Vivitar 100mm f/3.5 AF Macro
(From Vivitar lens literature) Macro focusing as close as 1:1 (with supplied adapter). Compact and lightweight, measuring only 2.8 inches and weighing 9.98 ounces. Superior optical performance with 5 elements in 4 groups. Multi-coated optics to reduce flare and increase light transmission.
Vivitar 100mm f/3.5 AF Macro
Vivitar 100mm f/3.5 AF Macro User Reviews
10 out of 10 points and recommended by joe88 (41 reviews)very sharp macro lens, CA's nearly noneplastic construction
for the very low price phantastic results.reviewed January 31st, 2014 (purchased for $70)
macro shootings with f11 are very sharp
9 out of 10 points and recommended by The Mad Hatta (1 reviews)Very sharp images, great IQ, pleasing color and contrastCheapest body I've ever seen, AF sounds like a coffee grinder and can hunt a lot
First, this lens is manufactured (in Japan.. good news there) by Cosina, and is also sold under the brands promaster, phoenix, pentax, soligor and voightlander.reviewed January 10th, 2012
I've been an amateur photographer for 21 years, and over the past 5 years, have begun selling my photographic art as a side interest in local (and one not so local) galleries as well as to magazines and catalogs.
I've had this lens (under the name promaster) for years. I don't even remember how many years, but I've used it a LOT over those [indiscriminate number] years and I love the images this lens is capable of. I received this lens as a gift many years ago from my father, who didn't make much money, but did what he could to support my affinity for photography (which is why I have this super-cheap lens in the first place). In fact, my parents bought my first camera (a $20 kodak 110) for my 9th birthday, 21 years ago, and I haven't stopped viewing the minute details of the world through a viewfinder since then.
The first thing I noticed about this lens was how terribly tacky and cheap the exterior was. I mean.. wow, this thing looks and feels like a child's toy. I suppose I can interject here to say, equipment snobs might as well stop reading. Then again, if you were an equipment snob, you probably wouldn't be reading reviews of vivitar lenses in the first place. That brings me to another point.. I'm afraid that this lens will be completely missed by many, just because they won't bother to read about lenses under these cheap brand names.
Anyway, back on track. The case is very light-weight plastic with cheap-looking markings around the barrel. The cheap feeling continues when you turn the focus ring. It's stiff and jerky with not a hint of smoothness or refinement. Turn on the auto-focus, and you'll find that it focuses fine with good light, not so well with low light. The manufacturer's muse must have been a coffee grinder, because that's what it sounds like when the auto-focus operates. The auto-focus is also very slow. I just use mine manually.
The quality of the exterior materials and appearance could mislead some to conclude that it has low quality construction. This is not so. Over the years, this lens has seen a lot of use, and I've never experienced any inconsistencies in it's image production. I'm sure it cannot take a serious drop as well as a metal-bodied lens, with the plastic case being more susceptible to cracking (though no one has reported any problems in any of the reviews I've read), then again, metal transfers kinetic energy very well rather than flexing upon impact and dispersing energy away from the glass. So, the plastic shell could potentially protect the glass better under certain impacts. Also, one of the other reviewers mentioned that his superb example of this lens may be a fluke, and results from other examples could be inconsistent with his great results due to it's 'poor' construction. This is not the case. A quick search on the internet proves that people are consistently getting wonderfully pleasing (much to their surprise) images with this lens. dyxum[dot]com has a looong list of reviews of this lense.
The second thing I noticed.. MAN this thing takes beautiful pictures! Not just extremely sharp, but with good contrast and beautiful color. Bokeh is very pleasant. With or without the 1:1 adapter, images are beautiful and sharp. Only a hair softer with the adapter fitted, but step it down a notch and it's just as sharp again. To be honest, when I first used this lens, I didn't realize there was such a disparity between quality and cheap optics. To me, it just took great pictures.. which is what I expected from a lens. I didn't realize until recently, when comparing it to other 100mm macros in the $500 range, that it took pictures as well or better than all that I compared it to. One of them would be better at resisting CA under certain conditions, while another would have slightly more vibrant contrast, and another would be slightly sharper with both of them at their fastest settings only. None of them would take pictures (considering overall quality) which I would consider definitively superior.
