July 2007


A while ago I had written about the advantages and shortcomings of cheap super-telephoto lenses and mirror lenses – while similar lenses are still being manufactured and available new for about $120 or so from Ebay, there are a lot more older super telephotos from the 70’s still available for between $30-$60 – these lenses are acceptably sharp, since they were designed for slide film. These old lenses are a veritable smorgasbord of alphabet soup, and range from OEM lenses to well known brands like Vivitar and Spiratone to one-person importer offerings like Jack Gershon’s Albinar and genuine lesser known lens manufacturers like Toyo.

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

I recently purchased a Toyo Five Star 500 non-mirror long tube refractive lens.. it was in mint condition, and priced reasonably so… anyway I was curious about the lens, and wanted to test it out and see how it stacked up against my Soligor C/D 500mm f/8 fixed aperture mirror. I also have a Spiratone 400mm f.6.3 Zuiko 300 f/4.5 and Vivitar 300mm f/5.6 from the same era, so I thought it would be interesting to compare them. I’ll write about that at some future point.

About the Toyo – they were an independent lens maker back in the late 60’ sand 70’s who marketed lenses under the Toyo, TOU/Five Star and TOYO Five Star brand names. There’s not much information about them, but you can find anything if you dig deep enough. The Toyo name is pretty common, and applied to several diverse industrial and consumer products including automotive tires, so sometimes you have to take educated guesses based on sparse company history.

I found a thread on photo.net suggesting that Toyo lenses were made by Toyoview, a division of Mamiya, but I don’t think that’s correct. Toyoview does make a variety of optical stuff for view cameras and are still around. However, I believe that all the Toyo lenses were made by Toyotec – they are a conglomerate with a optical lens division that has been producing lenses since 1967. Their optical lens division has changed names a couple of times in the mid-seventies, from Toyo Seiki Kogyo to Aichi Lens to Toyo Kogaku Kogyo. Their history can be found at Toyotec.com. Obviously, they are still in business, and apparently doing quite well in the digital world, manufacturing CCDs and lens elements along with a range of other services.

First impressions – the Toyo 500mm f/8 looks very similar to the Spiratone 400mm f/6.3, down to the lettering and markings, except for the fact that the 500mm is considerably smaller than the 400mm. The Spiratone 400mm’s f/6.3 aperture is gained by having a larger front element – the Spiratone takes 72mm filters while the Toyo Five Star 500mm takes 67mm filters, so that’s very good. By contrast, my Soligor 500mm C/D f/8 Mirror lens takes hard to find, expensive 77mm filters. Luckily, they guy I bought in from threw in a Skylight filter and a 77mm Rokunar Polarizer. Not the best, but hey, it was free. I prefer the 72mm filter size any day, since I can easily get step-down adapters to fit my other lenses if need be. I love the Soligor C/D mirror, but the filter prices are another story.

Overall, the Toyo Five Star 500mm f/8 lens is smaller and shorter than the Spiratone 400mm f/6.3. It’s all metal, and as was common at the time, it’s a T-mount preset lens. Focusing has to be done wide open, and manually stopped down by turning the ring below the aperture ring from O to C (Open – Close). The aperture settings run from f/8 through f/32. Now that’s a big advantage over the mirror lenses, but the mirrors are very compact by comparison and easily handheld. To handhold the Toyo lens, I’d need to have a shutter speed of at least 1/500 (rule of thumb 1/focal length, remember?)

Long super telephoto lenses 300mm and above generally come with an integral tripod mounting ring – that’s a good indication that they are hopeless to handhold. I don’t mind the slow speeds – I generally shoot at f/8-f/16, and being able to maintain a decent shutter speed for hand held photography is a challenge.

Sports photography applications generally call for fast lenses, since freezing action reliably in varying light conditions needs shutter speeds of 1/500 second and above, which means shooting wide open since a shallow depth of field is acceptable. If you’re into landscape photography, depth of field becomes more important. Nature photography combined with the occasional landscape shot is a challenge if you’re an amateur and can’t lay out the big $$$ for that mmmmmmmm 300mm f/2.8. Being on a very limited budget, I’m always open to cheap super telephoto options, and it’s all the better if one can hand-hold the lens.

So, working backward…. In order to hand-hold the Toyo 500mm, I would have maintain a 1/500 shutter speed. Assuming a bright sunlit day (so we can apply the Sunny f/16 rule, I would have to use 400 ASA film at the very least and set the aperture at approximately f/8 with a polarizer ( maybe go down to f/11). This would give me a hand-held shot, but risks underexposing the whole scene.

