Sunday, December 5, 2010

New Business Cards!

Wow, so it has been a good while since I last posted here. Hit a bit of a rough patch this past month so things have been hectic. I have been pushing to get this review of the Nikon 50-300mm f/4.5 *ED AiS out but I just haven't been able to make it happen. Instead, I have been working on redesigning some new business cards and retooling my logo and overall look (I have a beard now too). Here are the most recent drafts!



If you still don't get what the icon is (other than hopefully the immediate image of a camera you see, it also is supposed to more-than-vaguely resemble a "dk"). Hey-Oh! Now you see it? well...leave me comment then!

Previous Logo

It's definitely better than my previous logo which was a simple monogram of "DK" in a signature-esque style. My "D" is spot-on from my signature. The "K" just works as an inverse.

This is still only in the draft phase. I may be simplifying the logo a tad more but I work best when I take a break, come back with fresh eyes, and critique. Comments are welcome though!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Century Precision Optics Tele-Athenar 1000mm f/5.6 - Part II Performance

The Test

Click HERE to read Part I if you're lost...

For a little scale as to what 1000mm looks like, here is the test scene through a 50mm lens on a full-frame camera (D700). The turquoise box is the field of view of the 1000mm lens.


For fun, I threw in a crop from the key image made with the Nikon 50mm f/1.4 at 100%. Due to posting size restrictions, for the time being, I have posted the Century results at full-frame in a reduced size. Full size from the D700 is 4256 x 2832 pixels.

Nikon 50mm f/1.4 AF-D

Crop @ f/8


Century Tele-Athenar 1000mm f/5.6

f/5.6 (wide open)






f/64 (sorry about the birds!)


The Century Tele-Athenar 1000mm f/5.6 does not perform extravagantly wide open. In it's defense, most lenses do not. I do not know what kind of specs were required of this lens when it was designed but it appears it will have to be stopped down to be used for anything more than an enormous spotting scope.

Chromatic Aberration - In high contrast situations, this lens definitely exhibits some serious CA.

Vignetting - Clearly on a full-frame DSLR, the Tele-Athenar 1000/5.6 has some severe vignetting wide open and diminishes as stopped down but is present all the way through f/64.

Sharpness - This lens resolves quite well especially considering that at 1000mm many more factors come into play than at say 300mm such as weather, temperature, atmosphere, etc. Wide open the lens is soft but f/8 isn't too bad and f/11 is great. I think optimal aperture is actually around f/16 or f/22 with this lens.

Distortion - I don't see any noticeably severe distortion.

Contrast - The sample images have been aided by a slight curve in post process. The lens appears to produce good contrasty images but not as contrasty as my *ED Nikon glass. Also flare may have been a factor given the extremely bright day.

Flare - I used this on an overcast day and achieved some very nice, contrasty images. However, in this test on a very bright, sunny day, the lens produced slightly less contrasty images. The lens possesses an ample hood for protection against stray rays so this may have been due to atmospheric conditions.

Color - Images seemed to come out a bit dull in color. No especially beautiful rendering.

Bokeh - Possibly due to the number of aperture blades, along with the immense focal length, one can achieve some beautifully soft bokeh with this optic. I will work at getting some samples of this soon!

The Wrap-Up

The Century Tele-Athenar 1000mm f/5.6 is hardly a practical lens. At best it's a novelty, if not simply an anchor. I love it nonetheless. I suppose it's more for the pure shock factor of putting this on a tripod and pretending to be serious. The lens is capable of some very sharp images at smaller apertures.

It probably would make no sense to make a recommendation here, seeing as few will ever come across one of these. But in the off-chance you do find one, above provides a good sample of what you can expect and make your offer accordingly. I had a hawk flying overhead and attempted to "bird" with this lens. HA! That was a challenge!

Next stop with this lens? The Moon!...on the GF1...with some TCs

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Blog News

I have recently decided to sell off some of my favorite lenses to fund some continuing education. You can see whats for sale in the "For Sale" section of the blog! Two items sold right off the bat and will be going to good use! Thanks!

Nikon 50-300mm f/4.5 ED AIs

Here is another lens I was not looking for but sort of fell into my lap. I have been on the lookout for a good mid-range zoom since I let my Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 AF-D go some time back in favor of the cash. It was a great lens but tended to hunt a little too much in low light, which was when I used it most. I decided the money would be better and I would eventually annie-up the cash for a 70-200mm VR. Well that still hasn't happened and probably won't for some time.

