Saturday, May 17, 2014

Vivitar 200mm 3.5 Auto Telephoto

Another lens from the dustbin of history for today. The Vivitar 200mm f/3.5. It's a prime, it's fast, and it's cheap. Is it worth it? Once upon a time we would just check the optical quality, perhaps ergonomics (such as focus feel), and that's it. Nowadays, things are a bit more complex. I know it's hard to find reviews for these old lenses, so I'll try my best to give you an objective opinion. Whether it's worth it to you or not, it's of course up to you to decide.

+ optically very good, Vivitar always knew how to make good primes
+ 200mm and f/3.5 - that's awesome!
+ good value, you get plenty of goodness for not much money.

- a bit of chromatic aberration wide-open, not an issue with modern DSLRs
- manual focus on a 200mm f/3.5 lens will always be a bit challenging
- although marginally slower, I prefer the Nikkor 200mm f/4

Plenty of resolving power (this example is @ f/8)

Intended Users
Great for:
  • users on a budget looking for a fast(er) tele
  • It could work as a "less-intrusive" portrait lens, although on DX the working distance is a tad too much for my taste.
  • stopped-down a bit is a decent consumer landscape lens

Not for:
  • manual focus means it's pretty difficult to use with moving subjects
  • indoor sports (or of any kind, really). Although it's f/3.5 (a stop and a half from a regular xx-200mm zoom), it's manual focus.
  • users preferring convenience over performance

Final Verdict
In absolute terms, this is a very good lens. Quite cheap for what it offers you (200mm at f/3.5 is not easy to find), and its optical quality matches is maximum aperture. The problems begin once you realize it's manual focus (tongue-in-cheek point, I know). You see, a fast tele lens will always be needed for things that move - birds, kids, indoor sports... And manual focus can be thoroughly frustrating in such cases. As such, although optically this is a sweet lens, most people will prefer the convenience of something like the 55-300 VR - even at a much higher price.

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