On a bright sunny day, slight under-exposure actually improves the picture, rendering bright colors more accurately – the light scatter causes colors to be slightly washed out. However. .. under-exposure can also make subdued colors muddy and ruin the picture.. when in doubt, or when dealing with a sun-shade situation, a 400 ASA is usually sufficient, but on occasion, an 800 ASA film may be indicated. The 1/500 shutter speed setting will now provide a slight (about 1/3 stop???) underexposure. If you’re in a cloudy situation, or in open shade, remember to either open up the lens to f/8 or increase exposure time to 1/250. It helps to play around a little to get the hang of it.

In actual practice, I’ve found that Fuji 400 ASA film was adequate at 1/500 sec in bright sunlight. I used a Maxxum T mount adapter to fit the lens to my Minolta Dynax 800si. Since the Toyo is smaller (and a bit shorter) than the Spiratone 400 f/6.3, it is marginally easier to handhold. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, though… the results will have to speak for themselves. Here are some of the pictures…

Note: To convert a Minolta Maxxum to manual operation ( and allow the shutter to fire) – mount the lens on the camera with the T mount adapter, and then hold down the mode (button with portrait) and AEL buttons simultaneously while turning the camera on. “OFF” will show briefly in the display – this means that the camera will not keep looking for an electronic signal from the lens, and just fire when the shutter release is depressed. Same principle applies when mounting Zuiko lenses on a Minolta using a Bower Maxxum-OM adapter.

For the following pictures, the distances ranged from 75 feet to 125 feet – with this series of pictures, I was trying to:

#1 establish that the 500mm Toyo Fivestar lens could be handheld, and
#2 that I could use it on the Minolta Dynax 800si with a Maxxum T-mount adapter, and
#3 Whether the lens resolution was worth a damn – pine needles and fence wire is always a good test

The fence gate and tree trunk show the ability of the Toyo 500 to reproduce texture. I like this lens.. cheap, well built, easily available, Universal T mount to fit on my Olympus OM or Minolta Dynax 800si, and fairly sharp at the edges. What more could I ask for? This definitely qualifies as a “Cheap Awesome Lens”. I’ll post another set of pictures I took with this lens fitted on my OM-2 with a Olympus T-mount.

Toyo FiveStar 500mm – 125 feet
Toyo FiveStar 500mm – 75 feet
Toyo FiveStar 500mm – 200 feet
Toyo FiveStar 500mm – 75 feet
Toyo FiveStar 500mm – 75 feet

Photographed with a Minolta Dynax 800si and Toyo Fivestar 500 f/8 lens. 1/500 second at f/8-f/11.
I’ll have some pictures of the Toyo 500mm f/8 setup on a Minolta 800si up soon…


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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Just a few macro shots I took a few weeks ago in an open field close to my workplace. I walked out into the field during my lunch break, when the sun was right overhead.
Normally, it’s usually the worst time of the day to take pictures since the light is bright and flat, with no shadows to provide relief or modeling of the subject.. on the other hand, mid-day light is usually good for macro photography since one doesn’t have to worry about shading the subject with the lens when really up close, and since it’s so bright, it’s possible to stop down quite a bit in to achieve some depth of field.
I was using the OM-1 with the Kino Precision made Panagor 90mm f/2.8, possibly the best choice of macro lens for photographing flowers and flying insects.

Macro Panagor 90mm at about 3 feet
Macro Panagor 90mm at 9 inches
Macro Panagor 90mm at about 3 feet
Macro Panagor 90mm at 9 inches
Macro Panagor 90mm: Thistle close-up
Macro Panagor 90mm at about 3 feet

Photographed with an OM-1, and Panagor 90mm f/2.8, with Fuji Super HQ 200 film. I used a polarizer. Exposure was at 1/250 at f/11 at about 8 inches distance


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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More pictures from the trip to Mt. Vernon. I had posted a bunch of pictures I had taken with the Olympus Trip 35 at Mt Vernon a couple of weeks ago. These were taken with my Minolta Dynax 800si and the Tamron 70-300mm and Maxxum AF 35-105mm lens.

I used the Tamron 70-300mm on the Potomac river cruise, and it was a great choice for the nesting Ospreys. They are raptors that resemble eagles, but they seem to be at home right on the water, nesting on the green buoys. The Maxxum AF 35-105mm was more suited to photographing the buildings and surroundings.


