Vivitar 19/3.8 Information

Started Apr 21, 2018 | Discussions
SiFu
SiFu Veteran Member • Posts: 6,311
it does get listed here (without age)

quick update:

http://web.archive.org/web/20030411163736/http://medfmt.8k.com:80/third/big4.txt

Best,

Alex

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SiFu
SiFu Veteran Member • Posts: 6,311
the Cult Classics site refers to the 19/3.8 as a "newer" lens...

Hello!

as opposed to some vintage Sigma wide angle lenses... I would not have thought this to be a 90's lens, but maybe it was (would also explain why it is not in the 60-80s listing but in the general one)... strange for sure.

Best,

Alex

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Alan WF
OP Alan WF Veteran Member • Posts: 3,566
Re: 20mm age

I bought my first V20/3.8 in 1972 and all my resources (see one in a post below) also indicate 1970 as start of production for that lens.

Hi Alex,

I think the Vivitar 20/3.8 and 19/3.8 are different lenses. (This is confused by Cosina apparently having sold the Vivitar 19/3.8 as a Cosina 20/3.8.)

The Vivitar 20/3.8 is listed as having 9 elements in 7 groups, weighing about 370 g, having an 82 mm filter thread and a correspondingly large front element, 6 aperture blades, and has serial numbers that start with 22 (Kino).

The Vivitar 19/3.8 is listed as having having 8 elements in 8 groups, weighing about 180 g, having a 62 mm filter thread and a correspondingly smaller front element, 5 aperture blades, and has serial numbers that start with 9 (Cosina).

Regards,

Alan

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Alan WF
OP Alan WF Veteran Member • Posts: 3,566
Re: Vivitar 19/3.8 Serial Numbers
1

I've managed to find 13 serial numbers or partial serial numbers for the Vivitar 19/3.8 using, mainly, Google image search.

Thanks to everyone who has sent me numbers. I now have 14 complete serial numbers, 2 incomplete serial numbers (first four or five digits only), and 14 mount designations.

I find:

  • All begin with 9. This is widely believed to mean that they are all manufactured by Cosina. No surprise here.

Still all 9 in the larger sample.

  • The second digits are 0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, and 9. From such a small sample, I'd hesitate to use the missing numbers to suggest a limited range of years (e.g., 1979 to 1987 or 1977 to 1985). A larger sample will help here.

I now have second digits of 0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. The only missing digit is 4, but that could just the result of a small sample.

More usefully, I've found mount designations of: "PK-A/R" (4 lenses), "N/AI-S" (5 lenses), "Y/C" (1 lens), "M/MD" (2 lenses), and "C/FD" (2 lenses). Following up a suggestion by Hank, since MD, AI-s, and PK-A were introduced in 1977, 1982, and 1983, this means that at least some of these lenses were manufactured after 1983.

Furthermore, I've not found earlier designations such as "M/MC", "N/AI", or "PK", which suggests that none of the lenses for which I have mount designations were manufactured before those dates.

Finally, this page:

https://www.camera-manual.com/vivitar-19-3.8-camera-manual-12617.php

has magazine articles from 1989, 1994, and 1996. Unfortunately, they only seem to available in hard copy, which is not very practical.

So, I think we're looking at a lens from sometime after 1983 and probably into the 1990s.

That said, I've seen no lenses for Canon EF mount, which was introduced in 1987. The flange focal distance for EF is less than that of Nikon F and Pentax K, so I'd guess the lens could have been made to be compatible. If this lens was being sold in the late 1980s and early 1990s, why was there no EF mount version? Perhaps EF was seen as a high-end mount and not a suitable target for cheap lenses like this? Has anyone seen an EF version of this lens?

  • The third and fourth digits are 01, 05, 07, 08, 10, and 11. This looks like a month number rather than a week number. Again, the missing numbers might not be significant in such a small sample. A large sample will help here too.

I now have third and fourth digits of 01, 03, 05, 06, 07, 08, 10, and 11. So, 02, 04, 09, and 12 are missing. Again, the missing digits could be the result of a small sample.

  • The last four digits range from 0038 to 5670. This might be a monthly index number. Twice the mean of the last four numbers (which is an estimate of the upper limit under reasonable assumptions) is 5319. So, I'd guess that Cosina manufactured about 6000 per month or about 200 per day. Is that reasonable?

The minimum and maximum are still 0038 and 5670. Twice the mean is now 5454. So, it looks like the largest number manufactured in a single month or single batch was about 6000.

If I take the second through fourth number as defining a batch, then there were at least 13 different batches. If each batch was about 6000 lenses, that's at least 78,000 lenses.

