Review: Vivitar (Komine) Series 1 200 mm f/3.0 Auto Telephoto


The Vivitar Series 1 200 mm f/3.0 Auto Telephoto is a third party prime from the early 70s produced by Komine (Serial 28xxxxxx) under the Vivitar brand. It belongs to Vivitar’s legendary “Series 1” of – for the time – ultra fast zoom and primes lenses, all manufactured for different camera mounts.

The lens features excellent mechanics, a short retractable hood and weighs in at a staggering 0.81 kg. The mount on my NEX feels  a bit strained by this heavy piece of glass, but I never had any mechanical problems. On the plus side, the weight helps in reducing camera shake when shooting hand-held. The focus on my copy has a medium resistance and requires a small breakaway force, but is smooth. The well dampened aperture wheel handles especially nice. With an effective focal length of 305 mm on the NEX, the Vivitar is pretty long for indoor use, but comes in handy when birding and in many other long distance shooting situations outdoors.

If you are interested in some historic facts on and in pictures taken with the lens, have a look at Ashley Pomeroy’s compelling review.

 

Condition of my copy

Optics: Very good. Nearly no visible dust inside and only one tiny cleaning mark in the coating near the center of the front element.

Mechanics: Very good. Uniform focus with medium resistance and low breakaway force. Aperture clean and fast.

Exterior: Good. Some small scratches in the finishing of the hood and other small signs of use.

 

Optical performance on NEX-5N / 5T

The lens is a little soft, shows a medium amount of haze and low contrast wide open. There is also a prominent blueish purple glow visible on the dark side of contrasty edges. Haze and colored glow are strongly reduced at f/4, where the sharpness rating rises to acceptable. Contrast is also greatly improved, here, and the corners are not far off in quality. Stopping down to f/5.6 further increases sharpness to close to good, clears the last bit of haze and yields a very uniform performance across the frame. f/8 is even better and shows close to very good sharpness without any problematic areas. As always, diffraction kicks in at f/11, slightly softens f/16 and blurs away most detail at f/22.

The lens shows a small purple/yellow glow at f/3. The glow transforms into very small CAs by f/5.6. They grow again slightly up to f-max, but never become problematic. A very good performance, especially for a fast tele. The only downside is, that since the yellow side of the CA is washed-out, the aberrations are rather hard to correct in post processing.

Vignetting is about half a stop at f/3 and disappears by f/4. The effective T-stop at f/3 is approximately T3.7 (-0.6 EV), which is rather disappointing. The lens further exhibits a small amount of pincushion distortion (0.5%).

In conclusion, the Vivitar Series 1 200 mm f/3.0 by Komine is a fast-ish tele with solid performance and a little weight problem. Compared to the Minolta MD Tele Rokkor 200 mm f/4, the Vivitar is slightly less sharp at all apertures and less contrasty up to about f/5.6. In return, the heavy-weight shows less CA, offers better mechanics and close to a stop more of light – in theory. My crude measurements implicate that the actual gain is about half a stop, which doesn’t look that impressive anymore. Further, I am not a fan of “the Komine way” of color correction, which leads to washed out purple/yellow lateral chromatic aberrations that are generally hard to correct in PP. But in the case of the 200 mm f/3, they are at least very small. And believe me: Small is a word otherwise rarely used in combination with this lens!

 

Test charts

The following images are pixel-level crops from the test chart. They may appear scaled in your browser window. Click on them to view the crops in full size and cycle through them easily. For more info on the test setup, visit the details page.

 

Overview

Test chart overview

(Cropped areas marked in orange)

 

f/3.0

Vivitar Series 1 200 mm f/3.0 @ f/3.0

 

f/4.0

Vivitar Series 1 200 mm f/3.0 @ f/4.0

 

f/5.6

Vivitar Series 1 200 mm f/3.0 @ f/5.6

 

f/8.0

Vivitar Series 1 200 mm f/3.0 @ f/8.0

 

f/11

Vivitar Series 1 200 mm f/3.0 @ f/11

 

f/16

Vivitar Series 1 200 mm f/3.0 @ f/16

 

f/22

Vivitar Series 1 200 mm f/3.0 @ f/22

 

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