Back in the '70s, single and with a good job and beaucoup de overtime pay, I splurged and bought a Soligor 600mm telephoto lens for taking photos of game in the reserves and, as well, for snapping aeroplanes parked at the quasi-military maintenance facility on the far side of the international airport.
This lens gave valiant service both as a lens and also as an unofficial pass to get behind the scenes since when I had this slung on my shoulder people assumed I was “the Press”.
Time passed and along came emigration from South Africa to the USA with my wife and our kids and the opportunities to use the lens became more and more rare. I doubt I used it after 1990 and it sat in a cupboard saved from the dump only by my innate packrat nature.
Within the last couple of years I have got back into photography and about six months ago I thought ‘Maybe I should give The Soligor a try.’ I wasn’t too optimistic. Many of the web sites say that the old lenses are so significantly inferior to modern glass that they aren’t worth the trouble of resurrecting. But still, it IS a 600mm and the price of an equivalent lens of that length is really steep, so I went online and ordered a Canon mount for it.
That was a really nice feature of many of the Soligor lenses – they came without a permanent camera mount and one just bought the appropriate mount for the camera of one’s choice. The advantage that this has over having to use a camerax-to-cameray adaptor is that the focal length was hardly impacted.
Once I put the lens on my camera the results of test shots were somewhat disappointing. Detail and sharpness were not that great. But then I examined the lens a bit more thoroughly in bright sunlight and could see a film of mold on the inside of the first element. This seemed like a fixable issue, although I didn’t fancy dismantling optical equipment myself because I had none of the necessary tools to recalibrate etc. Back to The Web and Bing and pretty quickly I found a lens repair shop just outside the city of Atlanta and just 40 minutes from home.
Best of all their website specifically mentioned cleaning mold off lenses!
So, off I set down I-285 and handed over my lens. I got it back yesterday, a week after dropping it off. It was a poxy, rainy, humid, hazy day, but when I mounted the lens onto my camera, stepped outside, and pointed the long barrel at an electrical transformer perched on a pole some way down the street, I saw whole bunch of detail of wires and insulators. I thought then that my $220 had been well spent.
At the top of the page is a shot of the lens mounted on my Rebel T6s. And to the right are two demo pics of a basketball hoop in a neighbor’s yard some 300 ft away. The top one was taken with the Soligor 600mm and the lower one with my Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM Zoom Lens set at 200mm.
I’m pretty happy with the results.
A couple of minor features of the Soligor lens that I deal with are (a) it has no autofocus, just manual, and (b) similarly it has only manual aperture control, although this is somewhat mitigated by having an open/close ring. With this I can stop my aperture down to get correct exposure, then use the open ring to open it up so I can see to compose, then close it back down and it will go to where I had it set, so it is pretty quick.