If I take the second through fourth numbers as defining a chronological order, but not necessarily a batch, then there are at least 5 cycles of serial numbers (at the end of the cycle, the second through fourth number will keep increasing but the fifth through eighth number will decrease). So, if each batch was about 6000 lenses, that's at least 30,000 lenses.

I think we're looking at tens of thousands of these lenses, but probably not hundreds of thousands.

If you have a Vivitar 19/3.8, please send me a DM with its serial number, mount type, and whether I should keep the serial number private. This will help me to make this interpretation more firm. If you are worried about sharing the full serial number, please just send me the first four digits. Thanks.

More serial numbers and mount designations would be very welcome. Thanks.

Regards,

Alan

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Alan WF
OP Alan WF Veteran Member • Posts: 3,566
Re: 20mm age

I think the Vivitar 20/3.8 and 19/3.8 are different lenses. (This is confused by Cosina apparently having sold the Vivitar 19/3.8 as a Cosina 20/3.8.)

I'm now wondering if the Vivitar 19/3.8 is an evolution of their 21/3.8. Here is an image of the later:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/camerawiki/6917935141/in/photostream/

It looks very similar to my 19/3.8 and also is listed as having 9 elements in 8 groups.

Regards,

Alan

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SiFu
SiFu Veteran Member • Posts: 6,311
Re: 20mm age

Hello Alan!

Unfortunately I never owned a 19mm - did you see the reference I posted below to the Cult Classics site (being started in the late 1990s) where the 19/3.8 was referred to as being a "new" lens rather than old Sigma wide angles, and where it made the consolidated lens listings, not those through most of the 60-80s though. This has me thinking about a late 80s, early 90s lens now.

Best,

Alex

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Alan WF
OP Alan WF Veteran Member • Posts: 3,566
Re: 20mm age

Did you see the reference I posted below to the Cult Classics site (being started in the late 1990s) where the 19/3.8 was referred to as being a "new" lens rather than old Sigma wide angles, and where it made the consolidated lens listings, not those through most of the 60-80s though. This has me thinking about a late 80s, early 90s lens now.

Ah, now I understand your point: this lens appears in the early 1990s list but not the list to the mid 1980s. Yes, this is indirect evidence that it's a later lens.

Regards,

Alan

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Kevner Contributing Member • Posts: 853
Re: 20mm age
1

Alan,

The 19mm is a different lens than the earlier 20mm.  I do have the 20mm seen below and it is unusual in its ability for close focus, as little as 2".  The later 19mm also has a different element/group architecture.  I can't help you with the dates unfortunately.

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ProfHankD
ProfHankD Veteran Member • Posts: 8,724
Re: Vivitar 19/3.8 Serial Numbers

Alan WF wrote:

More usefully, I've found mount designations of: "PK-A/R" (4 lenses), "N/AI-S" (5 lenses), "Y/C" (1 lens), "M/MD" (2 lenses), and "C/FD" (2 lenses). Following up a suggestion by Hank, since MD, AI-s, and PK-A were introduced in 1977, 1982, and 1983, this means that at least some of these lenses were manufactured after 1983.

Furthermore, I've not found earlier designations such as "M/MC", "N/AI", or "PK", which suggests that none of the lenses for which I have mount designations were manufactured before those dates.

Finally, this page:

https://www.camera-manual.com/vivitar-19-3.8-camera-manual-12617.php

has magazine articles from 1989, 1994, and 1996. Unfortunately, they only seem to available in hard copy, which is not very practical.

So, I think we're looking at a lens from sometime after 1983 and probably into the 1990s.

That would make my copy probably 1989 and possibly 1999. That's credible, but 1999 is very late for an MD lens. The AF mount came out in 1985 and was wildly successful, so real Minolta MD body production ended in 1984. Then again, Seagull might have kept making clones for a L O N G time, including under the Phoenix brand (and Phoenix lenses in MD mount definitely were being sold new until quite recently).

That said, I've seen no lenses for Canon EF mount, which was introduced in 1987. The flange focal distance for EF is less than that of Nikon F and Pentax K, so I'd guess the lens could have been made to be compatible. If this lens was being sold in the late 1980s and early 1990s, why was there no EF mount version? Perhaps EF was seen as a high-end mount and not a suitable target for cheap lenses like this? Has anyone seen an EF version of this lens?

I wouldn't expect one: this isn't an autofocus lens and nearly all EF lenses autofocus. Not all Minolta AF lenses autofocus, but most do, so that would be credible too.

  • The third and fourth digits are 01, 05, 07, 08, 10, and 11. This looks like a month number rather than a week number. Again, the missing numbers might not be significant in such a small sample. A large sample will help here too.

I now have third and fourth digits of 01, 03, 05, 06, 07, 08, 10, and 11. So, 02, 04, 09, and 12 are missing. Again, the missing digits could be the result of a small sample.

