The Vivitar (Kiron) Series 1 70-210 mm f/3.5 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 first version, produced by Kiron (Kino Precision) including a dedicated macro function with magnification ratio 1:2.2. You can easily identify this lens as the Kiron version by the two little wings near the mount and the serial, which starts with 22. The third version by Komine (serial 28xxxxxx) shows a characteristic red stripe around the name ring and the second version by Tokina (serial 37xxxxxx) has neither of those features. If you want to know more about the different revisions, visit Mark Roberts’ site.
The lens is massive, weighing in at nearly 0.9 kg. The focus is smooth and has very little resistance, the zoom is a little rough and requires a medium breakaway force. Handling on a NEX-5T is… well… heavy. As zooming and focusing is done with the same ring (“one touch”) and you tend to support the camera by it while doing so, locking focus is a little fiddly. The mount on the NEX actually feels strained due to the weight, but I never had any mechanical problems. On the plus side, the massive weight slightly reduces camera shake when shooting hand-held and 107 – 320 mm equivalent is a useful range of tele focal lengths.
Condition of my copy
Optics: Good. A small discolored patch in the coating of the front element. A handful of lonely dust particles. One ant inside (?!). I don’t know how it got in there, but it’s stuck to the third element from the front.
Mechanics: Good. Uniform focus with low resistance, zooming is a little rough. The aperture is clean and fast.
Exterior: Very good. Very slight scratches in the finishing, otherwise excellent condition.
Optical performance on NEX-5N / 5T
70 mm (-> jump to test charts)
At 70 mm, the lens is hazy and soft at f/3.5 with very soft corners. The haze is gone at f/5.6 with sharpness and contrast improving strongly. At f/8, the corners finally start to sharpen up and center sharpness reaches good levels. At f/11, the corners further improve, but the central region is unaffected. Diffraction starts showing at f/16 and softens up the image at f/22.
A very light red and dark cyan glow is visible at f/3.5. Starting at f/5.6, small red/cyan CAs appear which sharpen up at f/5.6 and are nearly gone by f/8. A very good performance.
Vignetting is about 1/3 of a stop at f/3.5 and disappears from f/5.6 onwards. The effective T-stop at f/3.5 is approximately T4.1 (-0.4 EV) for all focal lengths, which is good for a zoom. At 70 mm, the lens shows a small amount of barrel distortion (-0.4%).
135 mm (-> jump to test charts)
At 135 mm, the lens is soft and very hazy at f/3.5. The haze is nearly gone at f/5.6 with strongly improved contrast and medium sharpness in the center. At f/8, the corners are finally haze-free and center sharpness reaches good levels. At f/11, corner sharpness improves drastically and even the center is a little crisper than at f/8. Diffraction starts showing at f/16 and softens up the image at f/22.
A light green and magenta glow is visible at f/3.5 and f/5.6. By f/8, the glow transforms into tiny green/magenta CAs, which sharpen up at f/11. A very good performance and certainly excellent for a zoom lens.
Vignetting is about 1/2 a stop at f/3.5 and disappears from f/5.6 onwards. At 135 mm, the lens shows a small amount of pincushion distortion (0.5%).
210 mm (-> jump to test charts)
At 210 mm, the lens is extremely soft and hazy at f/3.5. Most of the haze clears by f/5.6, with sharpness “improving” to low levels. At f/8, the haze is gone and center sharpness reaches medium levels, further improving to good at f/11. The corners stay mushy until f/8 and only really sharpen up at f/16. This is also where diffraction starts to slightly soften the center again, increasing strongly at f/22.
A prominent green and magenta glow is visible at f/3.5 to f/8. By f/11, the glow transforms into medium to strong green/magenta CAs. An acceptable performance for a zoom lens.
Vignetting is about 1 stop at f/3.5, reduces to 1/3 of a stop at f/5.6 and disappears by f/8. At 210 mm, the lens shows a medium amount of pincushion distortion (0.7%).
Compared to the second version of the Vivitar Series 1 (Tokina) 70-210 mm f/3.5 and the third version Vivitar Series 1 (Komine) 70-210 mm f/2.8-4.0, this lens is sadly inferior in every aspect except the maximum magnification ratio. Sharpness and contrast are just worlds apart on the NEX. Taking into account that the Tokina-made version is also lighter and smaller, I would strongly advise anybody to disregard the much more common Kiron version and go for the Tokina.
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.