Super Telephoto


Early Spring is a great time to be out in the woods, especially on a sunny day – the trees may still be bare, but the forest floor is bursting with life… the under-story plants, shrubs and smaller trees rush through their flowering and leafing cycles quickly, to take advantage of the unrestricted sunlight – in a few weeks, once the trees leaf out, the canopy blocks off most of the light, and the small bushes go into the “quiet survival mode” until Fall when they get their chance in the sun again!

I’ve been out with the Sony Alpha 700 and the Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6. The choice of lens for woodland photography may seem surprising, but I find that the Tamron is very useful – the extended zoom range (the 70-300mm is equivalent to 105-450mm) on the Sony Alpha provides an useful stand-off distance so one can zoom in on an intresting flower or bud from a distance of at least 5 feet away without having to brave the underbrush and wicked looking brambles – the woods around here are chock full of wild raspberries and dog rose brambles. This also has the advantage of not blocking the light.

Besides, the Tamron 70-300mm is also a 1:3.9 macro, and since can focus down to 5 feet at the extended end of the zoom range, it does a great job. Moreover, I marvel at the fact that the Sony’s built in anti-shake allows me to handhold the 450mm equivalent lens. I would never have been able to do that with my manual Olympus bodies or even the auto focus Minolta 800si.

By the way, I purchased my Tamron lens about 8 years ago, back in June 2000 – I know they still make this lens, but I am not sure how the build quality has changed, or if it is still made made in Japan. I’ve always been very pleased with the Tamron, and even more so now…. with it’s super-zoom length of 450mm f/5.6 and equivalent when mounted on the Sony Alpha 700, it’s a formidable piece of optical engineering, and very cheap at the price. This is a true “cheap awesome lens”.


Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm

Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm

Photographed with a Sony Alpha 700 and Tamron AF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 lens. I used a Polarizer.



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olympus/zuiko by Ajoy Muralidhar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
text and images © 2008 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners. thank you for visiting olympus/zuiko.

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The sheer prodigality and variety of blooms in this part of the country amazes me – Spring in Maryland and Virginia is a cornucopia of beautiful blooms in succession and just when the dogwoods were peaking and the redbuds leafing out, I suddenly started seeing cascades of lavender-purple flowers tumbling over fences, drooping over country roadways – most of these are hard to photograph, since it’s hard to pull over in the heavy traffic conditions.

Even when one is able to find a good spot close enough to park and walk over, the lighting may be just plain bad. The subtle colors of the wisteria require just a bit of warming sun to bring out the purple, otherwise the flowers come out looking overly blue. The best time is morning or late afternoon light, when there is a tinge of red present…

The best way to ensure that the lighting is okay is to mark your spots, preferably where one can park safely for a few minutes and return at a later time when the sun is just right. However, one can get lucky, as I did a couple of days ago on my way back from work. I spotted these magnificent specimens on Glenview Road and on Travilah road in Gaithersburg, MD. I had the Sony Alpha with the Sony 18-200 and a polarizer, and the zoom range of the Sony lens allowed me take these without leaving the car.


Wisteria in April
Wisteria in April
Wisteria in April
Wisteria in April

Wisteria in April
Wisteria in April
Wisteria in April
Wisteria in April
Wisteria in April
Wisteria in April
Wisteria in April
Wisteria in April
Wisteria in April
Wisteria in April
Wisteria in April
Wisteria in April

Photographed with a Sony Alpha 700; Sony 18-200mm f/2.5-f/6.3 lens; Polarizer.



Creative Commons License
olympus/zuiko by Ajoy Muralidhar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
text and images © 2008 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners. thank you for visiting olympus/zuiko.

The Kitstar 200mm is a lens that I acquired very cheaply on Ebay last year – it was an impulse purchase, really, since I knew very little about the lens other than it had a OM mount, and I was intrigued by its unusual maximum aperture. My intention was to compare it with my much smaller and lighter Olympus OM 200 f/4 prime lens, which I absolutely love. I had used this lens on a OM body last spring, and then put it away, meaning to get back to it sometime.

