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Vivitar 24-70mm f/3.8-4.8 Series 1

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3 16,330 Fri October 12, 2018
Recommended By Average Price Average User Rating
100% of reviewers $90.00 8.33
Vivitar 24-70mm f/3.8-4.8 Series 1

Wide angle - mid range zoom from the classic series 1 range. Cosina made (09xxxxx serials).

Macro focusing zoom
67mm filter ring
Automatic aperture ring
Push pull zoom
Mount Type: Pentax KA
Price History:

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New Member

Registered: October, 2018
Posts: 1
Lens Review Date: October 12, 2018 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: None indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: Very even drawing at every setting, reasonable flare resistant, sturdy build
Cons: Not bitingly sharp, needs PP
Sharpness: 8    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 5    Handling: 7    Value: 10    Camera Used: Fuji X-E2 with Lens Turbo II   

This is a real interesting lens. It has become my everday go-to despite its obvious drawbacks.

One of the few legacy manual 24-xx Zooms, let alone 24-70, it was build by Cosina for Vivitars prestigious Series I. Full metal, no wobbling in the barrels, no creep, good feel. Not overly heavy nor too long; I like some weight in non-stabilized lenses.

Endpoints of the push-pull-zoom at my copy are a bit "sticky" which can make it difficult to meet the 35- or 50mm-setting - you might push it farther than you wanted once you've overcome the resistance. But otherwise zooming is smooth, the lens doesn't change much in length, 24 is at the short end and not counter-intuitively far out as in other contemporary zooms. Summary: Handling is okay as you get used to it.

At least in my configuration combined with a Lens Turbo II focal reducer, it's not parfocal. But as a push-pull, parfocality would be of little help anyway. Focus turn is short, minimum distance of 1 m is a nuisance since the "macro" mode is only available at the 70mm setting

Up to this point, this sounds like one of the many so-so legacy zooms of the last century.

The real thing is its unique optical performance. It's one of the most - I know no better word as "even" lenses I've ever seen.

First, there is next to no distortion. The small amount especially at 24mm is easily corrected.

Second, it's not as flare resistant as a Pentax or Zeiss, but it's not overly sensitive either despite the large front lens. If flare occurs, you see it as clearly marked blue and red blobs and not as heavy global washout as in other zooms of the time. Shield the lens with your hand - a lens hood is of little use since the front barrel rotates and the 24mm allows only a very short one. I use two old filter rings with the glass removed, more as a protector for the front lens than a hood.

Third: The Vivitar is neither bitingly sharp nor contrasty. A MTF curve should show quite unimpressive data. At least CA and purple fringing are low, and vignetting isn't obvious.

Lack of contrast can easily be healed; use the "Clarity"-or "Haze"-Slider, however it's named in your program, or push local contrast with Unsharp Mask radius set to very high values like 25 or 50.

Resolution is a different beast. Compared to primes like the Pentax 85/2 or modern zooms like Fujis 18-55, it's definitely two steps behind, and there's obviously no way to postprocess here.

BUT now comes fourth, and that's a BIG BUT: If you're not usually show your prints at full wall's size in MOMA, it should be sharp enough - and it holds this over the whole picture area at every focal length and every focal distance and, in most cases, at every aperture setting. You don't get clinical clear pictures, but everything from corner to corner is rendered equally fine.

I have tried lots of older zooms and a hen's stable full of primes but only a few of them managed to show this remarkably consistent behaviour. The first one years ago was - of course on a much, much higher level in every respect - a 50 V3 Summicron.

The only case where wide open performance is visibly bad is in strong backlite situations where blue shadows might creep into dark structures. Otherwise wide open performance shows only a bit softness compared to one stop down, and further stopping down mainly widens the depth of field. Which seems, by the way, thinner than usual - you get good sharpness if and only if you nail the focus.

Conclusion: If you're looking for a no-nonsense manual zoom, don't misuse it as a lens for subtle landscapes, finely structured objects or artistic portraiture, and if you can subdue the nagging feel that there are more glorious, sharper, greater lenses out there, if maybe not in this very useful range down to 24mm and not in your wallets reach - try it. I didn't like it that much with a dumb adapter on APS-C and can't comment on FF; but combined with a good focal reducer and it's limits in mind it delivers remarkably good.
New Member

Registered: January, 2015
Posts: 4
Lens Review Date: January 2, 2015 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $90.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Very good sharpness, color and contrast for an old zoom. Good focal range. 'A' setting. Nice build quality.
Cons: Not fast aperture. Flare occurs in opposite light. Precise focusing is needed to achive sharpness.
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 8    Handling: 9    Value: 9    Camera Used: Pentax K-01, Pentax K10D   

Very nice lens indeed, combying good sharpness and usability with that magic "film style". I bought it without any serious expectations, attracted by low price (90$) and convenient focal range for crop. The Vivitar 24-70 Series 1 works good even with 16 Mp matrix of K-01, and it is razor sharp on K10D. I can say that this rare Vivitar is far better than any 18-55 kit lens in terms of sharpness and "3D effect". Macro 1:5 is not a true macro, but a useful close-up option with nice picture and bokeh.

