Showcase Olympus OM Zuiko 500mm ƒ/8 Reflex

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I've played with numerous mirror lenses over the years, but I keep coming back to this one as the very best I have ever used — and one cited by other mirror users as one of the best they've used, too!

The main advantage of any mirror lens (well, except, perhaps, for some of the Russian tanks) is small size and light weight. The OM Reflex fills these requirements in spades! This is an opportunity lens. If I know I'm going to be shooting in the super-tele range, I haul out a Big Gun, like the OM Zuiko 350/2.8. But the 500/8 is so small and light, it lives in my camera bag!

Mirrors typically suffer from:
  1. Donut-shaped bokeh. Can't do a thing about this; it's the nature of the beast. I try to either avoid distracting backgrounds, or flaunt it, with a background full of donuts!
  2. Low contrast. It the film days, you were stuck with this. In today's digital world, this is something that is easily enhanced in post-processing.
  3. Lack of sharpness. With most mirrors, things are a fuzzy mess. But not with this one!
  4. Difficulty focusing. Mirrors often have a short-throw focus, razor-thin focus, and no auto-focus. The combination means you often miss the focus, even when the lens is quite capable, which contributes to the genre's reputation for softness. Electronic tricks such as focus magnification and focus peaking help greatly.
The OM Reflex handles the sharpness issue very well, and does a good job on contrast, as well.

None of these images have had extensive post-processing. All of them have had my standard, one-button "Auto" processing, which spreads out the tonal range and enhances contrast, but does not include any sharpening. All of them look this good at full resolution, but have had a small amount of sharpening applied via my standard "Export for screen resolution" button.

First, a couple I've posted here before.

Taken from the deck of a moving ferry, showing off the "opportunity lens" aspect. Even if I had my Big Gun with me, it is doubtful I could have swung it around into position, framed, and focused in the short time allowed. In addition to my standard processing, I slightly adjusted a crooked horizon, but it is otherwise un-cropped.
whale tail.jpg
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Now, let's flaunt that #1 "weakness" of mirrors. Sometimes, an excess of donuts contribute a perception of softness, but check out the dog hairs around the collar!
Zelda Ocean.jpg
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Here's some newer work with this awesome lens.

My daughter hired a professional photographer for an impromptu family reunion, and I was able to "poach" her excellent crowd control and posing abilities by getting way back and high, shooting over the pro's head. All these were with the Viltrox Mount Adapter EF-M2 II, for an effective 350mm ƒ/5.6. Standard post-processing only.

I find 500mm is often just too close, and so some sort of focal reducer is more-or-less permanently attached to this lens. The VMA II does a great job with this lens, as does the Metabones Speedbooster Ultra, of course.
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More "pro poaching." The photographer was really good at getting the best out of her subjects! Warning — this lens may be too sharp for older subjects!
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The DoF is so shallow, that I thought I completely blew the focus on this shot, but if you look closely, you can see the sharp plane of focus here. Now, if I could only predict when people are about to close their eyes…
_EM11944 copy.jpg
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The OM Reflex has an incredible close focus.

I was basically hanging out on a rock, swivelling around to shoot both the pro's staged shots, and people who were just hanging out, waiting for their family to be called, and found a granddaughter who was in focus only when the OM Reflex was cranked in against the stop! Who says you can't do hand-held candid portraiture at 700mm equivalent!
_EM11713.jpg
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If you click twice, you can see all 2,048 pixels in my "screen Rez" version, but you might be interested in what all the pixels look like that were in the original.

So here's a 100% crop from the unprocessed-in-any-way 20 megapixel RAW file that produced the screen rez version above. You'll note that ON1 RAW's "auto" function does change the tonal curve quite a bit, pulling more detail out of the shadows, but it does no sharpening.
Screen Shot 2021-07-22 at 15.18.59.png
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And yes, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade! Flaunt that bokeh for all its worth!
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_EM11680.jpg
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_EM11683.jpg
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I shot with just three lenses yesterday besides this one: the Olympus 8mm ƒ/1.8 PRO, the 7-11mm ƒ/2.8 PRO, and the OM Zuiko 100mm ƒ/2 on a Metabones Speedbooster Ultra, for an effective 71mm ƒ/1.4. The two adapted lenses took the majority of the shots.

Got this lens? I'm interested to see what you're doing with it! It never ceases to amaze me.
 
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ektar

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I have to give credit to @Bytesmiths for resources and guidance when I started down the rabbit hole, er path to mirror lens ownership. I bought a Tokina that was rubbish. I then found the relatively uncommon and well-regarded Spiratone (you OGs: Don't laugh...) reportedly made for them by Tomioka, but TBH have not had it out of the house. The reason I have not is that I happened upon a deal that I couldn't pass up on the Olympus. It is certifiably tiny for 500mm. I haven't done much with it yet, but here is the best of my first efforts. Handheld, probably 40% left side crop of a landscape-orientation shot. I used a little sharpening, and a little denoise. I didn't get any of the donuts, but you can see the busy nature of the OOF areas. Cross-posted from "Show Trucks."

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Olympus OM Zuiko 500mm f8.0
 
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ac12

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The Nikon 500/8 reflex does not have a "short throw." As a result, I found it rather easy to focus. Plus the focus ring is light and smooth, which makes focusing easier.

Now I need to go and play with my Olympus reflex.
 

BPCS

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I owned the OM 500 for a while... a gorgeous looking and beautifully made tiny lens. Unfortunately, for me, I found the focusing too touchy... I struggled to nail focus. A touch this way or back that way and I kept on just missing focus. When I did nail focus, it was acceptably sharp at normal enlargements. Critical examination or cropping would yield soft files. One of the posters above uses a speedbooster and it had crossed my mind, as speedboosters usually improve sharpness, and that might make all the difference as far as IQ goes... but the short throw MF would still be a problem (for me anyways).
 

ac12

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You guys got me curious, so I pulled out the Olympus and Nikon 500/8 reflex.
Min to max = 180 degrees throw of the focus ring, on BOTH the Olympus and Nikon reflex.
I don't feel that it is difficult to focus the Nikon.

But I am regretting not getting the Olympus lens to the local tech before he retired.
The focus ring is stiff, especially compared to the light/smooth Nikon.
Probably old dried out grease, that a clean and relube would have fixed.
 

ektar

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I eyeballed a couple Nikon 500s before I found the Oly; I'd say the size is really close to the Spiratone/Tomioka.

I need to take it out with the Speedbooster attached.
 
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Joined
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One of the posters above uses a speedbooster
It does improve things considerably. I've used several focal reducers with it, and even the cheapest (Kipon Baveyes) made it sing. The Kipon has some hard vignetting, so I prefer using it with the Viltrox Mount Adapter EF-M2 II.

Here is an example of this lens on the Kipon Baveyes, clearly showing the hard vignetting in the corners:
Ketch A038513.jpg
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the short throw MF would still be a problem (for me anyways).
I find the focus is not difficult with the help of focus peaking, which I prefer with this lens over focus magnification. It only works well in bright light, but it gives you a nice "DoF" effect, which, if you're shooting something with some terrain, you can use to sweep the focus toward the subject, then centre it on the subject.
 

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