elton john low res

Reflex-Nikkor 500mm F8

Many years ago, I owned a unique lens. It was a 500mm mirror lens, very light and compact compared with the prime Nikkor 500mm lens of the day (which could not be hand-held), and a lot less expensive! The drawback was that it was fixed at f8, so one needed subjects to be well-lit. Another challenge was the focusing— manual—had to be dead on.

I used it to shoot the photographs of Elton John, Chaka Khan and Mike Love of the Beach Boys on this page. I also used it to shoot sports, mainly tennis and soccer. This was way before digital photography.

Many years later, I used the lens on my Nikon D70 digital SLR to shoot Elegant Terns in Mexico. Again, manual focus and no stabalization. There were many out-of-focus shots, but I was pleased with the few in-focus shots of the Elegant Terns.

When I became serious about wildlife photography, I bought a 300mm Nikkor lens and sold my 500mm mirror lens. However, I missed my trusty old lens and recently bought another one. I don't expect to be using it much, it's more of a nostalgic purchase, but I experimented with it on my mirrorless Nikon Z9.

I used it this week, to photograph a Gila Woodpecker which was nesting in a Saguaro cactus. I knew that focussing manually would be a challenge, so I used focus peaking on the Z9. Focus peaking works well with manual focus as it “paints” a color over the areas of the image with the highest degree of sharpness (not recorded on the photo, of course). With focus peaking turned on, you would see anything in sharp focus highlighted with a color, set to red in my case. I did get some sharp shots, shown below, but well more than 50% were out-of-focus. I can not see any opportunity where I would use this lens for wildlife photography, in spite of its comparative light weight, it has too many drawbacks to be of any use. For me it's a novelty lens, and who knows there may be a use for it in the future. 

The photographs below show the mirror lens on my Z9 and a comparison shot of the mirror lens and my 500mm PF 5.6 lens.

mike love beachboys low res