Compact mirror lens

Started Jul 13, 2010 | Discussions thread
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Tom Caldwell
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Compact mirror lens
Jul 13, 2010

The other thread regarding longer lens lengths seems to have become overloaded and I thought I might start a new one exclusively on the remote possibility of a mirror lens providing a compact solution to the need for telephoto.

Mirror lenses are quite out of favour and are seen as a novelty lens only. Always were.

They have the advantage of being relatively light, compact and cheap for their power.

Their disadvantages include: not being well known; prime length only (1); very slow fixed single aperture (f6.3 at best; f8.0 more normal and some are f11.0); and they are not generally very good. They produce a characteristic "donut" ring from any reflection caught.

Once upon a time the big name manufacturers made them as well but now they seem to be relegated to the smaller fringe firms.

Once you might have been able to buy telephoto lengths shorter than 300mm but now it might be hard even to find a new "300" and the sizes still on offer have "retreated" to 500mm, 800mm and occasionally even longer.

However a mirror lens used within it's limitations of slow aperture and in the knowledge of those donuts can be a lightweight cheap way of capturing images that can only otherwise be caught by huge conventional lenses.

In the debate over longer telephotos for EVIL type cameras maybe there is room to reconsider the now largely ignored and sometimes laughed at mirror lens?

Not much chance of Ricoh making one but I thought it worth a mention. Of course with a T-mount adapter any of the current crop of mirror lenses would fit on the Samsung NX mount or the m4/3 cameras. The Olympus m4/3 would be the best guess as the on-body OIS would be useful with such slow lenses. Most of these lenses come/came in T-mount as they are so dead set simple that they could fit on almost any camera (GXR excepted of course).

I had a Makinon 300mm many many years ago. Still have, I used to love what it took and it was light and useful. The donuts I lived with. Unfortunately it seems to have acquired a coating over it's mirror (not a fungal growth). The mirror surface seems intact just covered all over and evenly with a sort of milky haze. No longer useful and I cannot see an easy way to disassemble it to clean the mirror.

(1) I think one manufacturer at least managed to make a zoom version.

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Tom Caldwell
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