The Vivitar (Tokina) 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 second version, produced by Tokina. It offers a maximum magnification ratio of 1:4 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 third version by Komine (serial 28xxxxxx) has a red stripe around the name ring. This Tokina version (serial 37xxxxxx) shows neither of those features. If you want to know more about the different revisions, visit Mark Roberts’ site.
The lens features a solid build at about 0.7 kg and excellent mechanics. The focus has perfect resistance and is very smooth, as is the the zoom. Handling on a NEX-5T is okay, but not terribly good. 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 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: Excellent. No dust, no scratches, nothing.
Mechanics: Excellent. Uniform and smooth focus, smooth zoom with nice resistance. Aperture clean and fast.
Exterior: Excellent. Only slight signs of use on the mount. Otherwise like new.
Optical performance on NEX-5N / 5T
70 mm (-> jump to test charts)
Sharpness at 70 mm f/3.5 is surprisingly acceptable without any visible haze or soft corners – excellent when considering that this is a zoom lens. At f/5.6, sharpness increases to good, at f/8 to very good levels. Diffraction kicks in very lightly starting at f/11. Softness increases when going to f/16 and most details are blurred away at f/22.
Tiny red and dark cyan CAs are visible at f/3.5. Starting at f/5.6 the CAs sharpen up but stay close to invisible up to f/22. An excellent performance.
Vignetting is about 1/3 to 1/2 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 (-0.5%).
135 mm (-> jump to test charts)
At 135 mm f/3.5, the lens is soft and shows a very light haze. The haze clears by f/5.6 with central sharpness jumping to good levels but still slightly soft corners. At f/8 central sharpness reaches very good levels again and the corners catch up mostly. Diffraction starts lightly at f/11, softens f/16 and blurs 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. 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 (0.6%).
210 mm (-> jump to test charts)
At 210 mm, the lens is soft and hazy at f/3.5. The haze is nearly gone by f/5.6 with central sharpness leaping to medium to good levels, whilst the corners stay a little soft. They sharpen up at f/8 where the center also reaches good levels. The lens performs equally good at f/11. Diffraction is becoming apparent at f/16 and f/22 is blurry as always.
A dark green and magenta glow is visible at f/3.5 and becomes more prominent at f/5.6 By f/11, the glow transforms into medium green/magenta CAs. A good performance overall.
Vignetting is about 1 stop at f/3.5 and disappears by f/5.6. At 210 mm, the lens shows a medium amount of pincushion distortion (1.0%).
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 on the NEX. The latter can’t be said compared to the third version of the 70-210 mm by Komine: 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 – truely 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.
Considering 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 truely 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.
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.