Tai Shimizu

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Creator of the iOS photography apps Gridditor & Filterstorm, the Mac drawing app Inkist, the Mac HDR app Light Compressor, and the experimental web browser Torii.

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Reflex-Nikkor C 500mm f/8 Mirror/Catadioptric Lens Review

Overall: 3.5 out of 5

Optics: 3

Price on Used Market: ~$200 USD

Value at $200 USD: 4

Accessories: Accepts TC-200 2x Teleconverter, Incompatible with TC-300 due to the rear filter.

By far the cheapest route to a 500mm lens, the catadioptric design of the Reflex-Nikkor C 500mm f/8 is limited in usefulness, but worth the money.

Reflex-Nikkor C 500mm f/8 (more at end of review)

http:  taishimizu.com pictures Reflex Nikkor C 500mm f8 Review Mirror Catadioptric Lens reflex nikkor c 500mm f8 catadioptric mirror lens thumb.jpgTaken with Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/4

Assorted Information

Max Aperture f/8
Min Aperture f/8
Aperture Blades Fixed/Round
Close Focus 4m/13ft
Filter Thread 39mm (rear)
Hard Infinity Stop? No
Built in Hood? Yes*

*Note the hood screws on, I find no reason to not leave it on permanently so I count it as built in.

Image Quality

The lens is reasonably sharp, and free of chromatic aberration. The biggest downside to the reflex design is that images aren’t as contrasty as traditional lenses. However, I tend not to use the lens outside of bright sunlight, which increases contrast to perfectly acceptable levels. If I had a D3/D700’s high ISO capabilities, I would probably use it in less favorable conditions, in which case the lack of contrast may be of more issue.

[edit: I have since gotten a D700, and added a couple photos]

http:  taishimizu.com pictures Reflex Nikkor C 500mm f8 Review Mirror Catadioptric Lens duckling thumb.jpg

Operation

The second smallest and lightest 500mm lens after the new version Reflex-Nikkor 500mm f/8, I mostly use it handheld. The focusing ring is smooth, travelling about 1/2 of the way around the barrel from a close focus of 4m/13ft to beyond infinity. While 1/2 way around the barrel may be a bit short for many lenses, due to this lens’s width you get accurate control. As with almost all manual focus Nikkor lenses, the focusing ring is vastly superior to virtually all AF lenses.

The Tripod collar is excellent, sturdy, and able to be rotated 90° when holding of a small switch on the side. This design isn’t used nearly enough, and allows for effortless camera rotation when mounted on a tripod or monopod.

Note, this lens requires a rear filter be attached at all times, and you should make sure you at least get the clear rear filter with it.

http:  taishimizu.com pictures Reflex Nikkor C 500mm f8 Review Mirror Catadioptric Lens smokestack thumb.jpg

Donut Boke

Easily the most controversial aspect of catadioptric lenses is the donut boke. There are those who detest it in all forms, and reject the use of these lenses for that reason. While I have certainly taken a number of photos where it’s distracting, I find it can also be a positive when used well. It can create a cloudy boke effect which I sometimes find more pleasing than the silky smooth boke of a good non-mirror lens.

I suggest looking at large size for any thumbnail in this review you find to have distracting boke, as there are photos where I find it bad at thumbnail size, but pleasing at large sizes.

Cloudy Boke

http:  taishimizu.com pictures Reflex Nikkor C 500mm f8 Review Mirror Catadioptric Lens last leaves thumb.jpg

Distracting Boke

http:  taishimizu.com pictures Reflex Nikkor C 500mm f8 Review Mirror Catadioptric Lens hows my time thumb.jpg

I like the subject for this image, but certainly think it would be improved by standard boke.

With Teleconverter

The lens is compatible with the TC-200 2x teleconverter, and some newer ones, however I don’t recommend it. I believe it is incompatible with the TC-300 due to the need for a rear filter to be in place.

http:  taishimizu.com pictures Reflex Nikkor C 500mm f8 Review Mirror Catadioptric Lens bird in grass thumb.jpg

Final Word

I really enjoy shooting with this lens. Without a mirror lens — or a healthy amount of strength — it’s impossible to handhold most other 500mm lenses for hours, but it’s not a problem with this lens. It is easily the least versatile lens I own, but if you accept the limitations of speed/contrast it’s a fine addition to a collection. I imagine once I upgrade my camera body to something with ISO performance like the D3/D700 this lens will be given new life.

