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04-08-2017, 12:10 AM   #1
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vivitar series 1 28-90mm vmc A vs Pentax SMC-A alternatives

I am currently using a Pentax 35-70 SMC-A lens but am wanting more reach. I have been considering the 35-105SMC-A as an upgrade but now I have an opportunity to snag a local Vivitar 28-90 VMC A lens for $40. From the photos it appears to be in near mint condition. I am aware of the potential for oily blades in this lens but aside from that, how does the image quality of this lens compare to the Pentax alternatives? How does it compare in terms of color, contrast, sharpness, aberrations, bokeh, etc?

04-08-2017, 12:29 AM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by ctrout Quote
I am currently using a Pentax 35-70 SMC-A lens but am wanting more reach. I have been considering the 35-105SMC-A as an upgrade but now I have an opportunity to snag a local Vivitar 28-90 VMC A lens for $40. From the photos it appears to be in near mint condition. I am aware of the potential for oily blades in this lens but aside from that, how does the image quality of this lens compare to the Pentax alternatives? How does it compare in terms of color, contrast, sharpness, aberrations, bokeh, etc?



I cannot comment on the Vivitar's performance, I have the 35-105mm, super lens!
I have also read the reviews and would suggest that the Vivitar must be bought. At the price I doubt you would lose any money should you decide you would prefer the 35-105mm.
Assuming it's as good as it looks of course.
04-08-2017, 02:55 AM   #3
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The extra wide angle of the Vivitar is very welcome. The series 1 lenses by Vivitar are excellent. Here is topic about one on MFlenses.com Vivitar Series 1 28-90mm f2.8-3.5 I would say it's a no brainer. Some of those old zooms are extremely undervalued.
04-08-2017, 05:29 AM   #4
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adding an SMC A 70-210mm f4 would seem to be a smooth transition from 35mm all the way to 210 - and the 70-210 is an awesome lens...

04-08-2017, 06:38 AM   #5
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I already have the SMC A 70-210 and I agree that it is the perfect companion to my 35-70. I'm just looking for more versatility on the low end so I won't have to switch lenses as often. I tend to stay at the long end of the shorter zoom but there are times when I have to pull out the 28mm prime when I'd rather just zoom to 28mm if I could.
04-08-2017, 08:24 AM   #6
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Have a look at the SMC Pentax-A 3.5-4.5/28-80.
Keep in mind there is also a "Pentax-A 3.5-4.5/28-80", which is a completely different optical design, and was a typical budget zoom lens.

The SMC one is very good, maybe corners slightly less sharp than with the SMC-A 4/35-70.
This, again, is a bit better than the SMC-A 3.5-4.5/35-70, but also much bigger and heavier.
I own all three of them.
08-30-2017, 06:59 PM   #7
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So I just came across this old thread so I thought I would put an update on here in case anyone ever finds themselves at the same crossroad that I did between these two lenses.

I purchased the Vivitar. When I arrived to look it over, I discovered that it had the slow blades so I pointed it out to the seller and he knocked $10 off and threw in a very nice holster style Pentax case that I relly liked so I figure if I value the case at $10, I got the lens for $20. I was thinking of ordering a spanner and trying to tackle it myself since I paid so little for it so it sat on my shelf for a few months. During that time I decided that while I decided how I might address the Vivitar's sticky blades, I had to have the Pentax 35-105 f 3.5 to fill the gap. I eventually decided to send the Vivitar to dcshooter rather than mess up the rare and near mint A version of this lens. All-in I'm at about $110 on the Series 1 which now looks and functions like a nearly new lens (one, nearly imperceptable nick on the outside edge of where the filters screw in). I paid $118 for the Pentax lens in perfect condition but no idea how the internal lube will hold up.

I haven't had an opportunity yet to run either lens through its paces so I decided that for their first trip out, I will snap them to the front of my Canon 5D mk3 and do a head to head shootout. I'll be looking at things like open aperture IQ, flare, detail, color, and contrast. I'm hoping to do this test over the long weekend coming up. I will post my photos here when I'm finished.

An overview of the most obvious differences in how these lenses function:

The vivitar has better wide end by 6mm, covering the 28-34mm range that the Pentax lacks I've always been told that a few mm at the wide end makes a much bigger difference in fov than a few mm at the tele end. The Pentax has a 15mm advantage at the tele end, covering from 90mm where the Vivitar leaves off, all the way to 105mm. Again, I think that the differences in focal length is pretty much a wash but I favor the wide end here where things are as close as they are.

The difference in aperture is insignificant because the Vivitar is a variable f2.8-3.5 against the Pentax's constant f3.5. If the photos end up showing a glaring difference, or much of any difference at all, I'll be surprised. 2.8 is better than 3.5 though unless the images suffer so badly wide open that 2.8 is deemed to be unusable.

I've already taken a look at the macro capabilities of both lenses and the Vivitar does bring the subject in quite noticeably closer. Neither lens will hold focus through the zoom range. I prefer one touch zooms so I'll give that point to the Vivitar. Another point to the Vivitar for not having that goofy macro "notch" that you must suffer through with the Pentax. The Pentax isn't cumbersome to use, the Vivitar just has better and smoother handling; it's "faster" in use. At this point, I would rate the handling of the lenses as Vivitar-9/10 and Pentax 7/10. Both are really great lenses mechanically and a joy to hold and manipulate and they seem to be similar enough in size and weight that unless I split hairs by breaking out the digital scale, I'll say that they are close enough for me to call it a tie here. Ultimately, the images should determine the winner but if the quality is really close, I'd take the Vivitar unless I was afraid of missing a shot due to not having enough reach (not likely).

Last edited by ctrout; 08-30-2017 at 07:31 PM.
08-31-2017, 06:20 AM - 1 Like   #8
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Just acquired mine, been after a PKA one for ages. CFD mount one with sticky iris has been sitting in my project box for longer than I care to mention...

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08-31-2017, 06:58 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by dcshooter Quote
drop me a line, and I can give you some pointers.
Thank you Brian, I'll let you know.
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