The Vivitar 90-180mm f/4.5 macro lens is a truly unique and exquisite lens. As of now, I only state this based on its physical appearance as well as reading about its reputation. Just how amazing of a lens it really is or how usable it is to me has yet to be determined. In my ongoing quest to acquire and test all the Vivitar Series 1 lenses I can get my hands on, mostly primes and macros, this is my most recent find.
The condition of this lens is perfect. Found it for $60 on craigslist a few weeks back. Actually had it shipped, the seller was incredibly nice. Only caveats, slightly dented filter ring so getting the hood on takes a little work. Also it is in FD mount and I need Nikon, I will figure something out! It will be my last lens for awhile as I have other financial priorities at this time and simply cannot allow LBA (Lens Buying Addiction) to overtake my reason! I have more than enough testing and shooting to do with the lenses I have now anyhow.
So onto the lens! The Vivitar 90-180mm f/4.5 is a true macro zoom in that it was designed as a flat field lens for excellent macro reproduction. Most lenses are design where the focal plane is an arc with all points equidistant from the film plane. In macro photography, especially something like reproduction with items which are flat, this would mean when filling the frame with something such as a stamp, while the center would be in focus, the outer edges would actually be outside the plane of focus. Flat field optics provide a plane of focus parallel to the image plane. Most true macro lenses are designed this way for reproduction.
According to most forums and postings from users of this lens, it produces amazing results. Guess who made it? The serial begins with 22- Kiron! To determine who made your Vivitar Lens see my links or simply see Stephen Gandy's "Who Made That Vivitar Lens".
Focal length: 90-180mm
Filter thread: 72mm
Min. Aperture: f/4.5
Max. Aperture: f/22
Angular field of view (diagonal): 27°
Min. focusing distance: 27" (68.6 cm) @ 180mm
Max reproduction ratio: 1:4 @ 90mm, 1:2.7 @ 135mm, 1:2 @ 180mm
Weight: 2.4 lbs. ( 1.1 kg)
Vivitar 90-180mm f/4.5 Lens Diagram
The Vivitar 90-180mm f/4.5 is no exception to the superior build quality of the other Vivitar Series 1 glass I have reviewed thus far. Beautifully and precisely crafted with exact tolerances, a durable barrel, multi-coating, smooth movements, and an overall professional, appealing appearance. The lens utilizes a dual focusing mechanism where the lowered diamond knurled ring zooms the lens from 90-180mm and the upper, equally knurled, ring focuses. In addition to the heft of the lens, it features a rotating tripod collar with tightening screw. I find these mounts a great design addition however I am typically unable to take advantage of them because of lack of room when shooting with a battery grip.
Finally got my FD-m4/3 adapter. When those Chinese merchants say 20-60 business days, they mean it. It felt like an eternity waiting for this thing. Anyway, because I am using this lens on a four thirds sensor, there is a 2x crop factor and I and getting the sweet spot of the lens. Therefore I cannot fully assess this lens' capabilities nearer the edges of a full frame image.
With the GF1, this lens is great. (Be sure if using it with an m4/3 camera, to use the lens' tripod mount rather than the camera. This brick just may tear the mount right off the camera!) Below are two samples @ 90mm and two more @ 180mm, at f/4.5 (wide open) and f/11 (my sample's sharpest aperture).
f/11 @ 90mm
f/4.5 @ 180mm
f/11 @ 180mm
Below, found on Ed Sawyer's site, is some scanned documentation from Modern Photography's own review and testing on the Vivitar 90-180mm. I just pasted it all together in PS.
Robert Monaghan's Write-up of the Vivitar 90-180mm on his Cult Classics webpage:
"Vivitar also made a number of high quality zooms under the Series I label. The 90mm to 180mm f4.5 flat-field VMC lens from 1978 is an optic that has also achieved cult status.
This Vivitar 90-180mm f/4.5 lens was really designed for medical photography needs. A ring-light flash unit was designed to mount on the front of this lens too. But as far as I know, it was never released. This original medical market niche explains some of the design features and range of this high quality zoom lens.....
The Vivitar 90-180mm f/4.5 Series I macro zoom is designed to provide the highest possible quality continuously down to its closest macro settings. The Vivitar 90-180mm f/4.5 flat-field lens provides high quality macrophotography continuously from 90mm (to 1:4) to 180mm (to 1:2). That's unique, and useful, so you should expect to pay quite a price premium for such a cult status lens!"
Source: Modern Photography, June 1978, p. 126, 182
Again - The above text is all from Robert Monaghan's webpage on cult classic lenses.
Stephen Gandy's write-up on the Vivitar 90-180mm
Vivitar 90-180mm FD-M42 Mount Modification