Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Is the 1976 Vintage Vivitar 35-105 3.5 a Mini Primo ? UPDATED

Vivitar 35-105 3.5  

Vivitar 35-105 OM mount lens for EOS
This bargain lens looks impressive. Its got a big front element, solid metal construction, constant iris, and the perfect range for a lot of the work I do. Is it a little slow at 3.5 ? maybe, but thats really only a 1/2 stop from 2.8. I'm generally working with a light level of about F4 @ 200 for sit down interviews so this easily fits into the comfort range for me.  
 
Lets go further, this lens has an internal zoom ! Thats right, the length of the lens does not change when you zoom. Focus on the other hand does cause the front of the lens to turn, and it does move forwards, but only about a 1/4". The front of the lens barrel is also a perfect fit for one of the doughnut rings on my matte box. It moves and rotates through it fine without worry its going to move too far forwards and hit a filter inside.
 
vivitar 35-105 3.5 lens barrel
 
This image was shot with a Tamron 17-50 2.8, using its near real macro close focusing of close to 6" from the front of the lens !
 
The markings in the lens barrel are larger then average which is great. The focus rotation is in the correct direction, and is around 180 deg. If you add on a large gear on the lens barrel and a small one on the follow focus, there is plenty of control here. It overall feels very smooth. 
 
The lens I got is in pristine nearly new out of the box condition, and was really really cheap. So did I really get a bargain ?
 
35-105 bokeh sample
 
vivitar 35-105 bokeh example
 

Bokeh sample shots from Vivitar 35-105 3.5he upperr shot shows its a bit different. Hey its vintage 35 year old glass !

 

Are there any downsides ?

 
Well the lens doesn't focus that close, maybe 4 feet. It does have a macro function which works by going to 35mm, then pulling the zoom collar back to focus close. At the wide end, you can certainly rack from maybe 10 or 15 feet to close using just the macro ring.  Using macro does make the lens extend itself, but nothing too far, maybe 1".
actual image from vivtar 35-105 3.5

click on the image for a full res video still. I was focused at about 30ft or so, Lee ND.9 in front, wide open, maybe shutter at 1/60th

 

Overall Image Quality : UPDATED

Now that I have your attention, the big question, how does it look. Well the answer is, it depends. I'll be putting up a lens test video over the next few days so you can see for yourself. My conclusions are, at 5.6 or slower, it looks great. At 3.5, its a bit soft for stills, but ok for video.  What  happens wide open is that CA starts happening in the out of focus areas. This is typical of the look of lenses from this era. Its something like a diffusions filter, but different because there is some color spread.  Its a very 60's and 70's look I like. There is also certain amount of CA going on in high contrast areas that goes away by 5.6. If you want to bump up your ISO a stop in lower light levels, no problem, or drop your shutter to 1/30th while adding a little more light. Outdoors of course its a great general shooting lens. Reasonably wide for general shots, and at 105 goes in close. 
 
I know if I could have  my ideal lens would be something like a 20-120, F2. There is a Olympus OM 35-105 2.8 out there. I've found only one, it was $1200, and in Hong Kong. I'm not saying that's unreasonable as many folks have paid about as much for various canon L lenses. However, what I don't know is if its any better then what I already have and paid, well $100 for ! This lens may well be the very best bargain lens out there is for shooting video if you can get over the fact its a 3.5 rather then 2.8 lens.