Shooting for the Stars: Opteka 500mm (Mirror/Lens)


Sit. Allow me to share with you a story about love and hate.

A curious thought invaded my mind: Are there any mirror/lenses available for DSLR’s? You see…I’m a fan of telescopes that utilize both a mirror and lens. These types of ‘scopes are known as catadioptrics.

What did I do? Well…I did what any sensible person would do—an internet search. Low and behold, I came across the Opteka 500mm.  All the stats fueled an unjustified crush. The price also helped: $89.99.

Plus…the lens comes with a 2x converter, effectively doubling the focal length to a 1000mm. Impressive. I didn’t own the Opteka mirror lens, but my preconceived notions was all I needed to fall in love.

BIG mistake. The mechanical quality was impressive (for its price). All metal and a rubberized grip on the barrel. No plastic!

I came across unsuspecting geese, then aimed and fired…


The images on the back of the LCD screen were shitty beyond belief. My heart broke. Later that night, I decided to give this lens a chance to redeem itself. This time around, the Moon happened to be out.

Perfect. Can’t mess this up (or so I thought).

Heartbroken. Again. The images turned out blurry. What a shocker.


Optical Revival

  • Exposure Times Needs To Be Fast


Many blurry images will be caused by a slow shutter speed, especially if the lens is handheld. Try not to expose slower than 1/500 seconds.


Did I forget to mention that the Opteka 500mm is a fixed f/8.0 lens? Well…it is. In order to shoot higher shutter speeds:


  • Don’t Be Afraid To Raise The ISO


These tactics can be applied to the Moon.


Moon! – Exposure: 1/800sec – ISO: 800


End of the Beginning


Due to the increased ISO (and other reasons)  lunar images will not be katana sharp.  However, they’re visually viable compared to the trash I was taking before.

All unprocessed images taken with this lens will look soft. Really soft. You can try to apply a unsharpening mask, but due it intelligently. Over processing the photograph will introduce artifacts and make noise more apparent.

Cropping the image brings to light imperfections due to the high ISO. But, nonetheless, the images are somewhat acceptable:


I don’t recommend this lens for astrophotography

The uncompromising aperture severely limits this lens as an everyday shooter. If you don’t have a guiding system, photographing stars/planets is not going to happen—it’s far too slow and the focal length is far too long.

As for the 2x tele-converter? I’m not going to pull any punches. The tele-converter is a waste of metal and glass. The vignetting is comical…might as well be imaging through a key-hole. Don’t waste your time with the accessory.

Day Moon! Exposure : 1/320sec – ISO: 800

Does that mean this lens can’t be used for astrophotography? Kind of. There are a few situations where a lens like this can come in handy:


  1. lunar eclipses,

  2. solar eclipses (with a proper filter) never look at the sun without a filter; you’ll burn your eyes out, kid!

  3. Imaging Moon Phases

  4. Sunspots (Again with proper filter)


For lunar photography; try these settings if you happen to own this lens and are currently heartbroken:


  • Exposure: 1/800sec

  • ISO 800


Day Moon photographic settings:


  • Exposure: 1/320sec

  • ISO 800


Day Moon! – Exposure: 1/800sec – ISO: 400


I’m still experimenting with this lens. Due to the low-contrast—the Opteka 500mm mirror/lens produces odd looking images. The lens is also capable of other strange optical defects (such as light donuts).

If you’re hoping that this lens will produce the same quality images as a catadioptric telescope, then you will be disappointed. You may as well purchase an actual telescope.

Published by FlyTrapMan

I have no idea what I'm doing.

3 thoughts on “Shooting for the Stars: Opteka 500mm (Mirror/Lens)

  1. Tried this lens shooting the moon at high iso which is too grainy so tried 400. Impossible to get a focussed photo even though it appears focussed through the eyepiece. Used a tripod. No comparison to a 300 mm Tamron. Opteka is a paperweight.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wouldn’t say that it’s impossible to focus, but you’ll have to use a high ISO, just like you mentioned. Mirror-lenses have a bit of a learning curve. It’s all about perspective. I suppose a 600mm telescope is much better than a 300mm third-party camera lens, but I wouldn’t say the lenses are paperweights. Thanks for your input. Try using a high ISO (800-1600) and fast shutter speed. You can also try using Lightroom noise reduction.

      Here’s an example. I didn’t use a tripod and the image wasn’t processed that much:


  2. Minored in photography and have the lens you are referring to love it for the price and quality of shots im also,trained in the use of a dslr camera and its manual functions for the money its well worth it unless you have 14k laying around for a full auto version like the wildlife photographers use to capture from long distance without spooking the animals


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