In the meantime, I am working on paying off some debt as well as paying for continuing education at the local college. I still keep a camera-fund going because it may be the only thing that keeps me sane. Recently this manual focus Nikon 50-300mm f/4.5 ED lens went up for sale for such a great price, I had to look into it. I had never really seen anything about this lens but knew the *ED meant great glass. After seeing it being offered on KEH in EX condition for over $800 and eBay for nearly $1000, this price was peanuts. I went ahead and bought it since I figured I could easily get my money back if the lens wasn't for me.

Wow. All I have to say is, "Wow". OK, so I actually have a lot more to say on this lens but that simple thought was the first and only thing on my mind when I was checking the sharpness of the first images I made with this lens. This lens is incredibly sharp, even wide open it performs unbelievably well. I haven't even seen a hint of CA yet.

Let me just say, if you find one for a killer price relative to those I have mentioned, I say go for it. The lens is manual focus and heavy, so it can be a beast to handle. The front filter is 95mm! Optically, it may be one of the best zooms I have used to date.

More on this to come!

Vivitar Series 1 VMC Filter

I didn't know these filters even existed but this came along with one of my Series 1 lenses. I couldn't sell it. It's too cool. And well-made to boot! I have never seen another one!


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Century Precision Optics Tele-Athenar 1000mm f/5.6 - Part I

The Century Precision Optics Tele-Athenar 1000mm f/5.6

You may recall I found this lens a few weeks back via an ambiguous, local Craigslist ad. This lens is huge. Measuring 38" from the tip of the hood to the camera mount, the lens weighs over 15 lbs. (Some of that weight can be attributed to the heavy metal brackets on which this lens was originally mounted.). Although I didn't initially know anything about the lens and had no idea if I could do anything with it, as Rick from Pawn Stars often enthusiastically declares, "I wanted it!" A couple text messages and less than an hour after discovering the ad, I was driving home with this thing in my backseat! I took the gamble and now I needed to know 3 main things:

  1. Some History - Where did this lens come from? What was it used for?
  2. Optical Capabilities - How can I adapt this for use with my DSLR? Is it possible?
  3. How to Mount - If use with a DSLR is optically possible, I need a means to mount this lens on a tripod.

The Search for Info on Century Tele-Athenar Lenses

I contacted Schneider Optics, the company who purchased Century Precision Optics and asked them for some information on this lens. Schneider was surprisingly prompt in responding (A stark contrast to my attempts at getting info from the Tokina corporation) however, they had very little info to give. Even what the rep did have to tell me seemed more like speculation than fact. I also asked around on the Manual Focus Lenses Forum and one user, cooltouch (Michael), seemed to have more info and be much more confident than the rep from Schneider.

The rep basically said:

The Century Tele-Athenar 1000/5.6 was most likely contracted by the military and probably about 10-15 years old putting it around 1995-2000. Originally it probably sold for more than $4k and was a special order lens.

That's it. Despite my numerous questions, that's all I got.

Michael on the other hand had quite a bit more to help me out. He says:

"If the lens is white, it was military-contracted. If it's black, it probably wasn't. But it probably was used in the movie industry. CPO sold most of their optics to the movie industry and the military. Back in the 60s, photographers got wind of their optics and began requesting a line for 35mm still photography. CPO came out with the Tele-Athenar II line for still photographers. The main difference is the TA II's barrel does not rotate when the focusing ring is turned. The lens should also say it's a TA II if it is indeed one.

As far as its age, 10- 15 years ago is probably too young. I got the impression from talking to Bill Turner that, even though they still showed the TA lines in their catalog, they rarely sold one anymore, and this was the early 90s. So it's possible, but not all that likely that your lens is that young.

Anyway, according to my records, the 1000mm f/5.6 is a Tele Athenar and not a Tele Athenar II. It was made for movie work primarily and not specifically for 35mm photography. However, I don't see why it wouldn't work. I imagine it will take killer photos of the moon, for one thing."

Thanks Michael! Essentially this is good news! This lens can be used on modern DSLRs since they were used for cinema, a similar application. I have heard stories about some of these old large lenses being discovered but turning out to be very special purpose lenses. One user from MFL, nemesis101, was telling me of a lens he found long ago that turned out to be for aerial spotting duties with a minimum focusing distance of 3 miles!