The Kitstar 200mm is a distinctive lens, easy to recognize. It’s all metal and the rubber covering of the focusing rings is reticulated, instead of being checkered as is usual. Kitstar was the in-house brand of Kit’s Camera and they had their lenses made on contract by various manufacturers, so its hard to tell who the original maker is. The lens is solidly built and comes with a built in hood.

I don’t know of any lens makers such as Sigma, Tokina or Tamron who made a f/3.3 200mm prime lens, so who knows? Maybe its a f/3.5 rebadged as f/3.3. Kits Cameras was bought by Ritz Camera, and is part of their family of stores. Since Ritz has it’s own in-house camera brand (Quantaray), the Kitstar lenses are no more.

On the Sony Alpha 700, the 200mm f/3.3 lens becomes equivalent to a 300mm f/3.3 lens – that is really fast for a 300mm, and considering the price I paid for it, about $25 or so, it is a bargain. The weight of the lens makes it tricky to handhold, compared with the Sony 18-200mm (also equivalent to 27-300mm, but much slower, since it only goes to f/6.3 at the 200mm focal length).

Anyway, I could easily mount the lens on the Sony Alpha 700 with the Bower-made Minolta AF to OM adapter and took the lens for a spin. Here are the results. The Alpha 700’s anti-shake capabilites makes hand-holding easier, but it was still a challenge to avoid blurring. The Kitstar 200mm (apparent 300mm lens) has nice bokeh.


Kitstar 200mm
Kitstar 200mm
Kitstar 200mm
Kitstar 200mm
Kitstar 200mm
Kitstar 200mm
Kitstar 200mm
Kitstar 200mm
Kitstar 200mm
Kitstar 200mm

Kitstar 200mm
Kitstar 200mm
Kitstar 200mm
Kitstar 200mm
Kitstar 200mm
Kitstar 200mm
Kitstar 200mm
Kitstar 200mm
Kitstar 200mm
Kitstar 200mm
Kitstar 200mm

Photographed with a Sony Alpha 700 camera body and Kitstar 200mm f/3.3 OM Mount lens- I used a Bower Minolta AF-OM adapter and 72mm Polarizer (67-72mm step-up ring)


Creative Commons License
olympus/zuiko by Ajoy Muralidhar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
text and images © 2008 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners. thank you for visiting olympus/zuiko.

Earlier this summer, I as testing my Toyo 500mm lens, happened to stop by at the Lady Bird Johnson Park off GW Parkway. The Navy memorial is located at one end of the park. Park affords a great view of the Washington Memorial and the Jefferson Memorials across the Potomac river. The other lenses I had that day were the Zuiko 200mm f/4 and the Zuiko 35-70mm f/4 and the reliable old Olympus OM-2. I figured it would be a great to be able to compare the lenses, so busily switched lenses for these shots – the early summer evening ensured that there was lots of light on the Memorial buildlngs, but most of the Potomac river was in shadow. It was a challenge to handhold the Toyo Fivestar 500mm lens for the shot of the Washington Memorial. Next time I’ll remember to lug a tripod along.


Zuiko 35-70mm f/4 at 35mm
Zuiko 35-70mm f/4 at 70mm
Zuiko 200mm f/4
Zuiko 200mm f/4
Toyo 500mm f/8 at f/11
Toyo 500mm f/8 at f/11
Zuiko 35-70mm f/4 at 70mm
Zuiko 200mm f/4
Toyo 500mm f/8 at f/11

Photographed with an OM-2, Zuiko 35-70mm f/4, Zuiko 200mm f/4, Toyo Five Star 500mm f/8. Film was Fuji Superia 400, and exposure was calculated with the Sunny 16 rule. Exposure for all 3 lenses was 1/500 at f/11, using a 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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That’s because I’ve been busy with updating some of the other areas of the site that I meant to add to for a while now. I finally managed to finish the “Classics” section, and added the pictures of my older cameras – the solid Yashica TL Super (with Yashinon 50mm f/1.4), The Yashica Electro 35 GSN and the Yashica Dental Eye with its great big 50mm f/4 ring flash lens.

