|Format: 35mm SLR|
Type: Zoom lens
Focusing: Manual Focus (MF)
Lens mounts: Canon FD, FDn, Canon FD, FDn, M42, M42, Nikon F (FX, DX), Nikon F (FX, DX), Olympus OM, Olympus OM, Pentax K, Pentax K, Minolta SR (MD, MC), Minolta SR (MD, MC)
First year of production: 1973
There are six versions of the manual focus Vivitar Series 1 (VS1) 70-210 zoom lenses, all of which can be distinguished apart from each other visually (and their manufacturers can be identified by using their serial numbers). Interestingly, Vivitar was never actually a lens manufacturer per se -- Vivitar contracted with various lens makers to produce lenses to its own specifications, which it then marketed under the Vivitar brand (although the contractors would sometimes end up releasing similar lens designs under their own and/or other brands), and this always-a-lens-specifier-and-never-a-lens-maker characteristic is certainly true for all the VS1 70-210 zooms.
The first VS1 70-210 version was manufactured by Kino (SN 22nnnnnn), from about 1973 to 1981. This revolutionary lens design (the first successful "macro zoom" lens ever designed) was an f/3.5 model that likely underwent the greatest number of engineering revisions during its lifetime. The first VS1 lens design that Vivitar released, it probably did more than any other VS1 product to make the Series 1 lenses a highly respected line of lenses for quite some time in the latter 20th Century. For Pentax users, this version was available at first only in M42 screwmount trim, but a K-mount fitting was added to the available mounts when Pentax came out with K-mount bodies and lenses in 1975.
The second VS1 70-210 version was manufactured by Tokina (SN 37nnnnnn), from about 1981 to 1983. Like the first version, this was also an f/3.5 design, although it was a more compact lens overall. At 1:4 maximum magnification, it did not focus quite as closely as the first version, but it did not require any special user actions to enter "macro" mode -- this version represented a total redesign of the 70-210/3.5 specification, and Vivitar marketed it with the slogan, "Think of it as 141 of the finest lenses that you can buy". This second version was available for Pentaxers in both M42 and K-mount trim (and Tokina did also release its own RMC Tokina version of this lens).
The third VS1 70-210 version was manufactured by Komine (SN 28nnnnnn), from about 1984 to 1986. Unlike the first two versions, which featured a constant f/3.5 aperture throughout the zoom range, this version was the first in the series to feature a fast-to-slow aperture transition, with f/2.8 at the 70mm end and f/4 at 210mm. Of interest to Pentax shooters (then as well as now), when Pentax released the first Ka bodies (and lenses), Vivitar also switched over to Ka functionality for this design as well, so that this version can be found with either K-mount or Ka-mount functionality. Modern Photography magazine lens tests showed this version to be a bit sharper than the earlier versions (although Modern Photo never tested the later versions for a more complete comparison).
The fourth, fifth, and sixth VS1 70-210 versions were manufactured by Cosina (SN 09nnnnnn). While there are (not surprisingly) many similarities in these three newer versions, which differ from the first three versions especially in their zoom handling, there has been an unfortunate tendency in forums and other online references to dismiss these versions as inferior to the first three (often by those that have never even owned any of them), simply because they were made during a time when Vivitar may have been "resting on its laurels" a bit by applying the Series 1 label to far too many lenses (which does NOT mean than all of the VS1 lenses of that time were necessarily inferior), and/or perhaps because they were built by Cosina (despite the fact that Zeiss has also employed Cosina to manufacture some of its own highly regarded lenses).
The fourth VS1 70-210 version was manufactured from about 1987 to perhaps 1995. The most obvious difference between this version (as well as the two that followed) to the previous three versions was in the action of the sliding zoom and focus collar -- to zoom closer (toward 210mm) on these Cosina versions, the one-touch zoom ring had to be pushed outward, unlike on the first three versions, where the zoom ring had to be pulled closer to zoom in. [One variant was released in 1988 -- to mark Vivitar's 50th Anniversary, Vivitar produced and gave away as gifts to Vivitar distributors in several countries a limited run of fifty sets of gold-plated brass versions of this lens and the VS1 28-105/2.8-3.8 lens, marked with serial numbers from 01 to 50, in velvet-lined, wooden display boxes.]
The fifth VS1 70-210 version was manufactured from 1991 to perhaps 1995. Otherwise nearly identical to the fourth version, this version featured Vivitar's novel Q-DOS system that, by incorporating internal red and cyan filters that could (optionally) be set in position within the lens barrel, offered anamorphic 3-dimensional capability to produce images that, when later viewed with (supplied) red and cyan glasses, display 3-dimensional depth quite effectively. The lens was marketed as "the world's first switchable 3-dimensional single lens system that requires no special film, no special camera or processing, only a special lens".
The sixth VS1 70-210 version was manufactured starting in perhaps 1995. Likely the biggest difference between this version and the previous versions was the incorporation of apochromatic optics (although there are some other physical differences as well, such as wider filter threads and the inclusion of a bayonet-mount reversible hood). Cosmetically, it has a semi-gloss finish, less glossy than in the other Cosina versions. [This sixth version was even released as an autofocus lens model, although only for Canon, Minolta, and Nikon mounts.]
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Posted by: Frederick Wasti Date of publication: 21.05.2017