The Ultimate Vivitar 90mm F/2.8 Macro Review!

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We have noticed a huge increase in the number of people reaching out with questions about vintage lenses over the last few months and it definitely does seem like there is a boom in the popularity of vintage lenses amongst the photography community right now. We are seeing more and more questions relating to what lenses people should be looking to use in specific photography niches as well as requests for reviews of specific lenses too. As we see a large number of people reaching out about reviews for a macro photography vintage lens as well as the Vivitar 90mm f2.8 we have decided to feature the lens for today’s article as it answers two common questions in a single article.

In our opinion, the Vivitar 90mm f2.8 macro is definatley one of the best macro vintage lenses out there due to it being a solid all-around lens offering excellent image quality while also being touch and robust while usually having a very low price tag too. One quick point that we do want to get out of the way early on in our Vivitar 90mm f2.8 macro review is that you will almost always be able to get your hands on the Vivitar 90mm f2.8 for less if you purchase it via an online retailer rather than a local photography store.

This is due to it being a discontinued lens so local photography stores can struggle to get their hands on them and even then, once they do get a second-hand lens in stock, they usually hike the price tag up due to knowing just how popular the lens is right now. Due to there being more vendors and retailers available online as well as normal people selling their lenses via various sites, you can usually find a few different options available and get your self a bargain.

In addition to this, due to the lens being a vintage lens, a large amount of the things that we mention in our review of the Vivitar 90mm f2.8 will depend more on the stat of the lens you are able to source rather than original lens. This is due to the previous owners of the lens potentially not taking care of it as well as they should have and it having been damaged over the years. This can be common amongst vintage lenses purchased at thrift stores as they are not specialists in photography and can often be ripped off and purchase a damaged lens without knowing it.

This is why we usually recommend that our readers purchase a Vivitar 90mm f2.8 from their local photography store (but expect to pay a higher price tag as we explained above) or via an online retailer. You will almost always be offered a warranty as they will have checked the lens, cleaned it, and fully serviced it prior to selling it. On top of this, if there is any damage, you are also usually protected by the retailer’s returns policy anyway so you can return the lens without issue whereas the case may not be the same with a thrift store.

Performance And Functionality

As you can probably guess from both the name of the lens and its 90mm focal length, the Vivitar 90mm f2.8 is an excellent macro lens that was a huge hit amongst the photography community back when it was released and has managed to maintain its reputation to today with the vintage lens using community. The 90mm focal length lets you get right up close and personal to the subject of your photograph and capture it in all of its glory with the best image quality possible.

The lens has excellent color reproduction accurately capturing the colors of whatever it is that you are photographing with minimal chromatic aberration occurring when capturing your photographs. The f/2.8 aperture on the lens offers excellent low light performance too allowing you to use the lens without issue if you are not planning to use a decent, cheap macro ring flash with it.

Now, keep in mind that with these old school vintage lenses, one of the few issues that they do have is that their lens filter threads can often wear away, especially if the previous owners of the lens have used filters with it on a regular basis. This can be even more common with vintage macro lenses as the previous owners may have been mounting lens filters and macro ring flashes adding to the wear and tear too.

The vast majority of reputable online retailers will clearly warn you of any lens filter thread damage on the lens on their sales page, and thankfully, if you do happen to find the Vivitar 90mm f2.8 in a local thrift store, the lens filters should be easy to check for damage or wear and tear too. Although you may never actually use the lens filter threads anyway, we know that some of our readers are big fans of using either lens filters or macro ring flash units when capturing their photographs so we just wanted to point this out.

The Vivitar 90mm f2.8 offers some excellent bokeh potential considering that it is a macro lens with a relatively high focal length meaning that if you are involved in one of the macro sub-niches such as bug photography, you can easily get some bokeh around your subject to better draw the eye to it. Adding solid bokeh potential to the excellent, sharp image quality of the lens just keeps on scoring it points against the competing vintage macro lenses on the market right now making it the obvious option.

The manual focus system on the lens is extremely easy to use and get used to but this can be a common area where you may have some small issues if you are not purchasing a refurbished lens but thankfully, it is a quick and easy fix. If you are purchasing the lens from a thrift store or from a friend who has not maintained the lens correctly, it can have a build-up of dirt under the manual focus ring making it a pain to rotate correctly. A quick once over with even a cheap cleaning kit should be able to get rid of the dirt though and get the manual focus ring on the lens back to full working order.

Although the Vivitar 90mm f2.8 can offer as much as a 1:7 macro ratio, it really does shine at a 1:1 ratio with its performance managing to blow even some of the more modern entry-level price point macro lenses out of the water. The detail that the lens is able to capture is second to none considering that most of the online retailers we see selling the Vivitar 90mm f2.8 will offer it for $50-$75 depending on how many of them are available online at any given time. Considering that the series 1 105mm variant of the lens is often found for more than treble the price tag while offering very similar image quality, we would highly recommend the Vivitar 90mm f2.8 to our readers on a budget as it is an excellent little lens.

User Interface

As we touched on above, other than the lens filter threads potentially having worn down and some dust under the manual focus ring that can easily be dealt with, the Vivitar 90mm f2.8 has definitely managed to stand up very well with its user interface still performing very well and being very easy to use. These Vivitar lenses we made from the very start to be as easy and straight forward to use so anyone could pick them up and use them and the 90mm f2.8 is no different.

Although you will probably need a lens convertor or adaptor to actually mount it to your camera body of choice, this process is very simple and straight forward too allowing you to quickly and easily mount your lens to your camera and start capturing your photographs. The manual focus system on the lens is excellent too and it responds very well to micro adjustments allowing you to slightly tweak the focus of your subject prior to capturing the photograph with ease.

Build Quality And Design

The lens has an excellent build quality and this is why it is so many of them have managed to survive so long without being damaged beyond repair. Although a large number of the Vivitar 90mm f2.8 lenses on the market will have had a few parts replaced, for the majority of the lenses you will find, they are in full working order with all of the original part from the day they were made.

The construction of the lens is based around six elements in four groups with eight iris blades and again, the vast majority of the lenses, even those that have not been cared for over the years have held up well too. This is why the lens still offers such a great level of detail in its image quality even though many of the Vivitar 90mm f2.8 lenses available have been used extensively.


That brings our Vivitar 90mm f2.8 macro review to an end and we hope that we have helped our readers realize just how good this excellent vintage macro lens really is. In our opinion, it is well worth adding to your collection of vintage lenses, especially if you are looking for a macro lens although it can be used effectively in other photography niches too. As we have touched on earlier in the article, we would always recommend that our readers try to purchase the Vivitar 90mm f2.8 from a reputable online vendor if possible as the lens is often cheaper online than in local stores.