Russian Mirror lenses

The BIG guns

I love Telelenses, I love to sneak up on things and shoot them. So what better is there than the Photosnaiper? Not much. Not for fieldwork anyway. But what about those other Russian lenses. The Russians went a little further than 300 mm Tair lenses. I'm not talking about the Granit 80-200 lens. I'm talking about the MTO and Rubinar Mirror lenses.
Long telelenses are great, but can be awfull to drag around. The Photosnaiper is big and its lens is heavy. So why not make the lenses more compact? Well you can't. You can't press a 300mm into 100 mm space.... or can you....? If you had science in highschool you might remember that you can build a telescope not only with lenses but also with mirrors. And those telescopes were more compact. So... why not use that principle on a telelens. And so they did.

The photo above shows a MTO-11 a 1000 mm lens, see how it just dwarfs a Zenit-12? And the Zenit-12 isn't the smallest of SLR's.

They are underpriced.... and very very underestimated.

So why don't we see more mirrorlenses?

Mirrorlenses come with a couple of disadvantages. The main one is the fixed aperture. A mirrorlens of 8/500mm stays at an aperture of fstop 8 you can't change it. Which is fine under studio conditions or with bright sunlight but with other lightconditions you can see your speeds drop so fast that you find yourself reaching for a tripod. The other is the donut effect. These three photos have been made with the MTO 1000 mm. You can see the donuteffect clearly in the swan photo and in the roses photo.

mto mto mto

Production of these beasts was done at LZOS, The Lytkarino Optical Glass Factory. Several models were made,

  • 5.6/300 mm (also known as Rubinar Normal and Macro version)
  • 8.5/550 mm (M39 and M42)
  • 8/500 mm (also known as Rubinar Normal and Macro version)
  • 6.3/500 mm
  • 5.6/500 mm (also known as Rubinar)
  • 10/1000 mm (also known as Rubinar)
  • 10.5/1050 mm In this small list I've also mentioned the Rubinars, these are very interesting. Some of the Rubinars have a macromode, which just means they come very close. My 8/500 rubinar comes down to 2 meters. Which is very close for a 500 mm lens. My 300 mm Tair focusses down to 3 meters.

    The early 8/500 and 10.5/1050 MTO's were from KMZ, but all of the later ones are from Lytkarino. I've never seen a KMZ lens bigger than 300 myself. All the one I've got are from Lytkarino.

    The very first were in M39, but all the later ones in M42 only. The early ones from KMZ came in wooden cases with filter pack (3) and caps. The ones from Lytkarino are in all in leather cases.

    How do they handle?


    Good and bad.... take a look at the shot above. From the top, 1000 mm, 550 mm and 300 mm. The 300mm Tair is here just for comparison, please note that it has its metal lenshood attached in this shot.
    To start with the 10/1000 mm, don't even think about shooting handheld. The 1000 is big and it is a heavy lens. Quality is good. But the lens is hard to focus. You need a good and sturdy tripod and even then it is trick at times, esspecially with long exposures. The three shots above (small flower, the roses and the swan) were all made with a Zenit 11. The 11 has a topspeed of 1/500th but these shots were made at 1/60th and 1/125th (swan) and a tripod. The results are nice but I do need more practice on the MTO 10/1000.

    Roses berenklauw

    The 550/500 is different. The old M39 version is a heavy beast, close to 2 K's. But its Rubinar 8/500 brother is a delight. These two shots were made with the 8.5/550mm and a Zenit-19. This is the M39 version with a M42 convertor. Great quality. The roses shot turned out like I wanted it (another triumph for the Manual camera). Roses sharp, a leave unsharp in the front. But this lens is HEAVY.

    AM2 AM2 AM2 AM2

    A couple of AM2 shots, these 4 were made with the Rubinar 8/500 mm.

    The Rubinars are the new lighter versions. Quality is about the same or better. If I have to use a mirrorlens it would be the Rubinar, light enough to do handheld shots, better to focus than its 1000 mm brother and it looks cool. Some even can do Macro. It is lighter than any of the Tairs and handles great. Sharp too, its only disadvantage is the fixed aperture. A very important thing to remember with the Mirror lenses is to use either a UV filter or a Skylightfilter (1A). On those nice summer days with loads of sun this filter becomes a nessecity to cut through the atmosferic haze and to enhance your shots. Believe me it is well worth the price for such a filter. Fortunatly most of these lenses come with 3 or in some cases 5 filters. Usually it is an UV filter, and a red and green filter. But allways remember to use the UV.


    The big advantage is that these lenses are cheap. A 1000 mm can go between 100 to 200 dollars on ebay (watch those shipping cost they may go as high as 50 dollars) a 500? 75 to 150 dollars. And they are worth every penny. Allthough the 1000 is a big hard to handle lens it has another advantage, there is a convertor that turns it into a telescope! How about that! Optical quality wise? There isn't much to say. But I've never heard anything bad about the optical quality some even say it is phenomanal. I say that you can't beat this lens for the price. You might have to do a bit more work but they are excellent value for money.

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