As always, I will keep this section updated as more information surfaces.

Adapting The Lens For Use With A DSLR

Optically it's possible to use the lens. Now I need to figure out what parts are necessary for that adaptation. The lens was handed off to me with a rear mount that looked like this:

A seemingly arbitrary sized thread and an empty filter slot. In contacting Schneider, I found out this thread is a proprietary mount that was utilized by CPO on their Tele-Athenar lenses. Fortunately, the mount is still used today on some of their newer products! So the company had the parts for me to order. To use this lens on a DSLR, you need the following part:

(those are zeros) - Century Interchangeable to T-mount Adapter

Then you just need the correct T-mount for the camera with which you want to use this lens. They even had the 2"x 2" filter tray.

Issue #2 down. At this point I was leaning the lens on a deck post, while awkwardly attempting to support the back end and focus at the same time with an extremely narrow field of view. I think I'm going to need a tripod mount...

Mounting the Century 1000/5.6

The lens originally had two large metal brackets attached this to whatever rig it had been designed for. Structurally, it seems to me, it makes the most sense to start from these for a sturdy tripod mount. I began by gluing several 8" x 12" PVC boards together.

Next, I trimmed the boards to an even block.

Then the shaping began.

The process was pretty much just a lot of cutting, drilling, and sanding. Eventually I hope to really smooth everything out and paint it black. For now though, I was too anxious to use it. There's no sense in taking it to the final product if it doesn't work so I had to test it!

Objective 3 complete. Finally time for testing!


Focal length: 1000mm
Angle of view:
Max. aperture:
Min. aperture:
38" L
Aperture blades:


Click here for the performance review of this lens: Century Tele-Athenar Part II!

A Second 1000/5.6 Found! John Maycock shares his experience with this behemoth.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Blog News

What's New:

Century Precision Optics 1000mm f/5.6 Adapter Arrives!
Blog Improvements
Some Shooting with the "Bokina"

My CPO Adapter Has Arrived!

Finally, it has been an entire week since I ordered the adapter necessary to mount this behemoth lens onto my DSLR (and missing filter tray). Waiting for a package is about the only thing that makes weekends feel like they take forever! I am currently working on a thorough write-up detailing the deployment of the Tele-Athenar 1000mm f/5.6. I am also attempting to fabricate a DIY tripod foot/handle since the lens weighs 15+ lbs. and currently stands on two beefy "feet". I have no means to fasten it to a tripod. Enter PVC.

I took a couple preliminary shots today just before it got dark and I have to say, while I was seeing some prominent CA, this lens gets OUT there. If it wasn't such an overcast, rainy night, I would be out shooting the moon.

I'll keep you posted!

Blog Improvements

You may have noticed, if you poke around the blog, some things have changed/are changing. I have some time on my hands lately so I have been making an effort to go back into older posts and pages in an attempt to add more info, add more recent thoughts and opinions (now that I have used some of these lenses much more in practice), and improve site consistency overall.

As with anything new, I am still getting my feet regarding how I would like to organize my thoughts and get you the information you may be looking for. If you have any requests or recommendations please ask or let me know! I'd love to hear if there is anything else I can do. For example, sometimes I am looking for a lens and need to see a side not pictured anywhere for a number of reasons. Contact me, say, "Hey I'd like to see a close-up of that tripod mount on blahblahblah lens or whatever".

Some Changes to Note:
  1. The "Dedicated Macro Lens Index" page has been updated with a number of new lenses from many different manufacturers. There are so many out there but sometimes you just would like to see what is available to you (and your specific camera). This is a big undertaking and I certainly have missed quite a few but am working on building it up and eventually into a downloadable data sheet too.
  2. Some of the lens reviews have been shaped up. Eventually they will all look and feel pretty much the same in terms of layout and organization. Hopefully I can get all the same types data for each of them too (specs, etc).
  3. I have begun attempting to branch out in my HTML skills so you will see some better navigation hopefully. I have begun adding some quick links at the top of reviews if you just need to see, for example, the specs. Rather than scroll through the whole page just click the "Specifications" link at the top and go straight there.
  4. I have posted a couple new PDFs on the "Lens Reviews and PDFs" page for the Tamron SP 300mm f/2.8 107B and the Tamron SP 200-500mm f/5.6 31A.
This is an ongoing process but hopefully it will make things easier and cleaner for you!

