Soligor 200mm F3.5 lens

It is instructive and rewarding to use old film camera lenses on new digital cameras. It gives an insight into user experiences of yesteryear and some surprising results. For instance, this test is of an old Soligor 200mm F3.5 lens with an M42 mount. It is not the best lens from the 70’s and as will be shown below, it is not in the best condition, but with a little post processing it is quite amazing, especially given its low cost against more modern pieces of glass.

Here is the lens as it looks today. The rear lens element looks fine but take a look at the the front element. Perhaps it was used by a photo journalist where speed of use requires no lens cap and best results require no UV protection filter:

Soligor 200mm F3.5 telephoto lens. M42 mount:







The Soligor was mounted on a second hand Canon 1Ds full frame digital camera from around 2003 (shown below disguised for street use). It is worth saying at this point that these older 1 series canons now offer fantastic value for money. You can now get professional level products for the cost of the current mid range models. The camera below was bought for the same amount as the (then new) 20d featured elsewhere on this site



The Soligor 200mm F3.5 lens was pointed at a bird box in a neighbouring garden. With a wide open aperture it was manually focussed at about 60 feet - near enough infinity on the lens. Here is the full screen image taken at 1/40 second shutter speed, hand held. This is straight out of the camera:



It is clearly lacking a bit of contrast so some post processing is required. All that was done was a moderate contrast increase and a small amount of sharpening, as is usual for RAW images from a digital SLR camera:



Given the damage to the front element, and the 1/40s shutter speed on a 200mm telephoto lens, the results are excellent. Manual focussing is often a bit hit and miss, especially wide open and below it can be seen that it is not 100% on the bird box but it is as close as matters. More importantly, this lens is a real contender in terms of sharpness and particularly bokeh, as will be seen below. It would make an excellent portrait lens and stopped down a little, no doubt an excellent sports or wildlife lens. here are a few crops from the adjusted picture above. They are not 100% I’m afraid - more like 75%, but a 200% crop is also shown to highlight the true abilities of this old lens. The 200% crop was up-sized in Adobe Photoshop Elements with default procedures. Note also that all images on this page have been compressed for web use. Note that the bottom right crop is only left out because most of the image in that area is out of focus due to closer branches in the frame.

Soligor 200mm F3.5 telephoto lens. M42 mount. Wide open. Centre crop:





Soligor 200mm F3.5 telephoto lens. M42 mount. Wide open. Off centre crop (to show the more focussed elements in the frame):





Soligor 200mm F3.5 telephoto lens. M42 mount. Wide open. Top left crop, showing corner performance and shadow detail - note that most of the elements in this area of the image are out of the focus range and some motion blur is evident due to the slow shutter speed used (1/40s) and wind in the trees:





Soligor 200mm F3.5 telephoto lens. M42 mount. Wide open. Top right crop, showing corner performance - note that most of the elements in this area of the image are out of the focus range and some motion blur is evident due to the slow shutter speed used (1/40s) and wind in the trees:





Soligor 200mm F3.5 telephoto lens. M42 mount. Wide open. Bottom left crop, showing corner performance - note that most of the elements in this area of the image are out of the focus range and some motion blur is evident due to the slow shutter speed used (1/40s) and wind in the trees:





Soligor 200mm F3.5 telephoto lens. M42 mount. Wide open. 200% crop, showing ultimate performance and smooth bokeh. Note that this has been up-sized to 200% with Photoshop Elements 4 standard procedures and compressed for web use. A 200% image on a Canon 1Ds gives

  • 8128 x 5408 pixels
  • which at 240 pixels per inch gives a printed image that is 86 x 57cm
  • or 34 x 22.5 inches in size, almost 3 foot by 2 foot across.

This lens is certainly up to the job: