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The Paragon 500mm f8 lens

  |   Article, Articles and reviews, Canon EOS R, EOS RP, Lens, Photography Ideas   |   2 Comments

Paragon 500mm f/8 on a mirrorless camera

An old long focus lens used with adapters on an RP


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Over the years Keith has tried all kinds of old lenses on modern cameras with results ranging from excellent, to ‘why did I bother’.

The Paragon 500mm f/8 lens has been sitting in the corner for quite a while – time to see if it is worth the few pounds paid for it in a charity shop.

With current limits on travel – there are not quite as many photos as I’d like. They were mostly taken before restrictions.

500mm paragon on EOS RP

Telephoto lens – Paragon 500mm f/8

One of the lenses I’ve had sitting around some time is a Paragon 500mm f/8 manual focus lens. Although it doesn’t seem it from the length, it is a telephoto design, with a length of ~35cm for a 500mm focal length. The lens has a tripod adapter ring set towards the camera end.

500mm f8 lens

It’s also a manual stopdown aperture, so there is one ring to set the aperture and another that goes from ‘O <-> C’ or open to closed.

This one had an Olympus OM lens mount – it’s found with many variations.

adapted 500 F8

So, I’ve an OM->EF adapter mounted on an EF->RF adapter.

The end section comes off, so you could remove the tripod mount. It’s also good for checking the internal optics if you find one of these lenses on offer.  They are known for poor coatings and this one has a tiny mould patch in the front element.

lens-parts

You should also check the aperture ring stops down smoothly, when set at f/32.

Using the lens

The lens is easy to use with focus peaking on the EOS RP.

500mm paragon on EOS RP

The view from the bridge (f/11)

river soar canal-view

These photos were taken in February, when there were people about…

long view of DMU

long_view of DMU

Here’s a 100% unsharpened crop from the shot (camera is 26MP full frame)

100%-crop

Focus is critical – even at f/11. If you’re not used to using very long lenses, needing to focus on something a few hundred feet away may seem odd, but look at the depth of field (DOF) scale. Even f/32 isn’t giving a lot of thickness to the plane of sharp focus.

DOF-scale

Focus peaking helps on my EOS RP, but accurate focus with just a DSLR viewfinder (no live view) is tricky.

The lens at f/8 shows distinct fall off at the edge of the field, but at f/11 this reduces somewhat. These two shots are taken from my loft window (Karen’s office) looking towards Leicester University. They are out of the camera jpegs with late afternoon sunlight.

shot-at-f8shot-at-f11

Image quality

The chromatic aberration of the lens is modest – easily fixable in RAW conversion, as is the vignetting.

The photo from the loft was affected by movement of the air, but sharpened up very nicely with Sharpen AI [see my updated review for more]

towers-from-loft

A closer subject will have fewer issues, so a look at detail from the long view shots earlier is more informative

One of my long time favourites for sharpening [Focus Magic – Review] easily cleans up a bit of softness without adding any artefacts (a setting of 3 at 75% would be reasonable as well).

FM-sharpen

More use for the lens?

The 500mm focal length isn’t one I have a lot of use for.  I can get better results (and AF and IS) with my EF70-200 2.8L IS and  the excellent Canon Extender 1.4x III – OK, it’s only 280mm, but I could use the 50MP 5Ds and crop….

More of interest  to Karen .was leaving the RP and 500mm downstairs, to capture shots of the birds in our garden at one of the feeders. This at ISO3200, through a window, waiting for the peanuts to be spotted.

feeder

A swan in a very murky River Soar a few weeks ago after the heavy rains.

swan

So, a lens worthy of experimenting with, if you don’t pay too much (just beware some of the exorbitant prices on eBay).

Perhaps even less useful whilst stuck at home, but I hope short articles like this are of interest in these challenging times (April 2020) If you’ve questions please do feel free to comment or email me. 

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2 Comments
  • Keith | Apr 11, 2021 at 10:10 am

    I’m afraid it’s not spent long out of the ‘assorted photo stuff’ box. My main problem is the tiny aperture, needing high ISO to get a short enough shutter speed – well, that and us not having a long enough garden to get past its minimum focus distance.

    It’s not good enough because I have lenses with image stabilisation – my main camera is still the 50MP 5Ds which is a pain to focus with the 500. When I get a high MP mirrorless camera with sensor IS some time, I’ll test a lot of these lenses again for practicality.

    So, definitely fun to play with, but don’t pay too much for one ;-)

    At the moment, my 70-200 F2.8L IS with an extender more than meets my long lens needs (which are I’ll admit not great at the moment)

  • Paul C | Apr 11, 2021 at 7:36 am

    Thank you Keith — as you say, this design of lens has been around for decades and can still be bought new (£31.85 & 20% VAT from Taiwan on eBay today).

    The 4 element in 4 groups design is very simple, at only 35cm long it is more a “long focus” than a telephoto design with a ratio of only 500/350 = 1.4x this doesn’t require the glass size, weight and technology of a much more compressed lens.

    All super telephoto lenses suffer from the distortions of so much air between subject and camera when used at infinity distance: they need crisp frosty days or high altitudes in mountains to have a fair test as they just compress miles of haze, pollution and heat distortion into therimage. Ultimately, it is the middle distance bird table photo that most of us would buy this lens for. So I was disappointed not to see a sharper picture. Did you get any better images at that sort of “wildlife” distance?

    I shoot with a MFT Lumix and with the standard telezoom (70-300mm 35mm equivalent) and the 2x digital crop function seem to get better pictures than by adapting old 300mm lenses (600mm equivalent in 35mm terms). The Lumix 100-300mm and 100-400mm zooms are very good but very expensive, which is reasonable if wildlife photography is your passion. But for the “part-time” wildlife photographer, I suspect a lot of us would like a magical solution from a lens like this!

    Is there a learning curve to using this lens? Has the experience got better over time – or is it ultimately just not good enough?

    Best wishes – Paul C in the UK

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