Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Reviewing the Soligor 200mm f/2.8 Lens

Once again, I will be away for a while. AmateurNikon will be back with new articles around June 20th. Meanwhile, feel free to take a look at the countless other articles - you're sure to find something that interests you! Thanks :)


Ah, there's another of those oldies (but goldies? we'll see...) for today's review. Soligor was a pretty well-known third-party alternative back in the days, and you can find such lenses (used, needless to say) at very competitive prices. Make sure about mount compatibility before you buy one (most come in M42 or T2 mounts, but some - like the 200mm f/2.8 - are also made directly for Nikon and other mounts). A 200mm f/2.8 prime lens sounds like an awesome deal, right? Well, let's take a look...


+ its construction is very, very solid. No complaints at all.
+ manual focus is perfect, as expected for a manual focus lens
+ 200mm and f/2.8 is not something you find every day (at such low prices)...

At f/2.8 the resolution and contrast aren't really what one expects from a prime, but they are not unusable.

- ... but sadly, the optical quality isn't stellar. There is loss of contrast and resolution that doesn't really get great until you stop down to f/5.6.It's usable, but it's not "prime-like" quality; rather, cheap consumer zoom.
- no autofocus means you need good eyes (or a split screen)
- manual focus and f/2.8 for a 200mm lens means moving subjects are not worth the trouble.

Stopped down to f/5.6 things are much better. Then again, not any remarkably better than what a cheap tele zoom with VR (and autofocus) can offer you.

Intended Users

Great for:
  • As a cheap but capable portrait lens, where softness and loss of contrast doesn't matter much.
  • As a focus-discipline teacher. It's amazing how great habits you can learn by operating a manual focus 200mm f/2.8 lens
  • Film cameras with split screens. Much easier to use.

Not for:
  • anything moving. Very frustrating to focus at such wafer-thin DOFs
  • landscapes or resolution-critical work. You'd get better results from any consumer zoom with VR, stopped down a bit.
  • entry-level DX. On top of losing focus you also lose metering (and the viewfinders of these cameras are too small to use with such a lens)

Final Verdict

All in all, an interesting solution for those who absolutely need 200mm and f/2.8 but can't afford anything better. But, let's not fool ourselves. You get what you pay for. Resolution and contrast suffer greatly wide-open, and even stopped-down things aren't anyhow remarkable. For sanity's sake, a consumer zoom like the 55-300 or the 70-300 (DX and FX respectively) will probably serve you better.

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