Vivitar 85mm f/1.4 Series 1 Manual Focus Lens

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85mm is a Terrific Focal
Length for Basic Portraits

f/1.4 lenses aren't used for their optical perfection, but because they are f/1.4.

Vivitar 85mm f/1.4 Series 1 MF Lens Vivitar 85mm f/1.4 Aspherical Lens. Compact and lightweight Internal focus with nice contrast and resolution from edge to edge. It is multi-coated for reduced flare and increased light transmission. an ultra-bright lens with a maximum aperture of f/1.4.

85mm is a terrific focal length for basic portraits, and it's moderate telephoto on most cropped DSLR cameras.

Although you can only use this lens in manual focus mode, it is fully compatible with the automated features available with digital SLR cameras. It is compact and lightweight, and offers the ideal focal length and bright aperture for use as a portrait lens.

If you can manage with f/1.8 or f/2, I much prefer the present Nikon 85mm f/1.8 AF-D which sells for just a few more dollars than this Vivitar 85mm, has autofocus and a higher mechanical quality. For manual focus, I have a preference for Nikon's classic manual focus 85mm f/2 AI-S, still the smallest 85mm Nikon and sells used for less than this Vivitar lens.

An f/1.4 lens is not usually as efficient as the same manufacture's f/1.8 or f/2 lenses, even when both are stopped down to f/5.6. the lens with the wider aperture is heaver and more expensive, so don't choose it as your standard unless you are planning a great deal of photography poor light conditions. There' plenty of reasons for using a wide aperture, but avoid buying a lens with an aperture wider than you need.


  • Compact and lightweight
  • Available in Nikon, Canon, Pentax, and Sony mounts
  • Lens Hood and Case included
  • Internal Focus

Shop for the Vivitar 85mm f/1.4 Portrait Lens here from these stores
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Lens stylePrime lens
Max Format Size 35mm FF  
Lens focal length85 mm  
Stabilization type No  
Camera mount Canon EF, Four Thirds, Pentax KAF, Sony Alpha, Samsung NX, Nikon F (FX)  
Angle of view 23.9 x 16.1 (WxH)
16.1 x 10.8 (WxH) w/ APS-C (15 x 22mm) cameras
Aperture (lens diaphragm)
Largest aperture opening F1.4  
Smallest aperture opening F22.0  
Includes aperture ring Yes  
Total Elements 9  
Number of Groups 7  
Coatings / special elements 1 aspherical element  
Minimum focus distance 1.00 m (39.37")  
Autofocus type No  
Full time manual focus Unknown  
Lens distance scale Yes  
Depth of field scale No  
Physical features
Overall weight539 g (1.19 lb)  
Lens diameter 78 mm (3.07")  
Overall length 75 mm (2.94")  
Sealing No  
Filter thread size 72 mm  
Tripod collar included No  
Notes Length and weight depend on mount; numbers given are for Canon version. Nikon mount comes in 2 types, with the later 'AE' version supporting auto exposure modes.

Lens Includes
Front and rear lens caps
Lens Hood
Series 1 lens pouch
Vivitar Warranty

Amazing value, amazing lens, May 9, 2009

By David J. Elfering (Omaha, NE USA)


- True f/1.4 low light lens: I've seen variation of how well I felt some lenses really gather light and this one really lives up to what I hoped for

- Nice contrast & color: The Vivitar behaves exactly as my Nikkors with regard to color rendering and all my shots have had nice contrast. Wonderful performance here.

- Decent build: Ok do its not in the same league as my old Nikkor 55mm f/3.5 which I think would live through a world war, but its not bad. The caps and sunshade are so-so but the metal mount, focus action and glass all seem well beyond the price point.

- Bokeh: I find the bokeh very appealing, your mileage may vary but I like it.

- Sharpness: With proper technique this lens can really shine in terms of sharpness. I did a test against my Nikon 35-70mm f/2.8 and Nikon 50mm f/1.8 and felt that the Vivitar had better center sharpness than either of them. Nailing focus at f/1.4 takes very good technique and practice though.


- Chromatic aberration: It doesn't show up in all shots, but in those with shiny objects or extreme contrasted borders I see a lot of both purple and green color fringing. You have to zoom in to see it, but there can be a lot of it depending on the shot

- Focus pocus: This isn't really the lenses fault but nailing a shot at f/1.4 takes some technique. When I did my comparison shots I mounted my D90 on a tripod and used extreme LiveView magnification to come within millimeters of focus between the different shots taken. Kudos to LiveView it proved to be invaluable for that.

- Quality control: While my lens has been quite good, I've read about others on the Vivitar Flickr group having issues with defective lens coatings or aperture blades that get stuck. It appears to be a minority of the lenses but is worth being aware of. Buying through ebay and a good reputable shop should help as they're more likely to have a good return/exchange policy.

There are a lot of sample shots with this lens on the Vivitar 85mm f/1.4 Flickr group:

VIVITAR?!?!?!?! I thought they went out of bizzness in the 80's!, June 24, 2009

By R. mackey

I've read about this lens on Ken Rockwell's site. It may be the bargain of the year. I immediately hopped on the train to NYC and went to B and H. The salesperson was so nice..... but he made one mistake...He only had a Canon version at hand. AAAAAAArgh! I only shoot NIKON and almost had a conniption fit.I wasn't in the store anyway, they had them in stock at the Brooklyn warehouse. Sales person there was great and helpful too. Got my lens. Here's the summary, short and sweet.

- Build quality was surprisingly good...even the sales person as quite shocked.

- Bokeh is nice and creamy......I like it.

- Its sharp at the wide end. The real reason to get it.

- David is right. This is an amazing lens.


I had a hard time believing one can get such great images (see David's review-flicker's dedicated page) with a lens so cheap. Some even prefer this lens over the Nikon. And that lens is LEGENDARY!!!!!! So now i dub thee this lens....


Oh....And my apologies to Canon users....I'm gonna suck it up one day and get a 5d MK II but ill still be able to use my Nikon glass anyway HAHAHA!

Vivitar 85mm f/1.4 Series 1 MF Lens

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