All the better to see you with
February 7, 2008 7:20 PM   Subscribe

As a photographer, you need to get close to your subject. But sometimes things get between you and your subject. Things such as state lines, restraining orders, and guard patrols that can keep you miles away from the people you want to shoot. What do you do at times like this? Get a bigger lens.

It's a 1200mm autofocus lens. With an 84cm housing, 18 kilo carrying weight, and combination handle and tripod mount collar, it will make your SLR look like a pocket camera stuck to the pointy end of a traffic pylon. There's no macro mode: It can't focus on anything less than 12 meters away. All for just under $100,000.
posted by ardgedee (47 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
For comparison, a 2 degree field of view represents less than an inch at arm's length (calculations involving your own arms may differ from mine)
posted by 0xFCAF at 7:29 PM on February 7, 2008

Restraining orders?
posted by hjo3 at 7:30 PM on February 7, 2008

Size queen.
posted by Dave Faris at 7:33 PM on February 7, 2008

In stock though...
posted by Hicksu at 7:35 PM on February 7, 2008

Then there's the Nikon 1200-1700mm, featured on this Reuters blog page (converted to a Canon mount, so don't be hatin').
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:37 PM on February 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Is there a legitimate reason to make two of the lenses out of Flourite instead of glass? Or is it just something they do for bragging-rights reason, because it sounds cool?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 7:37 PM on February 7, 2008

OMG! Britney just put Skittles in her Seroquel bottle!!!!!!
posted by Tube at 7:38 PM on February 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

I work at B&H. I wonder if I can touch it.

Included with this lens is a leather slip-on 'lens cap', a fitted aluminum trunk case, and a prodigious measure of ego satisfaction.

I wish every description on the site was as humorous as this one.
posted by defenestration at 7:43 PM on February 7, 2008

Fluorite elements show lower refraction and dispersion, and are common in good lenses. Fewer rainbows to cause off-colors and a sharper, more contrasty image.
posted by gregography at 7:44 PM on February 7, 2008

Also, this Sigma lens ("only" 200-500, but it opens to 2.8 at 500) has some pretty awesome paramilitary stylings. In this day and age, though, I think using this lens to take a picture of, say, the Brooklyn Bridge would result in the cops/feds/army/roaming bands of vigilantes busting a cap in your ass before you could say "chromatic aberration."
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:45 PM on February 7, 2008

My Canon 5200mm f/14 lens beats your Canon 1200mm f/5.6 lens.

"For focusing this mounted or fixed lens on an extremely distant object, two aiming telescopes are set on the side of the lens barrel, and the entire lens is placed on a rigid stand which rotates smoothly."

I was all ready to custom order it from Canon but then noticed it wasn't L glass so I decided to pass and wait until Canon releases the 5200mm f/14L lens.
posted by junesix at 7:54 PM on February 7, 2008

posted by junesix at 7:55 PM on February 7, 2008

The World's Largest Telephoto Lens according to Zeiss.
posted by normy at 8:01 PM on February 7, 2008

Of course, the real question on everyone's mind is if it produces a pleasing bokeh.
posted by junesix at 8:06 PM on February 7, 2008 [2 favorites]

Wow, normy, if it was designed for wildlife photography but weighs over 500 lb you gotta be wondering who's packin' it into the field.
posted by localroger at 8:12 PM on February 7, 2008

I guess if they can afford the lens, they can probably also afford to employ someone (or several someones) else to worry about moving it. More.
posted by normy at 8:17 PM on February 7, 2008

can it be aimed at celestial objects other than the britster?
posted by longsleeves at 8:20 PM on February 7, 2008

Speaking of shooting things a long way away. Canadian snipers at up to 1.515 miles [VERY NSFW].
posted by tellurian at 8:21 PM on February 7, 2008 [4 favorites]

I have no idea what most of the words on that page meant, but I was nonetheless impressed.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:27 PM on February 7, 2008

For the reuters shot (which is just awesome), I would have thought with a pretty big depth of field (at f11 thats a pretty generous space) they would have gone for the burst shot mode to get something without the hand in his face.

