Wednesday, February 24, 2010

105mm Kiron Iterations

The Kiron 105mm is, in my experience, one of the most talked about third party macro lenses when it comes to manual focus lenses. It excels in performance, goes to 1:1 without the need for clumsy extensions or tubes, and most of all, is quite accessible. The lens can be had for a relatively modest price on auction sites (most of the time). I have heard many stories of them popping up at local shops and garage sales for a couple dollars. The best news is: There are plenty of these lenses to go around! Due to the popularity of this lens when it was first marketed and numerous branding variations, finding a Kiron 105mm really isn't the proverbial "needle in a haystack". In fact, aside from searching Kiron 105mm, there are a number of other cosmetic variations that may get you the same, or similar performance. You just need to know what you are looking for!

Model Variation

The Kiron 105mm was incarnated in a number of other iterations. I am still finding (and people are bringing to my attention) more lenses that are rebranded Kirons. Thus far, I am aware that the Kiron 105mm f/2.8 lens can be found in these physical iterations:

- Kiron 105mm f/2.8
- Lester A. Dine 105mm f/2.8 (Dental lens, often labeled with a dental focusing guide)
- Rikenon 105mm f/2.8
- Rolleinar 105mm f/2.8
- Vivitar 105mm f/2.5
- Vivitar 100mm f/2.8

While differing cosmetically, each of these lens variations contains an identical optical formula and is manufactured by Kino Precision, according to everything I have read thus far. The Kiron and Lester Dine models look the same with only extremely minor differences (noted below). The Vivitar 100mm and Rikenon 105mm models also look relatively the same. The Vivitar Series 1 105mm is unique in it's appearance. I have also just been informed of a possible Rolleinar incarnation, the Rolleinar 105mm f/2.8.

Kiron 105mm f/2.8

The Kiron 105mm f/2.8 lens in its sleek, black glory.

Lester A. Dine 105mm f/2.8

The Lester A. Dine version is typically identical looking to the Kiron, just marketed to dentists. It will have some extra markings on the distance scale and possibly a supplementary adhesive scale specifically designed for dental photography denoting intra-oral regions. The version pictured below on the left demonstrates the "field size" markings in contrast to the original Kiron version on the right.

Below is an image I found on the Pentax forums showing the adhesive dental scale:

Rikenon 105mm f/2.8

Below is the rarer Rikenon 105mm version of this lens*.

Rolleinar 105mm f/2.8

It has been brought to my attention (Thanks JC) that Rollei may well have rebranded a Kiron 105. The Rolleinar 105mm f/2.8 looks cosmetically and mechanically identical to the Kiron 105. I haven't yet come across any optical diagrams of the Kiron to compare with that of this Rollei but the current similarities lead me to believe the Rolleinar is Kiron's optically identical sibling. Here is a page on Rollei lenses with the 105mm midway down the page.

Vivitar Series 1 105mm f/2.5

Vivitar 100mm f/2.8

Similar to the Rikenon 105mm, the Vivitar 100mm iteration appears to have the same overall proportions, grip, and built-in hood, but with lens notation printed on front of the barrel, near the optics, rather than the outer edge.

*Images I have not made on this blog will be noted by the originator (in this case, osgood521 and Samy's Camera). I request permission to use them. I do however often put them on white, tweak WB, add some curves, retouch, and finish the overall layout.



After collecting a few of these iterations, my curiosity led me to a comparison. First off, it should be noted, with any lens, there can be variation in image quality even between two identical models. So along with looking into differing image quality between these models, I also can be sure (if they truly are identical optical formulas) my assessment of the lens sharpness is accurate.

All the talk on the web tends to hyperbolize the greatness of this lens, namely that this is the greatest macro lens ever made. I would have to disagree with that statement, based on optical performance. Not that the Kiron 105mm isn't an excellent lens, but the best ever made, no. Below I have, as many others, used a $1 bill as a practical subject matter. The left crop is the eye in the tip of the pyramid while the right is a small detail near the upper right corner of the frame. I have only chosen to include the wide open performance crops. Stopped down, these lenses are excellent. Certainly as sharp as most anyone will need. Below is a key to where the crops came from:

I often interested in how a lens will do wide open (because why buy a fast lens, if it won't perform at that aperture?). At f/2.8 (the Vivitar 105mm version is marked f/2.5 but is actually f/2.8) this is the performance of each iteration:

Lester A. Dine 105mm f/2.8 Crop
Kiron 105mm f/2.8 Crop
Vivitar 105mm f/2.5 Crop

For the sake of argument, I actually do own a lens that is sharper wide open than these 105's. My favorite Vivitar Series 1 90mm f/2.5. Interestingly enough, these lenses tend to go for a considerable amount less than any of the 105mm version lenses, despite being sharper. My assumption is this is due to the fact that the 105 can go all the way to 1:1 reproduction rate without the need for extension tubes or macro extenders (such as the 90mm).

