Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Closer Look

I found this on the web and just wanted to share. Marianne Oelund is the original creator, and Jeffery Friedl created the slide-animation for her. She did not have a high speed camera and apparently did all this with a Nikon D3. With patience, she took some 200 images and simply pulled about 70 of the ones she needed for the animation. It looks awesome! Definitely check it out and there is much more explanation on the site!

Not to steal Marianne's thunder (I don't know this woman, I realize it certainly sounds as if she's a good friend of mine, the way I am talking haha. Nor do I know Jeffery) but Jeffery Friedl's blog is very informative and all around quite interesting. He has a lot of good information and appears to be a very intelligent/do-it-yourselfer. I can really appreciate the work he does. So definitely poke around on his blog if you have time!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Vivitar Series 1 90mm f/2.5 VMC 1:2 "Bokina"

The legendary "Bokina".

October 2010

Though I still absolutely love this lens for its build, I must say at the time I wrote this, I had not yet experienced the Tokina 90mm f/2.5 AT-X. The Tokina although not built quite as bomb-proof, seems to handle flare, color, and contrast just a step above this older Vivitar. Also, having an OEM hood that was actually designed for the lens is more than convenient! While both are exceptionally sharp, meticulous pixel-peepers point out the fact that the Vivitar's aperture maintains a round shape at f/4 whereas the Tokina 90mm takes on a bit of that "sawblade" shape. This difference is said to render the Tokina 90mm's bokeh slightly harsher at this aperture than that of the Vivitar 90mm. Congrats if you can even make this distinction because I don't think I could see it if I tried!

Quick Links

Vivitar Series 1 90mm and Tokina 90mm Comparison
Vivitar and Tokina Macro Extender Comparison
Tokina 90mm f/2.5 AT-X

Original Review

The Vivitar S1 (Series 1) 90mm f/2.5 macro lens is one of the sharpest lenses made for 35mm. NOTE: This Series 1 version is NOT to be confused with the non-series, Komine-made Vivitar 90mm f/2.5 or f/2.8 (although the non-series f/2.5 and f/2.8 are the same lens just labeled differently). It is not the same optical formula, nor was it manufactured by the same company. You can easily see who manufactured your lens by checking the serial number. If you see a "37" it was Tokina, maker of this famous lens. If you see a "28", you've the lesser-known Komine-made. I personally find the S1 version far superior in many respects to the Komine-made. The Vivitar S1 90mm can, however, be considered synonymous with the Tokina 90mm f/2.5 AT-X. They are rumored to be one and the same optically and both Tokina-made.

This lens has a maximum reproduction value of 1:2 on its own and was uniquely designed with a paired 3-element macro extender for 1:1 magnification. This extender was designed to correct for aberrations as the magnification increases. When I originally purchased this lens, it was without the 1:1 extender however I did come across the Tokina version's 1:1 and thought I would give it a shot. Since these lenses are optically identical, it worked great. For my own aesthetic purposes, I have since picked up another 90mm with the Vivitar extender and sold the other combo.

Allow me to interject before all of these links and images: This is my favorite lens of all time bar none. Everything about it. The build quality is like no lens you will find today: solid, heavy, metal construction. The optical capabilities, especially wide open, are outstanding. The f/2.5 usable aperture is the best part. It is a 2.5 lens, able to be used, just about optimally even, at f-2-point-5! It is fallible, however. As seen below based on MTF charts it is not "perfect". I have seen some CA here and there, which tends to be the case with many of the original series 1 lenses. But that's all minor. With all of our technology today, we still have lenses with these problems. This lens truly is something special. It all comes together. My recommendation: If you are looking to do a lot of macro and want a high performance lens, for a great price, and especially love that substantial, rock-like feel of older manual focus glass, buy the Vivitar Series 1 90mm f/2.5 or Tokina AT-X 90mm f/2.5. You'll never think twice.

