This is a follow-up to the post I had a couple of weeks back where I described the merits of really cheap T mount long focus non-mirror lenses.

One of the lenses I had discussed was the ubiquituous Spiratone 400mm f/6.3 T mount pre-set lens, which appears in many different incarnations labelled variously as Spiratone, Lentar, Soligor, Tele-Astranar, Howard Sterling, Cambron etc etc. They are essentially the same lens, from the same manufacturing line, possibly Tamron.

Anyway, I took the opportunity last week when the weather was superlative, and the sun really bright to try some hand-held shots with the Spiratone. I like opportunistic photography, so even though I have a tripod in the trunk, I rarely use it. Tripods are great assets, but for a driveby opportunity or quickly changing situations, forget it. 🙂

I generally use 200 ASA film, but this time, my OM-1 was loaded with 400 ASA, so I decided to try the Spiratone out hand-held, using the Sunny F16 rule. With the 400 ASA film, the Sunny f/16 rule calls for a shutter speed setting of 1/500 second and an aperture of f/16. I was using a polarizer, so I used a setting of f/11 instead of f/16 to compensate for the filter.

Using the Spiratone 400mm’s aperture preset rings is really easy – there are 2 rings, use the first to set the aperture to the desired setting f/6.3 through f/32, and the other ring to Open or Close the aperture. Set the aperture, focus with the aperture ring set at Open, and when satisfied with the focus, turn the ring to the Close position, and take the shot. It’s much simpler and intuitive to do than it is to describe.

These pictures were taken around Carroll County on Frodinger Road, the farmer busily preparing his fields for Spring planting was about 1/4 mile away, and oblivious to me pulled up by the side of the road. I stayed in the car, so I could use the window as a support since the lens is so long.

The sunset was on my way home from work on MD Rte 27. The sun’s disk was positioned just above the horizon when I stopped. I had originally meant to use the Tripod, but I had very little time, so I ended up taking the shot hand held. The perspective compression of the 400mm lens is apparent in the flattening of the sun’s disk. I used a polarizer, and kept my sunshades on to protect my eyes. I avoided looking at the disk, just setting the lens focus at infinity.


Spiratone 400mm f/6.3
Spiratone 400mm f/6.3
Spiratone 400mm f/6.3
Spiratone 400mm f/6.3
Spiratone 400mm f/6.3

Photographed with an OM-1 and Spiratone 400mm f/6.3 lens, 1/500 at f/11, Polarizing filter, Fuji Superia 400mm

Spiratone 400mm f/6.3
Spiratone 400mm f/6.3

These definitely could have benefited from the tripod. The moon photograph was at 1/500, f/6.3 (wide open, no filter). The horses were at 1/500 and f/11 with polarizer. Photographed with an OM-1 and Spiratone 400mm f/6.3 lens, Polarizing filter, Fuji Superia 400mm


Compare the same scene, but this time shot with a Zuiko 200mm f/4, again using the Sunny f/16 rule, 1/500 sec at f/11 (instead of f/16, to compensate for the polarizer.)

Zuiko 200mm f/4
Zuiko 200mm f/4
Zuiko 200mm f/4

Here are the related Posts:
Cheap Super Telephoto Lenses Part I
Cheap Super Telephoto Lenses Part III
Learning to love your Mirror Lens


text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners.
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