Vivitar Series 1 90mm f/2.5 Crop


The Kiron and Dine do appear a tad sharper than the Vivitar. This could be due to tester error though I was sure to check focus every shot. Also, it could be due in part to the aforementioned sample variation. The Vivitar just may be a softer sample. Either way, the tests show consistent CA wide open. The S1 90mm has always been stunningly sharp wide open. In this test, center appears a tad softer than the center of the Dine but through field use, the 90mm always proves extremely sharp wide open (as well as MTF charts etc). This is the largest reason I love this lens. It is an f/2.5 lens, and can be used optimally, at f/2.5! Also the CA does appear to be more controlled (though upon very close inspection, especially under more severe circumstances, the 90mm definitely does produce some CA). The 105's are unmistakeably excellent lenses. Focusing distance, easy 1:1 focusing, beautiful industrial design, etc. Although I did not have the opportunity to test the other variations, I would believe they will perform very similarly.

As can be seen in the upper left hand corner of the Key image, the dollar tended to curl a tad despite being taped down. This test was improvised and a bit hurried.


For a larger scale test incorporating more than just the Kiron 105's check this macro comparison out.


  1. David,

    Quite an interesting comparison. I find it very valuable and highly informative that I can actually see some variations in supposedly identical optics. Perhaps Kiron kept the best of them back for their own brand name?

    I think that, just for grins, I'm going to mimic your tests with my set of macro lenses at my blog. Although if you're shooting with an MFT camera, the corners will be necessarily different. It will be interesting to compare data, and I can verify also how my Vivitar S1 105mm macro rates with your three examples.

    I look forward to your Macro Lens Roundup. Now that should be a good read!

    Michael McBroom

  2. Testing a macro lens only wide open does not produce credible results. Most macro work is done with the lens stopped down to get more depth of field, and surely the range from f/8 to f/22 is far more interesting than wide open.

  3. I would say it depends on what you are "going for". Agreed a macro lens cannot be measured a good or bad lens wide open as it will ALWAYS be sharper around those middle apertures. For reproduction work, of course use f/8 or f/11. So allow me to clarify why I chose to show the wide open results:

    As a personal preference, I find the shallowest depth of field often very interesting. Thus in this test I am interested in how the lens will perform when wide open giving that shallow depth of field; how sharp will the plane of focus be? I once heard someone say: "Try to find a bad macro". It's at extremes (such as wide open) I find the most significant differentiation and thus post those results. You can bet each of these macros is very sharp near those middle apertures. I will be posting a comparison at all apertures shortly, actually! Thanks for the comment, I apologize for not stating that more clearly!

  4. Hi David,
    Love your blog !
    Just want to mention the Rolleinar as a 105mm Kiron iteration ; Saw one on evilbay once and wasn't expensive (soupir...)
    Here's is a (famous) link with the lens diagram
    JC from France

  5. JC-

    Thank you for the info! I found another image on and requested to use it (the originator graciously accepted). I feel like a new version of this lens pops up every week! Truly appreciate the head-up.

  6. Hi David,

    I ve been using the S1 105 2.5 for a few years, and recently picked up the viv 100 2.8 version.

    i would like to offer that the f2.5 really is about 1/3 stop brighter than the 2.8 version. and the stop for 2.8 on the S1 corresponds to about f3.5.

    I have never been confident shooting with the S1 version wide open, as there was alot of CA, and the 2.8 version is much better in this respect. it is also sharper wide open.

    i ve noticed the multi coating is different too. the 2.8 version(MC) has a purplish coating while the S1(VMC) has a greenish coating. I will test to see the difference, but for a first impression, i feel the 2.8 is slightly more contrasty and warmer. i ve always felt the S1 version had a greenish cast. will do more comparisons and see if there really is a difference.


  7. Hi again,

    i ve done a bit more testing and have confirmed that the series one vivitar handles flare better as compared to the non series one version. taken in a light tent, both showed a loss of contrast even at f8, but the latter performed abit worse.

    the tokina 90 2.5 (with dedicated hood) was alot better even wide open and was the sharpest, but the nikkor 55 f/3.5 fared the best for flare. all were tested at 1:2 repro ratio.

    in real life use, i can notice both the vivitars' loss of contrast wide open, but both are very good once stopped till f4. wide open, the non series one is sharper with less CA, but also slightly less contrast.

  8. Thanks for the test images and your findings.
    I have a Kiron 105, but I like to take photgraphs wide open sometimes - and for that the lens is not pretty good.

  9. hi, thanks for your informative post. I searched for a YEAR and finally got lucky one night last week when one turned up on the list and I scored it for a good deal- a NOS Vivatar series One 105 ƒ2.5, with a kiron #22. the harder thing is finding reliable info about this glass. It is a Nikon mount, so I had to buy an EOS adaptor, of which I am not certain of its integrity. I use M42 and Yashica to EOS confidently but the Nikon mount moves a millimeter or two at most which must affect focus. I havnt made any notable photos, but I really need to work with it a bit as it is my first real macro lens and it behaves quite differently.
    anyway I was really glad to find you & will be following!

  10. i have one i'm interested in selling. it's the lester a. dine and has a dine corp macro flash. currently on a nikon N70 body. any suggestions as to where i should sell it?

  11. These lenses are common on sites like eBay and craigslist which are probably the best venues. The item will get a lot of exposure. Price will depend on condition (as is often the case). In mint condition, a nikon mount 105 of this make tends to fetch between $150-300 depending on whose bidding. Though I have seen beautiful copies go for a higher price.

  12. thanks david, for the suggestion. i will post mine there.

  13. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  14. Kiron jak zwykle chwalony, choć jak widać i Vivitar series 1 90/2,5 równie dobry. Odmiany Vivitar i dental odrobinę mniej ostre. :)