Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Vivitar 135mm Close Focusing lens part two

garden flowers
In the first part of this article I took a look at the "Vivitar 135mm f/2.8 Auto Telephoto Close Focusing" lens (to give it the full name). I covered its history, physical qualities, and distinguishing features. Plus I compared it briefly to some similar lenses (though see my older article for more on that). Figuring that it was time for some photos, I simply stepped out into my garden.

All of these shots were taken with an Olympus PEN E-PL2 camera. The lens is M42 mount, first adapted to K-mount, then to Micro Four Thirds. I used a tripod and timer. You can see pictures of this setup in my last article.

I shot in aperture-priority mode, which works well with a manual lens. I set ISO 200 and aperture to f/5.6 or f/8. I didn't have a flash and some of the subjects were in partial shade, so shutter speed varies widely.

I remark in passing that the sensor size means that this lens has a field of view equivalent to 270mm on 135mm (so-called "full frame"). That's darned long! But very handy for small subjects.

I'll note the shutter speed for each shot, plus the magnification and how much I have cropped the image in development. These are not shots directly out of camera; I see no point to that. These are processed and treated images using my normal workflow, with significant contrast and curve adjustments. But I have kept sharpening to a reasonable amount.

I imagine you will want to click through to larger images on Flickr.

The photo at the top of the article was made at about 1:4 magnification in camera and cropped 30% more. 1/320s. There are lovely textures apparent, with fine and medium detail very clear. The colours have come out nicely after contrast enhancement. You can practically feel the petals.

pink daisy
This shot is about 1:4 magnification in camera and cropped 37% more. 1/80s. I gave this one a bit more sharpness even though that makes the sensor noise more apparent. But I like the noise characteristics of the PEN cameras. People viewing my images have mistaken it for film grain. Bokeh is smooth, despite a busy background.

garden flowers
About 1:4 magnification in camera and cropped 54% more. 1/640s. This image reproduces what I saw when I took the photo. What more can you ask of a lens?

buttercup & fly
About 1:2.5 magnification in camera and cropped 48% more. 1/160s. Though pure yellow is harsh on digital sensors there is no over-exposure here. I got focus quickly; a second later the insect flew off.

garden flowers
About 1:2.5 magnification in camera and cropped 48% more. 1/25s. It was windy but this very small flower was relatively sheltered. Still, look at that shutter speed! Clarity is not bad at all, considering it's a life-size image.

What conclusions can I make? This lens has beautiful out-of-focus regions. The eight aperture blades are no limit to smooth bokeh. Of course it's true that close focus operations will readily throw backgrounds out of focus, but even in difficult cases (vegetation is one such) this lens shines.

I did no white balance adjustment at all. This lens nails hue, though colour intensity is slightly muted. I'd describe the lens as rendering accurate pastel colours, which is quite appealing.

This is not the ultimate lens for micro-contrast, as befits its age. But it has plenty of detail where it is needed, just not insane razor sharp detail. Then again, I think I have only one lens that does better, and that is a dedicated macro lens.

If there is any distortion I have never seen it. Of course the glass is made for 135 (full frame) and I am using it on a smaller sensor, so there might be issues at the extreme edges that the sensor can't see. Somehow I doubt it, though.

I have never been bothered by purple fringing but it's not my habit to shoot into harsh contrast light.

Though all I had today were flowers, this lens is perfect for portraits. Accurate skin tones, slightly muted colours, not too sharp... it's a recipe for great beauty. Such shots need very little post-processing. (Of course with this focal length you will need to have a very large studio! Or simply shoot outside.)

Handling of the lens itself is a joy. Unfortunately, neither of my MFT adapters lock properly, meaning the lens can spin when I am focusing. That's annoying, but only applicable to adapting mounts. In my last article I noted the aperture ring moves easily. I never found this a problem in practice.

For what it does, the lens is compact and light. The close focus capabilities are very handy. In fact, this lens has spoiled me for anything else. I recommend it without reservation. If someone offered me three times what I paid for it, I would still refuse the offer. This is a brilliant lens, well worth the time it might take to find a copy.

Also check out the appraisal given this lens by Hin Man, a photographer with lots of lens experience. He shows some lovely insect photos.



Anonymous said...

I have this lens and it has 8 blades on the iris. Interesting.

robin said...

And I hope you enjoy it!

Unknown said...

Mine has 8 blades too. It is a superb lens.

robin said...

Many years later but... it does have 8 blades! Error corrected.

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