Savoring a Nontraditional, Warm Autumn

We have had an exceptionally warm beginning of autumn this year. It seems everything is a little bit confused. Can't say I have been complaining though. I've been trying to spend as much time outside as I can. Our leaves didn't change color in the same timeframe that they did last year, leaving me without any great fall color images. It seems the leaves went from green to brown, with sporadic coloring. Regardless, the bugs have been loving it. Caterpillars abound. Here are just a few images I made recently (mostly with the Tokina 90mm f/2.5 AT-X "Bokina").

The following were made with the Tamron SP 300mm f/2.8 107B @ f/2.8. This lens is so sharp wide open!

More to Come Soon!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tamron SP 200-500mm f/5.6 31A

While this lens isn't "rare", it isn't exactly in ready supply either. While exploring Tamron's Adaptall-2 line-up in effort to find an inexpensive alternative relative to the premium name-brand glass, I continually saw mention of the Tamron SP 200-500mm f/5.6 31A but infrequently found any actual results. Mostly people just commented on how large of a lens it is. Having originally retailed for over $1000, I think it is time we had a little more info than this.


I have to say this lens was somewhat of an impulse buy. I have no idea what they typically cost since I haven't been on the lookout for one. I just saw one ending on eBay one day, in great condition with what looks to be nearly all of the original accouterments. After having sold another lens and having the money sitting in paypal I reasoned I would just pick it up and give it a try since I wasn't finding much online. Then resell it after I am finished, should it not turn out to be Tamron's best kept secret. Spoiler alert: it isn't.

That may sound harsher than I intend since this lens isn't a poor performer, just not amazing. But I am getting ahead of myself! We will get to performance.

First impressions of this lens are in agreement with what I have found online: this lens is a beast.
Being a non-IF (internal focus) zoom lens with such a broad range, this kind of size is inevitable. The built-in hood is great, though this adds another 4" to the length. The physical length of this lens goes from 14" fully compact, to 20" completely extended and hooded.

The overall look and feel of this lens is nothing short of Tamron's best Adaptall design. A solid 6 lbs. of metal and glass. I love the all-black semi-gloss finish. All lettering and info is engraved into the lens barrel. Hints of Tamron's signature turquoise color appear in the distance scale lettering. The barrel sports Infrared scales for 200, 300, and 500mm focal lengths. The 200-500mm f/5.6's front filter is a massive 95mms but the lens is also equipped with a rear 43mm filter tray. Due to the size, the lens was designed with a tripod foot which does rotate 360º. I have read, and do agree, the tripod mount is further back than it should be. Even with a camera mounted, the lens is pretty front-heavy.

Using this lens, I also quickly realized another drawback to the non-IF design of this particular lens. When focusing the lens, (Anywhere from 200-500mm, focal length doesn't matter because that action does occur internally) the front portion of the lens rotates. For one thing, if you were to use a polarizing filter, it would need to be adjusted accordingly as you focus. But secondly this means anytime you are focusing upward, holding the lens at a high angle (and I mean nearly verticle), the sheer weight of the front of the lens creeps back down (toward the infinity focus position). I will say however, this lens manages to stay in place to a pretty severe angle. I assume this will all be dependent on the condition of the lubricants in your particular lens.


Accessory-wise, this lens originally sold with a large faux-leather case (L-40) with a red fabric lined interior and foam inserts fitted to the lens. There is also an accessory compartment in the case to accommodate a teleconverter, strap, additional filters/trays, etc.. I do not have the original Tamron 95mm protective filter for the front of the lens and boy are they hard to come by! The lens also came with a cheap fake leather lens cover for the front which is black felt-lined on the inside (which I did get).


