The Ultimate Vivitar 135mm F/2.8 Camera Lens Review!

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Vivitar is a well-known company that manufactures, distributes, and markets a wide variety of photography equipment. Although many of their products are sourced from various manufacturers, they offer a nice range of competitively priced and well-reviewed lenses and other camera accessories. Today, we’ll be looking at one of their 135mm lens options.

The Vivitar 135mm f2.8 is a Pentax thread/screw mount, also known as an M42 mount. It can be adapted for usage on a wide range of cameras. It provides good sharpness, quality, and contrast to your images, especially considering the price.

Specs

  • 4-5 Elements
  • f2.8-22 aperture range
  • 6 or 8 bladed iris
  • 425 gram weight
  • 8.5cm – 15cm length
  • 62mm filter
  • 360 degree turn to 1:3, additional 180 degree turn for 1:2

Vintage Lens

This is an old-school vintage manual lens, but it performs well given its age, and this lens has aged pretty well. It has a maximum aperture of 2.8, making it perfect for those shorter depth-of-field shots. It also gives images a nice bokeh.

This lens is perfect for macro photography, telephoto work, or even specialized jobs like food photography. These vintage lenses can sometimes vary in quality depending on where you obtain them, so definitely be careful to ensure a clean and functional model. The lens itself feels very well constructed and smooth in operation.

The lens is based around the Minolta MD mounting system. Unfortunately, this means that it will not fit on any modern cameras without an adapter. On the plus side, such adapters are widely available, and the lens itself has a great reputation.

Performance And Functionality

Vivitar lenses are generally made by a wide range of manufacturers. You can tell which manufacturer made your lens by checking the serial number. The first two numbers correspond to the manufacturer. The list is as follows:

  • 6 Olympus
  • 9 Cosina
  • 13 Schneider Optik
  • 22 Kino (Kiron)
  • 25 Ozone Optical
  • 28 Komine
  • 32 Makinon
  • 33 Asanuma
  • 37 Tokina
  • 42 Bauer
  • 44 Perkin Elmer
  • 47 Chinon
  • 51 Tokyo Trading
  • 56 Kyoe Schoji
  • 75 Hoya Optical
  • 81 Polar

The different manufacturers generally do a good job of making these lenses, but there are a few differences between the different companies. Some users have complained of there being dust or smudges inside the camera which were difficult to remove. Although the camera has no convenient spaces or anything like that with which to clean the internals, you can clean it by taking it apart.

Weight Distribution And Focus

The lens’s weight distribution feels nice and even, and nicely balances the camera when affixed properly. The lens actually uses oil in order to reduce friction when focusing. This is a noticeable difference, as focusing the lens feels very smooth and well-made.

One thing to be aware of is that since you will need an adapter for this lens, that could possibly affect the weight distribution. If you have a vintage camera with an MD mount that fits the lens, this is less of an issue.

Focusing is also fairly easy, even considering it is a manual focus lens. The aperture has six blades, and functions very nicely in half stop clicks. The whole construction is nicely damped, and feels like a dream to operate.

The focus must be manually tweaked using the focus ring, since it is a manual focus lens. That being said, focusing the Vivitar 135mm f/2.8 is not hard. A good thing to be aware of is that the focal length on this lens is fixed at 135mm, so it has no zoom functionality whatsoever.

Aperture Operation

The f2.8 aperture gives you good photography in low light conditions, and some fast-moving subjects, like birds. The aperture has 6 blades as we mentioned before. The aperture range is from f2.8 to f22, giving you a wide range of options.

For macro photography, this allows you to go for shallower depth-of-field images with lots of nice bokeh. You can also go for deeper shots with less blurring in the background. The lens seems to perform well in both scenarios.

It’s also good for macro photography, allowing for some really crazy up close shots. It retains a nice amount of contrast and bokeh for these shots, which is great. One thing to mention is that the higher aperture ranges doesn’t perform as well as the lower ones.

Mounting

As we mentioned before, this is made for vintage Minolta manual focus cameras. If you happen to use one of these, then this lens will fit no problem. That being said, if you do not have one of these cameras, you will need to purchase an adapter.

MD adapters are sold by a wide range of companies. Vivitar actually makes a few of these adapters, but you might want to go with a more trusted company, seeing as the adapters themselves are not particularly expensive.

General Photo Quality

Although the camera is generally made for macro or telephotography, it performs well for general photography, also. Pictures taken at a normal range of still subjects tend to come out very nice if you do the focus properly. Overall, it’s a decent option for general portrait photography.

Possible Aberrations

Although the Vivitar 135mm f/2.8 performs very well for the price, there are some common aberrations that can be found in many photos taken with it. There are sometimes red and green fringe around brightly illuminated lines. There can also be some purple fringing around objects that are brightly lit.