I also added pictures of the Fujica Fujicarex II and its peculiar interchangeable front elements. That was a lucky find, since I was able to get the 50mm f/4 element with the camera and the seller even had the 80mm f/2.8 and the 35mm f/3.5 front elements. I still need to add the pictures of the Yashikor screw-in lenses for the Electro 35.

In the Olympus camera section, I’ve added pictures of the Olympus PEN EE half frame camera. This is the early version camera – it says Olympus on the front and has the “leather” look leatherette instead of the “basketview” leatherette of the later models.

In the Non-Zuiko 3rd party lenses section, I’ve added pictures of the super telephoto Spiratone 400mm f/6.3 and the Toyo 5 Star 500mm f/8 long tube lenses, the Kitstar 200mm f/3.3 and the Vivitar 70-150mm f/3.8. I need to get some of the lens data in there as well for the Zuikos.

I still need to add pictures of the Vivitar 55mm f/2.8 and the Vivitar Series 1 28-90mm. The Zuiko section has some pictures added as well – the Zuiko 100-200mm f/5 and the Zuiko 100mm f/2.8. Yes, I finally got one. It wasn’t cheap as I would have liked, but it was a good price for a lens in fine condition. In the Minolta area, I have some pictures of the Maxxum 35-105mm lens.

The one area I haven’t gotten around to updating is the Macrophotography section – it looks so bare without any pictures of my equipment. I’ll be adding pictures of the Hoya 52mm screw-in macro lenses, the Vivitar extension tubes, and the Spiratone bellows assembly with the 35mm Macrotar, the 150mm Macrotel and the 75mm flatfield. These are dedicated Macro lenses. Of course, I still need to take some pictures of the Honeywell Repronar equipment. I managed to get the descriptions of all the Macro equipment done though.

Later this winter, when its too cold to do anything else, I’ll work on the Microphotography section and add pictures of my Wolf-Wetzlar and Propper Microscopes, the various Wetzlar, Vickers objectives, eyepieces and the microscope adapter stuff.

That will be a while, though. Fall beckons, clothed in her colorful leafy finery… her siren song fills a photographer’s soul with happiness. I need to be out there taking pictures.


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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On this last trip to Colorado, I has planned to drive out into the mountains in the evenings after work. My goal was to make it out to Estes Park, near the entrance of the Rocky Mountain National Park. I did make it there, but it started raining heavily, and my plans to photograph Estes lake and surrounding areas was a bust.

I did manage to get around though. On the advice of a colleague, I took Pearl Street west to Canyon Road, and drove out of town meaning to get a closer look at the rocky outcrops just outside of Boulder, CO. I’d originally intended to drive out to the famous Flatirons, but it was late by the time I got out of the office, so I settled for the shorter drive.

Canyon Road runs alongside Boulder Creek, and is very picturesque. I have to commend the City of Boulder for all the parking available by the roadside, practically every couple of hundred yards. I pulled over at a couple of places, and just sat by the beautiful rocky stream. Here are some of the pictures. I got the smooth effect on by shooting the stream at 1/8 of a second at f/11 with a polarizer. I didn’t have a tripod, so I braced myself on a nearby rock.


Boulder Canyon
Boulder Canyon
Boulder Canyon
Boulder Canyon
Boulder Canyon
Boulder Canyon
Boulder Canyon
Boulder Canyon
Boulder Canyon
Boulder Canyon
Boulder Canyon
Boulder Canyon

Boulder Creek 1/8 sec at f/11
Boulder Creek 1/125 sec at f/11
Boulder Canyon

Photographed with a Minolta Dynax 800si, Maxxum 35-105mm and Tamron 70-300mm lenses and Fuji Superia 400.


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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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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