Monday, May 4, 2009

vivitar series 1 70-210mm

photo: side-by-side comparison, front. komine's on left, kiron's on right.

the vivitar series 1 line of lenses are considered as high-end third party lenses back when they were introduced to the market, and commands a premium price back then. the 70-210mm macro-focusing telephoto zoom lens is probably the most popular zoom lens in the series. vivitar did not manufacture their own lenses and instead hired other manufacturers to build all the lenses according to their specifications. over the life of the 70-210mm series 1 zoom lens, vivitar changed the manufacturers many times, and with each shift, a different variations of the lens design was introduced.

generally, the 3rd edition by komine is the most sought-after version of the series 1 70-210mm zoom in the used market, and on the whole fetches a higher price compared to the other versions. also, the komine's has a much shorter production runs compared to the kiron's, so the kirons' are generally available for sale regularly on evilbay while the komine's only pops up once in a while and usually goes for upwards of 50usd before postage. the 2nd edition by tokina is also not seen much, but whenever they came up for sale, they usually ends pretty low anyway. i wouldn't bother with any of the versions made by cosina (4th editions onwards), unless you're just looking to complete your collections of all the variants...

photo: vivitar series 1 70-210mm f2.8-4.0, 3rd edition by komine.

vivitar series 1 70-210mm f2.8-4.0, 3rd edition
focal length: 70-210mm
aperture range: 2.8 - 4.0 to 22
aperture blades: 8
min. focus distance: 0.8m (@100-210mm range only)
max. magnification: 1:2.5
construction: 14 elements in 10 groups
weight: 860g
filter size: 62mm
mount: nikon ai-s (also available in various other mounts)
serial #: 28511548
manufacturer: komine
purchase price: 17.78 usd (+ 36 usd shipping & handling)
other notes: with dedicated soft case

photo: vivitar series 1 70-210mm f3.5, 1st edition by kiron.

vivitar series 1 70-210mm f3.5, 1st edition
focal length: 70-210mm
aperture range: 3.5 (constant) to 22
aperture blades: 6
min. focus distance: ~2.0m (+ special macro setting)
max. magnification: 1:2.2
construction: 15 elements in 10 groups
weight: 879g
filter size: 67mm
mount: nikon f (also available in various other mounts)
serial #: 22430583
manufacturer: kiron (kino precision)
purchase price: n/a (refunded due to fungus present)

photo: side-by-side comparison, vertical. komine's on left, kiron's on right.

the komine version weights almost the same as the kiron version, but in actual use, the smaller size of the komine version makes a lot of difference in terms of ease of handling. The zoom barrel of the komine's also slides along much smoother compared to the kiron's - i was actually a little worried that i might damage the nikon-canon adapter from all the force needed when pulling the zoom ring forward on the kiron's. both version do not suffer from 'zoom creep' (the situation where the zoom/focusing barrel slides down under its own weight when pointing the lens upwards or downwards), which is a good thing.

  photo: barrel markings and close-focus/macro settings. komine's on left, kiron's on right.

the kiron version focuses up to around 2m close in normal mode, but it has a separate macro mode that brings objects into focus much closer. to engage this macro mode, first pull the zoom ring to the 210mm position, then press the white button on the 'wings' flanking the barrel and twist the barrel until the yellow 'macro' line is aligned with the red dot. The lens should slide easily into the macro position when done correctly, so do not try to force it if it's not turning and check whether you're doing it correctly (zoom ring at 210mm position and press white button). in this macro mode, focusing is done by sliding the zoom ring inwards or outwards. maximum magnification is at 1:2.2 at the 70mm position. to revert back to normal mode, just reverse the whole procedure and twist the barrel to align the white 'normal' line to the red dot. a common mistake by many is to forget (or simply not knowing) to set the lens to normal mode, and then wonders why the lens will not focus to infinity. there's also another red line in-between the white and yellow line, which is the infrared index marking.

in contrast, the komine version do not employ any special macro mode. instead, it can focus all the way up to 0.8m close, although this is mechanically restricted to only within the 100-210mm range. maximum magnification is achieved at 210mm at 1:2.5, which is slightly less than the kiron's. however, the ease of not having to engage any special macro mode more than made up the slight decrease in max magnifications. also noteworthy is that the max magnification on komine's is achieved at the long end (210mm), while the kiron's at the short end (70mm) - so while the komine's provide longer working distance, the kiron's is probably easier to shoot hand-held and in tight settings. the komine's additionally has dof scales marked on its barrel.

photo: side-by-side comparison, perspective. komine's on left, kiron's on right.

a quick way to identify the various editions for prospective buyers: the first 3 editions all have rubber grips with the grid-textured pattern on the zoom ring, while the 4th editions onwards have smooth rubber ring with huge 'series 1' letterings engraved onto it. as for the first 3 editions, only the 1st edition (kiron's) has a 67mm filter size; the other two take 62mm filters. of course, if you know how the dfferent barrels look like, it's easy enough to identify from there as well - the 1st edition has the distinctive 'wings' not present on other versions. else, another easy way is to just check the serial numbers. all these 3 editions follow the old vivitar serial number codings, where serial numbers starting with '22's are kiron's a.k.a 1st edition, '37's are tokina's a.k.a 2nd edition, and '28's are komine's a.k.a 3rd edition. the unwanted ones' are '09's - cosina's.

personally, my favorite is the 3rd edition by komine, mainly because it's much easier to handle compared to the kiron's. the close-up feature, at 1:2.5 magnifications at 210mm is also very useful for close-up shots outdoors. however, despite all the hypes surrounding the 3rd edition, i don't think the image quality is all that great anyway - but that's probably due to me being used to the better qualities from prime lenses, which is not really fair to compare between them. also, the kiron's, despite the fungus infestations inside, produces sharper pictures in close-up modes compared to the komine's. i've no experience with the cheap modern autofocus telephoto zooms (e.g. the 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 from either sigma or tamron), so i can't compare whether the vivitars are any better or worse comparatively, but remember, the vivitars are much faster lenses with the larger maximum apertures.

>> mark robert's site

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photo: setup shot.

setup shot for future reference. minolta program 4000af right at 1/4 power, with wide panel attachment firing off a white reflector. canon 420ez front left at 1/4 power, snooted, with straw grid attached in front, and further diffused thru a thin piece of tissue. both flash triggered via yongnuo ctr-301. not a very good setup as evident from the results, but i currently do not have anything (light stand, tripod etc.) that can be used to hold the flash in proper desired positions (e.g. top/overhead etc.), so i can only put them on the table...


  1. Very useful information!

  2. bengsiong,
    excellent article with great fotos to accompany.


  3. Any advice on cleaning/maintaining the Komine?



  4. I have the Komine version in PKA mount; bought second-hand way back in 1981 or 1982!

  5. have a 1st edition kiron. got very hard to slide the zoom tube. Is it worth having worked on? if so where? i have been very happy with the lens for many years and am thinking about "film" again as i hate digital. Info appreciated.

  6. have a 1st edition kiron. got very hard to slide the zoom tube. Is it worth having worked on? if so where? i have been very happy with the lens for many years and am thinking about "film" again as i hate digital. Info appreciated.