Vivitar series 1 70 – 210 mm Macro Zoom

This post is about this classic telephoto zoom lens which I bought from eBay UK this week.

This lens was made in several different versions over the years, and it’s generally accepted that the first three versions were the best in terms of sharpness and contrast. I picked my copy up from eBay for £50 which seems to be the going rate for a good clean example, and for that I got a very clean lens with clear optics, a fitted UV filter, front and rear caps and supplied in it’s original box. I have a Pentax K mount version, with an ‘A’ option on the aperture ring, which allows me to use it in auto exposure mode on my K5, and manually on the Nex 6. Of course it’s a manual focus lens.

History

As I said above, there were several versions of this lens and there were several manufacturers involved in making them. After doing some internet research it seems the versions were

  1. 70-210mm f/3.5 with a 67mm diameter filter made by Kiron
  2. 70-210mm f/3.5 with a 62mm diameter filter made by Tokina
  3. 70-210mm f/2.8-4.0 with a 62mm diameter filter made by Komine
  4. 70-210mm f/2.8-4.0 with a 62mm or 58mm diameter filter made by Cosina
  5. 70-210mm f/2.8-4.0 with a 58mm diameter filter made by Cosina

It’s possible to identify any particular version by the general spec as shown above and by the serial number, the first two digits of which give the manufacturer. The serial number of my copy is 28612165  and the starting 28 indicated that it was made by Komine. So I have version 3 of this lens. The basic design of the lens changed a bit between the different versions, the biggest difference I could see is the removal of the macro switch which was fitted to version 1 to move to macro mode. I believe my copy was made about 1986.

Description

The first thing you notice when handling this lens is the weight and the solid construction. This is a seriously hefty lens and I would certainly not fit it to my Nex 6 on a tripod without a lens tripod mount.

Here are the basic statistics of the lens

  • Focal length 70-210mm
  • Effective focal length on APS-C camera 105-315mm
  • Maximum aperture f/2.8 at 70mm f/4.0 at 210
  • Minimum focusing distance 0.8m
  • Mount PK-A
  • Multicoated

Because it’s a version 3 lens, the macro switch which was fitted to version 1 is gone, and the lens just focuses by turning the focus ring, but if the subject is close to the lens the zoom automatically engages as you focus closer and pushes the lens to about 100mm focal length. Once you are in macro mode the lens focuses very close, only a couple of feet or so away from the end of the lens.

Focusing is achieved by turning the large knurled ring, and the zoom is operated by pushing the focus ring forward and back. The shortest focal length of 70mm is with the ring pushed as far forward as it will go. There is a depth of field scale on the lens barrel to indicate the amount of the picture which will be in focus at any particular focal length.

The overall length of the lens changes by about 10-20 mm as the focus is moved from one extreme to the other and the filter does rotate as you focus so any polarising filter would need to be rotated after focusing.

In Use

I’ve used this lens on both my Pentax K-5 and my Sony Nex-6.

On the Pentax the lens is somewhat easier to use because it has the A setting so I can use normal Aperture priority mode to set the exposure. The camera also feels fairly well balanced because the weight of the lens is just about the same as the weight of the camera. Focusing however is a little tricky because my eyes are not as good as I would like.

On the Sony the lens feels pretty big and clumsy – on a couple of occasions I had to actually drop the camera down to waist level to hold it by the mount adaptor so I could change the focus from the macro end to the infinity end! However focusing was considerably easier because the focus peaking outlines the in-focus part of the image. It makes me wish that Pentax would release a software update for the K5 to add focus peaking (although I guess it would only be in live-view mode which I almost never use)

Images

Below are the images I captured with this lens as I went out this afternoon. The metadata shows the camera used to capture the image, and in the case of the Pentax the aperture and shutter speed used as well as the iso. On the Nex 6 the aperture isn’t shown, but all the pictures were taken between f/2.8 and f/8. Overall I’m pretty impressed with the technical quality of the lens. As usual click on the pictures for a bigger view and to see the camera data or follow this link for full sized versions of the pictures.

