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September 2, 2009 @ 9:46 pm

1000mm Nikon Manual Focus Nikkor Reflex Mirror Lens

The 1000mm Nikkor reflex mirror lens, was at one time perhaps the most affordable exotic super telephoto available in the Nikon Manual Focus lineup. Designed to capture a very narrow 2˚30′ field of view over a full frame of 35mm film, it captures an incredible 1˚53′ (1500 mm equivalent on a Nikon SLR digital camera). Add a well matched Nikon TC-301 2x teleconverter to this lens and it it captures the astounding equivalent of a 0˚57′ field of view. That’s enough to identify people from 6.5 Km (4 miles) away. To put this into perspective: 

  • At 1000mm the magnification of the subject is 20x that a regular 50mm full frame lens. 
  • At 1500mm the magnification is 30x.
  • At 3000mm the magnification is 60x.

Of course, this kind of ultra telephoto photography can be so extreme that it requires extra consideration above and beyond good long lens technique. When shooting subject at such great distances, the air — along with any moisture, temperature variance, dust, and contaminants — acts as a natural aberration which is exaggerated at such extreme. As with all other super telephotos, thermal variance — or heat waves — will distort perspectives. What additional precautions are needed to handle these lenses at infinity? For greatest clarity:

  • Use only an extra sturdy tripod and head to secure the lens. Tighten all levers and clamps.
  • If possible, use another tripod or secondary support for the camera in addition to the lens mount.
  • Shoot from an ultra secure base or platform. If shooting from a balcony or building be weary of vibrations from shifting weight on your feet or local traffic.
  • Place a light reflective cloth (white) over the top of your lens to prevent disproportionate heating of your reflex lens.
  • Mornings and evenings, when the suns angle of incidence is naturally low, are best times to reduce light scatter from dust and particles.
  • Shooting after a cold front moves through results in the least amount of thermal distortion. It also clears the air of particulates.
  • Apertures of ƒ11 — or even ƒ22 when using a teleconverter — will require shutter speeds that are prone to detecting subject movement. If shooting moving subjects, compensate by timing the apex of a subjects turn, or shooting subjects that are moving directly toward you or away from you.
  • Use a viewfinder magnifier — such as  the current model Nikon right angle finder with 2x magnifier. This is mandatory for any critical focus at smaller apertures. Be weary of some third party magnifiers for they can underperform in the corners and require you to refocus the magnifier between 1x and 2x magnification. The consequence of using a budget magnifier is that you may need to re-calibrate your manual focus lens.
  • Use the manual focus handles that came with this lens, or build a substitute. They are absolutely necessary for achieving the best critical focus of your Nikon manual focus reflex lens.
  • Most of all, practice patience. Ultra telephoto photography cannot be practiced without it. Meditate, get control. There are bound to be any number of variables at one time which may compromise your efforts. It goes along with the territory. The rewards will only go to those who can master this technique.

For close ups, this is a great lens to take to the zoo. It cuts through most chain link fences — like a warm knife through butter — and brings you closer than you dare to possibly come under any other circumstance. There are many applications for this lens, such as infra-red photography on a Nikon SLR digital camera, astro-photography, wild animal portraiture, environmental monitoring, and security to name but a few. This lens, while scarcer than the more common 500mm Nikkor reflex, is still possible to find second hand. The Newshound recently acquired a specimen and had Nikon clean, lube, and restore it to it’s original specs.

Note: not all mirror reflex lenses were built to the same standards, and some take short cuts that negate the quality and performance of the Nikkor reflex design. Reflex lenses are also vulnerable to rapid fluctuations in temperature, or careless handling. Good long lens technique should always be applied. When purchasing a second hand specimen, buy from a reputable dealer that allows you to test the lens and return it if you are displeased with the results. Caveat emptor.

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  1. Posted by Twitted by nikonnewshound

    September 2, 2009 @ 11:39 pm

    [...] This post was Twitted by nikonnewshound [...]

  2. Posted by FrankG

    September 3, 2009 @ 3:33 am

    Bjorn gives this lens a so-so rating of 3.5 out of 5.

  3. Posted by Golden Dawg

    September 3, 2009 @ 11:25 am

    When used correctly, it will easily exceed those expectations.

  4. Posted by FrankG

    September 4, 2009 @ 11:47 pm

    You’ll need a donkey to carry it, and the tripod.

  5. Posted by Golden Dawg

    September 5, 2009 @ 11:48 am

    The 1000mm Nikon mirror lens is by itself surprisingly light for it’s focal length — weighing just under 2Kg (4.2 Lb). Much less than most glass lenses with half the focal length (500mm).

    The full kit — which in my case includes a Gitzo 1505 (all metal), BH-55 Head, 1000mm + TC-301 — comes in at about 7.5Kg (17Lb). While not exactly featherweight — it does fit neatly into the same pack I regularly carry 12Kg (26-28Lb) of other glass. I feel it’s a matter of choice what every photographer takes — or will carry — but this lens can certainly be managed without a mule.

  6. Posted by FrankG

    September 5, 2009 @ 5:15 pm

    I had a Manfrotto that weighed 9.9 pounds (without the head)—’must have had a stupid-attack. I used it for a year then finally dumped it and went with a light one.

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