Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Vivitar 28mm f/2.8

Yesterday, I received a Nikon F4 film camera from a customer who wanted to get rid of his stuff. Along with it came a splendid made-in-Japan manual focus Vivitar 28mm f/2.8 wide angle lens. [In the background is the iconic Dayabumi tower, situated near Padang Merdeka in the center of KL].

All images were taken using large basic jpegs with the Standard picture control. Sharpening +6, D lighting OFF.

Yeap, this is the lens in question. It gives a focal length of 42mm on DX format cameras, or 56mm on 4/3rds cameras. This isn't the first manual lens I've tried though. The first was a Minolta 50mm f/1.4 for fourthirds mount. I got the opportunity to review a trio of Samyang lenses too, despite being reluctant to return them, especially the Samyang 85/1.4.

[taken with my lovely Tamron 28-75. I love its semi macro capabilities].

 It has 6 traditional aperture blades which stop down to f/16. The bokeh isn't as spectacular as Nikon's newest wide primes, but it does the job sufficiently. [Sorry for the marks on the metal mount.. I'll clean it later :s]

Even the cheapest 18-55 kit lens nowadays trumps the Vivitar with respects to image quality. But there's one thing that the Vivitar can attest to - its impeccable build quality. The focusing ring is smooth and well damped, while the aperture ring functions well. I can't expect more from a lens that I received for free, can I ? :)

There are colour coded marks on the depth of field scale, which is good for estimating the plane of focus for manual focus lenses. You focus the lens by turning the textured focusing ring near the front of the lens. I wished the ring was a bit wider though.

 If you're stumped on what to shoot, you could first start by looking for a cat. The Japanese have a very pleasant aesthetic of capturing a cat in its environment. As you can see, its rather poorly emulated here by me. :s

From this image, you can see there is some complex barrel distortion at the bottom periphery of the image. Its not perfect, but I'm not complaining about it. The lens vignettes too at maximum aperture.

Most cats would readily approach you once they've established that you don't have any hostile intentions.

 Looking up at Menara DayaBumi, which literally means 'Force Earth Tower'. Hmmmm...

 A 28mm is good for taking moderately wide angle photographs without the excessive distortion from a 14mm lens.

This little lens has a maximum reproduction ratio of 1:5 when used at its minimum focusing distance of 23cm. It was a great feature of the lens during its debut.

Of course, we can't expect this lens to be as bokehlicious as a 50/1.8 lens for example, due to its wider focal length and slower maximum aperture.

A rather gloomy evening over KL.

 You can see almost all the optical limitations of the lens in this image - noticeable vignetting, loss of sharpness and contrast in the center while the edges just turn into mush with loads of coma.

Motorbikes in an alley.

Playing with old manual focus lenses such as these give me more satisfaction than AF lenses, because I have to take the time to slow down, think, manually focus and compose the image while at the same time fiddling with the aperture ring for the correct exposure (though I find myself using f/2.8 at most times). I would not have the desire at all to manual focus on my Nikon AF-D lenses, because the tactile feel sucks compared the smooth, oiled focusing ring on the Vivitar.

Hmm.. I seem to be getting a hang of manual focus lenses faster than I thought I would. Hopefully a Nikon 50mm f/1.2 AI-s lens will drop down from the heavens one day ;)




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