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Soligor 400mm f/6.3 supertele

The Soligor 1:6.3/400mm is a manual-focus, third party telephoto lens that is available for different camera mounts. The lens was actually not produced by Soligor itself, but by a contract manufacturer. Identical or highly similar lenses with only minor cosmetic changes were sold under other brand names, such as Vivitar, Spiratone, Lentar, Tele-Astranar, and Cambron. Also, there are at least three different versions of the 6.3/400 available: (i) an earlier lens with a preset aperture mechanism that was manufactured by Kino Precision Industries in the late 1960s; (ii) a 1970s-optic with an automatic diaphragm, which was produced by Tokina (labelled "Tele-Auto"), and (iii) an automatic aperture lens produced by Sun Optical (labelled "Auto"). All versions feature a solid, all-metal construction, a rotating tripod mount, and a built-in, retractable lens hood.

The preset-version lens does not automatically stop down the aperture when a shot is taken, as its T2-mount does not transmit this information between camera and lens. Instead, it has two aperture rings. One is used to "preset" the aperture, and the other to actually stop the lens down. In use, one would set the aperture ring to the shooting aperture (for example, f/8), and then open the lens up with the second ring to enable focusing in a brighter viewfinder. Once focus is obtained, one would turn the ring fully back, and thereby stop down to the preset aperture for taking the picture. This preset mechanism makes it possible to set the aperture relatively quickly without having to count aperture clicks.

The 400mm-superteles are available for a large variety of SLR cameras. The preset-version of the 400mm f/6,3 can be attached to virtually any reflex camera with the help of an appropriate T2-mount adapter. The Tele-Auto and Auto versions were produced in the M42 screw mount, as well as in several SLR bayonet mounts.

Specifications of the Soligor 400 mm f/6.3
 Preset versionTele-Auto versionAuto version
Aperture range6.3 - 326.3 - 226.3 - 22
Focal length (mm)400400400
Diagonal angle of view (degrees)6.26.26.2
Lens construction (elements/groups)4/44/34/3
Minimum distance6.5m (22ft)7.6m (25ft)7m (23ft)
Filter sizeE67E72E67
Length310mm (12.2")300mm (11.75")~
Maximum diameter67mm (2.6")81mm (3.15")~
Weight1015g (36oz)1010g (35.8oz)~

As with any supertele, good lens technique is essential for obtaining sharp images and the tripod ring on the Soligor makes it convenient to support the lens. Yet, while the 6.3/400 is a physically long and thin lens, it is not particularly heavy. Many users, thus, find it relatively easy to handhold the Soligor.

400mm packaging
Soligor – The World's Finest Lenses[ses0722]

The large minimum distance can at times be a nuisance and means that the lens is not particularly geared towards macro photography. Also, the relatively slow maximum aperture of f/6.3 turns the focusing of the lens with an optical viewfinder sometimes into a challenge. However, in terms of optical performance, users often find the legacy supertele to be surprisingly good. The 400mm f/6.3 provides rich detail and contrast already wide open and sharpens up further if stopped down to f8 or f11. The lens also delivers a relatively pleasant bokeh.

Overall, the Soligor is a very viable alternative to legacy mirror lenses in the supertele category. It is less compact, but optically superior. The 6,3/400 - similar to its successor, the Soligor 5.6/400mm - nowadays sells for rock-bottom prices on the used market and can be easily found on ebay for as little as 40-100 US Dollar (or Euro, Pound). Hence, one does not have to spend a fortune to get a decent tele prime.

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

The closest alternative to the 6.3/400 among Soligor lenses is the slightly faster Soligor 5.6/400mm. If you are willing to spend a little more and are seeking the very best in manual focus lenses, the lenses for the Leica R-system are superb and have been dropping in price since Leica discontinued its reflex camera line in 2009. It is a good time to shop for interesting legacy glass.