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Previous Vivitar Techs - Series 1 Mount Conversion
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 26, 2009 4:47 pm    Post subject: Previous Vivitar Techs - Series 1 Mount Conversion Reply with quote

Ok, so this is a long shot but hey, that's what the internet forums are for! I have broken this rather long-winded history-lesson-turned-request down into sub-headings for easier reading, haha.

The Problem:



I recently had the opportunity to pick up the Vivitar Series 1 90-180mm in what sounds like very good condition for $60 USD. About a fifth or less of what they typically go for on eBay (at least according to the last few I saw go off). A combination between the photographer just looking to dump his older equipment rather than turn a profit, and the fact that the lens is in Canon FD mount is my guess to it's low price. Regardless, I have been accumulating Series 1 glass and find the designs to be priceless to me so I purchased it and it is on its way. I cannot describe enough how much I appreciate the thick, solid metal barrels and precision machining.

Here's What I Know:

I shoot Nikon and rarely shoot film due to my lack of access to processing. I want to convert it to Nikon mount. This is probably a daunting task however I have a good understanding of flange distances between brands, as well as the differences in mounts. Unlike my last attempt to convert an MD mount (in which the iris open opposite Nikon making a converter much more complex) the FD opens in the same direction thus making this attempt slightly more plausible. I do not have access to more precise machining tools but do have basics such as a drill-press, dremel, etc. The main key to my believing this is more reasonable of a task is the fact that from what I hear, Vivitar, in being a third-party manufacturer, designed the lenses first, then created a more modular mount to adapter the design to each proprietary brand mount. Therefore, if I simply just found an old beat up 90-180mm in NA/I mount, I could swipe the mount and just swap it. Otherwise, I will have to build something from other mount parts or something.

The Fall of Vivitar Series 1:

On another forum I found a link to an optics company, for which I temporarily cannot find the name again, that did some work for one of the members for a mount conversion. So I called them. Knowing full well that that kind of work is very expensive and to perform the task on something like a $60 Vivitar lens would sound a little ridiculous, I wanted to just check my options. The gentleman I spoke with was extremely nice and did indeed confirm it would be costly but advised me in another direction. Not only did he confirm my knowledge of the Vivitar "modular" mounts, but he also gave me some info on the demise of the Vivitar Series 1 Brand. Apparently back in '94 a large earthquake hit California, (the High Ridge Earthquake or something?), he couldn't remember the name, but the Vivitar headquarters was sitting right on top of one of the faults. According to this man, literally, the company fell in and much of the product and info for the company was lost. It devastated Vivitar and forced them into bankruptcy. I joked - I was grabbing a shovel and headed right over! Anyway, later on another company, Sakar (from the looks of wikipedia) picked up the name and began manufacturing under it however this new company is of no relation to the old Vivitar of the Series 1 days. I find it strange that I cannot seem to find any record of this as it seems to be such a tragic story! Either way, there seems to be no way to get in touch the Vivitar of old but the gentleman did advise me further.

The LONG shot:

He said a lot of the techs working for Vivitar, pick up as much of the old stock that was left and eventually, being that that particular area in CA had a few optics companies in it, got work at other manufacturers in town. He said I might try to call around and see if any of the companies had a previous Vivitar tech working there, who may have some of the older stock. Yeah, I know, a LONG shot haha. SO I was writing this not only for some input on perhaps doing something like this. And please, I know it might be a considerable amount of work compared to simply saving some more money and buying a Nikon mount version, but I like this kind of thing so it is a learning experience for me. I also like to take old things and make them new. So if anyone has any of these older Vivitar parts they might be willing to let go, knows more about this type of conversion from experience, knows or was a Vivitar tech, or anything of the sort, let me know! Because I am very excited about doing this kind of thing. Thanks if you made it through all this!


PostPosted: Thu Nov 26, 2009 4:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

David, Great text!

I think i just bought a Series1 105/2.5 lens from you Laughing


PostPosted: Thu Nov 26, 2009 5:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very interesting and well written article, David. I understand perfectly your point since I'm too the kind of person that likes to fix old things and bring them to new life.
Thank you for sharing.

Cheers, Marty.


PostPosted: Thu Nov 26, 2009 5:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

hk300 -

I believe I may have just sold you a Vivitar Series 1 105mm f/2.5! I thought you might be someone from this forum, haha. It's a great lens. Will you be using it on an MD camera or adapting to something else?

marty -

Thanks, its just a shame to see such high quality glass and machinery fall by the wayside merely because of a mismatched mount you know?


