Vivitar Series 1 90mm f/2.5 Macro

Vivitar Series 1 90mm f/2.5 Macro

I have tested a lot of the old standard focal length macros, but how does a telephoto 90mm macro from the old days stand up? This works out to be a moderately long telephoto macro when used on APS-C that can also double as a long portrait lens.

Build quality of this lens is amazing. It is very heavy metal construction with thick focus ring and barrel. The focus ring turns extremely smooth and the rubber grip seems stable. The aperture selector turns internally and has a small viewing port to view the selected aperture. Since this is an M42 mount lens, it has both an M and A selector on the aperture ring, be sure to set to M for the NEX.

The lens starts with serial number 37x, which means it was made by Tokina. This macro is marked 1:1, but I think I am only getting about 1:2, I think there might be a matching converter that I am missing. The filter threads are 58mm, and the lens is a 8 element in 6 group design, with fixed elements at the rear. It weighs a hefty 615g (21.7 oz). Diaphragm has 8 blades, that have a very slight curve at wide apertures, and straighter stepped down to smaller apertures. Minimum focus distance is 0.35m (13.9 in). Remember that I am photographing a normal subject chart at approximately 1:54 magnification, not a 1:1 chart so performance could differ for macro subjects.

NEX 3 Optical Characteristics

NEX 3 MTF 50 (Sharpness)

NEX 3 MTF 20 (Resolution)

NEX 3 Lateral Chromatic Aberration

The lens has no distortion.

All data gathered using Imatest.


The lens shows a small amount of softness in the corners wide open, but it sharp at all other aperture settings and basically exceeds the sensor resolution across from frame from f/4+.

The lens has virtually no CA; superb even for a Macro lens. Longitudinal CA in the bokeh is almost negligible as well.

Purple fringing is visible at f/2.5, and fairly strong, but is mostly absent when stepped down to f/4.

Astigmatism is minimal, point light sources in corner maintain shape well.

Flare resistance will be updated if a field shoot is done, but I do notice that it flares easily.

Distortion is non-existant.

Bokeh: if I have a chance I will take some bokeh shots, but initial shots look promising. Some bright rings at f/2.5, but not bad.

– Good at f/2.8, steller from f/4.
– Very well corrected macro, minimal CA, no distortion, sharp across frame

– Heavy
– Purple fringing wide open
– Manual focus a bit twitchy towards infinity (typical of macros)

Uses (sample):
– Professional Macro
– General Medium Telephoto
– Portrait Use

I wish all macro lenses performed this well. I can’t wait to try this on the NEX 7 to test the limits of its resolution, this lens easily out-resolves the NEX 3. On real world shots towards infinity I notice some corner softness wide open, but this is pretty minor and gone by f/4 or 5.6. This lens is really, really sharp with nice bokeh too. I think I am missing a matching converter to get to 1:1 focus, as my image appears to be about the same as my 1:2 image from my other lenses.

If you like my review, you might shop for camera gear at Adorama.

The gallery images are © 2011 Eric Tastad, and may only be used for personal evaluation of the lenses. The images were exported straight from camera with my default LR3 settings for the NEX 3, which have some sharpening set since it is a fairly high resolution sensor and LR tends to under sharpen.


  1. mwdurr says:

    Nice succinct review. I’ll have to keep this in mind for a possible macro lens, I’ve just about exhausted the normal close focus distance on my other lenses. 🙂

  2. Caspert79 says:

    Had one of these as a student. Sold it because I needed the money, and now I really regret it.
    Top performing lens, even clearly better than f.e. the Kiron 105mm. Portraits taken with the Tokina were painfully detailed 😉

  3. Gabriel says:


    I was wondering if you feel this lens will be an upgrade over my Vivitar 100mm 3.5 Macro lens.
    Thanks for the review!

  4. Tim says:

    Very helpful review,

    Any plans to review this lens over a full frame sensor (A7 series)?