I can imagine that the terrible feel of the focus ring would continually bother some people, and that some just can't get past the cheap feel of the lens. All the faults of this lens have long since fallen by the wayside in my mind, and I'm completely over them. The pictures are astounding, and that's what it's made for.
The manufacturer put all it's investment in this lens into the optics and associated construction, while using cheap materials for shell construction and focus operation. I recommend this lens to anyone wanting a prime macro. Just be ready to deal with a focus ring that is NOT smooth and cheap looks. Anyone who dismisses this lens strictly on looks or brand will be missing out on an amazing find. This is by far my cheapest lens, and it's the one that has produced my most profitable images.
I've also noticed there is a different version of this lens, which is manual focus only. Reviews of that lens are similarly stellar, and people don't seem to complain about the focus ring. Maybe the manufacturer decided to just drop the AF mechanism, rather than put money into it to make it work. I don't know if either of them are still in production, but they can be found for sale easily online from $100 to $200.
I have read other's reviews (on other sites) knocking this as a portrait lens, saying that it doesn't serve the purpose very well. It's a macro lens! Use it for its intended purpose and you should get the intended results!
7 out of 10 points and recommended by rainerknappe (24 reviews)sharp and good colours, cheapconstruccion and handlings, unstable
This lens is very difficult to review. There is a very big difference between the optics and buildings. Of course its a cheap lens, but as a "real macro-freak" normally I am used to better lenses. I have 6 top-macros from Sigma, Tamron and Canon and the Vivitar only as reserve. I bought it because one day I didn´t find any Pentax- mount, so simply I tried it out.reviewed May 15th, 2007 (purchased for $190)
Optical quality: Quiet nice - with the Pentax K 10 (on the Pentax ist DS it dosn´t work so fine!) In the direct sun it tends sometimes to strange colourchanges.
Good news: Very strong sharpness and saturated coulors and a different bokeh than p.e. the Sigmas.
Bad news: The construction is (pricewise) really cheap!
Anyway - its a real surprise how nice it optically works but its not more than a good reserve-lens!
10 out of 10 points and recommended by minute (3 reviews)Cheap, light, great image qualityNeeds adapter to go to 1:1
I bought this lens used on eBay when I was looking for a cheap macro lens and I have been very happy with it. It has great image quality, the pictures come out sharp and with very good contrast.reviewed December 13th, 2006 (purchased for $90)
The lens is basically built around a main barrel that extends out to quite a bit when focusing at macro distances. The barrel and the lens are very light, but that also makes the micro-motor focusing quick enough for most purposes. Overall build is quite solid and can take a few knocks, although it doesn't give the same quality feel as an L lens.
The 1:1 adapter that comes with it is basically a dedicated dioptre lens that mounts on the filter thread. With it one can only focus in the near to 1:1 range and focus hunting becomes more of a problem. But at that range manual focusing is required most of the time. The sharpness and contrast degrade a bit when using the 1:1 adapter, but I still find it adequate. On the plus side you can use the adapter on other lenses too (e.g. on a 50mm lens, paired with a thread adapter).
Overall, this lens is great value for money and excellent for a starter in Macro photography or for someone on a budget. I won't be selling mine for a while.