PostPosted: Thu Nov 26, 2009 5:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A lot of third-party lens manufacturers, like Tokina, Vivitar, etc ... were/are using the same optics design for different mounts. Therefore it is sometimes possible to remove the mount and replace it with a different mount (with the correct mount and thickness) without the need to cut the length of the lens body.

I have a few Tokina and Vivitar lenses with Canon FD and Minolta MD mounts which i am planning to convert to M42 or Nikon.


PostPosted: Thu Nov 26, 2009 5:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

justtorchit wrote:
hk300 -

I believe I may have just sold you a Vivitar Series 1 105mm f/2.5! I thought you might be someone from this forum, haha. It's a great lens. Will you be using it on an MD camera or adapting to something else?

marty -

Thanks, its just a shame to see such high quality glass and machinery fall by the wayside merely because of a mismatched mount you know?


I am planning to convert it to either Canon EF or Nikon. I need to see the actual lens before i can decide.

By the way, that address, that is a friend of mine, who is collecting my US stuff and then sends me the parts to my HK address.


PostPosted: Thu Nov 26, 2009 5:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very interesting bit of history there, David. I too am a big fan of Vivitar. And congratulations on the great buy. That 90-180 is a phenomenal lens. I used to own one in Nikon mount, and like a dolt, sold it.

I suspect the story you were told was a bit of an exaggeration, however. As I remember things, by 1994, Vivitar was in a state of decline because they had decided not to aggressively pursue AF technology. So, the earthquake may have been the final stroke that pushed them over the edge.

The earthquake you were referring to was the Northridge Quake. It made a general mess of things up in the San Fernando Valley, which indeed is where Vivitar was located. A little known and usually unreported fact is that it was a twin quake, and the other portion of it hit further south, pancaking a large stretch of the Santa Monica Freeway.

I lived in Whittier at the time, which is east of LA, and even though I was about 40 miles from the epicenter, it was a strong jolt that got us up out of bed and under the door frames at 4 in the morning.

A few years before this, I visited Vivitar's home office. Back then Vivitar sold camera repair tools, and it was the only place in the LA area where I could find certain useful tools for camera repair. As I recall, it was located next to one of the freeways, probably the 134. But I don't recall it being in Northridge, although it may have been.

Regarding your chance of finding some of the old Vivitar techs, I suggest that you might try joining some California-based photo forums and ask around. I recommend that you start here:

http://www.californiaphotoforum.com/forum/portal.php

Able, the guy who runs it, also runs the Texas Photo Forum, of which I'm a member, and he does a good job. Thus it is well attended. And the CA forum seems to be the same.

So anyway, good luck!


Last edited by cooltouch on Thu Nov 26, 2009 5:58 pm; edited 1 time in total


PostPosted: Thu Nov 26, 2009 5:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

[quote="hk300"]
justtorchit wrote:

I am planning to convert it to either Canon EF or Nikon. I need to see the actual lens before i can decide.


Hey Alex,

If I were in your position -- and in fact I am, in the sense that I have both mf Nikon and AF Canon systems -- I would tend toward converting to a Nikon mount, and then use the lens on my EOS with adapter. That way you can use it on two systems.


PostPosted: Thu Nov 26, 2009 6:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cool Touch -

Thanks! Yes I felt even in being told the story, there may be "a bit" of exaggeration. But certainly still a very sad story! Thanks for the link, I will definitely give that forum a try.

I'm not gonna lie, I am even upset you sold your NAI 90-180mm haha!


PostPosted: Thu Nov 26, 2009 7:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah, I know, I know. If it's any consolation -- to me at least -- the value of the S1 90-180 has not appreciably gone up in the last 20 or so years. I sold mine back in about 1991 I guess for about the same price I see them going for on eBay. I tell myself that, one of these days, when I have the money to spend, I'll buy it back. Cool In the meantime, though, I have two superb macros I can use -- a 55mm f/3.5 Micro Nikkor and a 90mm f/2.5 Tamron with teleconverter. So that gives me 55mm, 90mm and 180mm, so I have the extremes of the 90-180 and beyond convered.


PostPosted: Fri Nov 27, 2009 1:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

[quote="cooltouch"]
hk300 wrote:
justtorchit wrote:

I am planning to convert it to either Canon EF or Nikon. I need to see the actual lens before i can decide.


Hey Alex,

If I were in your position -- and in fact I am, in the sense that I have both mf Nikon and AF Canon systems -- I would tend toward converting to a Nikon mount, and then use the lens on my EOS with adapter. That way you can use it on two systems.


you are correct!
However, i need to see the lens to see how much effort it will take to convert it to Nikon.