PW

Soligor 400mm f/5.6 Review

The Soligor Tele-Auto 1:5.6/400mm is a third party telephoto lens that was sold during the mid-1980s. It was part of Soligor's G/S ("Golden Series") of lenses that were made in several fixed SLR mounts, including for Canon, Konica, Minolta, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax, and M42. The 5.6/400mm was produced by Sun Optical in Japan on behalf of Soligor. The lens is multicoated, has an automatic diaphragm mechanism, and features a rotating tripod mount and a built-in sliding lens hood. The front element does not rotate when focusing, so that it is easy to use the lens with a polarizing filter.

Lens specifications

The lens-body of the Soligor is a solid, all metal construction. The core specifications of the lens are the following:

  • manual focus prime lens with M42 or fixed SLR mount;
  • aperture range from 5.6 to 32;
  • focal length of 400mm, providing a diagonal angle of view of 6°;
  • lens construction with four elements in four groups;
  • front filter size of E72;
  • focus range from 5m (16 ft) to infinity;
  • integrated, sliding lens hood;
  • maximum lens diameter of 78mm (3 inches);
  • overall length of 239mm (9.4 inches);
  • weight of 1000g (35 ounzes).

As with all lenses of this focal length, good lens technique is essential for obtaining sharp pictures with the 5.6/400mm. A solid tripod is generally advisable. Also, careful focusing is required, as the depth of field of such long telephoto lenses is very shallow.

The Soligor has a simple four elements in four groups design that is optimized for its fixed 400mm focal length. The optical performance of the lens compares favorably with many newer zooms when the latter are used at the extreme end of their range. Test shots by Hungarian photographer Rabi Miklós (sorry, the link to the webpage is now broken) reveal that the Soligor is slightly soft wide-open, provides sharp images between f/8-f/11, and then softens again when further stopped down, as adverse impacts of diffraction become visible.

Moon image with Soligor
Moon shot with the 5.6/400mm[victor bart]

The main attraction of the Soligor 5.6 / 400mm nowadays - similar to that of its cousin, the Soligor 6.3/400mm - is its very reasonable price on the pre-owned market. The lens can regularly be found on ebay for as little as 40-100 US Dollar (or Euro, Pound). Hence, it provides a solid, low-cost entry into the super-telephoto sphere.

One can even literally shoot for the moon with the 5.6/400. In the pictured setup, the Soligor tele was combined with two teleconverters (3x and 2x) and mounted on a Panasonic Lumix GH3 to shoot a video of the moon. At a full-frame equivalent focal length of no less than 4800mm, the image quality is nothing to rave about, but then, the little experiment did not break the bank either. Maybe the videographer could have usefully tried some of Soligor's even longer tele-photo lenses, which all tend to be attractively priced nowadays, and leave out the teleconverters to boost contrast and sharpness.

Super-Telephoto Options in the Soligor Catalog
Lens Camera
Mount
(type)
Focus
System
(MF/AF)
Elements/
Groups
(#/#)
Min
Focus
(m)
Front
Filter
(type)
Overall
Length
(mm)
Lens
Weight
(g)
Used
Price
(USD)
Current
Offers
(ebay)
Soligor 300mm f/5.5 T4; M42; Fixed MF 5/4 6.00 E62 164.0 869 85 check
Soligor 350mm f/5.6 T2; T4 MF 4/2 5.00 E67 .. 896 75 check
Soligor Telephoto 350mm f/5.6 T2; T4 MF 4/2 8.00 E72 244.0 932 75 check
Soligor 400mm f/5.6 M42; Fixed MF 4/4 5.00 E72 239.0 1000 75 check
Soligor 400mm f/6.3 T2 MF 4/4 6.50 E67 310.0 1015 75 check
Soligor Tele 400mm f/6.3 M42; Fixed MF 4/3 7.00 E67 .. .. 75 check
Soligor Tele-Auto 400mm f/6.3 MC M42; Fixed MF 4/3 7.60 E72 300.0 1010 75 check
Soligor 500mm f/8 Mirror T2 MF 4/4 10.00 E77 .. .. 95 check
Soligor C/D 500mm f/8 MC Mirror M42; Fixed MF 5/4 2.50 E72 106.0 356 95 check
Soligor C/D 500mm f/8 Mirror T2 MF 5/4 2.50 E77 84.0 534 95 check
Soligor 500mm f/8.8 Mirror T2 MF 8/5 2.50 E67 .. .. 95 check
Soligor C/D 500-800mm f/8-12 Mirror Fixed MF 6/6 4.00 - 135.0 1036 299 check
Soligor 600mm f/8 T2 MF 2/1 13.00 E87 600.0 .. 199 check
Soligor C/D 650mm f/8.5 Mirror T2 MF 7/6 2.00 E88 116.0 904 199 check
Soligor 800mm f/8 T2 MF 2/1 25.00 - .. 6000 $$$ check

Further Reading

An obvious alternative to the 5.6/400 in Soligor's legacy line of lenses is the earlier Soligor 400mm f/6.3. In case your budget has a little extra room and you are looking for a top-notch manual focus tele prime, the Leica R-lenses are mechanically and optically excellent. Moreover, they are no longer as expensive as they used to be, since the R-camera system has been discontinued.