Vivitar 19mm f/3.8

Started Apr 1, 2017 | Discussions
ProfHankD
ProfHankD Veteran Member • Posts: 8,727
Vivitar 19mm f/3.8
1

Continuing going through A7RII trials of my not-used-much-on-FF lenses, here's a bit about my Vivitar 19mm f/3.8....

This is the physically smallest of my ultrawide lenses, only about 38mm long and not very thick despite a 62mm filter thread -- a lot smaller than my other old SLR lenses around 18-20mm with a similar aperture. That 62mm filter ring is the one weak spot in the build quality because it unscrews from the lens easier than I can screw a filter into it; other than that, it's a very well-made little lens with buttery focusing. Overall, it looks like a Cosina-made lens (even somewhat Voigtlander-ish), which the serial number suggests it is.

The focal length of this lens isn't excitingly wide for APS-C (I wasn't using FF digital at the time), but it only cost me $10, so it seemed like a good thing to try.  It really wasn't bad on APS-C, but it also really wasn't better than a good APS-C kit zoom except in that it can focus quite close... so I didn't use it much.

When I got my A7, I found that this lens was actually pretty good on FF. However, I noted "gentle vignetting and LOTS of field curvature." Essentially a solid "B" performer on both APS-C and FF. Let's see if trying it on the A7RII with the TechArt LM-EA7 to autofocus this manual lens works (as OOC JPEGs):

Vivitar 19mm f/3.8 @ f/3.8 on A7RII via LM-EA7

Well, not much trouble with AF using the LM-EA7. Low contrast (of my faded poster), but not bad....  Let's try an outdoor scene:

Fairly heavy vignetting and a few percent of pincushion distortion. Corner sharpness isn't great, probably due to heavy field curvature. Here's what that looks like with very quick fixes for CA, distortion, vignetting, and contrast (levels) applied:

Yeah, that's a lot different, but that is much closer to what it really was. Overall, this lens really isn't that far off even shooting wide open at normal distances -- it just has really low contrast until stopped down, and even then still tends to have slightly smeary extreme corners. Vignetting and a touch of SA glow go away quickly as you stop down. Here's an example shot wide open:

Of course, like so many ultrawides, the fun really happens when there is something close to the front of the lens. Here's a wide-open shot of a railing in a walkway at the University of Kentucky:

Bokeh (yes, even an f/3.8 ultrawide has bokeh close up) are not really good, but they are not bad as ultrawides go.

So, overall, I still think this is a "B" image quality lens on both APS-C and FF, and not at all compelling on APS-C. On FF, the tiny size and close focus give it some charm. Anyway, it easily passes the "good purchase" standard for a $10 lens.    Suprisingly, although the low contrast makes it less obvious, this lens really does resolve well enough for the A7RII over most of the frame -- especially stopped down. I don't think I'd want to use it all the time as my ultrawide, but it could do that especially if you need a very compact lens for a FF kit. Otherwise, it's a little special purpose, with an old-timey feel to the images that takes significant postprocessing to remove.

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photoholiko Veteran Member • Posts: 3,567
Re: Vivitar 19mm f/3.8

Thanks for posting your thoughts on this lens. I have one that I bought new years ago, but  would be interested to know the manufacturer, where did you get that information? my serial # is 22400649.

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csiluk Senior Member • Posts: 1,508
Re: Vivitar 19mm f/3.8

photoholiko wrote:

Thanks for posting your thoughts on this lens. I have one that I bought new years ago, but would be interested to know the manufacturer, where did you get that information? my serial # is 22400649.

Serial # starting with 22 were made by Kiron. Look here. Scroll to the bottom of the page.

http://www.robertstech.com/vivitar.htm

photoholiko Veteran Member • Posts: 3,567
Re: Vivitar 19mm f/3.8

csiluk, Thanks for this very useful information, it also showed me that my 70-210/2.8 is a version 3 by Komine.

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tonybelding Senior Member • Posts: 1,130
Re: Vivitar 19mm f/3.8

I have one of these in Pentax-K mount.  I've used it a fair bit on my old Pentax ZX-5n film camera, and of course it also works just fine on the Sony A7.

I love the size, appearance and build quality.  And of course, it cost very little.  In terms of image quality, though. . .   This lens has everything, just everything:  severe vignetting, soft-and-smeary corners, geometric distortion (especially in the corners), and pentagonal lens flares!

If you're into the lo-fi or lomography style, then it's great.  By more conventional measures of image quality, my Carl Zeiss Jena Flektogon 20mm F4 is much better.

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csiluk Senior Member • Posts: 1,508
Re: Vivitar 19mm f/3.8

photoholiko wrote:

csiluk, Thanks for this very useful information, it also showed me that my 70-210/2.8 is a version 3 by Komine.

