Girl Watcher Lens

When I started photography, I would pore over the latest issues of Popular Photography and Modern Photography to learn all I could about my new hobby. The Nikon F was the most desired (and, for me, out-of-reach) camera, Kodachrome II was the top of the heap for colour slide film, and my paper route inspired many unrealized dreams about quality photo equipment.
Amongst the advertisements for (unaffordable) equipment were a few ads that stood out.
Spiratone’s ads were amongst these. I still have the stainless steel developing tank and reels,
and a couple of lens filters that I bought from them. They had some items of high quality and some that were not. Transfixing me was one ad—an ad for the ‘Girl Watcher’ lens. It was 400 or 500 mm of pure magnification—a lens that made everything look closer, a lens that would overcome teen shyness, a lens that would stand out and tell everyone I had it! It was a lens of dubious qualities, sold to photographers of dubious qualities, but this lens would make us all paparazzi, photographers to be reckoned with.
Teen poverty meant that I could not afford the Girl Watcher lens—it would cost 6 weeks of my paper route money—nor could I afford the camera it would fit on. As things turned out, I never bought that lens. I eventually bought a Pentax, then a second and third, sold them and bought a Nikon, and then many more. As the decades rolled on, I did eventually buy a long lens—to photograph birds. The type with feathers!

A few weeks ago, I was in Camera Traders and there it was, the Girl Watcher lens! It looked brand new, all clean and shiny, just waiting to be appreciated by a discerning photographer.
 and it was $5.00! One less coffee and donut at Tim’s and it was mine.
I took the prized lens home and gave it a good look-over. It needed a T-mount. Yes, I had a couple in my pile of old gear. And an Arca Swiss plate so I could put it on a tripod, and then mount it on my high-megapixel Nikon Z7-II.
What an unfair test. Any 8- 12 megapixel DSLR can produce a sharper photo than 1960’s Kodachrome. But I had high expectations left over from my long gone youth.
A little about the lens. It was made by Rokinon, probably in the past 10 years. It is 500mm f8, has a rather stiff focus mount, and I had to stop and tighten up the T mount a couple of times or the lens would come loose. The aperture ring is preset, meaning you have to focus wide open and then remember to rotate the aperture ring to stop down to shooting aperture. The lens has a nice thick coat of black paint, and a rotating tripod mount.
Compared to my 30-year-old 600mm Nikon lens, this lens is tiny and lightweight, about 500 grams. And it focuses to a close 10m, really helpful for bird photography (not really).

Using it! Personal finances didn’t allow me to go to a warm sunny beach to test this lens, so photographing gulls at Cattle Point it was.
Experience tells me that a 500 mm lens needs to be on a tripod for best results. I didn’t use the flimsy, cheap tripod my parents had bought me when I was a teen; rather I used a good, modern, sturdy tripod. On a modern mirrorless camera, the focusing is easy especially when using focus peaking. The stiff focus ring, however, kept unscrewing the lens from the T-mount adapter. Nevertheless, once in focus, the long focal length came into play. Everything shook with the slightest breeze. The small tripod adapter had a bit of play, but it was better to wait for the breeze to die down. And, thankfully, my camera has built in vibration reduction. It really
helped with this type of lens. 
The on-tripod shots worked out okay but when handheld the lens was awful. The lens is long and very lightweight which means it wobbles a lot. Tying some lead weights to it might help. I can just imagine how unusable it would be for an over-excited teen boy (or even a lonely, middle-aged ‘Girl Watcher’).
The results? Better than I expected. There was a bit of chromatic aberration, but the lens was sharp enough that a decent looking 8×10 print could be had. Chromatic aberration is easily fixed in Lightroom, and a program like Topaz Sharpen made this lens look better than the price deserves.
Like many of our dreams from the past, reality paints a very different picture. This lens belongs in the same bin as bell-bottom pants, love beads, posters of Bobby V, and 30 cents a gallon gasoline

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