousand feet leans toward the southeast.
The moon in the lake followed my flight,
Followed me to the town of Yen-chi.
Here still stands the mansion of Prince Hsieh.
I saw the green waters curl and heard the monkeys’ shrill cries.
I climbed, putting on the clogs of the prince,
Skyward on a ladder of clouds,
And half-way up from the sky-wall I saw the morning sun,
And heard the heaven’s cock crowing in the mid-air.
Now among a thousand precipices my way wound round and round;
Flowers choked the path; I leaned against a rock; I swooned.
Roaring bears and howling dragons roused me –
Oh, the clamorous waters of the rapids!
I trembled in the deep forest, and shuddered at the overhanging crags,
one heaped upon another.
Clouds on clouds gathered above, threatening rain;
The waters gushed below, breaking into mist.
A peal of blasting thunder!
The mountains crumbled.
The stone gate of the hollow heaven
Opened wide, revealing
A vasty realm of azure without bottom,
Sun and moon shining together on gold and silver palaces.
Clad in rainbow and riding on the wind,
The ladies of the air descended like flower, flakes;
The faery lords trooping in, they were thick as hemp-stalks in the fields.
Phoenix birds circled their cars, and panthers played upon harps.
Bewilderment filled me, and terror seized on my heart.
I lifted myself in amazement, and alas!
I woke and found my bed and pillow –
Gone was the radiant world of gossamer.
So with all pleasures of life.
All things pass with the east-flowing water.
I leave you and go – when shall I return?
Let the white roe feed at will among the green crags,
Let me ride and visit the lovely mountains!
How can I stoop obsequiously and serve the mighty ones!
It stifles my soul.
– Li Po. Translated by: Shigeyoshi Obata
Landscape painting and photography
Painting as an art form for myself feels very much like a natural progression from the art of landscape photography which is the act of recording a representation of the view you find yourself located in.
I often find myself asking what it was about an image I capture with my camera or in a sketch / painting that I liked so much that I went to the effort of working with that location in different forms and media.
This is a quote from one of my favourite landscape painters Fred Cuming, Talking about his paintings Cuming says: ‘I am not interested in pure representation. My work is about responses to the moods and atmospheres generated by landscape’
Although there are many forms of landscape art all as valid as each other, Contemporary landscape painting tends to fall into the areas of semi abstracted to completely abstract, in that each work is making an effort to extract from the selected landscape location a sense of atmosphere or a mood. This mood and atmosphere can involve colour or light or texture, or all of these things and more.
This artistic process, from pure representation or abstraction can in a completely valid way start with photography and in fact many current artists have replaced the sketch book with the film/digital camera. The question as to if this is the best thing or not will continue for a long time, some feeling that a photo simply cannot capture a good enough sense of the location or at least not in the same way as spending time in that location with a sketch book can.
Personally I feel photographs are a very important tool and can in a very valid way capture the mood and sense of a place. However I feel that you need to spend a good amount of time with your camera exploring as much as you can while your on site, walking around and finding all the different views and angles along with all the small details you can find. The aim is to return home with as complete a memory of your landscape as you can.
Here are some details of Fred Cuming as an artist along with some more of his painting…..
Artist: Fred Cuming
Fred Cuming is a painter of International standing. Born in 1930 he studied Art at Sidcup School of Art from 1945 to 1949. After completing his National Service he studied at the Royal College of Art from 1951 to 1955 where he gained a Rome Scholarship and an Abbey Minor Scholarship.
Fred was elected a Royal Academician in 1974. He has also been a member of the New English Art Club since 1960 and is the recipient of many art awards including: the Grand Prix Fine Art (1977); the Royal Academy’s House & Garden Award and the Sir Brinsley Ford Prize (New English Art Club, 1986).
Fred Cuming has exhibited his contemporary paintings world wide. His paintings feature in many private and public modern art collections. These include: Montecarlo Museum; Royal Academy of Arts; and the Guinness Collection.
Fred Cuming paintings offer a moment for reflection. Cuming creates a relationship with nature and light – inducing observers to appreciate the calming atmosphere and realisation of the beauty around us. Many of his paintings feature the counties of Kent and Sussex where the Fred Cuming artist studio is located.
Talking about his paintings Cuming says: ‘I am not interested in pure representation. My work is about responses to the moods and atmospheres generated by landscape, still life or interior. My philosophy is that the more I work the more I discover. Drawing is essential as a tool of discovery; skill and mastery of technique are also essential, but only as a vocabulary and a means towards an idea. I struggle to keep an open mind.’
Fred Cuming has exhibited at other leading British Art Galleries. In 2001 Cuming was the featured artist at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition with an entire gallery dedicated to his art work.In 2004 he was awarded an honourary doctorate from the University of Kent.Like all Red Rag British art and Contemporary art Fred Cuming purchases can be shipped worldwide.