Is the 1976 Vintage Vivitar 35-105 3.5 a Mini Primo ? UPDATED

Vivitar 35-105 3.5  
vivitar 35-105
This bargain lens looks impressive. Its got a big front element, solid metal construction, constant iris, and the perfect range for a lot of the work I do. Is it a little slow at 3.5 ? maybe, but thats really only a 1/2 stop from 2.8. I’m generally working with a light level of about F4 @ 200 for sit down interviews so this easily fits into the comfort range for me.
First Video Test WIth Lee ND Filter
Lets go further, this lens has an internal zoom ! Thats right, the length of the lens does not change when you zoom. Focus on the other hand does cause the front of the lens to turn, and it does move forwards, but only about a 1/4″. The front of the lens barrel is also a perfect fit for one of the doughnut rings on my matte box. It moves and rotates through it fine without worry its going to move too far forwards and hit a filter inside.
The markings in the lens barrel are larger then average which is great. The focus rotation is in the correct direction, and is around 180 deg. If you add on a large gear on the lens barrel and a small one on the follow focus, there is plenty of control here. It overall feels very smooth.
The lens I got is in pristine nearly new out of the box condition, and was really really cheap. So did I really get a bargain ?
vivitar 35-105 bokeh example
Bokeh sample shots from Vivitar 35-105 3.5he upper shot shows its a bit different. Hey its vintage 35 year old glass !
Are there any downsides ?
Well the lens doesn’t focus that close, maybe 4 feet. It does have a macro function which works by going to 35mm, then pulling the zoom collar back to focus close. At the wide end, you can certainly rack from maybe 10 or 15 feet to close using just the macro ring.  Using macro does make the lens extend itself, but nothing too far, maybe 1″.
click on the image for a full res video still. I was focused at about 30ft or so, Lee ND.9 in front, wide open, maybe shutter at 1/60th

I wasn’t happy with the tests I ran on the lens a few months ago, mainly due to the Lee resin filter I had on. This time I went and redid the same tests, and used a new Schneider 4X4 ND .9 EF81.

Overall Image Quality : UPDATED
Now that I have your attention, the big question, how does it look. Well the answer is, it depends. I’ll be putting up a lens test video over the next few days so you can see for yourself. My conclusions are, at 5.6 or slower, it looks great. At 3.5, its a bit soft for stills, but ok for video.  What  happens wide open is that CA starts happening in the out of focus areas. This is typical of the look of lenses from this era. Its something like a diffusions filter, but different because there is some color spread.  Its a very 60’s and 70’s look I like. There is also certain amount of CA going on in high contrast areas that goes away by 5.6. If you want to bump up your ISO a stop in lower light levels, no problem, or drop your shutter to 1/30th while adding a little more light. Outdoors of course its a great general shooting lens. Reasonably wide for general shots, and at 105 goes in close.
I know if I could have  my ideal lens would be something like a 20-120, F2. There is a Olympus OM 35-105 2.8 out there. I’ve found only one, it was $1200, and in Hong Kong. I’m not saying that’s unreasonable as many folks have paid about as much for various canon L lenses. However, what I don’t know is if its any better then what I already have and paid, well $100 for ! This lens may well be the very best bargain lens out there is for shooting video if you can get over the fact its a 3.5 rather then 2.8 lens.

Can you sell ANYTHING to dslr owners ? How about a $69.95 audio adapter worth $3

I’m just amazed at some of the overpriced stuff out there. Don’t get me wrong, the price of gear over the last few years has dropped dramatically. It wasn’t too long ago you needed $100K VTR to record HD video tape, now there are $1k-$3k solid state recorders with better quality. So here comes a 3.5mm to XLR adapter for $69.95. Lets get real, the XLR  can be had for $1 in lots of 20, $3 in Radio Shack if you want to really be ripped off. The  3.5mm adapter can snipped off the end of a 3.5->3.5mm cable you can also pick up for a $1 or so as a shortie. Add in 10 minutes to solder it up… ya $3. Premade ones can be found for not too much more. You can even find ones with line level -> mic level padding, ok, that requires 2 resistors in the XLR to get the job done.
XLR to 3.5mm audio adapter
Stupid expensive adapter.
If you are really interested : Energy Transformation Systems, Inc
They must think dslr owners will buy anything.

A Nite In Cincinatti Vintage OM Lens Tests

This is a cool little night time test shoot that I did. I was trying out some of my lenses, and ISO settings. I put some cool vintage glass to the job including a Olympus OM 50 1.4, OM 35-70 F4, 1 shot with a Vivtar series 1 28 1.9, a new Tamron 17-50 2.8 and 70-200 2.8. It was fun, gave me sore feet, and I think I learned quite a bit.
A Nite In Cincinatti by Steve Oakley from Steve Oakley on Vimeo.
The OM 35-70 F4 would seem to be a dark lens in comparison to the others, and it is, but I still got some quite usable shots. Its a nice compact lens with a solid feel to it. I’ll also say the area was pretty bright, so it wasn’t a problem to use this lens. On a 7D @ 1250 ISO, it would still be very usable for all except the very darkest places.
This alternate version shows which lenses I used on each shot. You might be a bit surprised at a few.
A Nite In Cincinatti by Steve Oakley from Steve Oakley on Vimeo.

If you want to know, I did do some color correction on some shots. It seems the street lights have something of a green cast, and I did do a minus green correction on them. I also think I did adjust one or two shots for exposure too, but it was gentle. I did the editing and color correction in Premiere Pro CS5 Mac using mainly RGB Curves. Having a QuadroFX 4800 let me work on this in realtime, at full resolution which was a real pleasure. It also really let me get done with this a lot quicker.


I’ve got another video in the works, just as soon as I can edit the thing. Meanwhile I’ve been watching as canon announced the new 60D a few days ago.

Musgo Shot on GH2

We’ve all heard about how dslr’s should let  people make movie’s free of big financial concerns. All you need is a good script, good actors, camera, sound, pizza and locations. Here is perhaps an actual example of it happening. These are pretty few and far between. Here is a micro budget production at its bare essentials. Looks pretty cool to not be tied to too much gear as many of the jobs I’m on are.
What caught my eye was that this was shot on a GH2 that I had been thinking about getting, but in the end opted for another 60D.
And the actual trailer. I’m not a huge horror film fan, but it looks pretty good.