Monday, October 5, 2009

Vivitar 90mm f/2.5 1:1 Macro Lens - Komine-made


Initially I believed this lens to be identical to the cosmetically similar 90mm lenses branded Elicar, Panagor, Rokunar, and probably others. I thought all were probably Komine manufactured. However a recent comment on the post displaying samples of images made with this lens suggests these other lenses may be different. I have no verification one way or the either as of now, though it would appear these lenses must at least be very closely related. All share an extremely long helicoid making the lens capable of 1:1 with no added extension. I have also seen these identical lenses, namely the Vivitar brands, labeled as f/2.5 and f/2.8. My forum readings suggest these variations have the same optics but were labeled a certain way for marketing purposes at the time of their introductions. I don't have any original literature, however, to truly resolve this issue. Below are a few images of the various other iterations I mentioned above:

This lens really cranks out there as can be seen in the image above. Check the serial number, if it begins with 28, it was manufactured by Komine, a well-known quality optical manufacturer. (for a list of Vivitar lens manufacturers click HERE). This lens is in no way related to the far superior Vivitar Series 1 90mm f/2.5 "Bokina".


Focal length: 90mm
Filter thread: 62mm
Max. aperture:
Min. aperture: 22
Field of view: 26ยบ
Elements/Groups: 6/6
Dimensions: 3.4" x 2.7" (8.6 cm x 6.9 cm)
Weight: 17 oz. (482 g)

The above specs were listed for the Vivitar 90mm f/2.8 on B&H. I believe they are the same for the f/2.5 lens.


This particular sample I picked-up on craigslist. It is in immaculate condition. The seller was incredibly nice and I could tell really took care of his glass. It feels rather light in the hand compared to something like the Vivitar 105mm. It takes almost 3 full rotations for the lens to go from infinity to 1:1. The focus is tight and requires intent.

I discovered I had a hard time using this lens handheld, outdoors. I shoot most of my work handheld and rarely set up any kind of tripod but this lens proved to make that very difficult. I always use manual focus and do shoot all the way down-to and past 1:1 with hardly any issues but I often had blurred images with this lens. Also the working distance of this lens is rather limited. It could be the fact that it focuses down to 1:1 and at that point, you are practically on top of the subject. But it makes creature photography quite a bit more challenging. Not that I don't like a good challenge!


Predictably, this lens can deliver great images. Wide open it is a bit soft. When stopped down even to f/4 however, the lens is crisp. More on this soon (I am still searching for more data as well as conducting more tests)

As mentioned before, this lens has an extremely long focus throw. Which is great in one sense. More control of focus. Consequently, work with this lens is slow. I was wading in the creek the other day watching a little frog swim and float along in the water in front of me. I was attempting to get a shot of him mid-stride and it certainly became quite a production. This lens just takes time. My solution was simply to choose a focal distance, and move myself rather than bother with the focus ring. Here is the shot I chose:

1/1000 @ f/4, ISO 200 on Nikon D700

Crop - no sharpening added.

The front elements are very close to the front of the lens and without a built-in hood such as the Vivitar and Nikon 105's it is highly prone to flare. I would definitely recommend picking up a hood. I am currently looking for an older metal hood with the right shape to match the smooth brushed aesthetics of the lens exterior.


All-in-all this is a very capable, smooth, well built macro lens. The focal length allows for a decent amount of working distance (while not as much as other macros of the same class). It can produce sharp images with a fair amount of contrast as long as the lens is stopped down a bit. The softness wide open also disappears quickly as stopped down. The downside of it all is, it is a beast to handle. It is not great for fast moving subjects, quick focus adjustments, and proves a challenge for 1:1 handheld (I had a lot more success with the Vivitar 105mm f/2.5). If you get a well-priced opportunity at one, go for it. If you are looking for a macro, I'd pass and look elsewhere, even within the Vivitar brand (such as the 105mm or even better, the Bokina!).


Here is an extensive page of information on this 90mm f/2.5. Probably the most exhaustive analysis of the Vivitar/Panagor/Elicar/Soligor/etc 90mm lens I have seen. You may need to use Google Translate in order to read it since it is in German (unless of course you speak German!).

