I am Rod Wynne-Powell, and this is my way to pass on snippets either of a technical nature, or related to what I am currently doing or hope to be doing in the near future.

A third-person description follows:
Professional photographer, Lightroom and Photoshop Workflow trainer, Consultant, digital image retoucher, author, and tech-editor for Martin Evening's many 'Photoshop for Photographers' books.

For over twenty years, Rod has had a client list of large and small companies, which reads like the ‘who’s who’ of the imaging, advertising and software industries. He has a background in Commercial/Industrial Photography, was Sales Manager for a leading London-based colour laboratory and has trained many digital photographers on a one-to-one basis, in the UK and Europe.
Still a pre-release tester for Adobe in the US, for Photoshop, he is also very much involved in the taking of a wide range of photographs, as can be seen in the galleries.

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Sunday, 24 March 2013

Samyang 500mm Mirror vs Canon 300mm Prime

Recently, lens checking has taken up some of my time. At the recent Focus on Imaging Show up at the NEC Birmingham, I looked at both the Canon and Samyang stands at their respective lenses. Samyang was a name that had not entered my vocabulary – and their range intrigued me; in particular because they were displaying two 500mm mirror lenses and one 800mm. I had not seen mirror lenses on the market for more years than I care to remember! These are fixed aperture, non automatic lenses that offer good optics at prices that are way cheaper than you would have to pay for what I might term ‘conventional’ telephotos. If the limitations of manual focus, fixed aperture and a lack of automatic exposure can be mitigated then they genuinely represent a very good price point.

I wondered whether I would be able to live within those bounds, and so whilst at the show I spoke to the Area Sales Manager of Intro 2020 who had just taken up the Samyang UK distribution, and asked whether it would be possible to check out their 500mm f/6.3 lens, and he very kindly agreed he would let me test that and would I also be interested in my taking a look at the 800mm. He said he would speak to a local dealer whom I knew in Dunstable, Nick Dorman, whose family own Dormans Photographic and are well-respected in the area. The result was that Nick rang me up last week to say both lenses had arrived and would I like to come and collect.

One other point about these lenses is that they are fairly universal and just require the additional cost of a T2 Mount adaptor to match the lens for each different manufacturer. I double-checked that he had one in stock, before making the trip! The weather recently in almost the entire UK, has been grey and miserable, which completely put the mockers on being able to give a really meaningful test, but for me I knew I could make my assessment indoors, so set up a tripod, a Canon 7D and put the both the 500mm Samyang and 300mm f/4 prime Canon lens on and shot a pencil holder in the window against the light. I put the same settings I would have to use on the Samyang 500mm, and set 100 ISO on the camera and fired off a few shots; there was about a quarter of an hour between the pair shown below:

The outer image is the full 300mm picture, the cropped area is the full 500mm equivalent area

I took the card and processed both in Lightroom and processed them similarly, applying a small amount of sharpening to each, but admittedly was slightly less aggressive with the Canon, and was actually quite impressed when I brought up the same area on the 300mm to match the full frame of the 500mm. One aspect was that there was slightly more contrast in the highlights in the Samyang image, and remember the shot was largely backlit!

At the start of the experiment I was not certain how the limitations would pan out, and I learned that I have grown very used to autofocus giving me a lending hand, and so for me the limitations were too oppressive for the type of work I envisaged, but for those who work on a tripod but without the budget for own manufacturers’ prime lens prices, this does seem a well-made, good quality option. I did take a look at the 800mm, but as I suspected from the start that option was far too limiting for me, but both lenses were very well presented and come with lens pouches and caps back and front.

By way of a follow-up: Those using the mirror lens for astrophotography appear to be impressed.

So thank you very much, Intro 2020, Samyang and Nick Dorman.

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