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LENS REVIEW: Vivitar 28-210mm f/3.5-5.6 (Made by Cosina, Serial# 09942939)

Vivitar 28-210mm f/3.5-5.6 (Made by Cosina, Serial# 09942939)
Vivitar 28-210mm f/3.5-5.6 (Made by Cosina, Serial# 09942939)


Vivitar used to be a highly esteemed third-party lens maker whose products rivaled those of OEM lenses. The 'Series 1' lenses that existed from the 1970s were their top-of-the-line lenses. Vivitar was a marketing company who outsourced production of their lenses, some of who you may be familiar with -- Tamron, Sun, Cosina, Komine, Kiron, Olympus, Tokina, Chinon, Hoya, among many others.

NOTE: I'm writing about a damaged copy of this lens, which has significant effect on the image quality. For the benefit of you, the reader, here are some vids I found on YouTube that shows this lens in good condition and at work.



Mount: Nikon F

Focusing: Manual

Focal Range: 28-210 mm

Aperture Range: f/3.5-22

Filter Thread Size: 72 mm

Macro Magnification: 1:4 at 210 mm

Minimum Focusing Distance: 3 Meters / 10 Feet

Body Construction: All plastic, metal bayonet

Years Produced:

Made in Japan

SERIAL# 09942939
(Made by Cosina*)



Image Quality

With regard to Image Quality, my review will be based specifically on this copy of my lens. Be reminded that the lens I have has a badly scratched front glass, affecting the image quality. This lens is not representative of all copies of the Vivitar 28-210mm. Thank you.

Although facing this lens does not produce any flare balls, it does create horrible ghosting due to the scratches. With a little research, I found that applying black paint on glass is normal practice to prevent stray light from reaching the sensor.

Contrast is a mixed bag: sometimes well lit areas have good contrast, sometimes not. In cases where there are both extreme bright and dark areas in the frame, I need to resort to Nikon's ADL or HDR feature and reduce the contrast in post processing. Noise... there's lots of it even at low ISO levels. Hmmm...

Images have a tendency to look soft focus and produces a nice dreamy portraits. It actually reminds me of my Holga HL-N 60mm f/8 lens with plastic element. The soft focus would be forgivable in film, but with sensors getting more and more megapixels nowadays, this weakness is becoming more pronounced.

LENS REVIEW: Vivitar 28-210mm f/3.5-5.6 (Made by Cosina, Serial# 09942939)

LENS REVIEW: Vivitar 28-210mm f/3.5-5.6 (Made by Cosina, Serial# 09942939)

LENS REVIEW: Vivitar 28-210mm f/3.5-5.6 (Made by Cosina, Serial# 09942939)



Mod 1: Dreamy Macro with Radial Blur on the Edges
Remove the front glass and invert the glass underneath it.

Mod 2: Lo-Fi or Lomo Effect
Playing with Custom White Balance, I set it to 'Fluorescent' and pick either 2 Warm White, 3 White or, 4 Cool White for an old film look.

Mod 3: Painting the front glass with black underneath
This helps to reduce stray light caused by the deep scratched, and also adds a nice vignetting effect. For no vignetting, draw a wider hole in the center.

Mod 4: Zoom Creep Away
To address the zoom creep, I opened the lens for the nth time and added a foam on the side to dampen the barrel. This was also the chance for me to remove that tiny screw so I can access Macro Mode across the whole focal range of this lens.

Mod 5: Reduce the Minimum Focusing Distance
You can do this by force twisting the barrel to Macro Mode even if not at 210mm. I opened the lens and removed the tiny screw that serves as a stopper.




Great travel buddy with a convenient range of 28-210

Macro Mode at 210mm

Good cosmetic appearance even at 2 decades old

Feels very sturdy even if it's plastic

Has metal bayonet

Easy to disassemble for cleaning, mechanisms are not complicated

This copy is great for special / lomo effect


Minimum focusing distance of 3 meters (!!!) / 10 feet

Zoom creep

This copy, I don't expect perfect color rendition

Lack of Vibration Reduction

Grainy images even at wide aperture or ample light

Front element rotates as I focus

Rear element exposes the inside as I zoom out, sucking in dust

Sharpness and contrast is a mixed bag (sometimes good, sometimes not)

No Vibration Reduction

Best used as an outdoor travel lens, not an all around and indoor lens


If this copy did not have a scratched front element, the image quality would have looked good.

Despite the convenient all-around range, I'm not convinced this would work for me as an all-around lens -- mostly due to the minimum focusing distance and the variable aperture of 2 stops.

While I'm fine with lenses with variable aperture that only have one stop difference, such as f/3.5-4/5, f/4-5.6, the 2 stops difference is really annoying since I need to change the settings to compensate for a proper exposure. I would prefer any fixed aperture zoom lens any day.

This copy produced such low quality images, I think it's still useful as a lomo lens!



The sample images here are left unedited except for one, and as indicated.

Macro Mode at 210 mm

Night Scene

Flare Test

Sunny Street Photography

Levels adjusted to see more details in the shaded areas.


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