I cannot remember where this came from but below, I have a .pdf for the Vivitar 90mm. I am not the originator of this file.

Vivitar 90mm f/2.5 1:1 PDF


  1. Modern Photography back in the "old days" stated after extensive testing that the Series 1 was the 2nd sharpest (best) lens they had ever tetsed; the 1st. was of courtse a $$$$$$$$$ Zeiss. I would _never_ part with mine. I've had no probs using it on a D300, D700 and on my D3. A work of art, both physically and optically~ Cheers~

  2. hello! hopefully someone will find a spare moment to respond here.
    As anonymous wrote he used it on D3. My lens has N/A on a bayonet - I am not sure if it is non-AI lens? Afaik you cannot use pre-AI lens on D3..

    1. Personally I am unfamiliar with the marking "N/A"...Typically, you will see either "NF" (for "Nikon-F" mount) which is the older, original Nikon mount, or you will see "N/AI" (for Nikon Auto-Indexing mount). I am guessing you are seeing "N/AI" as the term "non-AI" was a retro-actively used term, coined with the introduction of the Auto-Indexing system to differentiate the older lenses.

      In general, because the new AI system utilizes the tabs which can be seen in the image ( at the base of the lens, to communicate with a tab on the camera mount for added functionality, attempting to use older non-AI lenses on modern cameras can result in damage to the camera. The older non-AI lenses rear lip of the lens protruded further and thus collides with the tab on the camera mount, and can break it.

      Caveats to this rule exist in more than the following possibilities. Some cameras, such as the Nikon F4 (film camera) were designed with a folding tab on the camera mount, which could be folded back for use with the old non-AI lenses for maximum compatibility. Another possibility is, I have told, though not seen it myself, that some third-party lens makers, such as Vivitar's non-AI lenses had a much less prominent rear lip, such that even though they lacked the AI tabs, they also cleared the corresponding tab on the camera mount, and were therefore safe to use. I'm sure other exceptions to the rule exist.

      So, feel free to shoot an email to me (you can find it on the contact me tab at the top of the page) with images if you have further questions!

    2. Hi David, thanks for your fast response!
      Sorry, my fault - had to check lens before posting the question as my memory failed to remember the correct marking on bayonet.
      Unfortunately it is N/F marking, not N/AI.
      I've searched a little and it seems it is pre ai lens after all (If I am not mistaken again! :) ).
      However for experiments with D3 someone advised to use Nikon K1 ring, as it is only 5mm, so shouldn't be much of issues, except no focus at infinity.
      I am not sure if this lens even could be AI'd and I do not know any trusty specialists here in UK or rather drastic way to choose and to go for it myself :)

    3. Hey, no problem! There are some conversion services out there. In the UK, you can search for "The Lens Doctor". I have had some exchanges with that gentleman and he's been quite cordial. He may be able to help with AI'ing your lens. In general, I have not found mount conversion to be cost effective. This lens, isn't even as good optically as the Series 1 90mm. Even that lens, depending on how much you had spent on it initially, would likely be cost prohibitive to convert, unless you were doing it yourself. In most cases, the best (and my least favorite response to hear, by the way) is to sell the lens you have and purchase a copy in the correct mount, which for these older lenses, usually means patience. Again, that's just a general advice type of answer. Or, as you mentioned, you could use an adapter or extension tube of some sort and use the lens with slightly reduced functionality. As you probably know, infinity focus isn't usually what you're interested in when using a macro lens anyway. Thanks again for reading!

  3. Well, for me, the Elicar (Soligor C/D, ...) 90mm/2.5 is one of the best macro lenses I worked with until today, - really -, including the Leica M 90/4 Makro, which is nearly perfect. There are several stops from open aperture at 2.5 to 2.8 (first klick), then to 3.5 and then going on normally. You know, it`s the magic blur, like a look through thick but clear ice, that leaves the touching magic on the photo. Just have a look at flickr!