Vivitar Series 1 600mm f8 Solid Catadioptric Lens

Discussion in 'Adapted Lenses' started by OzRay, Feb 23, 2014.

  1. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Real Name:
    Ray, not Oz
    I've had the Vivitar Series 1 600mm f8 Solid Catadioptric lens for some time now and have been somewhat disappointed in the quality of the images that it produced, they always appeared very soft and unappealing. Mirror lenses haven't been renowned for producing the same image quality as normal type lenses, but the Series 1 was supposed to be very good, being specifically made for the US military special ops or some such. And being a solid piece of glass, there are no elements to go out of alignment. This is what it looks like:


    I was looking at the lens the other day and it occurred to me that I've never tried the lens without the rear filter installed. The only way to attach filters is to the rear and I was always under the impression that the filter formed part of the optical system and therefore should always be installed. My Nikon 300mm f4 has a drop in filter and the same apparently applies, though it's location isn't near the end of the lens.

    So I thought why not and, after removing the filter and taking a few test shots of various subjects, I had another look at the results and was surprised that the images were much sharper and cleaner than what I'd achieved with the filter installed. The filter is the original Vivitar Series 1 filter, but I wonder if it wasn't playing nicely with the digital sensor, as it would with film for which it was designed. Whether that was the cause or not, removing the filter has improved the image quality significantly, something to at least consider if using older lenses that take rear mounted filters.

    I look forward to finding better subjects than tree bark and leaves, something a little more worthwhile showing.
    • Like Like x 1
  2. fortwodriver

    fortwodriver Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Nov 15, 2013
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    Real Name:
    That's entirely possible. I have an Arsat medium-format fish-eye lens (in Pentacon mount) that requires the rear filter to be in place to work. But on a digital camera, that filter has to be swapped out for a coated one otherwise you get reflections off the sensor hazing the image a quite bit.

    Many older Vivitar lenses were great - but I could see them slapping on the absolute cheapest filter they could when it arrived from the overseas factory at Vivitar's office.
  3. Jeff1:1

    Jeff1:1 Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 2, 2013
    It's probably a UV filter and part of a set with Red, Green, Yellow, which are less expensive for user than having to get 105+ mm of each. Considering flaws in the rear element are more noticeable on the image plane vs front element can have slight marks, makes sense you found it better without.
  4. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Real Name:
    Ray, not Oz
    Yes, the lens normally comes with the red, green yellow and ND, but mine only came with the UV, not that it worried me. The elements in the lens are multi-coated, but looking at the UV filter, it looks like it's only single-coated. That and it's location at the rear of the lens, could well mean poor performance with a digital sensor.
  5. uci2ci

    uci2ci Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 22, 2012
    Los Angeles, CA
    Real Name:
    I had a similar experince with a tokina 300mm f2.8 lens. Removing the rear UV filter improved image quality considerably. I read everywhere that UV filter was "part of the optics" and should always be used, but I noticed otherwise after some trials