Mt. Vernon; Maxxum AF 35-105mm
Mt. Vernon; Maxxum AF 35-105mm
Mt. Vernon; Maxxum AF 35-105mm
Mt. Vernon; Maxxum AF 35-105mm
Mt. Vernon; Maxxum AF 35-105mm
Mt. Vernon; Maxxum AF 35-105mm
Mt. Vernon; Maxxum AF 35-105mm
Mt. Vernon; Potomac River Tamron AF 70-300mm
Mt. Vernon; Potomac River Tamron AF 70-300mm@300mm
Mt. Vernon; Potomac River Tamron AF 70-300mm@300mm
Mt. Vernon; Potomac River Tamron AF 70-300mm – Ft. Washington
Mt. Vernon; Potomac River Tamron AF 70-300mm – Ft. Washington
Osprey nesting, Potomac River buoy Tamron AF 70-300mm@300mm
Osprey nesting, Potomac River buoy Tamron AF 70-300mm@300mm
Mt. Vernon from Potomac River Tamron AF 70-300mm@300mm

Photographed with a Minolta Dynax 800si, Tamron AF 70-300mm f/3.5-5.6, Fuji Superia 200; with Polarizer


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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As far as fireworks, I had stupidly forgotten to take my Tripod along – I usually have it in my car, but we were using the old minivan for the long 15 hour trip from Maryland to Illinois, so I was only able to shoot handheld. I used the OM-10 with the Olympus Winder 2 connected. The lens was a Panagor 90mm f/2.8 lens

When we reached Miller Park in Bloomington, and finally located ourselves, I realized almost immediately that a 90mm was the wrong lens. I had picked the lens since I had figured that we’d be pretty far away from the fireworks, and the medium telephoto would pull the image in closer.

Boy, was I wrong – The fireworks at Miller park were shot from across the small lake, and the viewing area was directly across from the firing area, which means that the fireworks were almost directly overhead… really!. A Zuiko wideangle such as 28mm f/3.5 or 35mm f/2.8 or even my regular “normal” 50mm f/1/8 lens would have probably been better. Oh, well. Next time I’ll remember the Tripod.


Fireworks
Fireworks
Fireworks
L
Fireworks
Fireworks

Photographed with an OM-10, Panagor 90mm f/2.8 and Fuji Superia 400 film. 1/2 sec at f/4


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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I had purchased the OM-10 camera because of the interesting looking lens that it was attached to – I was purchasing it online, and the dealer only had a blurry picture and just mentioned it was a Vivitar 55mm. However, I could make out from the picture that it had a deep front element well, which indicated that it was a close-focus lens. Research indicated that it was most probably the Vivitar 55mm f/2.8 macro. I could not be sure of the condition of the lens, but I took a chance.

I was lucky this time, the lens was in pretty good condition, minor scratches, glass elements were fine though there is a tiny, tiny scratch on the front element. Scratches can cause flaring when photographing in bright sunlight, but not in this case. The front element is so deeply recessed, it’s like having a hood, there’s no chance of flare. Besides, I always use a polarizer for outdoor sunlight photography.

The Vivitar 55mm f/2.8 is a is a true classic. It’s a real 1:1 macro lens, made as an answer to the Zuiko 50mm f/3.5 and other OEM lenses – but this was even better, it can go to 1:1 without any other accessories, while the Olympus Zuiko 50mm macro has a magnification of 1:2 and needs the OM extension tube to go to 1:1.  The Vivitar 55mm lens can focus as close as 6 inches.

Lest anyone get the wrong idea, this Vivitar 55mm f/2.8 was not cheap by ANY standards – it retailed for $275 back when an OM-1 with a 50mm lens could be purchased for about $150. It was as expensive as any OEM lens. These days, it’s pretty hard to find, but usually retails for between $50-75 if you’re lucky. Ebay has one now and then, but the prices fluctuate quite a bit, since there are a lot of knowledgeable macro photographers out there who would recognize this lens’ true value. For me, it more than qualifies as a ‘cheap awesome lens’.

The Vivitar 55mm lens was built by Komine (serial number starts with 28xxxxx) for Vivitar and resembles the Kino Precision made Panagor 90mm f/2.8 1:1 macro and Panagor 55mm f/2.8 1:1 macro a great deal, down to the filter diameter of 62mm. I guess thats because Kino Precision made a similar 90mm macro lens for Vivitar. (Vivitar lenses made by Kino have a serial number starting with 22xxxxx).

Here’s the roll I shot with the OM-1 and the Vivitar 55mm f/2.8 macro. I will get a lot more use from this lens when I finally get a Digital SLR. That’ll probably be another few months at least.