Focal length: 200-500mm
Filter thread: Front 95mm, Rear tray 43mm
Min. Aperture: f/5.6
Max. Aperture: f/32
Angular field of view (diagonal): 12º-5º
Elements/groups: 14/10
Maximum magnification ratio: 1:3.52 (500mm @ 8.2' [2.5m])
Multi-Coated: Yes, BBAR MC
Min. focusing distance: 8.2' (2.5 m)
Length at ∞: 14.4" (365 mm)
Maximum barrel diameter: 4.1 " (105mm)
Weight: 6.1 lbs. (2780 g)
Lens hood: Built-in
Mount: Adaptall-2
Manufacturer designation: 31A

Above, the optical diagram is from

While this lens is an SP (Super Performance) lens, it does not have any LD (low-dispersion) glass in it. This was to keep costs low since the lens was intended to compete with premium brand lenses but cost the consumer less. Also, regarding the "BBAR MC" designation. From what I am finding online, it seems BBAR may stand for "Broad-Band Anti-Reflection" and then MC obviously "Multi-Coating". Either way, all Tamron's Adaptall-2 line listed in the 200-500mm's brochure were BBAR.


So who cares about all that stuff. Is the lens any good optically? Well I'll tell you what, I care about all that other stuff. But agreed, I think it is important that we understand if this lens is worth its weight optically too.

Since the time I initially got this lens, I haven't had a whole lot of time to get out and use it for birding or various other long-range activities for which it was designed. But I did a fair amount of image comparison which should suffice to at least show what this lens is capable of.

Here I had the rig mounted on a sturdy tripod. I used a D700 @ ISO 800 to ensure high enough shutter speeds so I was not affected by camera shake. The sun was at my back to the left. I cropped these images and enlarged them by about 50% so that you can see the pixels. Only a hair of sharpening to combat the web softening images slightly when posted here. All images were made in RAW.

Below is the key image made of the Clark Bridge in Alton, IL @ 200mm.







Here is a key for that same Clark Bridge @ 500mm.





Beyond f/16 the wind began affecting the shots. Being out by the river, the winds can get pretty intense.


As always the lens shows slight softness wide open but is still pretty sharp! I am impressed with the sharpness of this lens at both 200 and 500mms. Center sharpness as well as corner sharpness with this lens is quite acceptable.

As far as contrast, I would say the lens again performs well. These shots aren't the best examples to show contrast but I assure you from other use with this lens, you will not be disappointed with the rendering of a scene!

Flare doesn't appear to be much of an issue, nor does any concern for stray light affecting the image. The built-in hood provides copious coverage.

Now to address the issue that plagues the Tamron SP line, Chromatic Aberration. CA seems to be the biggest downfall of even Tamron's best LD lenses. While this lens has no LD glass, it is designed to compensate for CA in other ways. Nevertheless, CA is quite visible even at f/8. The best way to handle this issue is either to avoid shooting in situations that produce CA (extreme high contrast) or deal with it in post.


Since the introduction of this lens in 1984, the industry has made leaps and bounds toward better zoom technology. The 31A is pleasantly sharp wide open and performs quite well beyond that. However the CA can be a bit much at early apertures and the effort to keep your zoom/focus in check can prove a bit of a challenge, especially in fast paced environments. While I love the build and look of this lens, the reality is that it isn't very practical by today's standards. The Tamron SP 200-500mm f/5.6 31A is a great choice if you need sharpness and zoom for a low price. Also the adaptall feature allows you some portability in between systems if needed. I haven't tested the newer Tamron 200-500mm f/5-6.3 Di AF but I imagine it is a much more manageable lens (also nearly 3 times as expensive). There is a Tamron 200-400mm f/5.6 D AF that costs a little less than this adaptall actually (as of 10/2010) but I have heard nothing about it. The Tokina 400mm f/5.6 AT-X and the 80-400mm f/4-5.6 may be other options and can be had for around the same price as this adaptall ($300-400). Both of which have AF and are considerably lighter. But I know little about their performance at the long end which tends to be where these zooms struggle.

Plain and simple, the ability to get similar zoom, same f# or faster, and AF for the same price as the 31A makes buying this lens more about nostalgia for well-made Adaptall lenses than anything else. If you can afford to take your time and are just looking for a sharp 500mm that can double as a weapon, all for one low price, here it is! Optically, it's no slouch, but technology has moved quite a bit beyond this.


NEW!! - I received the owner's manual with this lens and have scanned it into a PDF document.
Click HERE to download the User's Manual for the Tamron SP 200-500mm f/5.6 31A (mirror site of the previous adaptall-2 site) - Tamron SP 200-500mm f/5.6 31A

Here's link to Pentax Forum's profile on this lens.