Review of MC ZM-5A 500mm f / 8 m42

ZM-5A (Ze-em-five-a (usually 3m-5a)), mirror-meniscus, telephoto zoom made in the USSR. Models ZM (Zerkalny Maksutov) is, to some extent, a continuation of the MTO series (Maksutova teleobjective, or Meniscus teleobjective) with minor modifications. In the mirror-lens objectives ZM and MTO, the optical solutions of D.D. Maksutov, Soviet scientist, optician. Many thanks to Alexey Ganichev from Kadnikov for the lens provided for the review.


Review of the lens ZM-5A

The 3M-5A was positioned as a lens for professional astrophotography and photo hunting. Produced at KMZ and LZOS at different time intervals in history. This copy was made at the LZOS plant (Lytkarino) in 1983 (we believe the first two digits of the serial number, yes). Heavy, big, condo. A real Soviet TV set. For attachment to a tripod, connectors are provided for portrait and landscape “modes” of shooting. A quality mark can be seen on the lateral surface of the body.

ZM-5A and mirror-lens systems

Mirror-meniscus systems are actively used in telescopic construction. The system was invented by Maksutov back in 1941 and found wide application in optical engineering after the Second World War. More letters about comrade. Maksutova is here . On the basis of his experience of the war years, the release of the MTO-500 and MTO-1000 objectives began (the MTO-250 was also developed, but I did not find information about it on the internet), and then they went into production 3M-3, ZM-4A, ZM-5A, ZM-5SA, ZM-6A, ZM-6B and ZM-7, as well as their enlightened versions (MS).

Technical characteristics of MS ZM-5A

Focal length - 500 mm.
The maximum aperture is 8.0.
The number of lenses / groups is 4/3.
The minimum focusing distance is 4 m.
 The aperture is fixed, no aperture is possible. 
Resolution center / edge   - 40/20 lines / mm.
Enlightenment - multilayer
 Hood - built-in
 Attachment for attachments - thread, diameter 77mm.
Optics mount - system of interchangeable adapters "A" (m42 / A).
Actual weight - 1.2 kg.
Length - 152 mm.

Lenses similar to ZM-5A

3M-3, ZM-4A, ZM-5A, ZM-5SA, ZM-6A, ZM-6B and ZM-7. MTO-500, MTO-1000

Lens diagram ZM-5A

Optical layout of mirror-meniscus telephoto lenses and Maksutov telescopes:

Lens diagram Maksutov ZM-5A
Lens diagram Maksutov ZM-5A

MS ZM-5A in operation

3M-5A is a really large lens. You put it on a Canon carcass without a battery pack, and the camera looks tiny.

The body is metal, the hood is retractable, metal, with a threaded thread for light filters. The inner surface of the hood is matted, the lens hood covers the focusing ring (travel mode). Filter diameter – 77mm. The light filters in the delivery set occupied a special place – on the inner lid of the wardrobe trunk, screwing into each other.

To protect the front lens, a metal cap is screwed onto the lens. In the center, behind the front lens, is the same meniscus.


The focusing ring, which is, as it were, created for leisurely focusing, with its measured stroke affects the efficiency of focus control. For this reason, the ZM-5A is not suitable for dynamic shooting conditions. The minimum focusing distance is four meters. Infinity with flight, starts from a hundred meters. Thanks to the “flight”, the lens can be easily mounted on a Nikon DSLR. “Fly” means that the lens has free travel beyond the infinity sign on the focusing ring.


The aperture at the lens is fixed at f / 8, in bad weather and with old digital SLR cameras, especially with hands, it is problematic to shoot.

Depth of field control

The movement of the focusing ring and the depth of field of the lens allows you to make the correct shifts in one direction or another, without flying the focused object far. 500mm on a cropped camera is like almost 800mm at the corners of the lake. It is realistic to make a close-up of a person / his parts and fragments at a distance of 200-300 meters. The depth of field is deep enough for leisurely shooting, but on cameras with a smaller viewfinder, LiveView is better. Better than LiveView – only interchangeable focusing screen for manual optics.


