Vivitar FD 35mm f/1.9

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Fast, Close focus, good IQ
Soft and glowy wide open

I wasn't intending to get this lens... it was bundled with some others that I was surprised to win on eBay. This copy is in excellent condition and effectively cost me well under $10 including shipping.

Wide open, this lens is still sharp enough, but it has low contrast and some classic fast-old-lens glow. It is a very appealing softness that works well for portraits and generally is more character than defect. Bokeh are generally nice, although there is a thin bright ring visible in the PSF.

Stopped down, it gets perfectly sharp. Contrast is still relatively low.

On film, the low contrast would be the issue, and 8/10 would be about as good as the IQ gets. That's assuming that the full-frame edges hold up, which I haven't tested. However, on my 14MP APS-C digital, the contrast is not low enough to be harmful and image quality is about 9/10. Low contrast is one of the least harmful issues for digital, easily fixed in PP.

Mechanically, aside from being a little large, it is competitive with Takumars of the same period. Build is easily at least 9/10.

Which brings me to the obvious comparison: this vs. my 35mm f/2.0 S-M-C Takumar. First, let me say that the Tak is better. In fact, it is technically much better wide open and contrast is consistently better in just about any circumstances. However, the images from this Vivitar are just as pleasant to look at, perhaps more romantic as opposed to the documentary look of the Tak. The Vivitar bokeh are better. Did I mention that the Tak cost over 12X as much!

This vs. my 35mm f/3.5 Super Takumar: these lenses are opposites. The Tak has great contrast, making appealing images by overly intense colors. These two lenses almost define the boundaries for how different IQ can be and yet both be quite good. This Tak is tiny.

This vs. my Canon FDn 35mm f/2.8: the Canon has better contrast (but not even close to the f/3.5 Tak) and thus would be better on film. Typical FDn build doesn't compete with this Vivitar.

In summary, despite the price, this Vivitar is really viable as a "fast normal" for APS-C. It is nothing short of stunning for the price I paid....



Fine image quality for the price; close focus
Physically large

According to Cameraquest's Vivitar serial-number decoder, the 35/1.9 was made by Komine. They also manufactured several of the well-respected Vivitar Series 1 lenses, and the build quality seems very solid--including half-stop detents on the aperture ring.

I got my 35/1.9 from eBay, priced under $45 including shipping. The image quality is quite satisfactory, particularly considering the cost. It makes a nice alternative to the Canon FD 35/2.0 which can go for much more.

The main downside is that this lens is freaking huge--when you first see it, you'd imagine it was a 135mm telephoto. It does take 55mm threaded filters, like most Canon FD primes.

The lens focuses down to 1 foot/o.3m, allowing you to fill the frame with a subject ~5x7 inches. That's useful.

There's no lock for the AE setting, so be careful not to bump the aperture ring.