Thursday, November 26, 2009

Kiron 105mm f/2.8 1:1 Macro Lens - Kino's Prize

November 2010

Since the initial post of this write-up, I have owned a few copies of the Vivitar Series 1 105mm, a Lester A. Dine 105mm, and this Kiron. Of the bunch, I have sold all except for this Kiron. You can read some about performance HERE in my 8-Lens Macro Shoot-Out. I have found the Dine and Kiron iterations to be the better performers than the Vivitar 105mm f/2.5. I have not however had the opportunity to test the Vivitar 100mm f/2.8, Rikenon 105mm f/2.8, Rolleinar 105mm f/2.8, or other optically identical iterations which you can read about HERE.

My current recommendation is, if you find yourself enamoured with this lens, curiosity piqued, buy one. You will not regret it. Buying a cosmetically and optically excellent copy will afford you the best bang for your buck since it is these that often fetch the higher prices in the used market (unless of course you pay through the nose in the beginning...).

Original Review

Behold the progenitor of the famous 105mm f/2.8 macro lenses, capable of 1:1 without use of extention tubes: The Kino-made Kiron 105mm f/2.8 1:1. You may also recognize this lens as the Vivitar Series 1 105mm f/2.5 1:1 or the Lester Dine 105mm f/2.8 1:1. All are optically the same lens.

This lens has gained what is often referred to as a "cult-status" in terms of its great performance in relation to its cost. I was fortunate enough to find one with the original box. However, I would note, as of the current time I am writing this, it seems due to increasing number of photographic forums and perpetuation of that very information, this cost-to-performance ratio is being somewhat undone. That is, as more and more photographers tout this lens' wonderful performance, prices on the used market continue to increase. I saw a sample of the Kiron version of this lens go off for over $450 on eBay just the other day. You can buy many of the more current autofocus macro lenses for that which will perform better as they contain better coatings and are optimized for the digital sensor.

That said, others, like myself, are more interested in the lens as both a piece of photographic history and its "optical personality" if you will. Like the Vivitar 105mm, although sharp, this lens suffers prominent color fringing wide open. Performance does improve as the lens is stopped down, but again, for the money, my Tokina 100mm has autofocus, goes to 1:1 without need for extension tubes, and in most respects is a much easier lens to work with. The Tokina does actually suffer some color fringing itself but not as severe as the Kiron 105mm, and again, costs less than the Nikon AF Micro-Nikkors. In all honesty, I probably spent more on this lens than it is worth optically, but my appreciation for this lens goes far beyond it's optics. Consequently I find it of much higher value. And even so, the condition of this particular sample can hardly be outdone.


Focal length: 105mm
Filter thread: 52mm
Max. Aperture: f/2.8
Min. Aperture: f/32
Angular field of view (diagonal): 23.3°
Elements/groups: 6/6
Min. focusing distance: 1.14' (0.35 m)
Dimensions: 3.5" (90mm)
Dimensions w/ extender: 5.4" (138mm)
Weight: 22.75 oz. ( 650 g)


Like the Vivitar 105mm, this gorgeous instrument appears as if it was carefully and precisely carved from a single piece of metal stock. The barrel moves with the same fluid ease and enables the user ample room to exact his or her focus. Though it may sound superfluous, I was initally much more enthralled with the slightly "beefier" Vivitar version of this lens (Note the considerably smaller built-in lens hood lip on the Kiron as opposed to the Vivitar. The grip of the Kiron runs a shorter length of the barrel than the Vivitar and is slimmer as well.). Now however, after picking one up and using it, I find the Kiron to be equally as well-crafted and substantial. I even find myself appreciating the coatings a little more just because of the increased number of hues as opposed to that of the Vivitar. Unfortunately, I sold the Vivitar to pick this lens up and thus cannot put them head-to-head just yet. All in good time, I have my eye out for a Nikon mount Vivitar S1 105mm.


Like the Vivitar 90mm, I have found a .pdf on this lens but am unsure as to its original source. Nevertheless, it is a manufacturer manual and it is available for download below.

Kiron 105mm f/2.8 1:1 PDF

Kiron 105mm Iterations - Be aware this lens comes in many shapes and brandings. Here I have attempted to outline those of which I am aware.


  1. Hello, the pdf manual you attached is of Kiron f2.8. I that the same lens?

  2. oh whoops! Thanks for pointing that out. Yes it is the same lens. This lens has multiple iterations and the Vivitar version, the Series 1 105mm is labeled as f/2.5 while all the others are f/2.8. So the Kiron is f/2.8, my title was wrong. Thanks for pointing that out!

  3. Great write up. Appreciate the link to the manual as well. Thanks.

  4. I have one....I simply fell in love with it on my Nikon D90 and F100 camera's. Image quality is great but the use, the focussing a dream!

  5. I just sold mine that I bought brand new back in '89.

  6. Is the lens cap the same size as the filter thread, 52mm? I need to buy a replacement cap.