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11-08-2012, 10:20 PM   #1
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Why NOT a 300mm or 400mm Vivitar?

Someone mentioned in another thread that they didn't recommend that I get a 300mm Vivitar prime. From what I've seen I can't likely afford a 300MM Tak and I was thinking about going for either a 300mm or 400mm Vivitar at some point because likely I could get one well under $100 at Goodwill and I really would like a true prime in that range someday. Most of my Viv's are pretty stellar lenses so I was quite surprised to see that comment. Anyone want to elaborate on why either one might not be a good choice or give me other decent alternatives to the more pricey Tak? (Yeah, I'd kill but that Tak is likely ever going to be mine only in my dreams. I get sticker shock every time I see one listed on here. I do look but no way, not unless someone wins the lotto, sigh...)

I don't want another zoom. I've got both MF and AF zooms in that range. I'm just looking to fill out my MF primes collection with a lens in the 300 or 400 range. I do bird and sometimes it would be nice to have something just a little bit sharper at the 300mm or 400mm point. The only 500mm I've ever managed to lay my hands on was a total piece of crap, a no name $12 lens. Probably I just can't afford one or a 400mm either so I've been looking at 300mm primes. Zooms tend to be less sharp as they get longer and I'm thinking for long bird shots a prime is the way to go. My budget thought just does not extend to anything too pricey and most Viv's tend to be in my range except for the Series 1 stuff, which is why I was heading in that direction until I read that comment....

Just wondering what I should be looking out for if not for a Viv 300 or 400 and there's actually very limited data out there on them. I did see the one review here but it honestly didn't help much...Could use some practical suggestions here as I will likely go there sooner or later...Thanks!

11-08-2012, 11:21 PM   #2
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The Vivitar TX & T4 (removable mount) series are ok -- I think we've talked some of the other shorter focal lengths before with you. All made by Tokina, and they are decent (max aperture 5.5 or 5.6) for their age, but not stellar. You'll need to shoot at f8 or f11 to get the best sharpness and get rid of fringing. (I had a 300/5.5 T4 for a a while -- the TX is presumably slightly better). The real early 300 Taks are not great, but some of the others are more well-regarded. I can also say that Vivitar beats the Tele-Tak 300/6.3. I compared the 300 T4 side-by-side with the Tele-Tak when I had them both. But I sold all of them, you're just not going to find something that fantastic without paying for it. You can get those Viv 300's for about $30-$40 bucks (400 for twice that), but you may have to find a mount also if you don't have one. (I actually have some TX PK and m42 mounts for sale.) I recently picked up the Tamron Adaptall SP 300/5.6 flat-field -- that's a nice lens and does semi-macro. Much more lightweight and easier to use than those others, but hard to find and will cost more than the Vivitar (and again, you need a mount) -- there is actually one on ebay at the moment. But I think some more recent (but not actually recent) consumer zooms are just as good at 300 than those older primes. The FA 100-300 zoom (the better one) is probably just as good at 300 as those Vivitars, plus it has autofocus. You can find older Sigma and Tamron 70-300s (also under the Quantaray brand) that are also decent, although the purple fringing on the Sigma is outrageous. Lots of choices, but nothing really great at 300 or longer than is cheap, and certainly nothing fast. Serviceable is the best you can hope for, and ease of use is a big issue.
11-08-2012, 11:54 PM   #3
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If you check my album titled "Deer-various" there is a pic taken with a Tamron Adaptall 300/F5.6 and one with a Tokina RMC 400/5.6, both on my K10d. Neither shot had any sharpening. I am less than impressed with my photography skills, so both lenses are probably better than the images in the album suggest. The Tamron is supposed to be pretty good, even wide open. The Tokina has got a bad rap in some quarters but I think it does the job. I think I paid about A$100 for the Tamron many years ago. The Tokina was A$200 but it was "new-in-box" when a camera store was cleaning out old stock (it is an M42 mount). I rather like some of the older manual lenses but - like you - I wish I could afford a Takumar or one of the better Pentax 300s.

Last edited by PJ1; 11-08-2012 at 11:55 PM. Reason: typo
11-08-2012, 11:57 PM   #4
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I've got a Sigma 75-300 AF and a Tamron 75-300 AF. They're not bad but really they're not getting me to 300, more like 250 maybe. After 250 they tend to get very soft no matter what you do. That's true of most zooms I've tried I think though the 75-300mm Viv I only have in C/Y mount I think does me a bit better.

What I wanted actually was an M42 mount or K mount 300mm or 400mm prime for my film SLR's as well as my K-x. I do have an adaptall adapter for the M42's and since when it comes to film I tend to use my Spotties a lot I was more going that way. I can always adapt the M42 to K mount. But going the other way around of course, not done.