Supposedly, the numbering scheme became inconsistent around when they changed hands in 1990... and I would call using month numbers instead of weeks inconsistent.

  • The last four digits range from 0038 to 5670. This might be a monthly index number. Twice the mean of the last four numbers (which is an estimate of the upper limit under reasonable assumptions) is 5319. So, I'd guess that Cosina manufactured about 6000 per month or about 200 per day. Is that reasonable?

...

I think we're looking at tens of thousands of these lenses, but probably not hundreds of thousands.

Sure.  Why not?  This wasn't a very pricey lens as ultrawides go.

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Alan WF
OP Alan WF Veteran Member • Posts: 3,566
Re: Vivitar 19/3.8 Serial Numbers

That said, I've seen no lenses for Canon EF mount, which was introduced in 1987. The flange focal distance for EF is less than that of Nikon F and Pentax K, so I'd guess the lens could have been made to be compatible. If this lens was being sold in the late 1980s and early 1990s, why was there no EF mount version? Perhaps EF was seen as a high-end mount and not a suitable target for cheap lenses like this? Has anyone seen an EF version of this lens?

I wouldn't expect one: this isn't an autofocus lens and nearly all EF lenses autofocus. Not all Minolta AF lenses autofocus, but most do, so that would be credible too.

No, I'm not expecting an AF version in Minolta A mount or Canon EF mount, but rather an MF version for these new mounts. That there apparently were none might suggest that this lens died out shortly after it was introduced. Or maybe Vivitar were unable or unwilling to engineer their older MF lenses for these new mounts.

On the other hand, maybe people adapted Nikon F-mount lenses to Minolta A or Canon EF. It's certainly possible, but I don't know if it actually was a common option back in the late 1980s.

Regards,

Alan

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MOD Tom Caldwell Forum Pro • Posts: 44,817
Re: 20mm age

Kevner wrote:

Alan,

The 19mm is a different lens than the earlier 20mm. I do have the 20mm seen below and it is unusual in its ability for close focus, as little as 2". The later 19mm also has a different element/group architecture. I can't help you with the dates unfortunately.

Shape and close focus capability seems to say “Flektogon”. Must get my MIR-20 20mm f3.5 out to compare.

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Tom Caldwell

ProfHankD
ProfHankD Veteran Member • Posts: 8,724
Re: 20mm age

Tom Caldwell wrote:

Kevner wrote:

The 19mm is a different lens than the earlier 20mm.

Remarkably little in common in any aspect!

I do have the 20mm seen below and it is unusual in its ability for close focus, as little as 2". The later 19mm also has a different element/group architecture. I can't help you with the dates unfortunately.

Shape and close focus capability seems to say “Flektogon”. Must get my MIR-20 20mm f3.5 out to compare.

I have both -- they are very similar (for an older MIR20). My impression is that the MIR20 is a tad better optically, but the Vivitar 20mm is an "A" on FF ("B" on APS-C).

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MOD Tom Caldwell Forum Pro • Posts: 44,817
Re: Vivitar 19/3.8 in EF mount

I was “around” slr cameras in a very informal way.  The EOS system was quite revolutionary to me and when I bought into it I never ever considered trying to adapt my small stock of PK lenses to it let alone “go back” to manual focus by buying a MF EF mount lens.  But probably there were others (more serious and camera enthusiast than I was) who may have adapted lenses that they already had.  But I doubt if there was much incentive for any new EF mount camera body owner to buy EF mount lenses without the EOS system driving them.

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Tom Caldwell

MOD Tom Caldwell Forum Pro • Posts: 44,817
Re: 20mm age

ProfHankD wrote:

Tom Caldwell wrote:

Kevner wrote:

The 19mm is a different lens than the earlier 20mm.

Remarkably little in common in any aspect!

I do have the 20mm seen below and it is unusual in its ability for close focus, as little as 2". The later 19mm also has a different element/group architecture. I can't help you with the dates unfortunately.

Shape and close focus capability seems to say “Flektogon”. Must get my MIR-20 20mm f3.5 out to compare.

I have both -- they are very similar (for an older MIR20). My impression is that the MIR20 is a tad better optically, but the Vivitar 20mm is an "A" on FF ("B" on APS-C).

Both very similar (for some reason) to the Zeiss version f2.8 and f4.0 - I have the Zeiss f4.0 and the MIR-20 but not the Vivitar (didn’t know about it) and the Z-f2.8 is/was a bit too pricey for me.

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Tom Caldwell

MOD Tom Caldwell Forum Pro • Posts: 44,817
Re: Vivitar 19/3.8 Serial Numbers
1

Alan WF wrote:

That said, I've seen no lenses for Canon EF mount, which was introduced in 1987. The flange focal distance for EF is less than that of Nikon F and Pentax K, so I'd guess the lens could have been made to be compatible. If this lens was being sold in the late 1980s and early 1990s, why was there no EF mount version? Perhaps EF was seen as a high-end mount and not a suitable target for cheap lenses like this? Has anyone seen an EF version of this lens?

