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Vivitar Lenses

Vivitar lenses logo


Vivitar Corporation is a US based lens and camera manufacturer.


Brief History of Vivitar

The story of the Vivitar Company starts in 1938 when two immigrants from Germany, Max Ponder and John Best, founded the company "Ponder and Best" in Oxnard City, California.

At that time the company was importing cameras and lenses from Germany to the U.S. After WWII the company organized import of photo and cinema equipment from Japan and later from Taiwan as well. Specifically, they dealt in importing 35mm Mamiya cameras, Kobina cinema cameras and photo lab equipment.

During the early 1960s the company announced the Vivitar brand. This trademark spread quite quickly and gained a reputation of providing quality lenses in the moderate price segment.

In 1975 the company started manufacturing a new line of "Series I" lenses, which later became the company’s "business card". With the launch of this lens line Vivitar became one of the first companies to use computers to perform calculations for the design process and for optical lens chip development.

In 1979 the company changed its name to the Vivitar Corporation.

After the passing of the company’s founder, the corporation changed ownership several times. In  November 2006 the Vivitar Corporation was sold to Syntax-Brillian Corp. for $26 million in shares.
On the 21st of August 2008, after the Syntax-Brillian Corporation went bankrupt, the Vivitar brand and all intellectual property within the company were sold to Sakar International, a company based in New Jersey, USA. Sakar International is currently planning on starting production of cameras under the Vivitar brand.


Vivitar Series 1 lenses

Vivitar Series 1 lens

Vivitar’s standards for lenses were quite unique for that time. For the first time an independent reseller started to compete with major lens manufacturers in optical lens quality. And they succeeded. On top of excellent mechanical quality, the Series 1 lenses had new optical design features and even completely new optical designs that became very successful and were later replicated by many leading companies.
In developing its optical designs the company followed standards that were at that time used in the US space exploration program.

The Series 1 lenses created serious competition on the lens market for such a big companies as Canon, Olympus, Nikon, Minolta and even such famous optics manufacturers as Carl Zeiss and Leitz.

Vivitar was the first company to announce macro lenses with a variable focal distance (Vivitar Series 1 70-210mm f/3.5 Macro).

The company also developed several lenses with unique features for that time: 28/1.9, 90/2.5 Macro, 135/2.3, 200/3, 24-48/3.8, 35-85/2.8 Variable focus, 70-210/3.5 Macro zoom, 90-180/4.5 Macro Zoom, as well as the 600/8 and 800/11 mirror-lens optical designs.

In the middle of the 70s the company released the famous Vivitar Series 1 90 2.5" macro lens. That lens together with the legendary Leitz Dual Range Summicron became the lens with a highest resolution for a 35mm system according to the rating published by the reputable Modern Photography Magazine.

Vivitar Series 1 90mm f/2.5 Macro lens

(Photo: legendary Vivitar Series 1 90mm f/2.5 Macro lens with additional macro adapter)

One legendary German lens manufacturer even bought a license for production of the 28-90 Series 1 Vivitar Zoom and later released the lens under its own brand.

Unforunately, Vivitar’s leading position on the market didn’t last. By 1981 all original lens production was stopped except for the 800/11 and 70-210/3.5 Macro lenses.
Several particularly popular lenses were still being manufactured but in limited amounts. In 1983 the company came up with one more fascinating lens: the 450/4.5. Its design was the first to feature a mirror lens with a frontal plastic aspherical element.

The Vivitar Series 1 lenses became a renowned event of an epoch for the 70s-80s and remain in stable demand to this day. They are frequently used with digital cameras via adapters.


Vivitar Lens Manufacturers and labeling

The Vivitar company was developing and selling lenses but lacked its own factories for lens manufacturing, so it used other major lens manufacturing factories. Some third-party companies also took part in the development of several optical designs.

Moreover, the same lens was at times manufactured by different lens manufacturers throughout different years or even during the same year. As a result, the quality of a particular lens from a particular year could differ based on manufacturer.

In order to find out which manufacturer released a specific lens, you must learn to read the serial numbers present on lenses.

The numbering system for all of Vivitar lenses from 1970 to 1990 was the same. After 1990 the numbering system was changed as a result of the company changing hands. If your lens doesn't match this numbering system, that means that your specific lens was manufactured before 1970 or after the system was changed.

Now to the point:

  1. The first two digits stand for the manufacturer’s name (see list below). Two manufacturers had only one digit numbers (6 and 9).
  2. The third digit stands for manufacturing year. This can cause a bit of confusion, seeing as, for example, “8” may mean that the lens was produced either in 1978 or in 1988.
  3. The fourth and fifth digits stand for manufacturing week (01-52).
  4. The following digits stand for the production serial numbers.


Manufacturer Codes for Vivitar lenses

(First two digits of  serial number)

6 - Olympus

9 - Cosina

13 - Schneider Optik

22 - Kino (aka Kiron)

25 - Ozone Optical

28 - Komine

32 - Makinon

33 - Asanuma

37 - Tokina

42 - Bauer

44 - Perkin Elmer (US)

47 - Chinon

51 - Tokyo - Trading

56 - Kyoe Schoji

75 - Hoya Optical

81 - Polar

The following codes are generally accepted as denoting the highest quality lenses: 6, 13, 22, 37, 75

The best manufacturers are Olympus, Schneider, Kiron, Tokina, Hoya.


Lists of Vivitar lenses in the Database

All Vivitar lenses (79 pcs.)

Vivitar prime manual focus lenses (41 pcs.)

Vivitar zoom manual focus lenses (35 pcs.)

Vivitar AF lenses (3 pcs.)

Author: Sergei Borodin 02.09.2010 08:52:29

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