Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Vivitar Series 1 105mm f/2.5 1:1 Macro Lens

October 2010
I have updated this post a little more and have since acquired a Kiron 105mm, Lester A. Dine 105mm, and this Vivitar lens in Nikon F (AI) mount. I previously was using an MD mount via an optic-less adapter. Also, after much more exploration into the Series 1 lenses, I must say in terms of design while I originally stated this was the best in terms of design ever, I must redact that statement as I have come across some beautiful pieces that now have me "on the fence".


This is a great lens. But if given the choice between this and the Kiron/Dine, in terms of performance, I would have to point you to the Kiron/Dine. Both my Vivitar copies rendered softer macro images than these other models. And if you're really looking for sharpness and performance from a macro, just get the Tokina 90mm f/2.5 and forget about the rest of them (unless you need 1:1 without messy adapters). Want the best looking of the group? Then by all means, get the Vivitar!

In my opinion, the Vivitar 105mm is one of the smoothest, most aesthetic lenses ever designed. Definitely one of my all-time favorites. I have been known, at times, to select/purchase lenses based solely on their aesthetics, only later hoping to discover the lens has the accompanying optical merit. Sort of the wrong approach when
thinking about trying to achieve superior output. This was not, however, one of those purchases. I actually did my homework (for once!) and spent some time looking for a good sample of this lens to come along. Also looking for the right price.

Cat's outta the bag now. This lens is awesome. Often referred to as a cult classic, look for a 105mm Dine, Kiron, or Vivitar such as this one and you will be buying the same optical formula in a different outer package so to speak. That's not to say, however all these lenses perform the same. As of October 2010 prices seem to be on a lower end for what I have seen, perhaps due to the economic climate.


I cannot say enough, this lens feels great in the hand. Focus is extremely smooth and the long-throw just makes for greater precision. The focus ring is a smooth, durable, foam-like rubber. Every edge of the fully metal construction appears precision cut. Upon closer inspection, you can see and even feel the tiny grain in the metal from the machining. I have always loved lathes and the way machined stock feels. The Kiron and Dine version of this lens both handle very similarly. I prefer the larger lip of the lens hood on the Vivitar 105 to the slimmer hood of the other variations. The Vivitar's hood also retracts and stays whereas the other 105 versions I have owned have had a little more play in them.

All versions of this lens appear to be multi-coated. I have not noticed much of a difference in contrast, flare control, or anything else optically in regards to this so I would say of those three, they should all be pretty solid. I have not used any of the other iterations which are a bit older and may have slightly more archaic coatings.


Focal length: 105mm
Filter thread: 52mm
Min. Aperture: f/2.5
Max. Aperture: f/32
Angular field of view (diagonal): 24°
Elements/groups: 6/6
Min. focusing distance: 13.8" (35 cm)
Aperture blades: 8
Dimensions: 102mm x 72mm
Weight: 10.9 oz (656 g)

Specification info from


It's an oldie and thus is fully manual. I have seen numerous listings on eBay which cite old age and poor eyesight as the cause for the sale. Older folks are moving to auto-focus. While I still have my eye-site, when doing macro work, I always manual focus.

Along with the slick industrial design, this lens proves itself optically, a worthy opponent of the best macro lenses even today. It did not achieve cult status for no reason. It is sharp. Chromatic aberration occurs at f/2.5, is extremely minor at f/4, and effectively gone by f/5.6. After more use, I noticed some softness wide open. This normally wouldn't be an issue had it not been for Vivitar's Series 1 90mm f/2.5 and Tokina's later 90mm sibling which demonstrated amazing sharpness wide open. In fact, even Kiron's own 105mm and the Lester A. Dine dental version perform superior to Vivitar's 105mm wide open.
See a comparison here. Michael McBroom (Blogger and reader of this blog) commented, "Perhaps Kiron kept the best of them back for their own brand name?" I think this is a great hypothesis!

Reportedly, the Vivitar Series 1 105mm does not perform very well at longer distances. I never did get around to checking this. I can't say I really ever looked to using this lens for anything but macro work.


This is a great macro lens save for minor chromatic aberration at early apertures. I have not used it for portraits, but if spending the money, from what I can tell (and what I hope to test when I have more money) better portrait/macro lenses exist. I'm sure it would perform beautifully in its own right though, especially given it is a hair soft wide open. For use near infinity, apparently this lens is nothing special but I never tested this. Physically, the lens is gorgeous. I would pick one up just to put it in a display (but I would get more pleasure out of using it!). Its optical performance and design combined with its shortcomings certainly explain the "cult" status. While for some it is a capable, solid, marvel of industrial design. A true personification of the old maxim, "they don't make 'em like they used to". Others may find it heavy, klunky, inconvenient and overall obsolete.

If you find one for a good price (Especially in a Nikon F mount. Other mounts are not worth as much since they are not as compatible with current DSLRs) I would recommend picking it up without a second though. You will most likely be able to give it a try and at worst resell it for a full return on your money.