You are quite welcome. I also have version 3 of the 70-210. It's easily the best version of this lens. I actually just recently purchased it as it's nearly half the weight of my Canon 70-200L f2.8 IS. It came along with a Series 1 28-90 (also a Komine), both for $39 in excellent+ condition. I use them on my OMD's, so all lenses are stabilized anyway, and it's every bit as good as the Canon, just fully manual. But I consider the weight savings a fair trade off. It also doesn't have the severe focus breathing issue of the Oly 40-150 f2.8 Pro. At close distance, the Oly is only around 110-115mm at best.

ProfHankD
OP ProfHankD Veteran Member • Posts: 8,727
Re: Vivitar 19mm f/3.8

tonybelding wrote:

I have one of these in Pentax-K mount. I've used it a fair bit on my old Pentax ZX-5n film camera, and of course it also works just fine on the Sony A7.

I love the size, appearance and build quality. And of course, it cost very little. In terms of image quality, though. . . This lens has everything, just everything: severe vignetting, soft-and-smeary corners, geometric distortion (especially in the corners), and pentagonal lens flares!

Hmm. Mine doesn't flare all that easily. I think we also have different views of vignetting; this does a slow fade to the corners, which is really not that bad. The really terrible vignetters are the ones that are fine until they suddenly get much darker. This is only down a couple of stops in the far corners; I have seen lenses that are 3-4 stops down in the far corners and have virtually no vignetting 3/4 of the way there.  I certainly agree that it suffers "old timey" ultrawide issues, but except for some far corner smearing, it's well in the "digitally correctable" range with surprisingly decent resolution across most of the frame.

If you're into the lo-fi or lomography style, then it's great. By more conventional measures of image quality, my Carl Zeiss Jena Flektogon 20mm F4 is much better.

Well I hope so!  It's 3X larger and 20X more expensive!

My MIR20 is also much better and probably a lot like your Flektogon. My older Auto Vivitar 20mm f/3.8 (I have two copies), which looks like a Flektogon clone too, probably isn't too far down from that performance either. On the other hand, my Spiratone 18mm f/3.5 is utter trash on FF -- makes this 19mm f/3.8 Vivitar look really great. Seems like there was a pretty steep downward slope in IQ as you got wider than 20mm....

BTW, as fond of old lenses as I am, I'm a big believer in modern ultrawide zooms. A little zoom helps much more with ultrawide composition than zooming helps at longer focal lengths, and the IQ and extra wideness of modern ultrawide zooms really blows away even the best old lenses. Better coatings (which allow more elements), cheap aspherics, and sophisticated computer design optimization are what it takes to get better solutions for that kind of lens design problem. For example, my APS-C Sigma 8-16mm is huge, awkward to use, and awesomely better than any old ultrawide I've ever seen. The current FF ultrawide champion is the Canon 11-24mm... but the pricetag is too much over the Sigma 12-24mm options (if it drops below $2K, I'll probably get one -- although that would mean it cost half as much as my 170+ other lenses total). Then again, that 10mm Voigtlander keeps whispering to me....  

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MOD Tom Caldwell Forum Pro • Posts: 44,868
I was never patient enough for finding $10 lenses

Not a big shopping basket market in Australia.  So I am a world market scourer.  I have bought from all parts of the world and have some really good bargains for my trouble, but no $10 ones.

In fact the Global Shipping Program makes a lens (usually from the USA) at least $50 more expensive than the buy price.  Maybe patience could find me a "$10" lens that I could buy for "$60"? Gnarly can relax - I have a shipito account but I have yet to use it as our weaker dollar has also contributed to some lack of enthusiasm for purchasing from the US.  Furthermore the majority of vendors world wide have realised that to sell to the US market with its now stronger dollar makes selling easy and instead of pricing in their native currency exchanged to AUD$ are listing in US$ terms which also makes their product more expensive to those in countries that don't use US currency.  Other currencies have depreciated more than our dollar but if those listing product list in US currency terms there is no advantage in this to the Antipodean mob.

Some Japanese vendors will list with direct Yen to AUD$ conversions which give more realistic prices but the best fact is that a $30+ shipping cost ex-Japan gives us 3-5 days door to door courier shipping as against doubling the price and doubling the shipping time with GSP.  Normally about 8 days ex-USA with USPS it becomes 16+ days with GSP.

Even Russian vendors price in US$ which must make them happier at the cash register than trying to price in depreciated Roubles.

I am a slow learner but I seem to have reached a stage where I have eventually come to the conclusion that I have quite enough lenses

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Tom Caldwell

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