Compared to another cult favorite, the Kiron 105mm, many people like the ability with the Kiron, to go from 1:1 without having to mount and un-mount a separate adapter. That is a bit inconvenient, however, in use, the Vivitar Series 1 90mm is a sharper lens wide open.

Pictured above is the Vivitar 90mm with the 1:1 extender as well as the Tokina 90mm's dedicated hood. Unlike the Tokina 90mm, the Vivitar version was never marketed with a dedicated hood, that I can see. Having become interested in both these 90mm versions, I saw the Tokina hood for sale on eBay for around $10, and I picked it up hoping perhaps a lens might come along with it, ha! Well no lens then, but when I did eventually purchase one, I had the perfect accessory. The Vivitar 90mm is actually prone to some flare since it has no built-in hood, and the front element is relatively exposed. The Tokina hood mounts via a spring loaded clip system which is matched to a groove that runs the circumference of the top of the Tokina 90mm's barrel. Since the Vivitar does not have this notch, and is a 58mm thread instead, it took some DIY. Through a modded step ring, I now used the Tokina's hood on my Vivitar. (turns out a Fotodiox brand 55-52mm step ring fits snugly inside the hood, so long as it has been notched to accommodate the clips. I then throw a 58-55mm step ring onto it, and presto, right onto the front of the Vivitar!)


The Vivitar S1/Tokina 90mm f/2.5 can be found ranked among the top few lenses on Photodo's greatest lenses chart. Below are Photodo's top 5 ranked lenses, based on an array of scientific performance tests:

1. Grade: 4.8 35mm/AF Canon EF 200/1,8L USM
2. Grade: 4.7 35mm/AF Contax G Planar 45/2,0
3. Grade: 4.6 35mm/MF Tokina AT-X 90/2,5 macro (Vivitar Series 1 90mm)
4. Grade: 4.6 35mm/MF Pentax SMC-A 85/1,4
5. Grade: 4.6 35mm/MF LeicaR Elmarit-R 90/2,8 discontinued

This rating is performance based, not a rank relative to other glass. Out of 5, this lens scored a 4.6 in testing. This lens was designed and manufactured in the 70's. Not bad for a "vintage" piece of glass.

Click HERE for some of my thoughts and images with the Vivitar Series 1 90mm f/2.5.


Focal length: 90mm
Filter thread: 58mm
Max. Aperture: f/2.5
Min. Aperture: f/22
Angular field of view (diagonal): 27°
Elements/groups: 8/7
Macro Extender Elements/groups: 3/3
Min. focusing distance: 15.5" (39.3 cm)
Min. focusing distance w/ extender: 14" (35.5 cm)
Dimensions: 3.5" (90mm)
Dimensions w/ extender: 5.4" (138mm)
Weight: 23 oz. ( 644 g)

I cannot fully describe my joy at finding such a beautiful sample of this lens. No optical issues, no DIY adapters (it's the right mount, eh hem NIKON!), not even so much as a cosmetic defect. Everything about it is pure sweetness.

Discovered this lens diagram including the 1:1 macro extender on an asian site. I cannot understand anything on the site save for a few keywords still in english. Nevertheless here is the images source and below is the diagram.

Vivitar Series 1 90mm f/2.5 Lens Diagram

Also, to address the rumors that this lens and the Tokina 90mm share optical formulas, I have put together this comparison. Assuming the source of the formula for the Vivitar 90mm and the box of the Tokina 90mm are correct, the results look fairly conclusive to me:

Original Packaging

A reader of this blog, Jack Middlebrook, recently informed me that he found a New Old Stock (NOS) Vivitar Series 1 90mm f/2.5. Admittedly, this must be a truly amazing experience. Kindly he sent me some images. Here is what the Vivitar 90mm looked like coming out of the packaging.

Similar to the Tokina 90 (or perhaps the other way around since the Vivitar lens came first), the Vivitar S1 90 came with a leather case containing two compartments. The top portion for the extender and the lower portion for the lens. Due to the materials/construction of the case, cracking is fairly common from what I have seen.