This is a bit of a shame, but it’s nothing that can’t be controlled by the observant and prudent photographer. If you’re really concerned about these aberrations, then rest assured that it’s the type of thing that you can remove fairly easily.

In addition to the great reputation that this lens has, there are also many good reviews of independent user experience online. These reviews are generally glowing, and will give you a good idea of how much people are enjoying this lens.

User Interface And Control System

This lens comes in a wide range of builds, due to the fact that it was made by a range of manufacturers. There are 6 and 8-blade aperture versions, as well as versions with 4 or 5 elements. Although picture quality doesn’t seem to change much between the different types, the 5 element version seems to be preferable.

This is due to the shorter minimum focus difference on the 5-element models. There are also more aperture blades on the 5-element ones (8 instead of 6). The focus on the Vivitar 135mm f/2.8 is very smooth, as we mentioned before.

The lens was manufactured with 5 elements and a milled metal grip between 1971 and 1974. The later rubber grip version was made between 1974 and 1976. Both of these models have the 8-bladed aperture.

The 4-element version was made between 1976 and 1982, and moved down to a 6 blade aperture. All of the different versions perform similarly, but like we mentioned before, there are some differences between them.

Controls And Physical Features

The manual focus ring seems to retain its smoothness and sturdiness very well. The only thing is the possibility of dust inside of the lens, as well as possible damage to the elements due to it being a vintage lens. If you get your model from a trusted supplier, this will be less of an issue.

There is a built-in lens hood which can slide over the front element for protection. On some models, this can be loose, but it generally stays in place quite well. The markings on the focus ring and camera in general do not scuff or chip easily, so you don’t have to worry about marking deterioration.

Some of the Tokina-made lenses actually have a closer minimum focal range. It really depends on where you source the lens from. The focus ring also rotates in the opposite direction from most modern cameras, so this is something to be aware of.

Build Quality

The camera is an all-metal construction (except for the versions with the rubber grip). The build quality in general is very nice, everything looks snappy. It also screws on easily and operates quite smoothly in general.

The focus ring, again, is very smooth. Some people may be concerned with the fact that it uses oil in order to lessen friction when focusing, but this never seemed to cause any problems. The one thing that comes along with these being vintage lenses is the possibility of deterioration.

Since these lenses haven’t been made since the 80’s, there’s always a possibility of dust in the lens, or smudging/cracking on the elements. The Vivitar 135mm f/2.8 is fairly straightforward to disassemble, so it can be cleaned fairly easily. That being said, it’s a good idea to get it from a trusted source.

Comparing The Competition

This lens performs very well compared to many more expensive versions. Well-known brands of vintage lenses can become very expensive when they pop up on eBay or Amazon. They also tend to sell out very quickly.

Vivitar lenses, on the other hand, tend to fly under the radar. They are available for longer and their prices don’t generally get as high as for bigger-name competitors. If you can find this lens for a steal, it might be a good idea to grab it.

Mounting Quality

Since these lenses will generally require adapters to fit, it is important to ensure that the mount will retain its functionality. The M42 mount on the lens itself tends to age very well, as long as the lens has been taken care of. If you end up using a cheap adapter to mount it to your camera, there’s a possibility that the fit could be off and end up damaging the mount.

That being said, the mount on many of the older models seems to hold up very well. If you have one of the old Minolta MD cameras, you should be all set to go.

Conclusion

The Vivitar 135mm f.2.8 is a great vintage option if you’re looking for a performance lens on a budget. Although it doesn’t provide 10/10 quality, it is a very robust build, and performs very well for the price. You won’t find a lens that performs better for the same price.

Of course, this depends on how you source it. Since it is a vintage lens, there is a possibility of damage, wear-and-tear, and even scams if you’re buying online. Just like with any vintage option, make sure you trust the seller before buying.

This camera performs excellently with close-up photography and general portraiture. It also has the capability of some really killer macro photography. You may need to get an extension tube to lower the minimum focus range.

Adapters Can Be Necessary

Adapters are another thing that may come between you and this lens. Although adapters are fairly cheap, this lens will not fit modern cameras without one. That being said, if you have one of the vintage MD mount models, then you’ll be good to go.

Overall the Vivitar 135mm f/2.8 feels like a premium lens, without breaking the bank like a premium lens would. The build quality is solid, especially if you make sure you get a good model. It’s a shame that there are so many different versions of this lens, because it makes it difficult to compare the performance.

That being said, it’s still a very good lens for the price, as long as you can get the necessary adapters and such for it. It performs comparably to many higher-end lenses of similar construction, and the 5 element 8 blade aperture models can take some really nice pictures.

Verdict

All in all, we highly recommend this lens. You would be hard-pressed to find a similar style of lens that performs better for a lower price. If you see this guy pop up on amazon or eBay, then you should give it some serious thought. The Vivitar 135mm f2.8 has a well-deserved reputation for being a quality vintage lens.