Many photographers think that good lenses are razor sharp lenses. I don’t agree with such statement. What is important for me is how lens is affecting final picture. Depending on type of photography I may prefer lens with strong vignetting or with soft corners. The real gems however are those lenses which creates uncommon pictures. I especially like wide aperture primes creating uncommon bokeh. When I saw sample images from Vivitar VMC Series 1 28mm F1.9 I had to buy it for its unique and busy bokeh.
It is worth noting that Series 1 line is Vivitar’s high quality line of lenses known for their outstanding optical quality. Lens is the biggest one of all 28mm primes I had, almost twice as big as Minolta MD 28mm F2.8! It is also heaviest weighting 384 grams without caps (also twice more than Minolta). Large focusing ring make it very nice to use. But is it as good optically as Series 1 lenses are believed to be? As usual we start with vingetting test. At F1.9 we have very strong vignette reaching mid sections of image, but as soon as we will start stopping down things are rapidly getting better. At F2.8 only corners and edges are darker, at F4 only extreme corners have medium vignette and at F5.6 it almost entirely gone and remains like this to maximum aperture value of F16. Color rendition is excellent with just a tiny and barely noticeable bit of tint toward reds.
Given the fact that this lens was manufactured about 40 years ago (late 70s) I was expecting typical sharpness performance of most legacy lenses of that time like soft corners when wide open etc. I was totally blown away by its very good sharpness across entire frame at F1.9! Even extreme corners are sharp. From F2.8 all the way up to F16 sharpness is excellent, corner to corner. Really exceptional performance. The only thing I can point out is uneven distorion with barrel in center and pincushion in corners. Thankfully its weak enough to go unnoticeable in regular photos.
It seems like Vivitar Series 1 lenses are really good. With price between 150 to 200 euros it may be hard to find cheaper and equally good 28mm prime. And if you can spent some time looking for this lens you can spot a bargain and get one even for as low as 100 euros. I will definitely look for other Series 1 lenses myself and 28mm F1.9 is a real gem, a must have.
To see what I meant by unique and busy bokeh please check sample images.