Note that in the first profile of the box, a sticker stating Vivitar retro-fitted this lens from Nikon F-mount (N/F) to Nikon AI (N/AI). After seeing this, I look at my sample to find the lens mount was engraved with N/F while the presence of the indexing tab and lower aperture ring of the barrel was marked N/AI. Contrastingly, the macro extender was engraved N/AI on the bottom. It would appear Vivitar did a number of factory retro-fittings on these lenses when Nikon moved from their F-mount to AI mount.


Here is some Vivitar corporate literature on the Series 1 90mm:
These articles were scanned in by Flickr user: Nesster. You can see his photostream and many more vintage ads by clicking the links. A Hirsch Photo Ad:

I especially LOVE this! Some of the comments on the photostream were similar to my thoughts, "I'll take that lens for THAT price!". Particularly I am thinking about any/all the original Series 1 primes!

In searching around for more specs on this lens, I discovered this old review posted on from the Modern Photography publication.

Again, this snippet is from the Modern Photography Buying Guide, 1978. I found it on a post by Robert Bohl on MTF charts, retro advertising, and more praise - awesome!

Notable eBay Siting

Wow! A beautiful condition Tokina version of this lens just went off on eBay and I can't believe the price. Wish it had been just a tad less, it would have been mine! I suppose it's a GREAT price for the seller!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Vivitar Series 1 105mm f/2.5 1:1 Macro Lens

October 2010
I have updated this post a little more and have since acquired a Kiron 105mm, Lester A. Dine 105mm, and this Vivitar lens in Nikon F (AI) mount. I previously was using an MD mount via an optic-less adapter. Also, after much more exploration into the Series 1 lenses, I must say in terms of design while I originally stated this was the best in terms of design ever, I must redact that statement as I have come across some beautiful pieces that now have me "on the fence".


This is a great lens. But if given the choice between this and the Kiron/Dine, in terms of performance, I would have to point you to the Kiron/Dine. Both my Vivitar copies rendered softer macro images than these other models. And if you're really looking for sharpness and performance from a macro, just get the Tokina 90mm f/2.5 and forget about the rest of them (unless you need 1:1 without messy adapters). Want the best looking of the group? Then by all means, get the Vivitar!

In my opinion, the Vivitar 105mm is one of the smoothest, most aesthetic lenses ever designed. Definitely one of my all-time favorites. I have been known, at times, to select/purchase lenses based solely on their aesthetics, only later hoping to discover the lens has the accompanying optical merit. Sort of the wrong approach when
thinking about trying to achieve superior output. This was not, however, one of those purchases. I actually did my homework (for once!) and spent some time looking for a good sample of this lens to come along. Also looking for the right price.

Cat's outta the bag now. This lens is awesome. Often referred to as a cult classic, look for a 105mm Dine, Kiron, or Vivitar such as this one and you will be buying the same optical formula in a different outer package so to speak. That's not to say, however all these lenses perform the same. As of October 2010 prices seem to be on a lower end for what I have seen, perhaps due to the economic climate.


I cannot say enough, this lens feels great in the hand. Focus is extremely smooth and the long-throw just makes for greater precision. The focus ring is a smooth, durable, foam-like rubber. Every edge of the fully metal construction appears precision cut. Upon closer inspection, you can see and even feel the tiny grain in the metal from the machining. I have always loved lathes and the way machined stock feels. The Kiron and Dine version of this lens both handle very similarly. I prefer the larger lip of the lens hood on the Vivitar 105 to the slimmer hood of the other variations. The Vivitar's hood also retracts and stays whereas the other 105 versions I have owned have had a little more play in them.

All versions of this lens appear to be multi-coated. I have not noticed much of a difference in contrast, flare control, or anything else optically in regards to this so I would say of those three, they should all be pretty solid. I have not used any of the other iterations which are a bit older and may have slightly more archaic coatings.