Also, what was keeping them from having a rifle mounted in that thing? I mean, it would be big enough to conceal a considerable barrel and stabilizing mechanism.
posted by mrzarquon at 8:32 PM on February 7, 2008

i was gonna get one of these, but i just bought a couple of human beings to carry me up close to what i want to photograph. much less fragile, even more prodigiously ego-gratifying.
posted by facetious at 8:35 PM on February 7, 2008

I've always been partial to the opposite end of the spectrum, the Nikon 6mm Fisheye.
posted by (parenthetic me) at 8:37 PM on February 7, 2008

After being on tons of photo related sites and blogs, I guess I'm not surprised this ended up here. Still not interesting though.
posted by blaneyphoto at 8:39 PM on February 7, 2008

I'm a little confused as to when a "telephoto lens" stops being a "telephoto lens" and starts being a telescope. I mean really, once you get to things this big, you're hardly going to be holding it by hand. Why not just get a telescope adapter and put your SLR on the end of something decent sized.
posted by Jimbob at 8:45 PM on February 7, 2008

Sigma makes a 300-800mm f/5.6 for $7,000 for all major mounts. On a 4/3 camera, that's 600-1600mm EFL, giving longer reach for 1/14th the price and 1/3 the weight.
posted by linux at 8:49 PM on February 7, 2008


500mm: Critters and birds. Money laundering: can be bought and sold to placate wife about questionable expenses. “But I sold one of my lenses to pay for it, honey, honest.”

600mm: Critters.

1200mm: No known uses.

posted by quin at 8:49 PM on February 7, 2008

And on a whole other axis of things that are probably not interesting to blaneyphoto is Kubrick's F0.7 Zeiss lens that he had retrofitted to work on a movie camera to shoot scenes of Barry Lyndon by candlelight. I think that's the smallest aperture lens I've ever heard of, and I believe it is impossible to make a lens with an aperture below F0.5.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:50 PM on February 7, 2008

By smallest, there, I meant by numerical designation, rather than by actual aperture, as it is the biggest.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:55 PM on February 7, 2008

This page graphically illustrates what fluorite glass does. (It helps get the different colors of light to focus at the same point.

There is really no difference between what this lens does and what a telescope does. It is a 1200mm focal length telescope. The real difference is in the diameter of the illuminated image you get at that focal length. Most telescopes are designed to fully illuminate a pretty small spot (varies by design, but I'll guesstimate 1/2" or so). This lens, on the other hand, is designed to fully illuminate an "old fashioned" 35mm chunk of film (24mm x 36mm). That's illuminating . Measure the diagonal of that and it's got to be over a 1-1/2" circle. That's why the smaller CCD in a Rebel XTi has a 1.6X multiplier effect on the focal length.

I agree with Jimbob, however. You could achieve the exact same results as this lens by putting your camera (at prime focus) on <a href="">one of these for under $600. Quite a deal when you consider it is over $98,000 cheaper. It would be a 1200mm focal length (or multiply by 1.6 for a Rebel XTi) f/4.7 "lens". I believe the image would appear upside down in your camera, but that really doesn't mean anything when you can flip it digitally. Also, mirrors do not suffer from the chromatic aberration problem that the fluorite lens helps correct (and they are also magnitudes cheaper to manufacture). Additional bonus: the telescope weighs a heck of a lot less than the lens.
posted by spock at 9:19 PM on February 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

The "Uses and Applications of 35mm lenses" above is one man's opinion. He says that fisheye lenses have no uses either (except to illustrate the fisheye effect). Tell that to people who create virtual floor-to-ceiling 360-degree shots (for real estate, for example) in just two shots: 180 degrees pointing one direction and 180 degrees pointing in the opposite direction. Or those who take whole sky images of meteor showers with it. Just because you don't want to use it to shoot a wedding or your kid's birthday party doesn't mean it has NO uses.

Same with the 1200mm, which frames the moon quite nicely (or a total solar eclipse) - if you are getting your feet wet in beginning astrophotography (as just one application).
posted by spock at 9:33 PM on February 7, 2008

Sigma makes a 300-800mm f/5.6 for $7,000 for all major mounts. On a 4/3 camera, that's 600-1600mm EFL, giving longer reach for 1/14th the price and 1/3 the weight.

Even ignoring the difference in the quality of the glass (and thus the resulting images) between this Canon lens and a Sigma you are comparing apples to oranges. You can't say on a 4/3 camera you get a longer reach than the lens in question because you would also get the longer reach with a 4/3 camera if used on on the 1500mm too. The math on the B&H Photo page above is wrong, I believe. The Canon XTi has a multiplier effect of 1.6 making a 1500mm lens on the XTi the equivalent of a 2400mm lens on a 35mm camera. This page explains the commonly misunderstood multiplier effect very well.
posted by spock at 9:44 PM on February 7, 2008

spock, I didn't mean it as a derail at all but a sincere comment in relation to the first sentence of this post, As a photographer, you need to get close to your subject.

