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Vivitar Series 1 90-180mm f 4.5 Flat Field

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4 23,874 Wed March 16, 2016
Recommended By Average Price Average User Rating
100% of reviewers $208.33 9.00
Vivitar Series 1 90-180mm f 4.5 Flat Field

One of the original vivitar series 1 zooms, dating from 1978, and one of the most "cult classic". Made by Kino Optical (=Kiron) - 22xxxx serials. Reputedly one of the best macro zooms ever made.

Focal length: 90-180mm
Filter thread: 72mm
Min. Aperture: f/4.5
Max. Aperture: f/22
Angular field of view (diagonal): 27
Elements/groups: 18/12
Min. focusing distance: 27" (68.6 cm) @ 180mm
Max reproduction ratio: 1:4 @ 90mm, 1:2.7 @ 135mm, 1:2 @ 180mm
Weight: 2.4 lbs. ( 1.1 kg)

Review on Making not taking blog.
Mount Type: M42 Screwmount
Price History:

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Registered: March, 2010
Location: Bologna, Amsterdam, Chiang Mai
Posts: 1,087

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: March 16, 2016 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $250.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: build. tripod collar, close-up sharpness
Cons: weight, no electric contacts
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 9    Handling: 8    Value: 8    Camera Used: K-01   

I own this lens in M42 mount, which could be even seen as a better alternative to the PL mount.
Each has its own advantages, with PK you need to use M mode and press the green button immediately before firing... but you can focus wide open! With M42 lenses (or T2 PK adapters) it is possible to shoot in Av mode, very quickly, still retaining focus confirmation and eventually catch-in focus. The only problem is that you have to operate in stop down, so if you want to focus wide open, you have to turn the aperture ring to the desired value before shooting. Fortunately with close focus is better to check for the background rendition at working aperture. With enough light i found that's quite easy to focus with the iris stopped down, setting the reproduction ratio beforehand, and then moving back and forth until the subject is in focus (either visually or following the focus confirmation sound).
Fortunately this lens has the A/M switch. Once set in M position, the lens behaves the way i just reported.
Many M42 lenses, of more recent vintage, have no A/M switch. With this kind of glasses the pin at the back must be stuck down, other way the diaphragm will stay wide open all the time!
I own a yummy Voigtlander/Zeiss Color Ultron 50mm, affected by this problem. I tried various options, including sticking down the pin with the kind of cement used to glue rubber or leather. It works... more or less, and it's easily cleanable, but the best solution is a smallish bit of strong adhesive tape, matt black.
Back on topic now. Last personal trick i use with M42 objectives:
I prefer to have a different adapter ring dedicated to each valuable/often used M42 lens.
Fitting a screwmount lens to the camera takes forever, cause the adapter has to be mounted first, then the lens is screwed in.
It is much better to unscrew the small screw from the ring, remove the small spring, glue the ring to the lens with a removable cement like the red one used in car engines, thus turning a M42 into a PK without diaphragm simulator lever. A pity that this way the lens has no retainer. A heavy lens could fall from the camera and crash on the pavement! The solution is not so difficult, even do-it-yourself: carve a retaining notch on the back flange, using a PK mount as example. Not sure i'm willing to do it on this lens, that is not cheap, not very common, and sought-for. I'll see...

I guess most of the owners of this lens have it in PK mount, so no more M42-specific infos.
The build is at the best level, as most early Series 1 objectives.
Despite 40 years ca of age, both focal and focusing rings are smooth and well damped, and the diaphragm is precise, snappy, with no oily blades (a problem that affects some other Kino-made lenses).
The front element rotates while focusing, and i have seen that a hood is needed if there is a bright sky, or large shiny areas, within the frame. I don't know if Vivitar sold the lens with its hood. I got none, so i'll have to find a 72 ∅ rubber hood that could be fit reversed, but this way i'd need a new cap. The original one is a press-in cap.
I didn't check for distorsion, not very important in a close-up lens, but i saw almost no other aberration.
Vignetting and fringing are non existant, at least with generic pictures. Sooner or later i'll shoot subject specifically chosen to evidence the flaws of the lens.
In case, i'll report the updates.
I didn't shoot optical targets either. I don't even have a tripod were i am now!

Here is how the lens looks on a small K-01. Notice the red dot at 11 hours, not on top. It happens with cheap M42 > PK rings. No problems with infinity though.
The lens was not cleaned, but look how good it looks! The rubber rings are still like new, the rubber is not sticky nor looking degraded. I find the shape of the lens to be very attractive, quite different from the boring cylinder shape of Tamron SP zooms. Definitely, this is is a charming lens.