Focal length: 105mm
Filter thread: 52mm
Min. Aperture: f/2.5
Max. Aperture: f/32
Angular field of view (diagonal): 24°
Elements/groups: 6/6
Min. focusing distance: 13.8" (35 cm)
Aperture blades: 8
Dimensions: 102mm x 72mm
Weight: 10.9 oz (656 g)

Specification info from


It's an oldie and thus is fully manual. I have seen numerous listings on eBay which cite old age and poor eyesight as the cause for the sale. Older folks are moving to auto-focus. While I still have my eye-site, when doing macro work, I always manual focus.

Along with the slick industrial design, this lens proves itself optically, a worthy opponent of the best macro lenses even today. It did not achieve cult status for no reason. It is sharp. Chromatic aberration occurs at f/2.5, is extremely minor at f/4, and effectively gone by f/5.6. After more use, I noticed some softness wide open. This normally wouldn't be an issue had it not been for Vivitar's Series 1 90mm f/2.5 and Tokina's later 90mm sibling which demonstrated amazing sharpness wide open. In fact, even Kiron's own 105mm and the Lester A. Dine dental version perform superior to Vivitar's 105mm wide open.
See a comparison here. Michael McBroom (Blogger and reader of this blog) commented, "Perhaps Kiron kept the best of them back for their own brand name?" I think this is a great hypothesis!

Reportedly, the Vivitar Series 1 105mm does not perform very well at longer distances. I never did get around to checking this. I can't say I really ever looked to using this lens for anything but macro work.


This is a great macro lens save for minor chromatic aberration at early apertures. I have not used it for portraits, but if spending the money, from what I can tell (and what I hope to test when I have more money) better portrait/macro lenses exist. I'm sure it would perform beautifully in its own right though, especially given it is a hair soft wide open. For use near infinity, apparently this lens is nothing special but I never tested this. Physically, the lens is gorgeous. I would pick one up just to put it in a display (but I would get more pleasure out of using it!). Its optical performance and design combined with its shortcomings certainly explain the "cult" status. While for some it is a capable, solid, marvel of industrial design. A true personification of the old maxim, "they don't make 'em like they used to". Others may find it heavy, klunky, inconvenient and overall obsolete.

If you find one for a good price (Especially in a Nikon F mount. Other mounts are not worth as much since they are not as compatible with current DSLRs) I would recommend picking it up without a second though. You will most likely be able to give it a try and at worst resell it for a full return on your money.

Learned A Couple Blogging Tips This Evening!

Discovered this little guy attempting to hitch a ride this morning.

So I was attempting to figure out how to make images open in a separate window this evening. Like wikipedia, you get to reading about something... one link leads to another and the next thing you know, you've lost your original link (in this case, this blog) and source of information. Granted, history could solve this but why not just have a new window? So here is what I found:
It seems there are two viable options to resolving this issue. Enter HTML. (don't worry, very simple!) If you would like to do things on a case-by-case basis, selecting which links or images open in a new window use this method. Ok, so I found it on a mom's blogging site, stop judging. The second option is a universal action, causing everything to open in a new window, including clicking the "edit" icon below your post to change something. Can get annoying but does prevent the hassle of inputting target="new" in every single link. Found this one in comments of the first link.

Thanks for the info everyone!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Vivitar 90mm f/2.5 1:1 Macro Lens - Komine-made


Initially I believed this lens to be identical to the cosmetically similar 90mm lenses branded Elicar, Panagor, Rokunar, and probably others. I thought all were probably Komine manufactured. However a recent comment on the post displaying samples of images made with this lens suggests these other lenses may be different. I have no verification one way or the either as of now, though it would appear these lenses must at least be very closely related. All share an extremely long helicoid making the lens capable of 1:1 with no added extension. I have also seen these identical lenses, namely the Vivitar brands, labeled as f/2.5 and f/2.8. My forum readings suggest these variations have the same optics but were labeled a certain way for marketing purposes at the time of their introductions. I don't have any original literature, however, to truly resolve this issue. Below are a few images of the various other iterations I mentioned above:

This lens really cranks out there as can be seen in the image above. Check the serial number, if it begins with 28, it was manufactured by Komine, a well-known quality optical manufacturer. (for a list of Vivitar lens manufacturers click HERE). This lens is in no way related to the far superior Vivitar Series 1 90mm f/2.5 "Bokina".