  1. I just bought one of these in MD mount. It is pristine and came with its original case and original box. I'm excited to give it a try!

  2. This lens is an incredible piece of equipment, if not simply a beautifully carved work of art. Congrats on the find!

  3. Hello,

    You say:
    > Other mounts are not worth as much since they are not as compatible with current DSLRs...

    You are probably commenting on "other Nikon mounts" as, for example, all the current Pentax DSLRs are fully compatible with this beauty.

  4. But no-one uses Pentax...BOOM! Just kidding, KIDDING! haha! (Pentax forums will kill me) Forgive me, you are correct. Pentax has also retained brilliant compatibility. I was thinking more along the lines of the MS/R, M/MD, Konica EE, and Canon FD. The AI versions of this lens appear to go for the most money on the used market so far as I have seen. The Pentax versions occur less often too, which I would think, would drive the price higher. It may just be that there are many more Nikon users. But for sure, if you find one of these in Pentax K, it will work beautifully with your current Pentax DSLRs! Thanks for the note!

  5. Just ordered mine, FD mount, for use with adapter on my EPL1. got a good price too, its either going to come broken, or someone didn't know what they had. judging from pics and the statements, its the latter.... (crosses fingers)

  6. I have recently purchased a Pentax P/K-A from ebay. Based on the serial number, the number begins with a 22xxxxxx is manufactured by Kiron. They are rarer to come by thus David you're right the price is higher for a mint condition. I also own a couple of SMC Pentax Macro MF lenses, 50mm and 100mm in M42 mount. The Vivitar lens is heavier but it is now my goto macro lens because it is a fast and an incredible performing lens. I still use the other macro lenses from time to time because they deliver sharp and good contrast images. It help that they have good bokeh too. The Vivitar lens I purchased also had an issue with infinity focus but I found a simple way to correct this issue (for those interested in how I corrected this issue here is a link to Pentaxforums I too was looking for this lens to work as a short telephoto lens for reasons explained in the fix.

  7. Do Vivitar 105mm Series 1 Macro F2.5 ...can fit in Sony NEX-5?
    do we need a mount?
    Thank You. (please mail to me at: )

  8. Does anyone know what patent covers this lens?

  9. My Vivitar 105 f2.5 won't focus out of 50 feet (not measured). The green dot on viewfinder won't come out when focusing on far distance. But the macro works beautifully. Any one has the same experience?

  10. I have a vivitar series 1 105mm f2.5 for a contax/yashica fit. Will this work on a digital camera if not how much is it worth on the secondhand market?

  11. Yes it will work, but with caveats:

    As far as I understand, no Digital SLR was ever produced with a native Contax/Yashica (C/Y) mount. If there was, it's hard to find and the sensor is old news. To use this lens on a DSLR, you will need an adapter. It looks like Canon EOS DSLR systems have a shorter flange focal distance than the C/Y system which means they can accomodate a shallow adapter between the camera and a C/Y lens to utilize these lenses. Also, you can certainly use them via an adapter with all the mirrorless compact cameras such the Panasonic GF & GH line, the Sony NEX cameras, the Olympus digital PEN cameras, the Nikon 1 (when the adapters arrive), and so forth. These cameras have smaller sensors so without going into a ton of detail, the lens will "act" a bit differently on these cameras.

    If the above explanation is all new ground for you, and you aren't interested in geeking out on adapters, "rigging" things up, manual control, etc., I suggest selling the lens and getting a macro that does have the same native mount as your camera. It will just be much easier. Resale on this lens in C/Y can be all over the place. Some folks still use the C/Y system and the mirrorless cameras have brought some of these more obscure mounts back into use. The common mounts like Nikon have been around $200-300 as of late (provided the lens is in nice condition). For C/Y, I would think much less unless you get a couple C/Y folks who really want this lens. But that's all only my opinion. I have rarely looked for a C/Y mount lens.

  12. awesome to see this lens here on "Making Not Taking!" this site rules. These photos of this lens are beautifully done :)

    I have this lens, in NOS condition, complete with leather box and original manual. It had never been opened before I read it. LOL.
    anyway it is in Nikon AI-AIS (which covers F) i think -
    this beauty sits on my dresser...looking pretty. It is an amazing lens. It does not see much use from me, I bought it because it was the first chance I got after a year of searching and near misses on the bay. I shoot canon and I am narrowing down my adapted lenses. Message me if you are interested...

  13. I would like to know since I have a 105 S 1 macro for a X 700 can the mount be changed for another brand ex cannon, Nikon DSLR?

    1. I won't say "it isn't possible" because I believe anything is possible. But unless you are familiar with doing this kind of work yourself, any service will likely cost more than the value of the lens. You're better off finding a copy of the lens in the mount you want.

    2. I won't say "it isn't possible" because I believe anything is possible. But unless you are familiar with doing this kind of work yourself, any service will likely cost more than the value of the lens. You're better off finding a copy of the lens in the mount you want.