Here is a link to four shots, saved in jpg, resized to 72dpi and 50% of the original size (jpg quality set at 90)
I don't post the pics here cause i should resize too much. No pixel peeping!
You have to click the link
The first two are shot wide open, with MINIMAL exposure adjustment.
The last two are shot at f8, i got lazy and used only auto adjust with Capture One for Mac.
The third shows the need for a lens hood.
All the pics were shot in an open air area of a bric-a-brac. If you enlarge the pics, keep in mind that everything is dusty/dirty.
Be warned that all shots were taken just before sunset at very high ISO, from 1000 (the first) to 6400 (the last). There is a lot of noise!
I find the quality to be simply amazing, for a lens released more than 40 years ago.
The focal range is just 1:2, This allowed to devise such a good lens. A zoom unmatched in its time, and the first zoom optimized for close focus.
Later on, Tamron released the SP zoom 70.210mm f/3.5 (19AH), which was as good at close range as at infinity, but the magnification ratio is just 1:2.66

4 pics at f4.5 and f8

A few infos about this lens:
calculated in the USA, devised for Medical Photography, built by Kino, released in 1971.
Rumors: it was sold by Vivitar at a loss (albeit not for cheap).
Here is the Modern Photography test, see how it performs wide open (sharp foreground, blurred background!):

All in all, a wonderful lens, and a surprising example of the quality of early Series 1 optical projects (and of the mechanical quality of Kino-made lenses, when they could produce lenses of a certain price/value).
It took long time to find one at a decent price. The cost includes shipment from the USA. Fortunately the euro was strong back then.
I thought: "i try it and see if i better keep or sell it". Definitely a keeper. Very useful for mushrooms, flowers, and hunting for small animals.
Wholeheartedly recommended

Junior Member

Registered: December, 2012
Posts: 36

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: March 7, 2013 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $225.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Macro throughout it's range, well built
Cons: Heavy
Sharpness: 10    Bokeh: 9    Handling: 10    Value: 10   

The Vivitar Series 1 90-180mm/f4.5 Flat Field Macro lens is made by Kino (aka Kiron). It is a fully manual macro lens intended for dental/med lab work, not for shooting bugs at high magnifications. You can get 1:4 at the 90mm end and 1:2 at the 180mm end but it does this extremely well. Once you focus on a subject you can zoom to frame and shoot.

The build quality is almost identical to the famous Vivitar Series 1/Lester Dine 105mm/f2.5 Macro. It is heavy at 2.3 pounds but it has a tripod collar. As previously mentioned, the collar locking knob is small but it is adequate.

This is a manual lens with an aperture ring - remember those? Since we typically shoot macro at smaller apertures I don't find this a hindrance. It is also manually focused, which is suitable for macro work and also not a hindrance. It focuses easily; with a 180 degree turn of the focusing ring it is simple to focus accurately. This is not a fast lens at f4.5 but it is a constant 4.5 throughout its zoom range. It is an auto-aperture lens so the viewfinder remains wide open until you shoot so you'll be able to see adequately at small apertures.

This lens is said to match the sharpness of the Series1 105mm/f2.5 lens at the 105mm setting. I haven't tested that empirically against my 105mm but do find that this lens is sharp at all focal lengths within its range. Granted, it isn't superb wide open but we don't normally shoot macros wide open. When stopped down to f11 or so this lens takes beautiful, sharp photos with superb detail. I find color detail to be accurate, and it renders yellows and reds amazingly well. It does have some PF in high-contrast situations, as all lenses of this era do.

I prefer to use this lens mounted on a macro rail, primarily for composing and framing.

In this day of auto-everything, this lens is not for everyone. It is heavy, it doesn't get down to 1:1 mag and you actually have to think for yourself to use it. However, it is well-made, has a useful zoom range, and is sharp enough for all but the most discerning users (pixel-peeping OCD types). Personally, I feel the sharpness of the lens is as good as the guy focusing it. I don't shoot brick walls or test targets much nowadays so my comments on sharpness should be taken with a grain of salt. I just feel that if I can count the hairs on the leg of an ant its probably a pretty sharp lens.

It is difficult to find a good copy in the Pentax mount and when you do it is usually fairly expensive. You can easily live without this lens. Just wait for Pentax or someone else to make a fine macro-focusing medium range zoom lens with a constant aperture with the sharpness of a Kiron lens. Should be any day now ...
Veteran Member

Registered: March, 2008
Location: Hogtown, ON, Canada
Posts: 329
Lens Review Date: September 1, 2009 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: None indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: sharpest lens tested by Mordern Photography
Cons: Maybe heavy in this day and age, not cheap at market prive

Still using it after all these years. Focus and zoom is still smooth.
Excellent built, many of these were bought for lab, hospital, police work when it first came out.
The best feature of the macro zoom is that it eliminates the back and forth movement to frame a subject. Once it is aligned in the viewfinder you just zoom to crop.
Due to the heavy industrial misuse of these lenses many of them did not survive today therefore the premium for a good working copy.
I bought my first one cheap (retail employee special)

But I only have played around with a Pentax 200/4 macro, have not own one or use one over long period.
Senior Member

Registered: July, 2008
Location: montreal
Posts: 136
Lens Review Date: July 28, 2008 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $150.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Sharp,built like a Tank,Macro
Cons: Knob for the Tripod collar too small,some CA

This is a legendery lens and it deserved it!Well built (all metal) so it's an heavy lens, but i don't mind:ugh:
You can use this lens at any focal lenght and f/ f/4.5 is not as sharp as the others but certainly not soft.The only thing is that the knob for the tripod collar is a bit small and in some high contrast condition it shows some CA,but easily taken care in PP!

I paid mine 150$ for a K mount version...what a deal
I saw an M42 for 600$,even then i would buy it.
Superb for shooting frogs and insects as you can vary the composition with the zoom,fantastic lens!
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