Vivitar 28mm f2.8 vs. Pentax SMC 28mm f3.5

The 28mm lens seems to have lost a lot of its thunder to the 24mm. This is a handy wide-angle lens though. The 28mm may not be as wide a 24mm, but I argue the 28mm is more useful for general applications. Aside from usefulness, they are generally half the price of the 24mm.

I published an article in May comparing two different Vivitar 28mm lenses. The Vivitar lens I am using for this head-to-head is not the same the lens in that article. Read that article here.

What is this article about?

I want illustrate the difference in quality between manufacturer lenses and 3rd party lenses. While many third party lenses are very good, most don’t match manufacturer lenses in optical performance. I’m not to saying that all third-party lenses aren’t excellent lenses. That’s not the point of this at all. As you will see in the image galleries below, I managed to get nice images from both lenses.

My methodology.

I don’t have hard and fast rules on my methodology, but I kept things simple. This is not a technical review, but more of a warm and fuzzy one.

I used both of these lenses on a Pentax Spotmatic F with the M42 mount. On digital, I used a Fujifilm X-T1 and a Sony A7II.

I shot one roll of film, the first half on the roll was shot on the Pentax and the second half was on the Vivitar.

As for the digital images, I shot them all in RAW, imported them into Adobe Lightroom Classic CC Version 7.5, Camera Raw 10.5. I convert my images to DNG. I exported the images using the Standard Adobe Color Profile. I did not apply any adjustments, including dodging and burning, color temp, crop, etc.

The specs.

Vivitar (Tokina}
9.5oz. (270g)
7.47oz. (212g)
7 elements 7 groups
7 elements 7 groups
Aperture blades
m42 (TX mount)

Vivitar specs from photografica by Robin Parmar. Pentax specs from Pentax Forums.

The good and the bad.

The Vivitar 28mm f2.8

I really like this lens, I like its handling and its optical quality is nice. It handles very nicely and focusing is smooth and well damped.

I found this lens at thrift store for $9.00US. Which is I believe to be a fair price. This is not a rare lens and I would not say it is really sought after. I really like using this lens, but there are some shortcomings. Lens flare is a real issue, a good lens hood would be needed. I don’t happen to have a lens hood for this lens. This lens was made by Tokina and uses their TX mount which allows the mount to be adapted to many cameras, like Minolta, Konica, Canon FD/FL, Nikon F non-AI, and M42. This can be handy if you’re like me and have several vintage cameras. The lens has more girth than a lot of other Vivitar 28mm lenses, but it’s also a bit shorter. I plan to hang on to this lens for a while.

Shot on the Pentax Spotmatic F, on expired Fujicolor 400.

Shot on the Fujifilm X-T1

Shot on the Sony A7II

As you may have noticed there was some horrible lens flair as the light was coming across the front element, but there are ways around it though. Lightroom’s dehaze tool can fix a lot of that in post-production. I try avoid flair to begin with. This is still a very usable lens for most situations. I could see this flair and softness used very creatively. There’s that.

The Pentax Super Multi Coated 28mm f3.5

I picked up this lens at my local camera shop for $50.00US. I am so very happy I bought it. I didn’t realize that I needed a high quality manual 28mm lens. I was already happy with my other 28mm lenses. I always knew the Super Takumar lenses were nice, but I was really caught off guard. This lens fits right into my style of photography. The draw back of this lens is f3.5 which is almost a stop slower than the Vivitar. But I tend to use the 28mm stopped down anyway. However, I would like a nice 28mm f2.0 though. At $50, I can hardly complain.

This lens is very compact and light. When mounted on the Pentax, the camera is very comfortable to use. When adapted  to mirrorless cameras, the adapter does extend the lens a bit far, but it’s still easy to use. Focusing this lens is very easy though.

Shot on the Pentax Spotmatic F, on expired Fujicolor 400.

Shot on the Fujifilm X-T1.

Shot on the Sony A7II.

Final thoughts.

Clearly the Pentax is a “better” lens, but for the most part, I couldn’t tell the difference between these lenses, with the exception of the flair and low contrast from the backlighting. However, in the end I prefer a lens that I could use in unpredictable situations.

I would suggest if you’re shooting film, then either one of these lenses should treat you well. On digital, maybe stick with the Pentax.

I just hope I was just able to illustrate that vintage lenses still have a place in a photographer’s bag. Whether I’m shooting a full-frame, or an APS-C camera the 28mm is a useful lens, I will always have one in my bag.

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