zondag 6 januari 2013

Vivitar 135mm f/2.8 (made by Komine) review

Vivitar was a lens re-seller, and the serial numbers are an indicator who actually manufactured the lens. There is some difference in optical quality and exterior per manufacturer. You can check who made your lens on this list.
The serial number on my lens starts with 28 which means it’s made by Komine.

I think this is my favourite telephoto lens, as it gives quite a considerable reach on DX and it’s my fastest lens above 100mm. It is relatively light and small, which also makes it a great portrait lens as people tend to forget that this lens is capable of making a close-up portrait from a distance.

Handling the lens
In combination with my D60 this lens is just right. The weight is equally distributed and the combination is just large enough to stabilise it properly. As with most other 3rd party lenses, this lens uses oil to reduce friction when focussing. Although this generally won’t be a problem, the focus will become stiff when you expose the lens to low temperatures. However, as I said most 3rd party lenses from that time are built in the same way, and we can’t blame Vivitar (or Komine) for this.

Focussing is quite easy with the lens, the DoF is generally sufficient for minor movements between you and your subject when you recompose, and my keeper-rate is high enough. However, try to nail the focus when you make a portrait as the DoF can become quite shallow close-by at f2.8.

The lens has a metal hood which can’t be removed from the lens. Although it looks nice I’m not entirely convinced of the effectiveness of the hood as it doesn’t extend that far from the lens. I would have preferred if the hood could be removed, as it is hard to attach filters with the hood extended, and almost impossible to use the Cokin or Lee filter system, as the hood doesn’t go back far enough to allow the filter holder to slide over the coupling ring.

As this is a telephoto lens, I generally use it to fill the frame with remote objects, so I focus relatively close to infinity. And as I don’t want my shutter to fall below 1/125th I shoot it wide open quite a lot. And I suspect that most people will, except when they make portraits of course. Be aware that most lenses won’t show their best properties when they are focussed at infinity wide open.
The lens needs some sharpening when you shoot it in these conditions, but after post processing, the images look very good. And when you close it down to f/4 it’s already much better.

these photos are taken near infinity, most of them at f/4 or f/2.8 and still show good quality, though not optimal
note: the deer in these photos are taken at a place where the deer are a bit used to humans. Although they are still wild animals, they are a bit more approachable than your average deer

When you focus closer, say you want to make a portrait, this lens can also be used wide open without much sharpening. I generally sharpen the eyes a bit, just to make the pop, but it is not a necessity.

As most older lenses, this lens does show some CA, but this was to be expected for a telephoto lens. And as the CA is very well within the correctable limits it doesn’t worry me at all. The only thing that annoys me from time to time is the colour shift you get in the bokeh. This is especially visible if there is an unsharp part in front and behind my focus, as the colours can change a bit. Luckily this effect doesn’t show every time, and it is not that pronounced.

Bokeh is generally quite good. Especially for portraits the bokeh coming from this lens is nothing short but amazing. However when you get closer to infinity, and the out of focus areas are just a bit out of focus and busy, the bokeh can become a bit distracting. But again, we can’t really blame that on the lens, as a lot more lenses react the same to this condition.

I am very satisfied with the Vivitar 135mm f/2.8 lens, because it gives great quality images, is relatively light and small. This combination makes this one of my favourite telephoto lenses as it is not a burden to take on a full-day trip, while it still delivers good images. However keep in mind that there are different manufacturers who are sold under the Vivitar brand name with different optical qualities. With some post-processing this lens is able to deliver images I am will to print on the full resolution my D60 offers me.
One note however, there are a lot of good 135mm’s out there, so don’t pay too much for this lens as there are probably some good alternatives as well.

If you want to have the full resolution images, sent me an email, but I don’t like to put up full resolution images on the internet.