I wouldn't expect one: this isn't an autofocus lens and nearly all EF lenses autofocus. Not all Minolta AF lenses autofocus, but most do, so that would be credible too.

No, I'm not expecting an AF version in Minolta A mount or Canon EF mount, but rather an MF version for these new mounts. That there apparently were none might suggest that this lens died out shortly after it was introduced. Or maybe Vivitar were unable or unwilling to engineer their older MF lenses for these new mounts.

For the production numbers thrown about it would seem that the prospective market for “old fashioned” MF lenses for AF mount cameras was probably too small to be worth the effort.  I note that the M4/3 mount was initially a market for adapted legacy lenses (becasue they were cheap and the lack of oem AF lenses initially).  But just as soon as more oem lenses became available the interest in adapting these lenses seems to have largely evaporated.  This is despite the cost of oem AF lenses being higher.  Furthermore the difficulty in using MF lenses on the mirrorless systems is consierably less than on dslr/slr bodies.  Hence some MF lenses are still made for the M4/3 mount.

It also seem to me that Sony E/FE was attractive to adapt lenses to - especially those like myself looking for a new host sytem for a stock of Canon EF mount lenses.  But more and more “chat” seems to be about using oem FE mount lenses.

Therefore I would argue that not fully compatible lenses for AF mount systems are only seen as “filler” substitute lenses until there is a wider range of oem  lenses made available.

So to make MF lenses for a newly introduced AF mount system is a risk even today, but not as big as a risk as it was in the days of film.

On the other hand, maybe people adapted Nikon F-mount lenses to Minolta A or Canon EF. It's certainly possible, but I don't know if it actually was a common option back in the late 1980s.

Regards,

Alan

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Tom Caldwell

Alan WF
OP Alan WF Veteran Member • Posts: 3,566
Re: Vivitar 19/3.8 Serial Numbers

I now have second digits of 0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. The only missing digit is 4, but that could just the result of a small sample.

I've found some more serial numbers, and now have examples with all ten second digits. If these are year numbers, it is possible that they wrap around.

More usefully, I've found mount designations of: "PK-A/R" (4 lenses), "N/AI-S" (5 lenses), "Y/C" (1 lens), "M/MD" (2 lenses), and "C/FD" (2 lenses). Following up a suggestion by Hank, since MD, AI-s, and PK-A were introduced in 1977, 1982, and 1983, this means that at least some of these lenses were manufactured after 1983.

Furthermore, I've not found earlier designations such as "M/MC", "N/AI", or "PK", which suggests that none of the lenses for which I have mount designations were manufactured before those dates.

Finally, this page:

https://www.camera-manual.com/vivitar-19-3.8-camera-manual-12617.php

has magazine articles from 1989, 1994, and 1996. Unfortunately, they only seem to available in hard copy, which is not very practical.

I've found a PK-A/R lens with serial number 94062775 whose packaging is "(c) 1990 Vivitar Corporation". So, these were still being manufactured in 1990 at least.

My best guess is now: launched no earlier than 1983 (no "PK" mount) and no later than 1989 (mentioned in a magazine that year), in production at least until 1990 (the date of the copyright) and possibly beyond (mentioned in magazines in 1994 and 1996).

That said, I've seen no lenses for Canon EF mount, which was introduced in 1987.

I'll buy Hank's and Tom's explanations that MF lenses, native or adapted, on AF mounts were initially not seen as something anyone would want. I was a poor student and post-doc back then, and continued with my Minolta XG-1 and CZJ 35-70 well into the 1990s, oblivious to the AF revolution that had happened.

Regards,

Alan

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Alan WF
OP Alan WF Veteran Member • Posts: 3,566
Re: Vivitar 19/3.8 Information

Hi everyone,

In case anyone is interested, I've written an analysis of the likely dates of manufacture of the Vivitar 19/3.8, based on the information in this thread and the text of three articles in Amateur Photography magazine from 1989, 1994, and 1996.

The bottom line is that it seems likely that the lens was introduced in 1983 or shortly thereafter, was probably manufactured for at least a decade, was definitely being manufactured in 1990, was still being sold and possibly still being manufactured in 1996, but probably not manufactured after 1998.

Regards,

Alan

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MOD Tom Caldwell Forum Pro • Posts: 44,817
Re: Vivitar 19/3.8 Information

Alan,

Thanks very much for the trouble you have taken to produce this excellent little article.  It will go down in posterity as a very useful analysis of the history of one lens type among many.

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Tom Caldwell

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