Review: Vivitar (Komine) Series 1 70-210 mm f/2.8-4.0 Macro Focusing Zoom


The Vivitar (Komine) Series 1 70-210 mm f/2.8-4.0 is an often entitled “legendary” third party zoom produced for different mounts. There are at least five known versions from different manufacturers all sold under the Vivitar brand. This is the third version, produced by Komine (serial 28xxxxxx), which features a fine red stripe around the name ring. It offers a maximum magnification ratio of 1:2.5 without a dedicated macro function. You can easily identify the older, first version produced by Kiron by two little wings near the mount and a serial starting with 22. The second, Tokina-made version (serial 37xxxxxx) has neither the red stripe nor the wings. If you want to know more about the different revisions, visit Mark Roberts’ site.

The lens features a solid build at about 0.85 kg and excellent mechanics. The focus has a low resistance and is smooth. One little quirk of the lens is, that close focusing for macro work is only possible between 100 and 210 mm. If you try it at 70 mm, the mechanics have the lens gently zoom in to 100. The zoom itself requires a low to medium breakaway force which slightly reduces zooming precision in some situations. Handling on a NEX-5T is okay overall, but not terribly good. As the zoom does not creep easily, the “one touch” principle works well. But because you tend to support the camera by the zoom ring because of the weight, locking focus requires some getting used to. The mount on the NEX actually feels strained by this heavy piece of glass, but I never had any mechanical problems. The weight also helps reducing camera shake when shooting hand-held and 107 – 320 mm equivalent is a useful range of tele focal lengths.

 

Condition of my copy

Optics: Very good. Some ultra fine dust particles inside and one tiny scratch in the coating near the center of the front element.

Mechanics: Very good. Uniform focus with low resistance, acceptably smooth zoom with low to medium breakaway force. Aperture clean and fast.

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

 

Optical performance on NEX-5N / 5T

70 mm (-> jump to test charts)

Sharpness at 70 mm f/2.8 is surprisingly good with only slightly soft corners but also a prominent blueish purple glow. At f/4 the colored glow is gone and sharpness increases to very good, where it stays up to f/8. The corners are good at f/4 and improve up to f/8, which renders the best overall impression. Diffraction kicks in very lightly starting with f/11. Softness increases when going to f/16 and most details are blurred away at f/22.

A dark blue/yellow glow is visible at f/2.8, which lightens up at f/4 and stays constant from then on. Since the CAs never become sharp, they are rather hard to correct in post processing. Certainly not an impressive performance.

Vignetting is about 1/2 a stop at f/2.8 and disappears immediately when stopping down. The effective T-stop at f/2.8 is approximately T3.2 (-0.4 EV), which is good for a zoom. At 70 mm, the lens shows a very small amount of barrel distortion (-0.3%).

 

135 mm (-> jump to test charts)

Much like at 70 mm,  sharpness at 135 mm f/2.8 is surprisingly good but corners are soft and the blueish purple glow is back. One remark: What is from now on listed as f/2.8, f/4 and so on is equivalent to the markings on the aperture ring. The true f-stops are half a stop lower at 135 mm and one stop lower at 210 mm. Carrying on, the lens renders very sharp in the center from f/4 to f/5.6, but the corners stay slightly soft up to f/8. The latter is again the aperture with the most consistent performance across the frame. At 135 mm, f/8 is also where diffraction starts. It becomes clearly visible at f/11, strong at f/16 and really extreme at f/22.

A dark and small purple to blue and yellow glow is visible at f/2.8, which lightens up at f/4. Comparable to 70 mm, the CAs never become quite sharp, but they are much smaller now. A good performance for a zoom.

Vignetting is about 1/2 a stop at f/2.8 and disappears immediately when stopping down. The effective T-stop at f/2.8 on the aperture ring (which equals f/3.5 at 135 mm) is approximately T4.1 (-0.4 EV). The lens further shows a small amount of pincushion distortion (0.4%).

 

210 mm (-> jump to test charts)

History tends to repeat itself: At 210 mm the lens starts with good sharpness wide open, soft corners and a small amount of blueish purple glow. The lens shows good sharpness in the center from f/4 to f/5.6 and the corners stay slightly soft up to f/8. At 210 mm diffraction is clearly visible at f/8 (remember: this really is f/11), more pronounced at f/11, extreme at f/16 and ridiculous at f/22. The latter is now unusable in my opinion, but this should rarely be a problem.

The lens now shows a small magenta/green glow at f/2.8. The CAs actually sharpen up by f/5.6 and stay constant and small up to f-max. A good performance for a zoom.