Having increasingly fancy technology, like a giant lens, doesn't necessarily mean you are getting "close to your subject" or, for that matter, taking a more meaningful picture.

puke and cry. So sorry, I didn't mean to shock you. I found it a deeply moving image. Certainly less gory than what's on the news routinely. That image is less about the blood and more about the meaning.

On a lighter note, the audio version of the big ass lens, big ass megaphones.
posted by nickyskye at 10:39 PM on February 7, 2008

I believe the image would appear upside down in your camera, but that really doesn't mean anything when you can flip it digitally.

Digital technology is truly amazing. In the old days it was such a pain in the ass when you got your photos back and they'd printed one upside down.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:57 PM on February 7, 2008 [6 favorites]

Kaiser Chiefs "Love's Not A Competition" video, shot with a Panavision 300x 7mm-2100mm telephoto lens.
(Also: who was the photographer with the recent series on "sensitive" sites, shot over great distances with supertele lenses?)
posted by progosk at 11:59 PM on February 7, 2008

There's also a Gizmodo article with a couple sample pictures. Also one of the commenters mentions "Incidentally, that brick building on the right in the zoom image is at 55th St and the pic is taken from 34th! Most impressive."

Anyway: to my understanding, these lenses are made to order, 3 or less are produced a year, and Canon says that there are more than 12 and less than 20 worldwide.

Oddly enough, I don't actually want one - my Canon lens lust at the moment is for the 35mm f/1.4 and/or the 70-200mm f/4 L IS.
posted by heeeraldo at 12:31 AM on February 8, 2008

When I was more interested in photography than I am now, I used a Soligor 400mm f6.3 on my Voigtlander VLS3E. Then, for fun, I added a 3 x teleconverter, and actually got a few useable shots.

Then I added my friend's 3 x teleconverter as well. Boy, was it dark.
posted by No Mutant Enemy at 12:52 AM on February 8, 2008

Since nobody has yet mentioned Dan Slater's long-defunct page about putting a Perkin Elmer 4572mm f/11 missile tracking lens on a Nikon D1, I hereby do so.
posted by dansdata at 1:17 AM on February 8, 2008 [2 favorites]

Damn, why do I always show up late to threads like these? dansdata, I'd never seen that before. Great stuff.
posted by Venadium at 2:24 AM on February 8, 2008

Ditto to spock's comment that "Uses and Applications of 35mm lenses" is just one man's opinion. I was surprised that the article was written fairly recently, as a lot of the rhetoric and sentiment it contained seemed about 20 years out of date.

I know the article was tongue-in-cheek, but here's an example: There's some great work being done with ultra-wide-angle zooms - Canon's EF-S 10-22mm, Sigma's 10-20mm and Nikon's 12-24mm - all of which are quite a bit wider at the wide end than the author's arbitrary 19mm cut-off point for "serious" wide-angle, even on a 1.6x FOVCF camera. Take a look at some of the Flickr or PBase pools for these lenses, for example.

That Perkin-Elmer lens is badassss, though. Wonder what he paid for it?
posted by kcds at 4:07 AM on February 8, 2008

Anyone else think of Marvin here when talking about telescopes?
posted by triv at 5:56 AM on February 8, 2008

I'm more stunned to find out that B&H, one of the more emotionally distanced and what-you-want vendors of electronics in the world, has a chatty, joke-y weblog/e-mail newsletter.
posted by jscott at 8:46 AM on February 8, 2008

I asked for one for Valentine's day!
posted by geeky at 9:05 AM on February 8, 2008

It bugs me that a photographer wouldn't respect a boundary like a restraining order and would try to snoop visually.
posted by nickyskye at 11:04 AM on February 8, 2008

Because if you wanted to snoop audibly, you'd have to go to J&R, a few blocks uptown.
posted by ardgedee at 5:32 PM on February 8, 2008

tellurian: (and those who marked this comment as a favorite) You should know that the Canadian snipers video you linked to is fake, and has been circulating for a while. Those are not people being shot. They're marmots or woodchucks, and the spoofers added a fake soundtrack to mimic a larger gun at greater distance. Here is the original video from which the fake was made.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:59 PM on February 8, 2008

Thanks weapons-grade pandemonium. Snopes confirms. How embarrassment! I was totally sucked in. The detail of background information on the CCTV post helped persuade me. I must give a nod to the spoofers though, it's well done.
posted by tellurian at 11:39 PM on February 8, 2008

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