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Full review of the Vivitar 7mm F/3.5 fisheye lens. 

MARCH2011/7mmfebox.jpg
Box and contents

 
 
The Sony A700 was used for this review.  For a better understanding of terms and methods used in this review, go here.
 
 
The usual center, mid-section and corner crops are located at the very bottom of the page.
 
 
 
Introduction.
 
The diminutive Vivitar 7mm F/3.5 fisheye lens (Vivitar brand now discontinued as of 2012 but Rokinon etc is the same) is a special purpose lens, and is made for having fun, so go to the Sony 16mm fisheye review to learn more about how to use this lens, so I don't have to rehash the same material here.  The Vivitar fisheye is made in "Korea" but no mention of either north or south, let's hope "south."  It appears this lens is identical to the "Bower" brand that labels it 8mm instead of 7mm, that's a marketing trick to make people think it's a different lens.  This fisheye may also be found labeled Rokinon, walimex, Falcon, Opteka, and Samyang.  I'm told Samyang of South Korea is the original manufacturer.
 
Th Vivitar 7mm fisheye was designed for an APS-C camera, and if mounted on a full frame camera will show a dark frame periphery with hard transition around the APS-C location marks in the viewfinder, so there is no sense in using it on a full frame camera, especially if you have the Sony 16mm F/2.8 fisheye, also reviewed here
 
On the outside of the lens is an aperture ring, manual focus ring and built-in hood.  It has a bulbous front element, and as a consequence, will not accept filters, nor is there a gel slot in back.  Build quality is actually very good, with a nice fit and finish.  It has an appealing black spatter paint finish, but not like the ugly Sigma type.  Vivitar claims the use of one aspherical element in the design of the lens.  Size and weight wise, it's very close to the Sony 16mm F/2.8 fisheye lens.
 
Use.  Make sure you select "enable" for "release W/O lens" on your camera, otherwise, the camera thinks no lens has been mounted, and won't release the shutter.  This is a manual lens only, meaning there is no communication with the camera, you must use manual focus, and choose an aperture.  Don't worry though, it meters pretty good, although I'd use a priority mode, because I find you'll need to dial in some exposure compensation (usually +.5 to +1.0 stop) at small apertures.  The best method for use would be to set the camera to manual focus, and the lens aperture to F/8-11, and simply set the correct exposure with exposure compensation.  Check your LCD for best results.  The aperture settings are marked in one stop increments except between F/3.5-5.6.  There are no in-between stops, but you can carefully turn the ring and set it between marked stops, although I don't know why you'd want to do that.  The viewfinder is very dark when the aperture is set smaller than F/8.
 
EXIF data reads 0mm for focal length, and F/1 for aperture.  The live view screen will read F-- with no aperture.
 
In the box is the lens, front and rear caps, a carrying bag and owner's manual.
 
Focusing.  Manual focusing only, and it's damped quite well.   Focus ring travel is 1/4 turn form close-up to infinity.  At F/8-11 you won't have to focus this lens at all, just crank it over to infinity, and forget it.  When focused up close, the lens is about 1mm longer than at infinity, because of focus extension.
 
Oddities; there is no serial number on the lens anywhere, (first time for that), and they use the Sony "α"  mark on the aperture ring and rear cap, I wonder if they need a license for that?  See the product shot below.  The owner's manual says if there are foreign bodies with the lens, to remove them! (and call interpol!)  Do not cut the lens hood!  Don't soak the lens in water! (how are we supposed to clean it?)  Don't wet the product or expose it to a moist environment, because it may cause a fire or electric shock!  Do not store the lens in a stereo amplifier or stove; say what?
 


Requisite product shots.

MARCH2011/7mmfesd2.jpg
Side shot showing built in hood and bulbous front element
MARCH2011/7mmfebk2.jpg
Back side, no contacts
MARCH2011/7mmmnted.jpg
Mounted on Sony A580
MARCH2011/7mmfexray3.jpg
Samyang X-ray view

 
 
General information and specifications.

Lens

Vivitar 7mm F/3.5 Fish-eye CS series 1

Box contents

Front cover, rear cap, carrying bag and users manual.

