Sunday, January 11, 2009

Big Lenses

Until Recently Canons biggest available lens was their Canon EF 600mm f/4 L IS USM Super Telephoto Lens. Then last year they introduced their new big lens; the Canon EF 800mm f/5.6 L IS USM Super Telephoto Lens.

Canon EF 800mm f/5.6 L IS USM Super Telephoto Lens

Canon800

ReleasedJune 2008
Original Price$11,999.00 U.S.
Lens Construction (group)14
Lens Construction (element)18
# of Diaphragm Blades8
Minimum Aperture32
Closest Focusing Distance (m)6
Maximum Magnification (x)0.14
Filter Diameter (mm)52
Maximum Diameter x Length (mm)163 x 461
Weight (g)4,500

The EF 800mm f/5.6L IS USM is a professional L series lens released June 2008. This lens is constructed with a magnesium alloy body and mount and with plastic extremities. Features of this lens are: a wide rubber focus ring that is damped, a focus distance window, the ability to limit the focus range, a focus-preset mechanism, an image stabilizer that is effective up to four stops and is tripod sensing, an AF stop switch, and weather sealing. A maximum aperture of f/5.6 gives this lens the ability to create depth of field effects. The optical construction of this lens contains two fluorite lens elements, and "Super UD" (Ultra low Dispersion) and UD Lens elements. This lens uses an inner focusing system powered by a ring type USM motor. This lens is compatible with the Canon Extender EF tele-converters.

You would think that it would continue to get bigger and better from here. However, it's not always been limited to 800mm lenses. It wasn't all that long ago that Canon made a 1200mm lens. Yes, the Canon EF 1200mm f/5.6 L USM Super Telephoto Lens.

Canon EF 1200mm f/5.6 L USM Super Telephoto Lens

Canon1200

ReleasedJuly 1993
Original PriceUnknown (Selling now for $99,000.oo U.S. used at B&H Photo)
Lens Construction (group)10
Lens Construction (element)13
# of Diaphragm Blades8
Minimum Aperture32
Closest Focusing Distance (m)14
Maximum Magnification (x)0.09
Filter Diameter (mm)48
Maximum Diameter x Length (mm)228 x 836
Weight (g)16,500

This super telephoto lens has the longest focal length of an interchangeable lens for AF SLR cameras at the time. Silent and fast AF is realized using a ring USM (Ultrasonic Motor) and rear focusing system. Extremely sharp, professional-quality images are realized through use of two large-diameter artificial crystal fluorite lens elements (3rd & 6th) that thoroughly eliminate secondary spectrum. Although the optical design is the same as FD1200mm f/5.6L (prototype), this lens is optimized for the EF system with a nonlinear focus cam for moving the focusing lens group, a focus preset function for quick focusing at a predetermined point, and power manual focusing with three focusing speeds. A one-touch revolving mechanism for quick switching between vertical and horizontal formats is possible. Extenders EF1.4X or EF2X transforms the lens into a manual focusing super-super-telephoto 1700mm f/8 or 2400mm f/11 lens.

But, way before that in the 60's Canon made a 2000mm FD Mirror Lens and a 5200mm Mirror Lens. The Canon FD 5150mm f/14 Super Telephoto Mirror Lens. In the photo below, note the full frame SLR camera mounted to the lens on the far right hand side.

Canon FD 5150mm f/14 Super Telephoto Mirror Lens

Canon5200

ReleasedEarly 1965
Original PriceUnknown (Recently sold on eBay for $55,000.00 U.S.)
Lens Construction (mirrors)2
Lens Construction (element)3
# of Diaphragm BladesNo Diaphragm
Minimum Aperture14
Closest Focusing Distance (m)120
Maximum Magnification (x)0.957
Filter Diameter (mm)Drop In Unknown Size.
Maximum Diameter x Length (mm)500 x 1890
Weight (g)100,000

From a Canon Brochure - "This is the only ultra-telephoto lens in the world capable of taking photographs of objects 18 to 32 miles away (30km to 52kms away). Having a focal length of 5200mm, Canon Mirror Lens 5200mm can obtain one hundred times as large an object image as that of a 50mm lens."

"For focusing this mounted or fixed lens on an extremely distant object, two aiming telescopes are set on the side of the lens barrel, and the entire lens is placed on a rigid stand which rotates smoothly. Minimizing the overall length had been a big problem in designing this lens. However, the Catadioptric system that is applied to the other two Canon mirror lenses has succeeded in reducing it down to one third of the nominal focal length. In general focal length and optical aberration increase with each other, however, our long and persistent research and development have succeeded in solving this problem. Canon mirror lens 5200mm composed of spherical main and secondary mirrors and a correction lens would assure you of clear images."

Gee, with a 1.6x Crop Factor and a 2x Extender this would be a 16,480mm Lens. You could take pictures of the nose hairs of tree swallows from across the ocean.

Other great big lenses of note were the Nikon Nikkor 1200-1700mm f/5.6~8 P ED IF Zoom Lens dubbed "The Beast" and the Nikon Reflex-Nikkor 2000mm f/11 and from Carl Zeiss the ZEISS Apo Sonnar T* 4/1700 Lens (1700mm f/4 and 550Lbs).

ZEISS Apo Sonnar T* 4/1700mm Lens

CarlZeiss
This lens I believe is still available. It was originally custom made for a "Photographer" obviously with loads of money. It is a custom order lens that is designed for a Hassleblad 6x6 Camera (Shown in Photo).

So, next time your out shooting with your 300mm or 400mm lens and you think its kind of small, well, it actually is!

(Hey, my counter lost 5000+ clicks. Whats up with that?)

© 2009 Francois Cleroux

(Version 1.00 - January 2009)

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I value thoughtful comments and suggestions. If you like or dislike this post, please let me know. If you have any ideas or suggestion, comments or corrections (I do make mistakes) please also let me know. Thanks.

- Francois Cleroux