Information on Nikon 500mm f/8 Reflex Nikkor Lens


Optical illus.jpg
You can called a Reflex Lens a "poor man's ED lens". In a reflex lens, light path is 'folded' by the mirror surfaces. This permits the design of lens type permitting a significant reduction in size and weight as compared to conventional lenses of equivalent focal length. Since the light path is folded, another benefit is the virtual elimination of chromatic aberration, this provides images taken with mirror lens with superior sharpness, contrast - and you may noticed, most Mirror lens do not even provide with a infra focusing index - because optical character eliminate the necessity to refocus in infrared photography.

Nikon has produced three 'popular' focal length reflex lenses in 500mm, 1000mm and a far reaching 2000mm. Reflex (Often called "Mirror" or "CAT" (stands for Catadioptric) lenses employ a combination of mirrors and lens elements based on catadioptric telescopes. To someone who has never seen a mirror lens before, he/she might wondering how can there is a circular ring right in the middle of the lens ? Just observe the illustration above to see the light path of how light enters into the lens/camera.

Sample Image 1
Another key optical phenomenon produced by Reflex lenses is out-of-focus highlights in the background will produced a doughnut-shape blurs - which is a typical visual hallmark of pictures taken with a mirror reflex lens.
Sample Image 2
Note: Sample image taken with a 500mm Reflex Nikkor f8, Click for an enlarged view. Then take note of the out-of-focus highlights and compared with a non-sparkle hot spots with another sample image 2, the supposedly doughnut-shape blur was not that distinguishable as the sample image 1 (the blurred tree behind the model).

There are some shortfalls with the design and handling of this Reflex-lens type. First, since there is no diaphragm can be incorporated in a mirror lens, which also means these lenses usually has its aperture in a fixed value. Common fixed aperture used in CAT lenses are f/8.0 for 500mm, f/11 for 1000mm etc. Exposure is usually controlled by: using shutter speed of the camera OR use of filters (like neutral density) and lastly, varying the film type in film speed. Nikkor reflex lenses may not be the perfect solution to all photographic needs. I remembered Pentax used to produced a few "Reflex lenses with Zooming mechanism"; I am not sure how does the principle works, but I thought that was innovative enough. Secondly, as with any reflex lens type, slight amount of vigneting at the far edges of the picture frame is not uncommon especially when you shoot against brightly lit background. Was that a big issue ? Not really. But as long as you know how to neutralize such possibility, avoid shooting something with plain bright background behind and it should be fine. But at a fraction of the cost of a comparing optic, say a Nikkor 500mm f/4P ED-IF super telephoto lens but has a compromise with a restriction of unchangeable fixed-type aperture, well... what do you think? decision is yours

One more thing to remind you before you rush to the nearest used outlet to locate a Reflex Lens in your collection; in most cases, unless you can compensate with high speed film or working in favorable light condition, the best advice is to use in combination with a tripod, bean bag etc... to support your assignment because although the length of the lens may fool you not to think it is a 500mm focal length optic, slight movement will greatly magnify with this lens and making good, positive supportive picture taking process an essential.

F5 with 500mm f8.jpg (13k)
The first major revision of the previous Mirror-Nikkor 50cm f/5.0 happened in 1968 with the introduction of a new Reflex-Nikkor 500mm f/8.0 lens. The lens was considerably much smaller in size and lighter in weight than the f/5.0 due to the use of a fixed f/8.0 aperture. However, a few improvement were being made in this version. First, its minimum focus distance has been greatly improved to 13.1 ft from the 48 ft found on the previous f/5.0 lens. The lens has a very well designed hard-rubberized focusing ring in tiny diamond shape texture. Its width was extended for good and positive grip during focusing. It was supplied with an equally well designed screw-in lens hood and a rear mounting 39mm filter set in L37, Y52, O56, R60 and a light reduction ND4 filter as standard lens accessories.

<<< --- Previous version of the Reflex-Nikkor 500mm f/8.0

The original version was believed to have bear with starting serial number from 501001. A subsequent revised version for this lens with improved NIC lens coating process was introduced in 1974 which may bear numbering starting from 530001. This lens was eventually replaced by another version which has a differing optical formulation, lens coating process and improved performance in August, 1984.

500mm Optic.jpg
* Narrow 5° picture angle provides 10X magnification of the subject in comparison with a normal lens of 50mm focal length. * Catadioptric (mirror) design eliminates chromatic aberration for outstanding picture quality. * Very compact and light for its long focal length. * Focuses down to a close 4m (13 ft.).

* Screw-in lens hood minimizes ghost images and flare when shooting against the light. * 360° rotatable tripod socket collar allows quick change from horizontal- to vertical-format shooting without tripod adjustment. * Supplied with a set of five 39mm rear screw-in filters (ultraviolet, yellow, orange, red, and 4X neutral density). * Convenient for candids, sports, wildlife, travel, etc.


Focal length/Aperture: 500mm f/8
Lens construction: 5 elements in 3 groups
Picture angle: 5°; Diaphragm: None; Aperture scale: None; Exposure measurement: Via stop-down method
500mm Side View.jpg (15k)
Distance scale: Graduated in meters and feet from 4m (13ft.) to infinity (OO)
Weight: 1,000g; Dimensions: 93mm dia. x 142mm long (overall); 135mm extension from lens flange; Filters (Supplied): 39mm rear screw-in type: ultraviolet (L37C), medium yellow (Y52), orange (056), red (R60), and neutral density (ND4)

Front lens cap: Screw-in; Lens hood: Screw-in type
Lens case: CL-23 hard leatherette; Usable teleconverter: TC-200 or TC-14
* * Usable, if the rear screw-in filter is removed

500mm f/8 (One lens do all in an assignment ? Quite Possible...)

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Reflex-Nikkor 500mm f/8.0s | Non-AI Reflex-Nikkor 500mm f/8.0 (post-77) | Non-AI Reflex-Nikkor 500mm f/8.0 (Pre-AI)
Reflex-Nikkor 1000mm f/11s | Reflex-Nikkor 1000mm f/11 (Post 77) | Reflex-Nikkor 1000mm f/11 (pre-AI)
Reflex-Nikkor 2000mm f/11s | Reflex-Nikkor 2000mm f/11 (Post 77) | Reflex-Nikkor 2000mm f/11 (Pre-AI)
EARLY Reflex Nikkor 50cm f/5.0, Reflex-Nikkor 10cm f/6.3

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Credit: MCLau®, who has helped to rewrite some of the content appeared this site. Chuck Hester® who has been helping me all along with the development of all these Nikon websites; Lars Holst Hansen, 'Hawkeye' who shares the same passion I have; Ms Rissa, Sales manager from Nikon Corporation Malaysia for granting permission to use some of the official content; Ted Wengelaar, Holland who has helped to provide many useful input relating to older Nikkor lenses; Some of the references on production serial numbers used in this site were extracted from Roland Vink's website; Hiura Shinsaku from Nikomat Club Japan. Lastly, to all the good people who has contributed their own expeience, resources or kind enough granted permission to use their images of their respective optic in this site. It is also a site to remember a long lost friend on the Net. Note:certain content and images appeared in this site were either scanned from official marketing leaflets & brochures published by Nikon and/or contribution from surfers who claimed originality of their work for educational purposes. The creator of the site will not be responsible for may discrepancies arise from such dispute except rectifying them after verification. "Nikon", "Nikkormat", "Nippon Kokagu KK" & "Nikkor" are registered tradename of Nikon Corporation Inc., Japan. Site made with an Apple IMac.