Cost

Approximately $269

Build quality

Good

Additional information

Introduced about 2009.  Vivitar brand discontinued in 2012; also may be marketed under the names; Falcon, Bower, Samyang, Opteka, Rokinon, Walimex

Specifications below

 

Optical configuration

10 elements in 7 groups

Angle of view

180°  Diagonal, APS-C only

Aperture

6 blades, straight

Full frame and APS-C

APS-C only.  View on full frame cuts out with a hard transition in the APS-C area.

Depth of field and focus scales?

Aperture scale and focus distance scale.

Minimum focus, image plane to subject

About 12"  (305mm)

Minimum focus, end of lens barrel to subject

About 7"  (178mm) distance is from longest hood protrusion

Hard stop at infinity focus?

Yes

Length changes when focusing?

Yes, 1mm.

Focus ring turns in AF?

N/A

Filter size

Will not accept filters, and no rear gel slot.

Filter ring rotates?

No

Distance encoder?

No
 

Max magnification

About .010x, or 1:10

Min. F/stop

F/22  

Sony teleconverter compatible?

No

Length changes when zooming?

N/A

Dimensions WxL  (my measurements)

2.95" x 3.03"   75mm x 77mm.  

Maximum  extended length (my measurements)

3.07"  (78mm)                                                    

Weight bare (my scale)

13.8oz  (393g)  

 
 
Optical qualities summary.
 
 
Lens flare/ghosting.  Fair to good control.  I see some multi-colored ghosts when bright lights are near or inside the image, but they're small and not overly distracting unless you shoot the sun with the aperture stopped down hard.  Samples below.

Color fringing (CA).  Lateral color fringing control is above average.  I see just a little red and purple at the extreme edges of the image.  See example farther down the page.  You see a very small amount of axial color fringing at F/3.5, clearing up at F/5.6.
 
Bokeh.  Harsh looking at F/3.5 because of hard edges, but smoother at F/5.6.  Don't worry about background blur with this lens, unless you focus on something very close with a large aperture.
 
Color.   Same as other Sony lenses.
 
Close up filter.  N/A    
 
Coma.  None, see samples below.
 
Regular filters cannot be used, and there is no rear gel slot.  
 
Filter size.  N/A
 
Distortion.  Massive, and by design.
 
Distortion example directly below.
 

MARCH2011/7fedis.jpg
Massive distortion looks great!

 

This is the intentional distortion created by this lens, I just took this standard test shot to show you how much you can expect.

 

Bokeh samples.

 

           F/3.5

             F/5.6

MARCH2011/7febok35.jpg
MARCH2011/7febok56.jpg

 

The F/3.5 crop shows hard edges on the circles, but crank it down to F/5.6 and things look smoother.  The crops above were taken from the middle of the image.  I wouldn't worry much about noticing "bokeh" on this lens unless you're shooting at the minimum focusing distance with a large aperture.

 

Flare and ghosting.

 

Disc around sun when stopped down and centered.

Small colored blobs, hard to see here.

MARCH2011/7fegst4.jpg
MARCH2011/7fegst2.jpg

Wide aperture with sun centered, looks good.

Sun out of shot, but shows some ghosts.

MARCH2011/7fegst1.jpg
MARCH2011/7fegst3.jpg

 
Ghosting control is not bad, as seen above.  When the sun is in the image, (plan on it if it's sunny out), there are multi-colored blobs visible, but severity depends on angle and aperture.  As you stop down, you'll see a disc around the sun when centered.  Don't try to use your hand to block stray light, as you will probably get your hand in the image, and won't notice it until after you download your images to your computer.  Wash-out from the sun seems to be well controlled.
 
 
Light fall-off samples.
 

           F/3.5

              F/5.6

MARCH2011/7fevig35.jpg
MARCH2011/7fevig56.jpg

 

Light fall-off is not something to worry about on this lens.  The extreme corners transition hard, but it's easily cropped out if it's bothersome.  

 

 

Color fringing crop below.

 

MARCH2011/7fecf.jpg

 
Here's a sample of color fringing.  This crop was taken from the last 700 pixels at the left middle of the original image.  This CA is fairly light in most cases.  
 
