Vivitar 13mm F/2.8 Lens Review

At the end of the day, you could say that this review was a little silly, over the top, excessive, and zany, but I say that it is a very fitting review for this lens. This lens can be used as a serious photographic tool and a fun snapshot lens all at once. 13mm is absurdly wide on a cropped or full frame sensor, and it is hard to not smile when playing around with this lens on your camera. It gave us the energy and ambition to try and make this review come together, even though it is some of our most ambitious, ridiculous videography yet. Well… this lens and a good old saying, “What would Jeremy Clarkson do?”

On a serious note, this lens is absolutely phenomenal. Online forums have ranked this lens right alongside Canon and Nikon 14mm f/2.8 in terms of optical performance and sharpness at an eighth of the price. Even though this lens has a manual aperture ring and only has manual focus, it can still meter with most modern cameras and focusing isn’t an issue because of how wide the focal length is. Even at f/2.8, it is hard to accidentally place subjects outside of your depth of field (but not impossible). There is some easily correctable vignetting when wide open, and the distortion is manageable in landscape applications. However, this lens might not be perfect for architectural and real estate photography because of some complex, mustache distortion especially on a full frame camera. When using the lens at its maximum aperture, it is still tack sharp in the center of the frame and not too bad in the corners on a full frame sensor. Stopping this lens down makes it even better, and all vignetting is gone by f/4.5. I have been using this lens at f/2.8 through the night for time lapse photography and even then it is one of the sharpest ultrawide lenses that we used this year in the video (coming soon). This lens handles direct light sources well, but can flare if there are sources just off of frame. Flares with this lens will typically blot out most of the frame as the light reflects throughout the giant front element. To see sample shots taken with this lens, check out the pictures below (click on the pictures to magnify):

2.8

Full Frame: Taken at f/2.8. Note that there is some vignetting.

4.0

Full Frame: Taken at f/4. The vignetting is still slightly visible.

8.0

Full Frame: Taken at f/8. The vignetting is essentially gone.

11.0

Full Frame: Taken at f/11

roman

Full Frame: Taken at f/2.8. Note that this lens is far from an ideal portraiture lens due to the distortion, but for the sake of this review, we needed a sample pictures to depict how sharp it is.

driving

Crop Sensor: This picture gives you an idea of the distortion this lens creates. On crop-sensored cameras, the distortion is not as complex as on full frame.

driving2

Full Frame: You can see the complex mustache distortion that we mentioned in the video.

flaring

Although it’s pretty tough to get flaring with this lens, it can happen. This is what it looks like too, and in my opinion, this type of flaring is fairly unique. Unfortunately, it takes up most of the picture.

The build quality is also not bad at all. The lens is a mix of plastic and metal, with a lot of metal near the mount that makes it feel good in the hands and when twisting it onto your camera body. The hood can be bent a little bit if it is forced and the focusing ring has a very long throw. Other than that, the lens is solid but not too heavy. The front element is massive, but the weight is only slightly placed towards the front of the lens.

It is worth noting that this lens appears to be of a different construction than a lot of the other rebranded 14mm f/2.8s from Korea (i.e. Rokinon, Bower, Samyang, etc). Those lenses are reported to have a slightly different construction with 14 elements in 12 groups (as opposed to 14 elements in 10 groups with the Vivitar). There are two extra low dispersion elements in the Vivitar that would theoretically make it sharper than the other lenses that are only listed as having two aspherical elements. Aspherical elements can help to reduce spherical aberrations (which are normally present in wide and ultra wide angle lenses), so these lenses could in fact be rehashed versions of the same formula with some creative liberties taken in the naming of elements and groupings. If you can’t find a Vivitar copy of this lens, I would take this review with a grain of salt before investing in one of the other brand 14mm lenses. However, I doubt that they are significantly different. NOTE: We have never used nor tested any of the other cheap ultrawides that are referred to here.

Lens Specs:

  • 13.9mm
  • 14 elements in 10 groups
  • 116 degree field of view (95.7 degree field of view APS-C)
  • 1.3lbs
  • Min focusing distance of .28 meters
  • $400 new (they won’t be new for long!) / $250 used
  • No filters can be attached to this lens

Overall Review:

Build Quality – 9/10
Optics – 10/10
Value For Money – 10/10
Overall – 9/10

The lack of electronic controls and autofocus, distortion, and flaring makes me hesitant to give this lens a perfect 10. However, I am very pleased with my purchase of this lens and can see myself using it for a long time to come.

If you are interested in purchasing this lens, follow the link below to go to the corresponding Amazon page:

Vivitar 13mm F2.8 Lens

Thanks for reading! If you liked the video/post please consider sharing with the other photography enthusiasts in your life.

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5 responses to “Vivitar 13mm F/2.8 Lens Review

  1. Pingback: Vivitar 13mm F/2.8 Lens Review – Your Gadget·

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  3. Pingback: Vivitar 13mm F/2.8 Lens Review – Twenty Gadgets·

  4. Pingback: Vivitar 13mm F/2.8 Lens Review – Ten Gadgets·

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