The Vivitar Series 1 28-90 mm f/2.8-3.5 Macro Focusing Zoom is a third party zoom produced by Komine (Serial 28xxxxxx) under the Vivitar brand for different camera mounts. It belongs to Vivitar’s legendary “Series 1” of – for the time – ultra fast zoom and primes lenses.
The Vivitar weighs in at 0.65 kg – twice as much as your typical 50 mm. The build quality is very high and leaves little to be desired. The focus of my copy is smooth but offers quite some resistance. The zoom requires a high breakaway force and is a little stiff. Handling on a NEX-5T is front-heavy but generally okay. The one touch zoom and focus ring works well, because the increased resistance makes it easy to hold focus while moving and zooming. The 43 – 137 mm equivalent focal length range are – in my opinion – very handy in every day use on the NEX and despite the lenses weight, I came to like it very much over the past weeks.
Condition of my copy
Optics: Good. Some ultra fine cleaning marks in the coating and isolated, fine dust particles on the glass. Optics required adjustment on arrival (details see notice below).
Mechanics: Good. Uniform and smooth focus with medium to high resistance. Slightly stiff zoom with high breakaway force. Aperture clean and fast.
Exterior: Very good. Minimal scratches in the finishing and on the mount, otherwise excellent.
Optical performance on NEX-5N / 5T
Notice: My copy of this lens arrived with minor mechanical and optical flaws including a loose front element, astigmatism and very unevenly distributed sharpness. While the top right corner showed excellent performance, the left one was very soft. I managed to get rid of everything but the astigmatism by adjusting the rear group and tightening what was loose. Performance is now very uniform across the frame, but the remaining astigmatism points to the fact that some elements still aren’t perfectly aligned. When reading the review, please keep in mind that there might be copies of this lens that perform a little better than this one does.
28 mm (-> jump to test charts)
Performance at 28 mm f/2.8 is only okay, with acceptable central sharpness, soft corners and a slight haze. Stopping down to f/4 brings sharpness to good levels in the center and let’s the haze disappear nearly completely, but the corners stay soft. The latter sharpen up at f/5.6, where the central region also further increases to a very good score. f/8 may or may not be a tiny bit crisper and the corners finally show a good performance, too. At f/11, diffraction very slightly softens the image again and does so more pronounced at f/16.
A dark yellow and blueish-purple glow is visible at f/2.8, which stays mostly unchanged at f/4 and transforms into medium yellow/purple CAs at f/5.6. The CAs grow slightly when stopping down. Since the yellow side never becomes really sharp, the aberrations are rather hard to correct in post processing. Still a pretty good performance for a wide angle.
At 28 mm, vignetting is about 2/3 of a stop at f/2.8, close to invisible at f/4 and gone afterward. The effective T-stop at f/2.8 is T3.7 (-0.8 EV), which is pretty disappointing. The lens also shows a medium barrel distortion of -1.1%.
50 mm (-> jump to test charts)
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 a third stop lower at 50 mm and half a stop lower at 90 mm. Back to the lenses performance: Sharpness at 50 mm f/2.8 (effective 3.2) is acceptable but contrast is reduced by quite some amount of haze. The latter is gone by f/4 which drastically improves the contrast in the corners. The center now reaches good, close to very good levels and the corners are only slightly worse. At f/5.6, the lens shows very good sharpness with a consistent performance across the whole frame. f/8 is a little bit softer again in the center and f/11 and f/16 are struck by diffraction as usual.
Tiny yellow/purple CAs are visible at 50 mm when stopping down past f/5.6. They grow into still very small CAs at f/16. An excellent performance.
At 50 mm, vignetting is about 1/3 of a stop at f/2.8 and gone by f/4. The effective T-stop at f/2.8 on the aperture ring (which equals f/3.2 at 50 mm) is T3.7 (-0.4 EV), which is okay. Further, the lens shows a very small pincushion distortion of 0.2%.
90 mm (-> jump to test charts)
At 90 mm f/2.8 (effective f/3.5), the Vivitar shows a strong haze but acceptable sharpness. The haze is gone by f/4 where overall sharpness rises close to good levels with a consistent performance across the frame. Stopping down to f/5.6, the lens truly earns the rating “good” – maybe even a little more. f/8 makes the image look a tiny tad softer again but doesn’t change much and diffraction becomes apparent at f/11. f/16 (mind: effective f/19) is very soft.
The lens shows absolutely tiny red/cyan CAs from f/4 to f/16. This is – again – an excellent performance.
Vignetting at 90 mm is practically invisible with about 1/4 a stop at f/2.8. It disappears immediately when stopping down. The effective T-stop at f/2.8 on the aperture ring (which equals f/3.5 at 90 mm) is T4.6 (-0.8 EV), which is pretty disappointing, again. Further, the lens shows a very small pincushion distortion of 0.3%.
In conclusion, this hefty little zoom is quite a performer. While not perfect at 28 mm with some field curvature leading to soft corners, it performs nicely at all other focal lengths when closed down one f-stop. I am personally no fan of “the Komine way” of color correction which leads to washed out yellow/purple lateral chromatic aberrations that are generally hard to correct in PP. But the CAs of the Vivitar 28-90 mm Series 1 are tiny above 35 mm focal length, which makes this less of a problem. It’s also hard to find something to compare it to, since the focal length range is rather unusual in vintage zooms. Minolta’s MD III Zoom 35-70 mm f/3.5 is a likely contender and presents itself as the fire and forget alternative: With the Minolta, you do not have to think about stopping down a notch or correcting nasty CAs in post. And it is much, much lighter, too. But you also loose quite some flexibility at the wide and the long end of the zoom, which keeps me from calling it the winner in this battle. Judge for yourself!
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.