The long and winding lens

I have an old Soligor M42 mount 80-205mm f3.5 macro zoom from my Pentax equipment. I tried it on the Canon once, but didn’t like it. Mainly because this lens lacks an Auto/Manual aperture switch, meaning that as-is you can only shoot wide open. I probably don’t have to explain that on a lens that long the depth of field at f3.5 is near nil, never mind that full aperture is rarely the sharpest selection for any lens.

Dan James suggested I glue the stop-down pin in, making it a full manual-only lens. It’s a good idea, but before taking that step I decided to give it another shot on the Canon so I could ask myself that all-important question “would I really use it?” before going ahead with the modification. Herein the results.

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Pine

Something there is probably in focus somewhere, but I don’t see it. What I notice most is the colours are interestingly rich. This is due partly to the characteristics of the lens and partly due to the fact some idiot forgot he had the 2X Pentax extender on as well and didn’t compensate the exposure for it. Well if you’re going to screw up a digital exposure, go under with it. Going over just gives you washed out areas with zero data to work with.

This combination also brings up another issue with the lens: it is big, long, and heavy. 205mm of classical glass is 328mm on the crop sensor Canon, or 656mm with the extender. We’re talking Hubble Telescope neighbourhood here. No Image Stabilizer on this old lens! Almost impossible to handhold steady even for a normal person, never mind some old guy with permanent shakes. Crank up the ISO, turn the shutter speed to max, and you can still get nothing but a blur due to the practically non-existent DOF.

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Glacier

Now here is a picture which brings up another issue, albeit one not the fault of camera or photographer. At this time of year our sun angle is really low in the sky. This means the light is coming through a lot of atmosphere even at noon, making for very warm lighting. Also long shadows. Also lots of glare. We’re talking windshield-laser-of-death kind of thing.

I tried some processing on this shot and kept going back to the out-of-camera original as best for lighting and colour. It’s not a spectacular image by any means, but I like the light. I’d like it more if it were even remotely sharp. Even my eyes can see that it isn’t. Pretty sure I had it focused, but a lot can change when you push the button.

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Dew drop

I often take this shot as a lens test. The wire is slightly diagonal to the ‘film plane’, yet we don’t see any particular point of sharp focus. Or at least I don’t. I have to conclude that there was a focal point, but the image simply isn’t sharp anywhere. How much of that is the wide-open aperture and how much is the glass? Good question.

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Broken

This is a failure. It seemed like it would be a good shot, but in the end it’s pretty dull and yes it’s fuzzy. Since these pictures are done at different distances you’d think one of them would turn out sharp, but it isn’t looking good for the ol’ Soligor.

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Macro

Ah, who are we kidding? There was no chance of a macro shot coming out sharp. But I had to try it because it’s one of the lens functions. Kind of silly to hand-hold it too.

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Searchin’ in the sun for another overload

This shot started out as blah. One aspect of telephotos is how they look through the haze, and pick it all up. That’s one difference between getting close with a lens and getting close with your feet. Really this started out as a mass of bluish-gray dullness, so I decided to ‘cook’ it with brightness and contrast adjustments. Now it’s an artistic rendering of scorching desert heat on the wires. And you hardly notice it isn’t sharp. Heat blur. Or something.

What conclusions do we draw? The Soligor is not a sharp lens. It is heavy and hard to handhold. The fact is I can get similar results with the 55-250mm Canon lens with fewer exposure/focus issues. What’s more, for really long shots the Nikon P610’s 1440mm equivalent blows the Soligor to pieces in every respect.

I may yet go ahead and glue that pin down, just to see if the lens is any better when stopped-down. Of all my old Pentax mount lenses, this one clearly is the worst. I’m not sure I noticed it at the time.

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