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!