Normally, when I talk about toys, I include an Amazon link thingy, partly in the faint hope that somebody might buy something and let me earn 25p commission occasionally, but mostly because it’s a convenient way to include a product picture without having to actually take a picture. But this time, Amazon can’t help, so here’s a picture of the product in question attached to my Fujifilm X-E1:
I’ve left the lens hood off, so you can see how small this lens is relative to the camera. Normally, a 300mm telephoto lens would be a lot longer than that, but this one cheats a bit. Rather than the usual system of multiple lenses, this little beast uses the same design as a lot of astronomical telescopes. There’s a main mirror at the back, which focuses light onto a secondary mirror at the front, which in turn directs light through a hole in the middle of the primary mirror to some actual glass which then passes the light to the camera sensor. Looking into the lens looks a bit like this:
The upshot of this is that you can make a 300mm lens (equivalent to around 450mm on a full-frame sensor, of course) in a much smaller package, which can also be a wee bit cheaper.
But surely there’s a catch, I year you say. Well, yes, there is. By the nature of the optical design, the mirror lens has a fixed aperture, and it’s a not particularly fast f/6.3, so this isn’t going to be that good in low light conditions. And again, as a result of the design, it is fundamentally not going to be as sharp as a conventional lens of the same focal length. Oh, and like all Samyang lenses, it’s manual focus only, which is an added challenge, as yet again due to the optical design, the depth of field is generally best described as “not a lot”.
However, if you’re prepared to make those compromises, and you’d like something a bit longer than the Fujinon 55-200mm lens, this is worth considering. Supplies are currently a bit thin on the ground, with most of the usual suspects showing it as “coming soon”. I found it on eBay sold by SRS Microsystems at a slightly lower price than that offered by people who don’t actually have any. I ordered it on Monday, and I would have had it yesterday if I hadn’t been on a train at the time. I collected it this morning, and immediately slapped it on the X-E1. The first thing to do was to get a comparison shot. See this old post for images taken with my previous long lenses. Now here’s the equivalent. I used a tripod and the Hähnel release thingy to avoid camera shake.
Not bad. It’s not a perfect comparison shot, as it was taken in much brighter light than the others, but it’s good enough for general use. If you look at the full-sized image, it does appear a bit less sharp, but at normal image sizes, I think it’s acceptable.
The next thing to do was, of course, to take it for a walk, which despite the heat, is what I did this afternoon. Here are some of the results. Some of these have had more processing than others, but none have had more than a wee bit of Lightroom adjustment. No advanced editing has been done, so it’s possible that better versions of some of these could be produced.
This is the tower crane still at work on the Gateshead town centre site:
And this is one of the Quayside Seaside palm trees:
And just to prove it does work for moving objects, here’s a power boat on the Tyne:
A close view of that grumpy chap in the courtyard off the Side:
And finally, my standard long lens test, Earl Grey:
After a few shots, I realised that the X-E1 was being a bit too helpful – it was trying to keep the ISO down, resulting in longer exposures. Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem, with with such a small field of view, even the slightest hand movement is magnified into massive image shake. So I set a manual exposure, and left the camera to decide the ISO setting, whch seems to have worked reasonably well.
I was helped in my manual focusing by the new focus peaking feature, which was added to the X-E1 by a firmware update released a couple of days ago. This highlights the edges of in focus objects, making it easier to judge what is (and isn’t) in focus.
I’ll need to play with the lens a lot more, and get a lot more practice with manual focus (something I never had to think about with my Canon kit), but my first impressions are that this is a nice little bit of kit. Expect to pay under 300 of your local currency unit (in the usual way, these things seem to cost the same number of pounds as dollars). For reference, I paid £275, which is not a lot as lenses go.