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Soligor 400mm f/6.3 T2 Classic Lens Review

Soligor 400mm f/6.3 T2 Classic Lens Review - John Riley has a look at this classic telephoto lens, the Soligor 400mm f/6.3 T2.

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Soligor 400mm f/6.3 T2 in Interchangeable Lenses

Handling and Features
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Soligor 400mm F6,3 Outer Box

This is just so tempting – a boxed, as new 400mm telephoto lens in an auction, begging to be bought for just £10. T2 fit means that it can be adapted to almost any camera body, so here we have it coupled via an M42 screw thread adapter and a Pentax Adapter K to see how it might perform with the 36MP Pentax K-1 full frame body.

Soligor 400mm f/6.3 Handling and Features

Soligor 400mm F6,3 On Pentax K 1

Soligor distributed many lenses and was a major supplier throughout the 1960s and through to the 1980s. The lenses were inexpensive, many were excellent and they were made by various Japanese manufacturers. This 400mm f/6.3 was offered in several versions, this one being manufactured by Kino.

It is basically a long focus lens, as opposed to a telephoto which would be much shorter, and comprises a long tube with a cemented doublet at each end. That is, 4 elements in 2 groups. The lens is coated. There is a filter thread of 67mm diameter and a very useful built in lens hood.

Soligor 400mm F6,3 Close Up Detail

The diaphragm, running from f/6.3 to f/32, has a very generous 13 blades, consequently there is an expectation of nice smooth bokeh. Although to be fair, in the day of this optic, bokeh was not a term in regular use. This is a preset lens, a term that might need a bit of explanation. There are two aperture rings. The silver one is set to the aperture required. The black ring runs free and can be moved to either wide open or to the aperture selected. The technique is to focus wide open, then operate the black ring to set the preset aperture value.

With a modicum of practice this becomes second nature. Likewise the focusing, manual focus only of course, which becomes very easy when coupled with a helpful beep from the camera's AF system. This works really well with the Pentax K-1 and no doubt with other cameras also.

Soligor 400mm F6,3 Front Element View

The fitting is a T2 mount, a screw thread similar to but not compatible with an M42 Pentax Screw fitting. A T2 mount is required with the fitting appropriate to the camera we wish to use. In this instance an M42 T2 adapter was fitted, so adding a Pentax Adapter K meant that the lens could be fitted to the K-1. The custom setting Using Aperture Ring is set to Permitted to allow use of the non-electronic mount.

The lens is long and thin, weighing a fair amount at 960g. There is a rotating tripod mount that seems secure. Using the lens is really pretty much hazard free, it is easy to focus and seems reasonably light in use, no doubt helped by its good balance with the modern DSLR. The real bugbear is the 6.5m (22 feet) minimum focus distance which shows us just how spoilt we have become with the modern zoom lens. This is clearly a long distance lens for sports and wildlife.  

Soligor 400mm F6,3 T2 Screw Thread Mount And Pentax Adapter K
Soligor 400mm f/6.3 T2 Screw Thread Mount And Pentax Adapter K

Soligor 400mm f/6.3 Performance

So for £10 and looking for all the world as though it has just been delivered from the factory, is the lens actually usable and does it deliver the quality we need?

There is no doubt that when bang on focus and with a simple contrasty subject, reasonably sharp images can be delivered. As for wildlife, getting that point of focus is a real problem. Following anything that isn't totally stationary is well nigh impossible. We need a solid tripod, a still subject and also need to be prepared to sacrifice fine detail.

Compared to current lenses, on close examination the optic isn't really all that sharp. It's OK, but that's about it. There is plenty of CA (Chromatic Aberration) as well, but this was not a problem when most photographers were shooting in black and white. The lens is also quite sensitive to backlight, and easily flares, losing sharpness and contrast as it does so.

Bokeh is perhaps a little busy, but with little depth of field a 400mm lens can easily put the background well out of focus.

Soligor 400mm f/6.3 T2 Sample Photos

 

Soligor 400mm f/6.3 Value for Money and Verdict

Well, it's a pity that the lens isn't sharper, but at £10 who could complain. What is positive about this is that we can be tempted into trying something out just for the sake of it. We now know a little more about old long focus lenses and although it's unfortunate that they may not be usable compared to a current zoom, it is certain that the next one that comes along at a silly price may again be snapped up to see what it can do.

Even a poor lens may have a particular look or property that makes it desirable for some purpose. This version of the Soligor 400mm f/6.3 sadly does not stand up well compared to current lenses. It is just possible that any black and white film photographers may find it more useful.

Soligor 400mm f/6.3 Pros

  • Well worth the £10 paid
  • Easy to use with practice
  • Well made

Soligor 400mm f/6.3 Cons

  • Poor sharpness
  • High CA

Features3/5
Handling3.5/5
Performance2.5/5
Value5/5
Overall Verdict

Soligor 400mm f/6.3 T2 Specifications

General
Lens Mounts
  • T2 Mount
Lens
Focal Length400mm
Angle of ViewNo Data
Max Aperturef/6.3
Min Aperturef/32
Filter SizeNo Data
StabilisedNo
35mm equivalentNo Data
Internal focusingNo Data
Maximum magnificationNo Data
Focusing
Min FocusNo Data
Construction
Blades13
Elements4
Groups2
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data
Dimensions
Weight960g
HeightNo Data

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Comments


cosmicnode 7 22 England
16 May 2017 3:11PM
It's really good to see reviews like this of cheap alternative lenses. There are many new lenses like this plus mirror lenses that could be tested and compared to newer designs, for the cost of a tele converter you have a prime lens. Not everyone has the money for top quality lenses.

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LenShepherd 9 3.4k United Kingdom
17 May 2017 5:50PM
I agree a good review in principle.
New equipment is normally loaned free for testing by the manufacturer at no cost to the test site Grin
"Bargains" like this one have to be bought on an auction site which involves some hassle. While 10 (presumably plus shipping) would be a relatively small item in the ephotozine budget, testing say 12 lenses over 12 months with maybe an average price of 150 each mounts up.
One option to consider is members with an unused old item could loan it temporarily for testing. If the idea is developed there would need to be some sort of rota to avoid the testing team being overwhelmed.
24 May 2017 9:48PM
I'm not familiar with this particular objective, but I bet if you'd close the aperture to F8 at least the sharpness was way better. I've been using "Dollond's S" 500mm f6.3 refractor for almost a year now and it keeps surprising me with outstanding sharpness. The optical formula in "Dollond's S" (Tokina made?) is even more simplistic than this Soligor - it's positive doublet in the front and single negative lens in the back. On recently taken picture of a banded bird from about 18-20m away , after converting .PEF to.JPEG I could read the numbers on bird's band.And all that is on 16MP APS-C sensor (I shoot Pentax K5iis). F6.3 assists to focus, but no more than that. Sharpness supposed to appear in the aperture range F8-F16.
Old long focus refractors usually lack contrast , but this can be corrected in settings prior to shooting.
There is a better way to adapt old M42 or T2 mount to Pentax K ( probably, to any other modern mount as well). The rear T2 ring on Soligor can be unscrewed and replaced with T2-P/K adapter.

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