 
Coma samples.
 

           F/3.5

             F/5.6

MARCH2011/7fecma35.jpg
MARCH2011/7fecma56.jpg

 

I see no coma in the extreme corners, that's very good.  Exposure differences are from light fall-off.

 

Sun stars.

 

MARCH2011/7festar.jpg

 

This lens makes nice six-pointed sun stars starting around F/8, which I like better than wagon-wheel style 14 and 18 pointed stars.

 

 

Comparison view with Sony 16mm F/2.8 fisheye lens.

 

MARCH2011/7mmfes16comp.jpg

 

The Vivitar 7mm F/3.5 fisheye lens covers a larger area than the full frame Sony 16mm F/2.8 fisheye, used on a full frame camera, in this case the A900.  It's noticeable right off if you have both lenses.  The full image above is from the A580, and the orange crop mark is the coverage area from the A900 and Sony 16mm fisheye.  This comparison is just for fun as it makes no sense to use either one on the other format.  I think it's great the APS-C lens covers a bigger area, that make the Vivitar even more useful and fun!  This image is not really a good composition using a fisheye, but I took both cameras and lenses with me on a hike to test them out, and decided to see the coverage differences at this point along the trail.

 

 

  
Conclusion. 
 
The Vivitar 7mm F/3.5 fisheye turned in a good performance and is fun to use, just remember when shooting with this type of lens; good results are predicated on good composition, with lighting a distant second.  Don't worry about sharpness, color fringing, and all the other stuff that has little to do with making a good picture.  If you're outdoors, stop it down to F/11 and set focusing to infinity and shoot!  To meter correctly, just check your LCD and adjust as necessary.  It's an easy lens to use, don't be fooled by the all manual operation.

 

Optically, this fisheye lens is quite good, and I'd recommend it for people that have APS-C cameras.  It's pretty sharp stopped down, and control of color fringing, light fall-off and ghosting is above average. 

 

The Vivitar 7mm APS-C fisheye performs well stopped down, although it isn't as sharp as the Sony 16mm fisheye in the centers with a wide aperture.  However, the Vivitar corners seem to be sharper with more contrast at smaller apertures.  Don't use the Sony 16mm F/2.8 fish-eye (review) on an APS-C camera, as the distortive effects are diminished by the crop factor, that's why it doesn't make any sense to directly compare them.

 

Cost conscience people will want to look closely at this lens, as it's one of the few fisheye lenses made for exclusive use on an APS-C camera as of this review date.

 

Update: I like the Vivitar brand because of the outside finish, but the Bower brand is usually less expensive, just not as pretty IMHO.  Both are the same lenses.

 

 

Sample crops from the centers, mid-sections and corners.

 

 

 

          Center

          Mid-section

             Corner

F/3.5

MARCH2011/7fectr35.jpg
MARCH2011/7femid35.jpg
MARCH2011/7fecorn35.jpg

F/5.6

MARCH2011/7fectr56.jpg
MARCH2011/7femid56.jpg
MARCH2011/7fecorn56.jpg

F/8

MARCH2011/7fectr80.jpg
MARCH2011/7femid80.jpg
MARCH2011/7fecorn80.jpg

F/11

MARCH2011/7fectr11.jpg
MARCH2011/7femid11.jpg
MARCH2011/7fecorn11.jpg

F/16

MARCH2011/7fectr16.jpg
MARCH2011/7femid16.jpg
MARCH2011/7fecorn16.jpg

F/22

MARCH2011/7fectr22.jpg
MARCH2011/7femid22.jpg
MARCH2011/7fecorn22.jpg

 

Clearly visible here are the soft, wide open results, especially near the image periphery.  As you stop down the aperture, the image sharpens up, and actually looks good across the whole frame at F/11.  Diffraction is noticeable at F/16.  You can also see the extent of color fringing in the corner crops.  Proper use of this lens means you don't worry about color fringing or sharpness, this is the type of lens to go out and experiment with, and just have fun!

 

That's it, please check out the Bower or Rokinon 8mm F/3.5 fisheye at B&H Photo and help support the site!