The Vivitar 90-230mm f4.5 Review

The lens that you didn’t know you didn’t need.

This is almost a review of a lens. I don’t do technical reviews, this is just a usability review.

Without going too far into Vivitar’s history, Vivitar is an American photo-equipment company that didn’t actually make their own equipment. In regards to their lenses, they would contract independent lens manufacturers, mostly in Japan to make the lenses that they would re-badge with their name on it. These lenses were generally very high quality. Often the lenses were just as nice as Canon, Pentax and Nikon in the 1970s and 80s.

This particular lens was a popular zoom range for nature photography enthusiasts. This lens was made by Tokina and has a very interesting TX lens mount interface. Tokina had four versions; T1, T2, T4 and TX. This allows the lens to mount to different cameras. This came with the Konica AR adapter. I don’t have any Konica 35mm cameras, but I do already own an M42 TX adapter. So, that made it easy to test.

How I came to own this lens?

I found this lens in a thrift store, it was $9. The lens doesn’t have a scratch on it. The lens doesn’t even look like it’s ever been used. So I bought it.

Let’s talk about how it handles.

I mounted to my Fujifilm X-E1. The first thing I noticed, it’s weight. It is a heavy lens and long, just about 7½ inches. It was quite awkward to hold. However, despite it’s weight and size it actually felt better when I mounted it to my Pentax Spotmatic 35mm film camera. My favorite feature though, the length of the lens doesn’t change when zooming or even when focusing. It’s a fun lens to use, 90-230mm seems odd nowadays, but it works well for photographing the ducks in the park. It has a long focus throw, so it’s very easy to get fine focus.

How is the image quality?

Image quality is fine. It’s not going to get any awards on DxOMark. You don’t buy this lens for image quality, you buy it because it’s a really cheap zoom. Another feature it has that I had not mentioned, the lens also has a “close-focus” mode on the zoom ring, it moves the rear element further away from the image plane. In a similar fashion as the Sears 28-200mm f4-5.6 lens I reviewed in November. When in CLOSE • FOCUS there is a fair bit vignetting and distortion. Personally, I don’t mind that so much. The lens is sharp enough for my taste. Can it go head to head with a modern zoom lens? No, I don’t think so, but again, that is not why I would use this lens.

Shot on Fujicolor Xtra 400 film:

Shot on a Fujifilm mirrorless camera:

Final thoughts on this lens.

I like this lens, but it’s not an every situation lens. Personally I prefer to shoot with prime lenses, if I know I’m going down to the river to photograph the waterfowl I think I would still prefer my 200mm f3.5 prime. This would not be great as a portrait lens because of the f4.5 maximum aperture. It would work, but not ideal. A lot of its shortcomings are about its size. If you don’t have shelves full of vintage lenses like I do, then this thing just might be right up your alley.

Bushnell 90-230mm Informal Lens Review


This is NOT a technical review, it’s more about its usability.

I inherited this lens from my friend Paul, he passed away a couple of years ago. The more I shoot with this lens, the more I love it. I haven’t been too keen on shooting vintage zoom-lenses, so this lens has sat on a shelf for a long time. I decided to take it out a few months ago. I figured I would give this lens a go while adapted to a digital body. Turns out this lens is pretty damn good. I have used it on my full frame DSLRs and Fujifilm X series cameras. I took it out today and had a great time with it.

Mounting this lens to a Fujifilm X series or Canon EOS DSLR camera is very straight forward. I wrote another post about adapting lenses that you could read here.

I have not been able to determine which Japanese lens manufacturer actually built this sturdy and heavy lens. It seems that Soligor and Vivitar have a version of this lens and they all share some similarities. My best guess, this lens was made in the mid-seventies by one of the many third-party lens manufacturers in Japan of the time. I suspect that Tokina made this lens though. A lot of these vintage lenses are very nice, and very sharp.

This lens has a constant aperture of f4.5 and does not change length when the focal-length is changed. This lens also as a built-in lens collar, which is handy. It’s a long lens, about 8.75 inches (222mm). The filter thread of 62mm. I haven’t weighed it, but it is fairly heavy. My lens came with a padded pouch and it came to me in mint condition. The zoom ring and the focus ring are both extremely smooth. The aperture ring is very easy to reach and has positive click-stops. The minimum focus distance is a disappointing 7.75 feet (2.4m). Focusing this lens without a monopod or even a tripod could be troublesome because of the length. I have found that using a monopod with this makes focusing and zooming a lot nicer. I have found that it is still fairly easy to track a moving duck without the assistance of a monopod or tripod. The rubberized focus and zoom rings are very nice for this.

Using vintage lenses on modern cameras is not for everybody. It does present some challenges. Manual focusing can be an issue for many. The coatings on these old lenses are not as nice as modern lenses. However, vintage lenses have personality that a modern kit-lens doesn’t possess. Optically, modern lenses are “better” if you take marketing literature as gospel. Don’t feel bad if you do, I would guess that 90% of professional photographers believe as you do.

This Bushnell is NOT a perfect lens for all situations. It is a fun lens for a lot of situations. If you were to find one of these lenses, you could get it for as little as $15.00. I wouldn’t pay more than $30 for one in mint condition. I don’t believe they are rare, but I think people hold on to them.