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Archive for February, 2022

A while back I wrote up the Tamron SP 500 reflex with mostly favorable comments. Today I want to go over another reflex lens also an F/8 but this has a lot more reach. 800mm in fact. Is it any good?

This is the Samyang 800/8 reflex lens and Samyang made this lens fairly recently for several years ending its production around 2014. So this is a more modern lens but reflex lens are not really that technically sophisticated. It may have benefited from improved optical coatings versus the lenses of the 1980s. I have a video at the end on this lens as well.

This lens uses a universal T-mount system. The T-mount is widely used in the telescope industry. These are completely simple with no mechanical connection other than threading the adapter on the lens and mounting to the camera. Perfect for todays mirrorless cameras and many DSLRs as well.

These can be found used for around $200 and at that price my expectations were not real high. Prior to this 800mm I tried a Sigma 600/8 reflex that was well made, a bit better exterior construction than this Samyang and about as good as that Tamron which I still have. But the Sigma was noticeably softer than the Tamron. I thought the extra reach with the same f/8 would be nice but it was just a little too soft. But now at 800mm the reach is 60% greater so would I be OK with a hit on sharpness to gain all that extra focal length? Let’s find out.

It turns out, I didn’t have to give up sharpness really at all. I think this Samyang is pretty close to the Tamron in resolution. That said it suffers from a lack of sharpness compared to a traditional optical formula and like most reflex lenses the contrast is rather flat. It is noticeably harder to hold still even at high shutter speeds around 1/1000th second. IBIS in my R5 helps but not as much as it does on other heavier telephoto lenses. The camera allows for manual input of IBIS to support these non-electronic lenses and even set to 800mm the IBIS had some issues with speeds in the 1/250th – 1/500th second range. Reflex lenses are notorious for camera shake because they are small and light weight they do not absorb vibrations and are hard to hold still. This lens is remarkably compact measuring just 6 inches in length and 4.5 inches wide. It only weighs about 32 ounces (900 grams).

This particular lens is also difficult to focus. The focus ring is smooth but a bit stiff and also very coarse with about a 90º rotation to run all the way from 11 feet to infinity. At 800mm infinity is hundreds of yards out. So getting real precision focus is challenging between the image bouncing around in the viewfinder every time you touch it to the coarse adjustment. Focus is a bit of nightmare. Even mounted to a sturdy tripod touching the lens causes enough vibration to make focusing a challenge. I do like the fact this lens can focus inside of 11 feet. That does give a respectable macro reproduction ratio of roughly 1:3 and that is comparable to the Tamron SP 500/8 which focuses to six feet and delivers approximately 1:3 as well.

Like all reflex lenses the out of focus highlights in the bokeh are rendered as donuts rather than spheres which can be cool and also distracting. To be able to pack 800mm of focal length in such a compact package is highly useful and at f/8 it’s not too bad on speed. Why? Because to world’s top 800mm lenses are typically f/5.6 and those weigh 10-12 lbs, are nearly three feet long, and cost $12,000. This guy is just a single f stop slower and even compared to Canon’s new $899 affordable 800/11 this is a bargain. The Canon lens to its credit is sharper than this lens, has full AF, and offers optical image stabilization.

My conclusion is this: I am keeping this lens in my kit and I am also keeping the Tamron SP 500 as well. Here are some photos I took with this lens I didn’t have time to really go out and get some good shots, but these show the lens is capable a delivering reasonably sharp images. I feel like I could get some solid results in daylight conditions with this lens. These are all fairly close up shot in the 11-15 foot focus range and some are taken in low light at really high ISO up to 51200! Lesson learned, do not shoot M6 Mark II at ISO 51200 😉

Canon EOS R5 with Samyang 800mm f/8 1/1600th second hand held at ISO 25600 IBIS on
Canon EOS R5 with Samyang 800 f/8 1/60th with flash hand held, ISO 1600 IBIS on
Canon EOS R5 with Samyang 800 f/8 on tripod 1/5th second at ISO 800
Canon EOS M6 mk II with metabones speed booster and Samyang 800 f/8 (568mm f/5.6) hand held 1/320th second at ISO 51200 No IBIS

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