Non-Zuiko lenses or 3rd Party lenses for OM mount

These are some of the 3rd party lenses for the Olympus system that I was able to find on eBay, local shops and Craigslist. Some of these lenses attained ‘cult’ status back in the day, and are very fine examples of optical engineering… really beautiful glass, especially the Kino Precision made optics. You can find lots of good lenses if you look around – probably at your local camera store. Check out the pawn shops in your locality – they are a great source for older SLR cameras and lenses. And don’t forget… if your friends and neighbors know that you like old SLR cameras and lenses, they will usually remember that a parent or uncle might have something in the back of the closet that they’d be happy to dispose of, especially if they know that their precious camera will be well cared for.

Vivitar
Vivitar was a California based company (Ponder & Best) that specialized in lens design. They did not make any lenses themselves, but contracted with other 3rd party companies to build lenses to their designs. Their Series 1 lenses were legendary, and gave the OEM lenses a run for their money. Their finest lenses were made by Kino Precision, Komine and Tokina. Many of Vivitar’s lenses sold for prices equal to or more than OEM lenses. (see more on Kino’s other brand names ‘Kiron’ and ‘Panagor’ below. They (Kino Precision) designed a sweet 90mm f/2.8 which they sold under the Panagor name, and also as a Dental Lens through Lester Dine. A similar lens (almost exactly the same specifications, was made for Vivitar by Komine). By some accounts, Vivitar provided the lens designs and they were made by the contractors, but I don’t believe that. I think they supplied the specifications and the 3rd party manufacturers designed and built the lenses. Anyway, it’s sad that the OEM-like quality did not last, and they went cheap over time.

A lot of Vivitar stuff today is made by Cosina. The lenses are good by all accounts, but nowhere near the superb glass that Kino and Komine used to make. However, there’s lots of great Kino and Komine made Vivitar glass around, and can be purchased very reasonably on eBay etc. Just one caveat – when buying a Komine made Vivitar lens (serial numbers starting with 28xxxx), be sure to check for sluggish aperture blades/oily blades – even though the Komine glass is excellent, the lubricant compounds they used have broken down due to (probably) improper storage etc. This is a minor problem though, and even if the lens seems sluggish, you’ll still get crisp, sharp photos.

Look at the Serial Numbers – they hold the clues…
22xxxxxx = Kino Precision
28xxxxxx = Komine
37xxxxxx = Tokina
6xxxxxx = Olympus
9xxxxxx = Cosina

Mark Roberts’ website has a complete list of all Vivitar’s contract manufacturers. You’ll be surprised – even Olympus is on the list. Kino Precision still makes lenses for others, but they prefer to do so anonymously. I’d really like to know which lenses they are making these days. Also, check out Stephen Gandy’s “Who made that Vivitar Lens?” manufacturer’s list page on Cameraquest.


Vivitar 24mm f/2.8 (Tokina)

Lens Specifications
# Focus Type:Manual Focus
# Lens Type: Fixed Focal Length Lens
# Lens Max Aperture: f/2.8
# Format:35 mm SLR
# Lens Min Aperture: f/16
# Lens Family: Wide Angle (21 – 35mm)
# Focal Length: 24mm
# Macro Lens: No
# Closest Focusing: xx in
# Picture Angle: 84 °
# Filter Size: 52 mm
# Groups/Elements: x Elements in x Groups
# Weight: xx oz
# Length: xx in
# Barrel Diameter: 2.5 in

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Vivitar 55mm f/2.8 1:1 Macro (Komine)

picture coming soon picture coming soon

Lens Specifications
# Focus Type:Manual Focus
# Lens Type: Fixed Focal Length Lens
# Lens Max Aperture: f/2.8
# Format:35 mm SLR
# Lens Min Aperture: f/22
# Lens Family: Normal
# Focal Length: 55mm
# Macro Lens: Yes
# Closest Focusing: 9 in
# Picture Angle: 42?
# Filter Size: 62 mm
# Groups/Elements: x Elements in x Groups
# Weight: xx oz
# Length: xx in
# Barrel Diameter: x in

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Vivitar 35-70mm f/3.5 (Komine)

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Vivitar 135mm f/2.8 (Komine)

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Vivitar 28-85mm f/2.8-3.8 “Stovepipe” (Kino Precision)

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Vivitar Series One 28-90mm f/2.8-3.8 (Komine made)

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Vivitar 70-150mm f/3.5-4.5 (Kino Precision)

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Vivitar Series 170-210mm f/3.5 (Kino Precision)

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Vivitar 75-205mm f/3.8 (Kino Precision)

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Vivitar 2x Macro (1:1) teleconverter (Kino Precision)

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Vivitar 3x teleconverter

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Vivitar 300mm f/5.6 (Olympus)
The Vivitar 300mm f/5.6 is an early Vivitar 35mm lens. As we all know, Vivitar (Ponder & Best) used to contract out their lens manufacturing to several companies, including OLYMPUS – yes, Olympus Optical Co. The Vivitar 300mm f/5.6 was one of the lenses made by Olympus (at least, the ones with serial numbers 6xxxxxx. We certainly can’t fault the lens in construction – The 300mm is built like a tank.

Ever since I came across this bit of manufacturing information, I had been on the lookout for a Olympus made Vivitar lens. Common sense dictated that any such lens would have to be pre-1972, before Olympus entered the interchangeable lens SLR market in earnest with their OM series cameras. Any lens that they would have made as a Vivitar contractor would have to be between 1965-1972. The lens shouts “quality” as soon as you pick it up.