I've not seen Viv 300 or 400 anything for that kind of money lately. More like $50-80 and up. Anytime I see a Viv 300 or 400 prime on auction it tends to get a little rich for my blood and the Tak, it's pretty extreme. Being as I am a Tak devotee I'd prefer the Tak I think but like I said, that's lotto dream territory. If I could find a Viv 300/400 for $40 it would be worth it though then? By earlier do you mean post M42? Just wondering...

11-09-2012, 12:25 AM   #5
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I recently bought a Sigma 400mm 5.6 APO at a thrift store for $40. I didn't look close enough at the mount and ended up with a Sigma SA mount. Whoops, it is now on ebay. There is a Pentax version available.
A couple weeks later I found a Vivitar 400mm 5.6 for half the price of the Sigma. I've only taken it on one outing (freaking huge!) but so far I am satisfied. Of course I can't compare the IQ but the Viv. feels much more solid than the Sigma.

Last edited by 53bicycles; 11-09-2012 at 12:31 AM.
11-09-2012, 12:41 AM   #6
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I have the Vivitar m42 300mm and am not that fond of it.My Fa 100-300 does a much better job on the moon that the Vivitar. I put things up too good this fall when I went away for a two week vacation and can't find it now.When I do will give it another try and it doesn't get to looking better find it a new home.
11-09-2012, 04:49 AM   #7
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Depending on the 400 nothing at all

This is the multi coated version from the early 1980's

11-09-2012, 09:09 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Lowell Goudge Quote
Depending on the 400 nothing at all

This is the multi coated version from the early 1980's
I love that 2nd one snoozing in the back. That's too sweet, laugh...

11-09-2012, 10:39 AM   #9
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If used on film, the Vivitars should be fine. They are not soft wide-open, but of course they do improve stopped down, and film is much more forgiving in terms of fringing, etc. (Probably still seem some red/green in the bokeh if you look for it.) They were top-notch in the 70s compared to other similar (i.e. not fast) telephoto primes...
11-09-2012, 11:04 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by magkelly Quote
I love that 2nd one snoozing in the back. That's too sweet, laugh...
Thanks. This shot is 30 years old, ektachrome 400 scanned at 2880dpi. Please do not ask me to remember the expsoure
11-09-2012, 11:06 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by vonBaloney Quote
If used on film, the Vivitars should be fine. They are not soft wide-open, but of course they do improve stopped down, and film is much more forgiving in terms of fringing, etc. (Probably still seem some red/green in the bokeh if you look for it.) They were top-notch in the 70s compared to other similar (i.e. not fast) telephoto primes...
Of course there is fringing, due to lateral CA. This lens is clearly NOT aprochromatic

I have not tried this, in all honesty on digital, as it has a serious drawback, minimum focus is 7 meters(22feet for the metric impaired) and I tend to shoot small subjects today and need to get much closer than sanity would permit whit these guys

It is still sitting on my shelf however.
11-09-2012, 11:07 AM   #12
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I didn't like the Vivitar/Tokina 300mm f5.5 T4, based on this test:

https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-slr-lens-discussion/98808-300mm-le...p-options.html

The zoom options in that test are pretty cheap and do more. I eventually gave it away for the cost of shipping. Of course it's just one old lens so it could be a bad example of the species.

The TX or T4 Vivitars do have one big advantage. They are often sold cheaply with unusual mounts like Miranda, as a Miranda lens. If there's a decent photo, you can tell that you're getting the interchangeable mount version. You still need to get an M42 mount, which could come from any interchangeable lens. That's how I got my 300mm in the first place.
11-09-2012, 11:18 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Lowell Goudge Quote
Of course there is fringing, due to lateral CA. This lens is clearly NOT aprochromatic

I have not tried this, in all honesty on digital, as it has a serious drawback, minimum focus is 7 meters(22feet for the metric impaired) and I tend to shoot small subjects today and need to get much closer than sanity would permit whit these guys

It is still sitting on my shelf however.
On the Viv 300/5.5 T4, lateral fringing is extremely minimal to non-existent on my crop-sensor pictures taken with K5, although there obviously could be some more on the far edges I'm not seeing. Green/magenta bokeh fringing, it has got that, but seems very good laterally...
11-09-2012, 11:58 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by vonBaloney Quote
On the Viv 300/5.5 snip.....Green/magenta bokeh fringing, it has got that, but seems very good laterally...
In all fairness that is the bulk of the vivitar 400 also. Lateral CA is greatly enhanced in the OOF regions. Don't get me wrong, the 400 is not a bad lens for big subjects, it is just the min focus that is a pain
11-09-2012, 12:12 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Lowell Goudge Quote
In all fairness that is the bulk of the vivitar 400 also. Lateral CA is greatly enhanced in the OOF regions. Don't get me wrong, the 400 is not a bad lens for big subjects, it is just the min focus that is a pain
Yeah, depends on what you are shooting. I keep at least one tube in my bag to shorten focus distance if needed...
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