0 out of 10 points and recommended by jeffreenz (3 reviews)
What is the focal length with the 1:1 adapter?reviewed December 27th, 2005
9 out of 10 points and recommended by Ross_Alford (36 reviews)Outstanding image quality, small, lightweight, very inexpensive, great "starter" macrofeels very plasticky, only focuses to 1:2 without adapter, AF relatively slow
(added April 2006--this lens may no longer be available as a Vivitar, I am not sure, but the exact same lens is still available under the Phoenix brand name. It has in the past also been marketed by Pentax under their brand name for K-AF mount cameras, and I am told by reasonably reliable sources that it is made by Cosina; mine certainly says it is made in Japan, at any rate)reviewed December 2nd, 2005 (purchased for $129)
I am a very experienced macro photographer, concentrating on small animals using flash. My photos have been published in books and specialist magazines. I always use flash, usually multiple flash setups, and shoot at small apertures (f/11 and below, usually f/16 or f/22 and I used to use f/32 on 35mm but it is unusable on digital due to diffraction) to maximize depth of field.
Since the mid 1980s, I had been using Nikon macro lenses, a 55/3.5, 55/2.8 and 100/4. When I moved to a D70, I decided to experiment with AF macros. The 105/2.8 AF Nikkor is a great lens, but is heavy and expensive. The Vivitar has optics made in Japan, has an optical formula very similar to the 105/4 Nikkor I have gotten great results from in the past, and costs about as much as a set of Af extension tubes, so it seemed like a good lens to start experimenting with. I sort of wish I hadn't started with this lens, because now I really can't justify the cost of the AF Nikkor; it cannot perform better, at least at smaller apertures, and I suspect I wouldn't carry it because it is so much bigger and heavier.
The AF Nikkor, and, I believe, similar lenses from other manufacturers, also suffer in comparison because they alter focal length as you focus closer. I believe the Nikkor is actually something like 65mm when it is focused at 1:1--this means you lose the advantages of a longer lens, flatter perspective and greater distance to the subject, as you focus closer. Because of its relatively simple design, the Vivitar maintins focal length until you put the 1:1 adapter on it, so the front ot the lens is a fair bit farther from the animal when you are in the 1:5 to 1:2 range, where I do a lot of my shooting. The 1:1 adapter is a specially matched closeup lens, so it does shortern the effective focal length, but you still get a good lens-subject distance even at 1:1.
The Vivitar really is a great performer optically. Sharp and contrasty, and its small size means it is easy to walk around with the lens on the camera without it pointing downward, which is a pain, particularly when a multiple flash bracket is attached. I could not believe how good it is, so have done very careful comparisons with the 105/4 Nikkor, a legendary lens, on both the D70 and a D2x, and at f/8 and below the Vivitar cannot be distinguished from the Nikkor, with the possible exception of being very slightly less contrasty. At f/8 and 11, both of them resolve at least to the limits set by the camera sensor, even on the D2x, and ave good contrast near this limit. As you stop down to f/16 and below, both start to lose a bit of sharpnes, but this is due to diffraction, and will happen with any lens. I haven't tested wider apertures because I never use them.
The lens does have its downsides--it really feels cheap and plasticky, and equipment snobs will laugh at you. Because of the cheap construction, there may be a lot of sample-to-sample variation, so you may not get the great results I'm getting. It comes with a matched front-element converter that changes its focusing range from infinity to 1:2 to 1:2 to 1:1; this is a bit of a pain to use, but yields very high quality results. Also, its smallest aperture is f/22 (but this is not really a disadvantage on digital, where, at least with an APS-C sized sensor and 10 or more MP, diffraction makes f/32 completely unusable, with a blur circle that covers about 9 pixels). However, its small size, light weight, ease of use, and great camers-to-subject distances mean it is still my macro of choice. I certainly recommend it to anyone who wants to get into macro but doesn't want to spend $500 plus for a camera-maker's 100 mm macro.
Note that I gave it an 8 for construction quality because it does seem to be fairly rugged, I've had mine in the field quite a bit and it hasn't broken. It is very definitely plastic except for the camera mount , the optics, and I am sure a few cams, etc, but it seems to be solid plastic (if there is such a thing).
example images taken with this lens:
a spider, taken with the 1:1 converter