When I picked up a rather filthy but basically working second–hand Nikon F5 recently, from a wee shop on Avenue de la Republique in the City of Light, I also grabbed an apparently equally elderly Tamron SP 500mm mirror lens. I’ve taken a few shots to try it out.

image: a test that failed

In many respects, it’s ok. Like all mirror lens, it needs solid support to avoid mega–blur. Of course, with a modern digital camera, one can cheat and take a myriad megafast shots in the expectation that one or two won’t come out looking like a concrete blizzard, so that’s what I did.

It’s a manual focus lens, which isn’t a problem when shooting in strong light. I can imagine focus would be a bit of a bastard in difficult light, but then such light causes automatic focus problems too.

You can see a set of successful shots I took using the lens here. Look out for the classic mirror–lens ringed bokeh.

I had one particular problem with the lens. It could not focus to the far distance. That’s the problem you see with the shot on this page: in effect, it assured me that the tower was further than an infinite distance away. I’m not sure, though, that this is a problem with the lens, I think it’s more likely a problem with the way I was using it, judging by this review. I’m not used to the lens. I strongly suspect I did something wrong, like, perhaps, not mount it on the camera perfectly.

On the other hand, many years ago, I had a Pentax ME Super, and managed to buy an excellent 1000mm mirror lens. Basically, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, some Soviet lenses were made available for a very good price, and I picked one up. I seem to remember it had the same problem, although I can’t promise: this was 35–ish years ago, and human memory is about as reliable as a puff of wishful–thinking. All the same, that lens used an adapter, this lens uses an adapter. I wonder if that’s the underlying issue.

Anyway, in conclusion, the lens is imperfect but usable. Hardly surprisingly, it requires a solid place to rest the camera, such as a tripod or a convenient surface (or a very fast camera). It’s best in decent light. It has an unexpected maximum focus distance. I’ll mount it from time to time, but it won’t be a lens I’ll carry around with me.