Vivitar 300mm f/5.6
Vivitar 300mm f/5.6
Vivitar 300mm f/5.6
Vivitar 300mm f/5.6

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Kino Precision
Kino Precision was a 3rd party Japanese Lens manufacturer. They built many lenses for Vivitar (and others, I suspect). They also marketed themselves as Panagor. When their contract with Vivitar fell through, they formed a company called Kiron in the US through which they imported lenses under the Kiron brand name. Kiron lenses are of very high quality, and since they are not well known, the lenses are very reasonably priced. Some of their lenses are considered “cult classics” and are in very high demand even now. See notes under Vivitar.
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Kiron 35-135mm Macro f/3.5-4.5 (Kino Precision)

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Kiron 28-70 f/3.5-5.6 (Kino Precision)

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Kiron 28-210mm f/3.8-5.6 Macro (Kino Precision)

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Kiron 80-200mm f/4.5 Macro (Kino Precision)

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Kiron matched 75-150 2x teleconverter (Kino Precision)

Soligor
Soligor 500mm f/8 (CD mirror lens)

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Kitstar
Kitstar was a “house brand” imported by the Kits Camera Stores. I can’t find out much more about their lenses – from time to time, photographic accessories and lenses marked Kitstar appear on Ebay. They imported some fairly decent 3rd party Japanese Lens series, but the manufacturer is a mystery. The barrel covers is interesting looking – the rubber isn’t checkered like other lenses, its reticulated, which gives it a highly distinctive look. Kits Camera stores were absorbed by the Ritz Camera Centers. Heres a blurb from their site. “Ritz Camera Centers, headquartered in Beltsville, MD, is the largest retail camera and photo chain in the United States with approximately 1,100 locations in 45 states and the District of Columbia. The chain of stores now includes Ritz Camera, Wolf Camera, Kits Cameras, Inkley’s and The Camera Shop.”
Kitstar 200mm f/3.3

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Komine
Komine was one of the contractors for Vivitar lenses. Their products for Vivitar can be distinguished by the Sl No 28XXXXXX. Check out my 2 Komine made lens pictures posted under Vivitar. See Komine notes under Vivitar
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Sigma
Sigma is one of the big 3 independent lens makers. Their quality varies, but some of their lenses are very well thought of, and for certain focal lengths, are the only choice. I absolutely love my 35-105mm (picture below) and it’s in my camera bag almost all the time as a backup lens whenever I am out with my OM series bodies. It’s very sharp through all its focal length range, and small. It also has a close-focus setting – press down on the little silver button on the body, and turn the ring from Normal to the desired closeup setting.

Sigma 35-105mm Zoom α II f/3.5-4.5

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Tokina
Tokina is a very reputable 3rd party Japanese lens manufacturer, and along with Sigma and Tamron are considered the big 3 in independent lens manufacturing. Tokina built some lenses for Vivitar, and can be distinguished by the sl no 37xxxxxxx. Check out my Tokina made 24mm f/2.8 under Vivitar.
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Panagor
Panagor was a Kino Precision brand name under which they exported lenses to the US and other countries. The optics are generally of a very high quality. This particular lens was also sold by Lester Dine as part of a Dental Camera kit. It is a true 1:1 Macro lens, very sharp, and also one of the finest portrait lenses I have ever used. See Kino notes under Vivitar.
Panagor 90mm f/2.8 Macro 1:1

Specifications
# Focal length: 90mm
# Maximum Aperture: f/2.8
# Angle of View: xx°
# Optical Construction:
# Diaphragm operation: Automatic
# Aperture range: f/2.8 ~ f/22
# Minimum focus:
# Minimum photographic range:
# Focusing:
# Weight:
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Quantaray
Quantaray is Ritz Camera’s in-house brand. They are generally well built lenses, although their optical quality varies. I’m not sure who manufactures their lenses, I’ve heard Sigma being mentioned as the manufacturer of their early manual lenses, but I have a feeling it may be one of the Korean makers like Samyang. I came by this lens as part of a used camera bundle I purchased, so I’m not complaining. Besides, its a 28mm prime. I will reserve judgment until I have the opportunity to try it out a few times.

I tried the lens up near Hunt Lake on Catoctin Mountain, Frederick County, MD – the lens is sharp, but on the “cool” side. I need try it on some brighter subjects.
Quantaray 28mm f/2.8

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Toyo 5 Star
Toyo used to make lots of lenses. They made large format cameras, I think, I can’t find out much more about it.

Toyo 500mm f/8 (non-mirror)

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Spiratone
Fred Spira’s imports for his camera store in New York. They specialized in affordable but well made photographic equipment from 3rd party manufacturers. If it weren’t for Spiratone, a lot of photographers would never have been able to afford the darkroom equipment, etc. Their lenses were made by many manufacturers, and some of them were pretty innovative. They’re available cheaply on Ebay, and are a good buy.

Spiratone 400mm f/6.3
This is a long tube (non-mirror) T mount preset lens weighing about 0.72Kg. This lens also has a 60mm close up extension tube that allows it to close focus down to about 4 feet. This is pretty hard to get, and I’ve only seen it a couple of times on eBay without any description of what it is, or where it’s supposed to go (a mystery piece, so to speak).

Spiratone 60mm close-up attachment for 400mm

text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners.

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