Vivitar 28mm f/2.8 Close Focus Lens -- A Little Gem

Started Oct 20, 2010 | Discussions thread
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Zvonimir Tosic
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Vivitar 28mm f/2.8 Close Focus Lens -- A Little Gem
Oct 20, 2010

I've had a chance to get a Vivitar 28mm f/2.8 Close Focus RL Edition lens for Pentax mount. I find 28mm especially versatile FoV. Ever wondered why Pentax made a 43mm lens for FF? 28mm is an APS-C true 'normal' lens, same as 43mm is true normal FF lens (FF diagonal). We're still waiting for Pentax to come with a modern, true 'normal' (28mm) lens for APS-C. In the meantime we can play with little gems like this Vivitar.

For those interested in what this little performer can do, here are few images with brief observations.

Lens is very small and light; it supports 49mm filters, weights only 160g or so. Metal body. It's fully manual -- that means you need to operate in M mode to use it. Once you turn on the camera you set the focal length for SR to "28" and off you go!

This lens is one of many form Vivitar's series of 28mm lenses -- more info you can find here: http://photografica.robinparmar.com/vivitar28detail.html#K05

Focusing on this lens is very, very smooth. Because it's a close focus lens, you can perfect your focus almost indefinitely and it's a great joy. It focuses as nearly as 14cm on an APS-C camera, which almost makes it a macro lens!

How does it compare with modern lenses? From brief observation, and with a no real-life role model of a similar focal length to test against, I can say that it isn't as 'sharp' as modern DA lenses. Mine DA40 and DA15 are heaps sharper. Bt that's kinda normal because film lenses were designed differently and were taking into account the media -- film. You'll see what I mean in images below.

Flowers in late afternoon. I wanted to see how bohkeh is rendered in such a messy flower jumble. Image is followed by two 100% crops. Maximum aperture.

Next I tried to test how close you can get to the subject and what this lens can render. I loved this. Cat was only 13-14 cm away. Maximum aperture. Bohkeh is lovely. Just notice how precisely you can play with the focus -- you can practically decide on which part of the whisker you want to focus on.

Then some scenes outdoors; the sky, a tree and some leaves. This is where design of old lenses shows their major 'shortcoming' today -- this sharpness in not comparable to anything modern DA lens can do, but is pleasing nevertheless. The colours are rendered flawlessly. I have chosen f11 for this photograph because I wanted more details in focus.

Then a shot directly into a setting sun; in fact, I've focused closely on wire, and wanted to see how it will render OoF with setting sun directly behind. I'm very pleased with the artistic quality of the result. Maximum aperture.

Now a most demanding test for such an old lens on a modern DSLR body -- resolving too many different details at a small scale. This is where every pixel and every bit of sharpness counts. This olde Vivitar is not as good as modern DA lens, but as stated above, media (film) was compensating for it. Minimal aperture and focus to infinity.

However, to make story a happy ending and understand why manual focus lens for film are still of great value, I've emulated the look of Fuji Superia 200 film on original photo and included the 100% detail too:

Now this is more like it!

It's the feeling of the film photograph that suddenly comes to life and makes the statement. Now little Vivitar shines. Whilst film look wasn't so necessary in closeups before, in a open field scene with lots of details and small subjects film look for this lens gives it true value and life back.

Perhaps you may find one for yourself and start taking some amazing and artistic photographs too. This lens, and similar older 28mm MF lenses, are inexpensive. Almost a bargain. Happy shooting!

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