TAMRON
Model 55B
Tele-Macro
Catadioptric
SP Symbol500mmF/8
Tele-Macro Catadioptric
Tamron SP Adaptall-2 500mm F/8 Model 55B Mirror Lens

Tamron SP 500mm F/8 Mirror Model 55B: When introduced in 1979, this lens was the smallest and lightest 500mm mirror telephoto ever produced by any manufacturer. Remember the days of using Vivitar's heavy solid Catadioptric telephoto lenses or other manufacturer's far less compact mirror telephotos? This lens is significant because it changed the thinking of optical engineers throughout the industry since this lens uses Mangin mirrors. Mangin mirrors are simply lenses with one side of the lens being either aluminized or, in the case of Tamron's mirror lenses, silvered for peak reflectivity. Light passes and refracts through the unsilvered front side of the lens element, reflects off the aluminized or silvered back surface, and then the light again passes and refracts through the front side of the lens element. The whole point of using Mangin mirrors within a catadioptric lens is to reduce weight and size by getting away from the heavy solid catadioptric lens designs and earlier conventional mirror lens designs which were nowhere as compact.

Many other manufacturers, subsequent to the introduction of this lens, followed suit by designing cat lenses with very similar optical designs. For example, a year or two later Tokina introduced their very similar 500mm F/8 which had somewhat worse overall performance. For a while the Tamron and Tokina lenses were the two best 500mm F/8 mirror lenses on the market, but that changed after the mid 1980s as some other manufacturers managed to somewhat improve these landmark optical designs.

Overall, this lens produces fairly sharp images which are slightly soft in the corners. It is lightweight yet features solid construction, accepts rear 30.5mm thread-in filters, and produces acceptable performance when used with the Tamron SP 2x teleconverter. This lens also continuously focuses down to 1:3 macro. Macro performance is good but with softness in the corners due to off-axis coma. Light transmission is very close to F/8 and light fall-off is a mere 0.75 stop. Color rendition is very good. Out-of-focus doughnuts have a smaller than average "hole" since this lens has a relatively small central obstruction compared to most other 500mm cat lenses. This is a very good mirror lens with performance which was only somewhat exceeded by a few of the OEM lens manufacturers.

Lens Specifications:

Lens Model 55B
Focal Length 500mm
Aperture Range f/8
Angle of View
Optical Construction
(Groups / Elements)
4 / 7
Min. Focus from Film Plane 66.9" (1.7m)
Macro Mag. Ratio [w/2X Converter] 1:3 [1:1.5]
Filter Size 30.5mm (rear), 82mm (front)
Diameter 3.3" (84mm)
Length at
[w/Nikon mount]
3.4" (87mm)
[3.6" (91.5mm)]
Weight 20.3 oz. (575g)
Lens Hood Screw-in type, retractable.
Accessory Accepts SP 2X tele-converter #01F. Supplied with tripod mount ring, lens hood, case, and 5-piece filter set.
SP 500 F/8.0 Model 55B
PERFORMANCE
Modern Photo's
Standard
as Tested
Focal length: ±5%
(475-525mm) 508mm
Aperture: ±5%
(f/7.6-8.4) f/8.0
Distortion:
(±2.5%) 1.2% (pincush.)
Light falloff: at f/8
±1 stop from theoretical limit 0.75 stop
SP 500 F/8.0 Model 55B
F/no. RESOLUTION
at 1:40 magnification
CONTRAST
(30 lines/mm)
Center
Lines/mm
Corner
Lines/mm
Center % Corner %
8 48 36 44 38
F/no. RESOLUTION
at 1:4 magnification
8 40 30
Minolta 500mm F/8
PERFORMANCE
Modern Photo's
Standard
as Tested
Focal length: ±5%
(475-525mm) 503mm
Aperture: ±5%
(f/7.6-8.4) f/8.3
Distortion:
(±3%) less than 1.5%
Light falloff: at f/8
±1 stop from theoretical limit 0.4 stop
Tokina 500mm F/8
PERFORMANCE
Modern Photo's
Standard
as Tested
Focal length: ±5%
(475-525mm) 504mm
Aperture: ±5%
(f/7.6-8.4) f/8.3
Distortion:
(±2.5%) 0.9% (pincush.)
Light falloff: at f/8
±1 stop from theoretical limit 0.74 stop
Minolta 500mm F/8
F/no. RESOLUTION
at 1:42 magnification
CONTRAST
(30 lines/mm)
Center
Lines/mm
Corner
Lines/mm
Center % Corner %
8 48 42 44 34
Tokina 500mm F/8
F/no. RESOLUTION
at 1:48 magnification
CONTRAST
(30 lines/mm)
Center
Lines/mm
Corner
Lines/mm
Center % Corner %
8 44 32 34 24
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