Due to the peculiarities of the lens design, light sources, and indeed any glare in the out-of-focus area, turn into “bagels”.

Sharpness, detail

The lens is sharp enough even for modern multi-megapixel sensors. Together with the post-processing crop, the zoom turns out to be “ogogo!” The moon with ZM-5A turns out quite nicely.

Detailed enough for handheld shooting. ISO 3200 and 1/800 seconds on Canon 1300D, LiveView focusing with zoom. With the K-1 converter, the lens acquires a doubling of the focal length to 1000mm and the same drop in the illumination level (the aperture is “clamped” to f / 16).

Contrast, color, aberration

The lens has a peculiarity – it really does not like back and side light. Despite the presence of multi-coating in my copy, the frame is immediately and unconditionally illuminated. The lens hood often does not help, but recomposition of the frame does.

Magnification ZM-5A

Well, of course it is. Approximation. When I was asked what kind of zoom he had, I showed these photos:

Body and build quality ZM-5A

There are no complaints about the build quality of the lens. The hood has a slight free play in the stowed state, however, there is no play in the photography position. The blackening of the case is of high quality.

Subtleties in working with ZM-5A

Average working ISO for shooting on a clear sunny day is 640. Sharpness is good, when sighting cropped cameras through the viewfinder, it is possible to miss with focus, but also to hit the target. It is more realistic to hit than when shooting on Jupiter-37A, for example. The easiest way to shoot is in Aperture Priority (Av) mode, when the camera adjusts the required shutter speed based on the current aperture value and the light in the frame. Lens focal length and constant aperture assumes the use of a tripod when shooting.

It should be noted that due to the large diameter of the lens, the lens may not fit on some cameras with a built-in flash.

Advantages of the ZM-5A 500/8 lens

  • ZM-5A and, in general, the MTO and ZM series of lenses are the most affordable telephoto lenses of all analogues in terms of focal length. For the price, for the quality of the picture.
  • Bokeh bagels create an additional artistic effect when capturing certain scenes with people in the frame.
  • ZM-5A is made of metal and glass , it is not afraid of frost and shock.
  • ZM-5A can be used with Canon and Nikon cameras , mirrorless cameras. The versatility here was acquired due to the realized power reserve of the focusing ring “for infinity”.

Using ZM-5A on modern cameras

The default camera mount is M42x1. Through an adapter, it fits without any problems on Canon 60D, 1Ds, Canon 600D, 300D, 1100D, film type EOS 620. It may not physically fit on some cameras, since not all manufacturers have the protrusion of the built-in camera flash located in a good way.

ZM-5A on crop

Crop cameras will reduce the already small viewing angle. The resolution of the lens optics allows you to crop the required part of the image in post-processing, thereby obtaining an even greater approximation.

Adapters for ZM-5A

To work on digital cameras, you will need an adapter from the M42x1. It is most easily put on cropped Canon EOS with EF-s mount, especially considering that adapters without chips on Canon cost mere pennies.

By ordering things from the links below, you help the project cover the costs of site maintenance and development. List of adapters, systems and mounts (direct links for ordering)

When ordering, it should be borne in mind that cheap adapters of poor quality with a lens on the Nikon F mount significantly spoil the picture. Adapters without a lens reduce the maximum focusing range (due to the difference in focal lengths). Adapters with chips come across poor quality, exposure metering and focus confirmation on some Canon EOS models may suffer from this.


Photohunting with ZM-5A is a lesson for a sophisticated gourmet, or to shoot turtles, probably there. The lens is more for leisurely shooting, thoughtful layout, observation purposes, for those who like to scare people with their size. For use in nature – a must have, for the city – not quite, if you wander the streets and fire at passers-by. On avito and the likewashsites are found as ZM-5A, ZM-5A MS, and its plastic-lightweight version, ZM-5SA (and other objectives of the series), at prices that are quite comparable to each other. Namely, 2500-7000 rubles.

Sample photos, MS ZM-5A

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