Focal length: 90mm
Filter thread: 62mm
Max. aperture:
Min. aperture: 22
Field of view: 26ยบ
Elements/Groups: 6/6
Dimensions: 3.4" x 2.7" (8.6 cm x 6.9 cm)
Weight: 17 oz. (482 g)

The above specs were listed for the Vivitar 90mm f/2.8 on B&H. I believe they are the same for the f/2.5 lens.


This particular sample I picked-up on craigslist. It is in immaculate condition. The seller was incredibly nice and I could tell really took care of his glass. It feels rather light in the hand compared to something like the Vivitar 105mm. It takes almost 3 full rotations for the lens to go from infinity to 1:1. The focus is tight and requires intent.

I discovered I had a hard time using this lens handheld, outdoors. I shoot most of my work handheld and rarely set up any kind of tripod but this lens proved to make that very difficult. I always use manual focus and do shoot all the way down-to and past 1:1 with hardly any issues but I often had blurred images with this lens. Also the working distance of this lens is rather limited. It could be the fact that it focuses down to 1:1 and at that point, you are practically on top of the subject. But it makes creature photography quite a bit more challenging. Not that I don't like a good challenge!


Predictably, this lens can deliver great images. Wide open it is a bit soft. When stopped down even to f/4 however, the lens is crisp. More on this soon (I am still searching for more data as well as conducting more tests)

As mentioned before, this lens has an extremely long focus throw. Which is great in one sense. More control of focus. Consequently, work with this lens is slow. I was wading in the creek the other day watching a little frog swim and float along in the water in front of me. I was attempting to get a shot of him mid-stride and it certainly became quite a production. This lens just takes time. My solution was simply to choose a focal distance, and move myself rather than bother with the focus ring. Here is the shot I chose:

1/1000 @ f/4, ISO 200 on Nikon D700

Crop - no sharpening added.

The front elements are very close to the front of the lens and without a built-in hood such as the Vivitar and Nikon 105's it is highly prone to flare. I would definitely recommend picking up a hood. I am currently looking for an older metal hood with the right shape to match the smooth brushed aesthetics of the lens exterior.


All-in-all this is a very capable, smooth, well built macro lens. The focal length allows for a decent amount of working distance (while not as much as other macros of the same class). It can produce sharp images with a fair amount of contrast as long as the lens is stopped down a bit. The softness wide open also disappears quickly as stopped down. The downside of it all is, it is a beast to handle. It is not great for fast moving subjects, quick focus adjustments, and proves a challenge for 1:1 handheld (I had a lot more success with the Vivitar 105mm f/2.5). If you get a well-priced opportunity at one, go for it. If you are looking for a macro, I'd pass and look elsewhere, even within the Vivitar brand (such as the 105mm or even better, the Bokina!).


Here is an extensive page of information on this 90mm f/2.5. Probably the most exhaustive analysis of the Vivitar/Panagor/Elicar/Soligor/etc 90mm lens I have seen. You may need to use Google Translate in order to read it since it is in German (unless of course you speak German!).

I cannot remember where this came from but below, I have a .pdf for the Vivitar 90mm. I am not the originator of this file.

Vivitar 90mm f/2.5 1:1 PDF

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Link, Resources, and Other Places To Go

- My personal portfolio and website

SLR Lens Mount Identification Chart - Rick Oleson made an effective list of SLR mounts accompanied by images

Nikon Lens Compatibility Chart - Ken Rockwell has put together a nice chart for nikon lens compatibility

MIR - An excellent resource for history and information on Nikon cameras and lenses

Vivitar Lens Manufacturer Identification - This webpage by Stephen Gandy can help you determine who manufactured your Vivitar lens based on its serial number

eBay KEH Adorama Craigslist B&H - All great places to look for new gear