Saturday, September 8, 2012

New Old Equipment and the End of Summer

Back in the 1970's I was taking photos with a Contax RTS. I had my prime 50mm Carl Zeiss T* lens (which we called a "normal" lens back then) 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. (Shown here on a Nikon)

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 post through the center  - 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 ...

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.)

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

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.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent, fantastic example of improvisation, good photos too!