Vivitar 55mm macro
Vivitar 55mm macro
Vivitar 55mm macro
Vivitar 55mm macro
Vivitar 55mm macro
Vivitar 55mm macro
Vivitar 55mm macro
Vivitar 55mm macro
Vivitar 55mm macro
Vivitar 55mm macro
Vivitar 55mm macro
Vivitar 55mm macro
Vivitar 55mm macro
Vivitar 55mm macro
Vivitar 55mm macro
Vivitar 55mm macro

Photographed with an OM-1, Vivitar 55mm f/2.8, Fuji Superia 400 film, Polarizer

I was away in Bloomington for the July 4th weekend – I had taken a couple of cameras with me, and an assortment of lenses – it was generally too hot and hazy for photography, except in the very early morning and late evening. Besides, I had decided to work on the garden cleanup that I was never able to do in Spring.

I had an “accidental” Olympus OM-10 which I recently acquired (I bought it because I was more interested in the lens it was attached to – a Komine made Vivitar 55mm f/2.8 1:1 macro).

Anyway, I wasn’t particularly interested in the OM-10, since all my other Olympus cameras are the single digit professional series machines. I was pleasantly surprised at the rugged build of the camera, it was in pretty good condition externally, although this camera needed a thorough cleaning and replacement of the light trap seals, a replacement battery cover etc. As usual, John Goodman’s light trap seal kit came in handy – he’s an awesome resource for the amateur camera restoration enthusiast.

I was able to make the fixes in Bloomington and shot a roll of film to see what the OM-10 is capable of. I thought it would be a good time to use my Olympus Winder 2, since I hadn’t used it in a while.

The OM-10 is an aperture priority camera with no manual shutter setting, which is not a problem at all – manual settings need the OM-10 manual adapter, occasionally available on Ebay, but not really needed. All one has to do is set a particular aperture (and focus, of course) and the camera takes care of the shutter speed. The shutter setting is indicated in the viewfinder LED. I recommend opening up the lens aperture to maintain a shutter speed range of 1/125 for a 50mm lens and 1/250 for a short zoom.

Here are the pictures with the OM-10 (with Winder) with a Sigma 35-105mm lens. My little Sunny at the water playground in McGraw Park.

McGraw Park
McGraw Park
McGraw Park
McGraw Park
McGraw Park
McGraw Park
McGraw Park

Garden
Garden
Sandy Sandy

Photographed with an Olympus OM-10, Sigma 35-105mm f/3.5-5.6 Fujicolor Superia 400 film


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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We were at Mt. Vernon a few weeks ago, in late Spring, before it really got hot and humid. It was a family outing , about 15 people altogether, including a bunch of kids. I had Sunny with me, and the Olympus Trip 35 (In addition, I had the Minolta Dynax 800si, but I’ll post those pictures later). It’s been a while since I took one of the Trip 35 cameras out with me – that’s because the little Ricoh 500G rangefinder has been in my daypack, and I usually just grab my pack and go.

Not this time – I made sure I had the Trip with me. It’s amazingly convenient – I wish the digital pocket cameras were as simple and rugged. In addition to all of this stuff, I was dragging a rolling insulated cooler filled with cold beverages for the family. I had no idea that the paths around Mt. Vernon were not paved, so I ended up dragging the darn pack through gravel. I really got a workout that day.

I must have been nuts to haul so much gear. It might have been worth it, if the beverages had been consumed. But Sunny and I got separated from the rest of the clan early on, and I was dragging around nearly full cooler for most of the day. Memo to self – keep it simple, and don’t ever make such a mistake again.

Sunny had a good time though, in spite of the heat. She loved the sheep pens with the Spring lambs, and although she’s too young for the historical significance, river cruise was a great experience for her. The Potomac river is pretty broad at Mt. Vernon, and it is a majestic sight. I wasn’t interested in the inside of the main house as much as I was interested in the outer buildings, the farms and the upper and lower gardens.

Here are additional pictures taken with my Minolta Dynax 800si.

Mt. Vernon – Olympus Trip 35
Mt. Vernon – Olympus Trip 35
Mt. Vernon – Old Crypt – Olympus Trip 35
Mt. Vernon – Boathouse – Olympus Trip 35
Mt. Vernon – Boathouse and Pier – Olympus Trip 35
Mt. Vernon – Farms – Olympus Trip 35
Mt. Vernon – Farms – Olympus Trip 35
Mt. Vernon – Lower Garden – Olympus Trip 35
Sunny Chasing Butterflies – Olympus Trip 35
Mt. Vernon – Olympus Trip 35
Sunayana by the river – love the tree bark texture
End of the Day – tired and sleepy

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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