Very good contrast. Rich colors (color rendition is slightly cold, so you'd better shoot in RAW).
Barrel distortion is slightly visible at 24mm, but correction in Capture One is easy and almost non-destructive for composition.
REMEMBER: you should focus very precisely to make sharp photos even if aperture is stopped down to 8. But if you do it, the sharpness is very good.

The lens is build like a tank. It was designed in 80th by Cosina as a professional zoom and costed about 500$! The focusing/zooming rubber ring is very handy. The length changes very slightly when zooming (almost inner zooming). Bokeh is OK due to 8-bladed aperture, but not outstanding. At 5.6 or 8 a visible octagonal flare can occure in opposite light. On the other hand, I didn't find any probems with aberrations. Strong blue CA may occure only in very contrast light.
Now it is my most used walk-around manual zoom!

Some hi-res examples from K-01 (without any sharping, just DNG to JPG conversion):
24 mm f/7.1:
30 mm f/6.3:
70 mm f/7.1:
70 mm f/6.3:
Close-up, f/8:
And typical flare:
Site Supporter

Registered: June, 2013
Location: Newcastle
Posts: 1,916

3 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: June 14, 2014 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: None indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: 24mm is sharp
Cons: Zoom creep and a little PF
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 7    Bokeh: 7    Handling: 8    Value: 10    Camera Used: K5   

After receiving this in a job lot my immediate thought was to sell it to fund my collection of Pentax lenses. I am glad I didn't go with my initial instinct!!!

To understand this poorly known lens I decided to test its performance against some Pentax 'keeper' primes from the same era for IQ comparison, namely:

SMC Pentax K 24mm f2.8
SMC Pentax K 35mm f3.5
SMC Pentax M 50mm f1.7

The test was undertaken using a K5. Photos (RAW) were taken initially with the Vivitar in 'A' mode for each of the comparable focal lengths. Then a photo was taken with each prime lens using the same f stop determined by the Vivitar (trying to minimise variables). All photos were taken in Manual mode using green button for the Pentax primes.

I imported the RAW images into Camera Raw and proceeded to contrast stretch each image to the same level. Highlight and shadow were adjusted to their maximum for each image - no other adjustments were made. Crops of the centre and edge were prepared saved as a jpeg and compared. Images are below:

Vivitar 24mm outer edge

SMC Pentax K 24mm outer edge

Vivitar 24mm centre

SMC Pentax K 24mm centre

Vivitar 35mm centre

SMC Pentax K 35mm centre

Vivitar 50mm centre to edge

SMC Pentax M 50mm centre to edge

The above testing (albeit not scientific but good enough to look for difference) has convinced me the Vivitar 24-70mm Series 1 lens is a keeper. It appears that the Vivitar is sharper than the Pentax 24mm and 50mm - with only the SMC Pentax K 35mm being superior (understandably so - that Pentax lens is VERY sharp and very highly regarded).

Colours are broadly more realistic in images taken by the Pentax lenses. The Vivitar consistently produces a warmer image, almost Takumar like, which is not a bad thing as the colour can be either acceptable in its own right or altered in PP if desired.

Contrast is perhaps a little better in the Vivitar (except for the SMC Pentax K 35mm lens). Not much difference there.

So what would I rather have? A bag full of primes (which I am not adverse to) or this lens? While I have a preference for primes due to IQ benefits I have to say that I cannot justify keeping the 24mm or the 50mm in my bag if the Vivitar is accessible.

Other benefits over the primes include the 'A' function and the short well dampened focus throw. Focusing is smooth and precise so there is nothing lost there. However, there is a little zoom creep - but this is a hard thing to overcome given the amount of glass in the lens (I have no idea how many elements there are by the way).

So I am keeping the Vivitar and surprisingly will be selling the Pentax 24mm and 50mm. Of course the SMC Pentax K 35mm will remain in my possession (never to be sold willingly).
Add Review of Vivitar 24-70mm f/3.8-4.8 Series 1

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