Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Vivitar K02 On Test

photographyIt's been a while since I increased the number of Vivitar 28mm lens variants in my house by two. I now own six of the best specimens listed in the Vivitar Bestiary. A little thing called a Masters Degree has prevented me from even trying out the "Vivitar 28MM 1:2.8 MC CLOSE FOCUS WIDE ANGLE Ø49MM" until now. Though this K02 variant (made by Komine) does not have the f/2 aperture of some, and does not have the A setting of others, it is heralded as one of the best of its kind. I thought I would take it out to the garden for some basic shots in the sun. Nothing too formal, just see how it might do. The results are very positive!

Working at ISO100 on my Pentax K20D, I focused as closely as possible. On this lens that is very close indeed. At this extreme the barrel is marked .23m distance and 1:5 magnification. I do believe this is the shortest of all focal distances in the 28mm Vivitars, though several other variants manage 30cm. The difference may not matter too much, but if you're into pseudo-macros then every little bit helps.

I found a patch of daisy plants as a torture test. The extreme yellow and white are difficult to capture. Plus the grass in the background will play havoc with the bokeh. I hand-held a bunch of similar shots; a tripod would have guaranteed greater consistency. Setting the lens wide open I used the green button to get a shutter speed. I believe I increased this half a stop. Then, as I stopped down for each shot I manually decreased the shutter speed in the same proportion; I did not re-meter and the light remained consistent. Yes, I know it's hard to believe: a sunny day in Ireland!

Here follow thumbnails of the shots. Click through for larger Flickr images that are reduced about 50% from a 50% center image crop (but still large). These have been processed using my standard steps, with ACR and Photoshop used to apply curves and a slight sharpening. I don't think there's any point looking at shots directly out of the camera, as these are designed to be tweaked and (in the case of Pentax at least) are undercooked. A good thing!

On the other hand, I would normally do more to prepare photos than I have here. I have compromised my PP so the test is meaningful.

daisy test K02 f/2.8
daisy test K02 f/4
daisy test K02 f/5.6

daisy test K02 f/8
daisy test K02 f/11
daisy test K02 f/16

The bokeh is busy but not offensive. Absolute sharpness is lacking, but there was a certain breeze, so this is to be expected. No highlights are blown though some detail has been lost. Given the direct sun this is inevitable.

Stopping down from f/2.8 to f/4 increases sharpness visibly, but nonetheless f/2.8 is totally usable. This is not the same behaviour as other Vivitar variants, where I have found the widest aperture to be usable only in a pinch. There might indeed be something special about this lens. I will do some comparison shots in a more controlled environment eventually, but for now I am quite satisfied. More than that; I am impressed.

More shots with this lens coming soon.



robin said...

Thanks to David Whiteley for the intercontinental Vivitar lens trade. And to Jay Sherman for his tireless championing of the K02 lens!

BigJacko said...

Hi Robin, I just wanted to say thanks for your research on the Vivitar 28mms. You've saved me from giving away a K02! I hadn't realised it was so good - in fact, I thought it was probably a bit of a junker! How wrong I was.

For ref, mine is exactly the same as your K02, except with a Ricoh/Pentax mount (P-pin carefully removed and stored, though!).


Instead of an f16 stop on the aperture ring, it has a P-stop - but when rotated to this position the aperture does still seem to stop down farther than it does on f11, so maybe it still functions as f16 when P is not in use (as is the case on a Pentax DSLR)? I shall have to check more closely now that I'm keeping it!

One curiosity is that while there is no marked f16 stop on the aperture ring itself, the two f16 markers are still there on the fixed distance scale (either side of the red-dot line).

The only other difference is the mount description - it says "JAPAN R-P/K". Oddly, this is on the same fixed part of the lens body where the distance scale is stamped - so I'm surprised that Komine/Viv didn't change the distance scale itself, if they had to change this 'ring' for the mount details anyway?

Maybe this hints that there's a third K02 version - with Ricoh mount, but no 'P' setting at the f16 stop?

In all other respects, mine's exactly the same as the 'true' Pentax K-mount K02 (same data on the front ring, same scale and colours for CF/METERS/FEET ring.

Let me know if you need photos!

Thanks again - top detective work.

robin said...

Wow, very cool info. And so glad I could help you discover a hidden treasure. Yes, please send images to my email: robin AT robinparmar DOT com.

Anonymous said...

In the mid to late 1980's I had a Miranda manual SLR - which I used extensively until the early 2000's when I went digital - but just stuck to snapping with compacts etc. I have a half century birthday and big world tour planned with my long suffering wife so decided to splash out on some decent optics and rekindle one of the passions from my youth - so have a Pentax Kr on order. Realised I could maybe use my old lenses and foudn your site. I have the Vivitar K02 P/K mount with P marking F16 DOF scale as described above - purchased with the trade in money from my old Zenith E SLR. This was my favourite lens for many years. Still looks serviceable so hope it will produce the kind of results I remember on my new camera body. Will let you know in a few weeks. Great Nostalgia site BTW. Les - Manchester UK

robin said...

Thanks Les. I like to encourage people to use the best of the old and the new, so I guess the site is nostalgic in that sense!

John said...


just curious what do you think of between the two; k02 and k03? any preference? difference in image quality. i'm looking into getting either one of them. thanks

robin said...

I would choose the K02, since the Close Focus varieties seem to consistently come out ahead in IQ. Plus they're more fun!

john said...

thanks for your input. by the way, have you used the m13 variant before? i actually own one of it and have been fine using it. i'm satisfied with the quality (but i have no other 28mm to compare it to). i stumbled upon the k02 on sale and it got me wondering whether to get it or not. one thing that get me with the m13 is the hassle of having to deal with the adapter. so would getting the k02 be an all win situation? your sites have been a great help! thanks

robin said...

If you're happy with what you are using, it's hard to recommend you change! But shedding the adapter is handy, as you mention. Second, getting the closer focus ability is very nice for me -- I like all my lenses to allow that option. The third benefit would be if you found a KA version, so you don't have to use the Green button to compensate for the crippled Pentax mount. Finally, f/2 is more useful than f/2.8, especially as the faster lenses tend to be also sharper (though not wide open). I suppose all of this makes the A01 the holy grail.

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