More Photos with this Lens

http:  taishimizu.com pictures Reflex Nikkor C 500mm f8 Review Mirror Catadioptric Lens grass thumb.jpg

Light Doughnuts and Ducklings

http:  taishimizu.com pictures Reflex Nikkor C 500mm f8 Review Mirror Catadioptric Lens ducklings donut boke thumb.jpg

Sparrow — D700, ISO400 1/800s

http:  taishimizu.com pictures 500mm f8 mirror lens and d700 Nikon D700 500mm f8 mirror catadioptric sparrow thumb.jpg

Full Frame (D700)

http:  taishimizu.com pictures 500mm f8 mirror lens and d700 Nikon D700 500mm f8 mirror catadioptric swan thumb.jpg

http:  taishimizu.com pictures Reflex Nikkor C 500mm f8 Review Mirror Catadioptric Lens lilypad thumb.jpg

Black Crowned Night Heron

http:  taishimizu.com pictures Reflex Nikkor C 500mm f8 Review Mirror Catadioptric Lens Black Crowned Night Heron thumb.jpg

http:  taishimizu.com pictures Reflex Nikkor C 500mm f8 Review Mirror Catadioptric Lens lone leaf thumb.jpg

http:  taishimizu.com pictures Reflex Nikkor C 500mm f8 Review Mirror Catadioptric Lens stroller thumb.jpg

http:  taishimizu.com pictures Reflex Nikkor C 500mm f8 Review Mirror Catadioptric Lens sparrow on rock thumb.jpg

http:  taishimizu.com pictures Reflex Nikkor C 500mm f8 Review Mirror Catadioptric Lens young plants thumb.jpg

http:  taishimizu.com pictures Reflex Nikkor C 500mm f8 Review Mirror Catadioptric Lens rooftop thumb.jpg

More Photos of this Lens

Taken with Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/4

http:  taishimizu.com pictures Reflex Nikkor C 500mm f8 Review Mirror Catadioptric Lens reflex nikkor c 500mm f8 catadioptric mirror lens frount thumb.jpg

Taken with Nikkor-S 50mm f/1.4 AI'D

http:  taishimizu.com pictures Reflex Nikkor C 500mm f8 Review Mirror Catadioptric Lens reflex nikkor c 500mm f8 catadioptric mirror lens top thumb.jpg

Taken with Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/4

http:  taishimizu.com pictures Reflex Nikkor C 500mm f8 Review Mirror Catadioptric Lens reflex nikkor c 500mm f8 catadioptric mirror lens mounted thumb.jpg

Taken with Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/4

http:  taishimizu.com pictures Reflex Nikkor C 500mm f8 Review Mirror Catadioptric Lens reflex nikkor c 500mm f8 catadioptric mirror lens mount thumb.jpg

Posted by tai on 2009-07-21 21:20:18. Comments (9) | Tiny link

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Comments

C vs non-C?

What is the difference between C and non-C Nikon 500mm Reflex mirror lenses?

Posted by Jack Kessler (anon) on 2010-06-09 04:51:19.

C vs. N

C is the older variant of this lens. In the 1980s, Nikon replaced it with a newer version which is labeled N that is smaller and focuses closer.

Posted by tai on 2010-06-09 05:42:34.

rear filter on 500F/8

I have this lens and have made very nice pictures with it for years, on long hiking trips in the mountains.

Why do you say use a rear filter at all times? Is that the clear glass in the F-mount?

Posted by Marcel Croese (anon) on 2010-09-29 16:44:38.

The Different Versions

To my knowledge, the Reflex-Nikkor 500s were introduced like this...

- Starting in 1961, a 500 was sold as a 50cm f/5.

- In 1968 they were replaced by an f/8 “500mm”.

- In 1974 the 500s were given the C designation when they were given improved multicoating.

- In 1983 the C version was replaced with the N version, which was smaller, focussed closer, and produced better images.

I’ve owned a C for a few years and use it on my D300. The softness and low contrast don’t bother me at all because these “problems” are so easily corrected in image-editing software.

If you’re interested, I invite you to visit my review of the C version. It’s quite long, and very tongue-in-cheek in places, with sample photos at the bottom. You can find it on my blog here: http://hoaiphai.wordpress.com/2011/10/18/recumbent-review-the-mighty-reflex-nikkor-c-500mm-f8/

Posted by HoaiPhai (anon) on 2011-10-23 03:50:26.

Re: Versions

Thanks for the info! You have some really nice shots from yours.

Posted by tai on 2011-10-23 09:27:25.

(anon)

Posted by (anon) on 2012-12-20 14:12:41.

Eric D (anon)

I love http://magdawasiczek.pl/ for her (?) use of doughnuts !

Posted by Eric D (anon) on 2013-11-01 02:02:08.

500mm

how do you tell if its a c or n/, my buddy has this lens and i am considering buying it, any idea what its worth, looks in good condition has the rear filter , he bought it years ago

Posted by Lester N. (anon) on 2014-06-22 18:19:52.

@Lester

The lens says on the top of it Reflex Nikkor-C if it’s the C one. The N one just says “Reflex Nikkor”, and is shorter.

Posted by tai on 2014-06-22 19:40:31.
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