Welcome to our ultimate Vivitar 200mm f3.5 review that is a part of our vintage lens series that we decided to start publishing a few months back. As with all of the vintage lenses we have covered so far in the series, so much will depend on the quality of the lens that you are able to source.
For example, you may see the Vivitar 200mm F3.5 for sale in a thrift store or at a yard sale for only $30 only to find out it is damaged or the manual focus ring has rusted when you get it home. On the flip side of this, You can pay a little more and order your lens online from a reputable seller (Click here to check for product prices and availability) and get yourself a lens that has been fully restored and quality tested. As the Vivitar 200mm F3.5 was initially distributed in the 1970’s we would always recommend that you pick up a restored version of the lens unless you are confident in your ability to restore the lens yourself.
Anyway, even to this day, the lens has a reputation of being a solid lens that can provide you with some great image quality while also being pretty lightweight for its size. Its fixed 200m focal length makes it ideal for a number of different photography niches with many people using it in animal photography and macro photography while getting some great results.
User Interface And Control System
As the Vivitar 200mm F3.5 is a 40-year-old lens, the interface, and control system is pretty basic compared to what you can get on some modern lenses. That said, many people do enjoy that retro feel of the lens as well as its old school hands-on approach to getting the most out of it.
The manual focus ring on the lens is one of the main interfaces between the lens and the photographer but as we mentioned earlier, it is also a common point of failure on many of these old lenses. If you do choose to pick up a Vivitar 200mm F3.5 that you found in a thrift store rather than a fully refurbished version be sure that you can fully rotate the manual focus ring before purchasing it.
That said, even if the ring does have a high level of resistance or you are unable to turn it, chances are, it is just due to rust or dust build up and both faults are pretty easy to clear. If you are unable to strip clean the lens then the vast majority of local photography stores will be able to do this for you for a small fee.
One thing that we feel you have to be aware of is that the Vivitar 200mm F3.5 was a very popular lens back in its day and a number of variants were released. One of the main interface differences on the lens variants is that they come with different mount types. To our knowledge, the Vivitar 200mm F3.5 has variants that come with the following mount types:-
- Canon FD
- Minolta SR
- Minolta XK
- Nikon F
- Olympus OM
Due to this, picking up a high-quality lens adaptor (Click here to check for product prices and availability) for the lens may be a bit of a pain if you don’t know the mount type on the lens variant that you manage to source. Thankfully, once you have your lens in your hands you can spend a few seconds searching Google image results for each mount type and match it up to the mount type on your lens and purchase the appropriate adaptor for your camera body of choice.
As the Vivitar 200mm F3.5 is a prime lens there is no manual zoom ring on the lens helping to reduce the number of things that could have gone wrong over the 40 years since its release. Not surprisingly, this works in your favor as it is one less thing that you have to worry about when compared to many other vintage lenses.
Performance And Functionality
Back in its day, the Vivitar 200mm F3.5 offered some of the best performance available for its initial price point in the market and this is without a doubt the main reason that the lens was so popular. That said, you have to remember that this is a vintage lens that is older than many of our readers so you have to take into account both the wear and tear on the lens as well as the massive number of technological advances we have for modern lenses that most of us are used to.
For example, we have seen a number of people reviewing the Vivitar 200mm F3.5 and comparing it to modern lenses and this is totally unfair. We keep seeing people commenting that the lens has a poor image quality when wide open and that its image quality is not very shape while also having some issues with fringing with Blue and Purple.
In all fairness, some of these issues are true but its performance holds up well against most of the lenses from its time. In addition to this, using the lens in 5.6 can also help clear many of these issues up as well as any contrast or hazing issues in your images.
The photograph below was captured using the Vivitar 200mm F3.5 and does a great example of showing the type of image quality that you can expect from the lens. It shows how well it can perform at the 200m focal length in poor lighting conditions while still capturing a sharp image of the main subject.
As we touched on earlier in the article, there are many people who use the Vivitar 200mm F3.5 for macro photography so we also want to share some example photographs of how well the lens is able to perform in the macro niche too.
We feel that the macro photograph below captured with the Vivitar 200mm F3.5 gives a good example of the bokeh manipulation available with the lens but it can be a bit of a pain to get. Again though, the image quality is sharp while also doing an excellent job of capturing the color of the plant in the photograph.
The 62mm filter thread of the lens also allows you to easily further customize the performance of the lens by mounting a 62mm lens filter (Click here to check for product prices and availability) of your choice on the lens. As you would expect, we would recommend you look into a UV lens filter as a minimum to help add that additional layer or protection for the front lens element during use as there are some very cheap filters on the market these days.
Build Quality And Design
As we have already covered, the only real major issue with the lens is that rust or dust may have built up under the manual focus ring causing some resistance issues but both of these are easy fixed. The actual lens mounts, no matter what variant you source have an excellent build quality and have aged very well. This should ensure that you are able to quickly and easily mount and unmount the lens to your camera body of choice or lens adaptor without issue.
The main factor of the build quality of any Vivitar 200mm F3.5 you are able to source is going to be how well previous owners have maintained the lens. There are some absolute steals out there that has been maintained very well like the lens photographed in the image below that perform just as well today as they did at the time of its initial release onto the market.
We would imagine that many of our readers are willing to take a risk on the lens if they are able to source it for under $30 and then pay any additional costs on repairs for any issues it may have. Just keep in mind that these additional costs will likely bring the costs of the lens in line with a fully refurbished version that comes with a warranty.
Third Party Reports
That brings our Vivitar 200mm f3.5 review to an end and in all honesty, provided you can source a decent quality lens, we feel the Vivitar 200mm F3.5 can make a great addition to your collection of camera accessories. It can be a solid lens that can provide you with some excellent image quality in a number of popular photography niches while providing that vintage and old school experience.
Shared under Creative Commons – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
CLAUDIA DEA – Zoom on loneliness – https://flic.kr/p/JexQUC