Vignetting is about 2/3 of a stop at f/2.8 and disappears by f/4. The effective T-stop at f/2.8 on the aperture ring (which equals f/4 at 210 mm) is approximately T4.6 (-0.4 EV). The lens further shows a very small amount of pincushion distortion (0.3%).

 

Compared to the first version of the Vivitar Series 1 70-210 mm made by Kiron, this lens is superior in every aspect. Sharpness and contrast are just worlds apart. The latter can’t be said compared to the second version of the 70-210 mm by Tokina: While the Tokina delivers the better corner performance at least up to 135 mm, the Komine shows impressive central resolution and sharpness wide open at every aperture – truly awesome for a zoom. This is where the Tokina falls a little short. On the plus side, CAs are much easier to correct than in the Komine, and while it is hazy wide open, the Tokina does not show any colored glow. The Kiron can’t compete on any level.

Regarding weight, version two (Tokina) is the lightest of all three and the mechanics of my copy are also by far the best. While the Kiron version is very common, the Tokina is quite scarce and the Komine is really rare. Considering optical performance, weight and availability, the Tokina-made Vivitar Series 1 70-210 mm is my recommendation if you’re looking for a long telephoto zoom for your NEX.

 

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)

 

 

70 mm

 

f/2.8

Vivitar 70-210 mm f/2.8-4.0 @ 70 mm f/2.8

 

f/4.0

Vivitar 70-210 mm f/2.8-4.0 @ 70 mm f/4.0

 

f/5.6

Vivitar 70-210 mm f/2.8-4.0 @ 70 mm f/5.6

 

f/8.0

Vivitar 70-210 mm f/2.8-4.0 @ 70 mm f/8.0

 

f/11

Vivitar 70-210 mm f/2.8-4.0 @ 70 mm f/11

 

f/16

Vivitar 70-210 mm f/2.8-4.0 @ 70 mm f/16

 

f/22Vivitar 70-210 mm f/2.8-4.0 @ 70 mm f/22

 


 

 

135 mm

Please note that all f-stops listed below for 135 mm equal the f-numbers printed on the lenses aperture ring. The actual f-stops at this focal length are half a stop lower.

 

f/2.8

Vivitar 70-210 mm f/2.8-4.0 @ 135 mm f/2.8

 

f/4.0

Vivitar 70-210 mm f/2.8-4.0 @ 135 mm f/4.0

 

f/5.6

Vivitar 70-210 mm f/2.8-4.0 @ 135 mm f/5.6

 

f/8.0

Vivitar 70-210 mm f/2.8-4.0 @ 135 mm f/8.0

 

f/11

Vivitar 70-210 mm f/2.8-4.0 @ 135 mm f/11

 

f/16

Vivitar 70-210 mm f/2.8-4.0 @ 135 mm f/16

 

f/22

Vivitar 70-210 mm f/2.8-4.0 @ 135 mm f/22

 


 

 

210 mm

Please note that all f-stops listed below for 210 mm equal the f-numbers printed on the lenses aperture ring. The actual f-stops at this focal length are one stop lower.

 

f/2.8

Vivitar 70-210 mm f/2.8-4.0 @ 210 mm f/2.8

 

f/4.0

Vivitar 70-210 mm f/2.8-4.0 @ 210 mm f/4.0

 

f/5.6

Vivitar 70-210 mm f/2.8-4.0 @ 210 mm f/5.6

 

f/8.0

Vivitar 70-210 mm f/2.8-4.0 @ 210 mm f/8.0

 

f/11

Vivitar 70-210 mm f/2.8-4.0 @ 210 mm f/11

 

f/16

Vivitar 70-210 mm f/2.8-4.0 @ 210 mm f/16

 

f/22

Vivitar 70-210 mm f/2.8-4.0 @ 210 mm f/22

 


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3 thoughts on “Review: Vivitar (Komine) Series 1 70-210 mm f/2.8-4.0 Macro Focusing Zoom

  • Mordi Berger

    Damn you! I am leaving for 3 weeks in Spain and Portugal, and had convinced myself NOT to take my 70-210 Komine with me, since I can use it only on a week when I will be shooting out of the car trunk.

    Your tests reminded me of just how great this lens is – no room in my backpack, so my roll aboard just got heavier…

    Even found my 62mm Moose polarizing filter for it.

    Don’t tell my girlfriend, she already thinks my kit is obscene…

  • David

    Thank you for this review. I have a copy of this lens, bought second-hand and owned since 1981 or 1982!! I have kept it although it hardly gets used and I have always rated it.

    It’s gratifying to know that a lens I bought in a Sussex (England) camera shop all those years ago turns out to be a classic.

    I shall probably always hang onto it for nostalgia sake, but also because it is so usable on MILC cameras like the Sony E-mount range.