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16 thoughts on “Vivitar series 1 70 – 210 mm Macro Zoom

    • That seems to be the case. Mind you the Series 1 lenses were a top of the line lens and certainly seem to be much more solid and well built than a lot of the current plastic body lenses – which is your point I guess

      • The new nikon lens is heavier, bigger, does not limit focal distance at the short end (as the old one did) and autofocuses too fast. The old lens may be slow but its less of a hassle to use.

  1. Thanks for the review and photos! I just bought the Tokina made version of this lens and I’m looking forward to using it.

  2. Hello I have a Vivitar v2000 35mm and I bought a Vivitar Series 1 70-210 mm 1:3.5 (67mm) lens but I can’t get it to fit. Can you tell me what I need?

    • Sorry I can’t. All I can tell you is the v2000 had a Pentax K mount fitted (or so google research suggests), so you would need to use a lens with this mount. The series One lenses were made with a variety of different mount types so it sounds as if your one doesn’t match the camera.

  3. Hey, great review on, what once, was my favourite lens. I remember when there was a waiting list to get that exciting lens. I lucked out by having a friend traveling to Japan getting one for me. Mounted on my Pentax Spotmatic II…I was a celebrity among my friends.

  4. [img]https://c1.staticflickr.com/3/2028/2342261670_d40bb8e8c4.jpg[/img]

    Vivitar S-1 70-210 trio & superb Kiron 70-210 with zoom-lock

    Left to right:
    Vivitar Series 1 (Kiron model), f/3.5
    Vivitar Series 1 (Tokina model), f/3.5
    Vivitar Series 1 (Komine model), f/2.8-4
    Kiron 70-210. f/4 with Zoom-lock

    Regarding Viv S-1 glass. There are numerous (8) Series 1, 70-210 lenses. However, for the sake of discussion, we will deal with the first three. The following editions are nothing to seriously consider, so we will concentrate on the first three editions, which are the good one’s. The 4th & 5th editions are also 2.8-4 variable aperture model’s, but lacking in construction quality (Cosina built). Due to the fact that the third one is a variable aperture lens, (2.8-4) it will be somewhat sharper than a fixed aperture lenses. It is much easier to design and build a quality variable aperture lens.

    The first edition was designed by Vivitar (Ellis Betensky of NASA Optics fame), had a hand in it, and it was built by Kiron. (67mm filter) It is a professional caliber lens, with a 1:2 macro feature built into it. It was the first zoom, designed with the aid of computers, that truly rivaled the OEM lenses of the time. That was in “76.”

    The second edition (my personal favorite) was built by Tokina, per, Vivitars specs. It too, is a fixed 3.5 aperture, but smaller, lighter and sharper. (62mm filter size). I really like it because of the fixed 3.5 aperture which is nice for focusing in dim light and long range flash work. However, not a true macro, 1:4 life size.

    The third edition was made by Komine, and like the first two, is very well built. It is a 2.8-4 variable aperture lens, and the sharpest of the bunch. It has 1:2.5 life size macro from 100-210mm’s, with a working distance of about two feet. Which can be quite useful. Can you see a discernible difference in slides taken with either one of them? No! Don’t get caught up in bench tests. Any of the first three editions will give you professional-publishable images. I really like this lens, and over time, has become my favorite of the line.

    Personally, I recommend the second or third edition of the line. I have and use all three of the first editions, and can highly recommend any one of them. Superb optics and construction.

    Also, the Kiron 70-210 f/4, is a splendid performer.

    I have to re-shoot this photo too. I’ve added the fourth version to the stable, as well as the auto-focus f/2.8-4 APO version made by Cosina, that performs quite well.

    QLP (Kiron Kid & MrVivSeries1)

  5. It’s a very well built lens that delivers very good results. I have the first six editions of the Vivitar Series 1, 70-210 line.

    Russ

  6. helo Simon, thanks for the review. I actually just bought this lens, seems to be a good one.
    I am using Sony a7II. My question is, if I want to use a tripod collar, which type and size should i get?
    thank you very much!

    • Hi Gusman thanks for the comment. The series one lenses were good particularly the earlier designs I believe. I have to say I’ve never bought a tripod collar and therefore couldn’t really give advice.

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