Vivitar 800mm Mirror Lens

Vivitar 800mm Mirror Lens

Edited by David Barth, November 24, 2008.

VIVITAR SERIES 1 LENSES
In the late 1970's Vivitar appeared on the scene with a series of exceptional lenses. Today the Vivitar brand has been debased and sits at the lower end of the market. But in the mid-1970's to the early 1980's the brand appeared on some fascinating and high-quality lenses. Probably the most famous of these was the first 70-210mm f/3.5 macro zoom with the Series 1 moniker. The Series 1 line of lenses was designed by an American company, Opcon Associates, of Stamford Connecticut, whose chief designer, E. Betensky had worked for Perkin-Elmer as a senior optical designer. Perkin-Elmer worked extensively at the time for NASA as well as other U.S. government agencies and is renown as the designers and builders of the Hubble Space Telescope's optical systems (including the near-sighted mirror).

NIKON-MOUNT VIVITAR 800MM F11 SOLID CATADIOPTRIC (CAT) LENS
One of the least known, yet most interesting, of the Series 1 lenses was the 800mm f11 Solid Catadioptric lens. It was originally designed and built for the U.S. military by Perkin-Elmer. There also was a 600mm f8 lens in the series of the same design. What made these two mirror lenses unique was that they were of a solid glass design, with no air spaces between the front lens, rear mirror and front reflector. This means that this 800mm lens weighs less than 3 lbs and is just slightly longer than 3 inches in length. It also means that this lens is extremely rugged. The lens barrel is metal and feels like it could survive reentry. When these lenses were new they sold for about $650 USD (around $2,000 USD in today's dollars).

Catadioptric lenses are also called "mirror" and "cat." Nikon refers to them as "reflex" lenses. The lens pictured below is a Vivitar Series 1 800mm f11 Solid Catadioptric lens with a Nikon T mount. The last photo Was taken of a mail box with the lens mounted on a digital Nikon D100 camera to compare it to a photo of the same mail box taken with a Nikon 50mm f1.4 lens. The rear tube of the Vivitar lens is short, and it will not mount completely on Nikon D100 or D200 bodies.

Vivitar Series 1 800mm f11 lens
Vivitar Series 1 800mm f11 Solid Catadioptric lens.

This is a side view of the Vivitar Series 1 800mm f11 Solid Catadioptric lens mounted on a digital Nikon D100 camera. The lens does not fully mount to a D100 or D200 body because the back of the lens touches the front of the camera. However, photographs are fine as shown by the last photograph of a mail box.

Vivitar Series 1 800mm f11 lens
Vivitar Series 1 800mm f11 Solid Catadioptric lens.

This is an oblique view of the lens and camera. Note that the lens has a hood screwed onto the front.

Vivitar Series 1 800mm f11 lens
Vivitar Series 1 800mm f11 Solid Catadioptric lens.

This is the original, rubber Series 1 front cap. It slides over the front of the hood or the front of the lens if the hood is removed.

Vivitar Series 1 800mm f11 lens
Vivitar Series 1 800mm f11 Solid Catadioptric lens.


Vivitar Series 1 800mm f11 lens
Vivitar Series 1 800mm f11 Solid Catadioptric lens.


Vivitar Series 1 800mm f11 lens
Vivitar Series 1 800mm f11 Solid Catadioptric lens.

Back vew of the lens. A filter screws onto the rear of the lens, inside the collar. The best method of removing or installing a filter is to remove the "T" mount for easier access.

Vivitar Series 1 800mm f11 lens
Vivitar Series 1 800mm f11 Solid Catadioptric lens.

This is a closer view of the rear of the lens. The four pads on the back probably cover screws heads.

Vivitar Series 1 800mm f11 lens
Vivitar Series 1 800mm f11 Solid Catadioptric lens.

This side view shows the Nikon "T" mount with a Nikon LF-1 back cap. The lens can be mounted on cameras that have a compatible "T" mount.

Vivitar Series 1 800mm f11 lens
Vivitar Series 1 800mm f11 Solid Catadioptric lens.

This view shows the distance setting at infinity.

Vivitar Series 1 800mm f11 lens
Vivitar Series 1 800mm f11 Solid Catadioptric lens.

This is the distance setting at the minimum focusing distance (MFD) of 7 meters (approximately 23 feet).

Vivitar Series 1 800mm f11 lens
Vivitar Series 1 800mm f11 Solid Catadioptric lens.

This is an oblique view of the front of the lens. The reflections on the mirrored surface are items behind the camera taking the picture.

Vivitar Series 1 800mm f11 lens
Vivitar Series 1 800mm f11 Solid Catadioptric lens.

This is a side view with the screw-on hood ring removed.

Vivitar Series 1 800mm f11 lens
Vivitar Series 1 800mm f11 Solid Catadioptric lens.

This is a view of a mail box, in the center of the photo, behind the red Mustang, made with a Nikon 50mm f1.4 non-automatic indexing (NAI) lens that dates back to the 1960's. The camera used was the same digital Nikon D100 shown in previous photos.

Vivitar Series 1 800mm f11 lens
Vivitar Series 1 800mm f11 Solid Catadioptric lens.

This is a photo taken with the Vivitar Series 1 800mm f11 solid catadioptric lens mounted on the same D100 camera.