- Well worth the £10/$15 paid
- Easy to use with practice
- Well made
- Poor sharpness
- High CA
This is just so tempting – a boxed, as new 400mm telephoto lens in an auction, begging to be bought for just £10. T2 fit means that it can be adapted to almost any camera body, so here we have it coupled via an M42 screw thread adapter and a Pentax Adapter K to see how it might perform with the 36MP Pentax K-1 full frame body.
Handling and Features
Soligor distributed many lenses and was a major supplier throughout the 1960s and through to the 1980s. The lenses were inexpensive, many were excellent and they were made by various Japanese manufacturers. This 400mm f/6.3 was offered in several versions, this one being manufactured by Kino.
It is basically a long focus lens, as opposed to a telephoto which would be much shorter, and comprises a long tube with a cemented doublet at each end. That is, 4 elements in 2 groups. The lens is coated. There is a filterthread of 67mm diameter and a very useful built in lens hood.
The diaphragm, running from f/6.3 to f/32, has a very generous 13 blades, consequently there is an expectation of nice smooth bokeh. Although to be fair, in the day of this optic, bokeh was not a term in regular use. This is a preset lens, a term that might need a bit of explanation. There are two aperture rings. The silver one is set to the aperture required. The black ring runs free and can be moved to either wide open or to the aperture selected. The technique is to focus wide open, then operate the black ring to set the preset aperture value.
With a modicum of practice this becomes second nature. Likewise the focusing, manual focus only of course, which becomes very easy when coupled with a helpful beep from the camera’s AF system. This works really well with the Pentax K-1 and no doubt with other cameras also.
The fitting is a T2 mount, a screw thread similar to but not compatible with an M42 Pentax Screw fitting. A T2 mount is required with the fitting appropriate to the camera we wish to use. In this instance an M42 T2 adapter was fitted, so adding a Pentax Adapter K meant that the lens could be fitted to the K-1. The custom setting Using Aperture Ring is set to Permitted to allow use of the non-electronic mount.
The lens is long and thin, weighing a fair amount at 960g. There is a rotating tripod mount that seems secure. Using the lens is really pretty much hazard free, it is easy to focus and seems reasonably light in use, no doubt helped by its good balance with the modern DSLR. The real bugbear is the 6.5m (22 feet) minimum focus distance which shows us just how spoilt we have become with the modern zoom lens. This is clearly a long distance lens for sports and wildlife.
Soligor 400mm f/6.3 T2 Screw Thread Mount And Pentax Adapter K
So for £10/$15 and looking for all the world as though it has just been delivered from the factory, is the lens actually usable and does it deliver the quality we need?
There is no doubt that when bang on focus and with a simple contrasty subject, reasonably sharp images can be delivered. As for wildlife, getting that point of focus is a real problem. Following anything that isn’t totally stationary is well nigh impossible. We need a solid tripod, a still subject and also need to be prepared to sacrifice fine detail.
Compared to current lenses, on close examination the optic isn’t really all that sharp. It’s OK, but that’s about it. There is plenty of CA (Chromatic Aberration) as well, but this was not a problem when most photographers were shooting in black and white. The lens is also quite sensitive to backlight, and easily flares, losing sharpness and contrast as it does so.
Bokeh is perhaps a little busy, but with little depth of field a 400mm lens can easily put the background well out of focus.