The Ultimate Vivitar 19mm F/3.8 Review!

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Vintage lenses are definatley seeing a boom in their popularity right now with more and more photographers and videographers trying to build up their own vintage lens kit as quickly as possible. If you are a fan of using vintage lenses then you may know that getting a decent wide angle lens can be a pain and although there are a few options for 22mm or 24mm vintage lenses out there, it can be very hard to find anything with a wider focal length than that.

Thankfully though, the Vivitar 19mm f3.8 can fill this niche with its 19mm focal length offering that slightly wider aspect than the majority of the competing vintage wide angle lenses on the market right now. The Vivitar 19mm f3.8 really is an excellent little lens and is a very popular option amongst the vintage lens using community for both photography and videography meaning that it can sometimes be a pain to actually source.

Although you can sometimes find them in local photography stores, the do often sell out fast and due to their popularity, stores can sometimes hike the price up and we would not recommend that you pay anything over one hundred dollars for the Vivitar 19mm f3.8. In our opinion, our best option for picking up the lens will be the various online vendors due to their wider range of sellers increasing the chance you will be able to get the lens. Additionally, we have found that the lens is usually found for $50-$70 when purchased online too rather than $100 and over helping you save a little cash on the lens too.

Due to the popularity of the lens and seeing so many people reaching out for advice on it, we have decided to publish our own Vivitar 19mm f3.8 review to try and help any of our readers considering purchasing the lens. It really can make a solid addition to anyone vintage lens collection, especially if you are wanting one of the widest focal length vintage lenses available and the lens usually offers outstanding image quality for its age.

That said though, as this is a vintage lens, there is a high chance that your Vivitar 19mm f3.8, no matter where you purchase it will have had many previous owners with its condition depending on how well it has been looked after and maintained. Thankfully, the Vivitar range are known for being very robust so there are usually minimal faults on the lenses even if they have not been looked after by their previous owners. Additionally, most of the online retailers will offer you a full guarantee on your purchase as they fully restore and service the lenses they sell prior to selling them to their customers.

Performance And Functionality

The Vivitar lens range is known for offering some solid performance and functionality to its users with the lenses in the lineup offering some excellent levels of image stabilization. Although the vast majority of the Vivitar 19mm f3.8 lenses that you will find will come with the Nikon F mount system, there are some out there with other mounting types but you can usually pick up a cheap lens converter to allow you to mount a Vivitar 19mm f3.8 with a Nikon F mount to pretty much any other lens mount you can think of allowing you to use it with your camera body of choice.

The 19mm focal length is perfect for all wide angle photography niches with it particularly shining when it comes to landscape photography. Although we have seen some people mistakingly report that the Vivitar 19mm f3.8 has a fisheye aspect to it, this is not intended and the lens is a regular wide angle lens. We would imagine that the people reporting that their Vivitar 19mm f3.8 offers fisheye photographs have unfortunately purchased a damaged lens and this is why they are getting the fisheye aspect in their photographs.

Although it will depend on how well your particular lens had held up over the years, the majority of the Vivitar 19mm f3.8 that we see offer excellent image quality right across the image. Although some of the lenses that have not been maintained well over the years can have some slight chromatic aberration, this is usually not an issue especially if you source your lens from a reputable vendor.

One of our favorite things about the Vivitar 19mm f3.8 is that it offers excellent flaring during use really adding that additional elements to your photographs naturally that some other lenses, even modern releases can struggle to offer leaving many photographers to often add flaring to their work in post production. As we mentioned above, the lens does particularly well in the landscape photography niche due to its extremely wide focal length and the excellent flaring potential of the lens just adds to its landscape photography performance.

One of the main issues that we see people reporting with the Vivitar 19mm f3.8 is that they can struggle to manually focus the lens but this is usually not due to long term damage. The vast majority of cases where people seem to be reporting this is due to a build-up of dust and dirt under the manual focus ring on the lens so a cheap cleaning kit can usually fix the issue quickly. Once the manual focus ring on the Vivitar 19mm f3.8 has been cleaned, it usually offers the quick and easy manual focusing that the lens is known for allowing you to adjust the focus of your lens as required without issue.

The lens offers a 97° angle of view allowing you to easily capture any epic vistas that you see while out and about but also making it a useful lens for niches such as real estate photography where you are wanting to focus on a property but also capture the garden or yard too. The Vivitar 19mm f3.8 can effectively be used in pretty much any wide angle photography niche without issue though and has the proven track record of being able to offer great image quality across multiple niches too.

The lens comes with a 62mm filter thread but the usefulness of the filter threads is going to depend on how well the lens has been maintained over the years. The filter threads on the vintage lenses can often be worn down, especially if their previous owners used filters with the lens often but if you are purchasing it in a local photography store then you can easily see if the threads are worn. If you are purchasing the lens from an online vendor then the description of the item will usually report any issues with the lens and let you know if there are problems with the filter threads or not.

User Interface And Control System

Being a vintage lens, the Vivitar 19mm f3.8 lacks many of the more advanced features that a modern lens can offer ensuring that it is as simple and straight forward to use as possible. If you are newer to photography or if you just want a simple, easy to use lens for your camera then this can definitely work to your favour as you can pretty much just mount the lens to your camera and you are good to go.

If your camera body of choice does not use the Nikon F mount then you will have to use a lens convertor or adapter to mount it to your camera but that is very straight forward and simple too. We have already touched on the manual focus ring on the lens and although it is usually excellent, it may need to be cleaned as we explained above to remove any dirt under the focus ring that may be causing issues with the ring rotating, other than that, there really is not much else to say about the lens as it is a very simple lens to use effectively to capture high quality images.

Build Quality And Design

The Vivitar 19mm f3.8 is based around five blades, nine elements, and eight grounds that all seamlessly work together to offer you excellent performance. Due to the lens being put together so well, the vast majority of them have held up well over the years with none of the blades or elements having sustained damage, even if the lens was not cared for correctly meaning that you will rarely have any issues with the internals of the lens after purchasing it.

The actual case of the lens is very tough and robust and is one of the main reasons that it has been able to hold up so well over the years without taking much serious damage. The only real issue with the actual exterior of the lens is the filter threads that we covered above but as we explained, they are easy to check for damage and many people may never be wanting to use a lens filter with their Vivitar 19mm f3.8 anyway.


That brings our Vivitar 19mm f3.8 review to an end and we are happy to be able to recommend the lens to our readers. It is definitely one of the better wide angle vintage lenses on the market right now, probably the best option available if you are looking for a focal length wider than 22mm and the majority of the lenses have aged very well. As we touched on back at the start of the article, you can usually get a better deal for the Vivitar 19mm f3.8 if you purchase it from online retailers rather than your local photography store and you are more likely to see the lens available for sale online too due to having more retailers.