Vivitar 85-205mm f/3.8 Zoom

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The Vivitar 85-205mm f/3.8 Zoom is one of the longest lived zoom lenses marketed by Ponder and Best (Vivitar). The first version of the lens was announced in the late 1960s, making it the very first zoom lens sold under the Vivitar badge. The last version was still being sold over a decade later. The exterior of the lens was modified multiple times to match the appearance of the Vivitar lens family it was marketed with; initially the Chrome Nose family, later the Bright Band family and then all black versions with metal or rubber focus rings to match later lens families. The earliest versions were also available as preset T Mounts and included in the Vivitar Compatible T System Family. The T Mount versions had an unusual marking on the preset ring of a red triangle. This marking signifies Kino Precision-made lenses that modern collectors refer to as the Pyramid Preset family. Most of the variations of the 85-205mm zoom were simply cosmetic changes to the exterior hardware but one of the last versions of the lens included internal changes to allow closer focusing. Based on serial numbers, a short production run of T mounts for each version occurred first, followed by continued production of automatics for the life of that version.

There were 6 different versions of the lens. The first 4 versions came in both auto and preset variations, making a total of 10 different variations of the lens that are known to be marketed by P&B. All versions of the lens are believed to have been manufactured by Kino Precision. The earliest models pre-date the standardized Vivitar serial numbers but all later models use the 22 prefix indicative of Kino Precision. Because the lens was included in several different Vivitar lens families, crossed the serial number transition, and was heavily advertised, the lens is something of a Rosetta Stone[1] for Vivitar researchers. Ads put definite dates on versions and mapping serial numbers to versions should help us pin down the exact date of Vivitar's serial number transition as well as date specific lens families more accurately. For these reasons, we maintain fairly extensive serial number data on this particular lens.

Collectors believe Kino Precision also sold the same lens to many other distributors. Variations of the lens have reportedly been sold as Soligor, Hanimex, Panagor[2], Albinar, Montgomery Ward[3], and other brands.[4]

According to a Ponder and Best advertisement, the earliest version of the lens retailed for $260 USD in 1967.[5] The same ad lists the preset T-Mount variant of the lens for $180. A February 1969 Modern Photography ad lists the Version 3 fixed mount auto for $195 USD and the version 3 T Mount for $152 USD, showing a significant price drop is less than two years[6]. Versions 1 through 3 were very short-lived and are now quite rare, particularly the T Mount variants. Later versions however are very common, leading to this lens being one of the most commonly available Vivitar zoom lenses on the used market. As a result of the large supply of used 85-205mm lenses, even the rarer versions have little resale value among modern collectors. It's unusual to see any variant sell for more than $10 USD today.

The lens maintains focus at all magnifications. The instructions recommend that best focus will be achieved by focusing at 205mm and then zooming to the desired focal length.

Maintenance issue. Early versions of this lens suffer from a common failure point. The zoom group housing is connected to the zoom control helical with a single, small nylon connector. An impact, even one small enough to cause no obvious cosmetic damage, can easily break the nylon connector, rendering the zoom group unmovable by the zoom control. When evaluating a used lens, particularly older Chrome Nose and Bright Band versions, it's important to verify visually that the internal zoom group moves when the zoom control is turned. A lens with this type of damage can still be used but will be stuck at a single focal length. Repairing this damage requires removing the front lens group and focusing helical completely, which is problematic as any impact damage that breaks the zoom group can also damage the focusing helical just enough that, when removed, it cannot be reassembled. Expect to replace or recondition the focusing helical assembly as well in these cases. Given that the lens seldom sells for more than $10 USD, it's generally less expensive to buy another copy of the lens.

Contents

Specifications

  • Badging: Vivitar
  • Manufacturer: Kino Precision
  • Manufacture Date: ca 1967
  • Focal Length: 85-205mm (1:2.4 zoom ratio)
  • Aperture Range: f/3.8 - f/22 w/half stops
  • Diaphragm Type: Automatic
  • Diaphragm Blades: unknown
  • Filter Diameter: 58mm
  • Minimum Focus: 1.9 m (6.3 feet) versions 1-6
  • Mounts: Canon FL, M42, Mamiya/Sekor, Minolta, Nikon F, T mount (early versions only)
  • Elements: 13
  • Groups: 9
  • Weight: 794 g (28 oz) chrome nose versions, 907 g (32 oz) black hood versions
  • Accessories: A zoom lever was included to fit threaded hole in zoom ring
  • Example Serial Numbers: see below
  • Original Stock Number(s): unknown


Versions

Version 1 Preset T Mount

  • Date: 1966
  • Serial Numbers: n/a
  • Badging: Vivitar TELE ZOOM LENS 1:3.8 85-205mm

The earliest preset T Mount version of the lens is based on the external design of the Chrome Nose family, with a silver ring at the front tip of the lens and a silver zoom ring with a diagonal diamond pattern. The focusing ring is metal with alternating longitudinal ridges and flats. The top section of bottom grip area is used for the aperture preset rings. The upper preset ring has a small window to show the preset aperture. The lower preset ring has a distinctive graphic showing a red triangle inside a white direction indicator. The remainder of the bottom grip area is smooth black metal. Collectors consider this lens a member of the Pyramid Preset family.

Photos

Serial numbers

Version 1 Auto Fixed Mount

  • Date: 1966
  • Serial Numbers: n/a
  • Badging: Vivitar TELE ZOOM LENS 1:3.8 85-205mm

The earliest automatic version of the lens is based on the external design of the Chrome Nose family, with a silver ring at the front tip of the lens and a silver zoom ring with a diagonal diamond pattern. The focusing ring is metal with alternating longitudinal ridges and flats. The bottom grip area has a bumpy plastic covering. Collectors consider this lens a member of the Chrome Nose family.

Photos


Serial numbers

Version 2 Preset T Mount

  • Date: 1966 - 1967
  • Serial Numbers: 29479 - 30684
  • Badging: Vivitar TELE ZOOM LENS 1:3.8 85-205mm

The second version is identical to version 1 except the metal focus ring now has longitudinal ridges only, the flats are gone. Collectors consider this lens a member of the Pyramid Preset family.

Photos
Serial numbers

Serial # Mount Aperture ring Badge Nose style Focus ring Zoom ring Rear grip source
29479 T mount preset, black (2) Vivitar TELE ZOOM LENS chrome nose ridged silver diamond smooth metal eBay
29758 T mount preset, black (2) Vivitar TELE ZOOM LENS chrome nose ridged silver diamond smooth metal eBay
30684 T mount preset, black (2) Vivitar TELE ZOOM LENS chrome nose ridged silver diamond smooth metal eBay

Version 2 Auto Fixed Mount

  • Date: 1966 - 1967
  • Serial Numbers: 30980 - 347699 (approximate)
  • Badging: Vivitar TELE ZOOM LENS 1:3.8 85-205mm

The second version is identical to version 1 except the metal focus ring now has longitudinal ridges only, the flats are gone. Collectors consider this lens a member of the Chrome Nose family.

Photos


Serial numbers

Serial # Mount Aperture ring Badge Nose style Focus ring Zoom ring Rear grip source
30980 fixed auto, silver Auto Vivitar TELE ZOOM LENS chrome nose ridged silver diamond textured vinyl eBay
31246 fixed auto, silver Auto Vivitar TELE ZOOM LENS chrome nose ridged silver diamond textured vinyl eBay
33099 fixed auto, silver Auto Vivitar TELE ZOOM LENS chrome nose ridged silver diamond textured vinyl eBay
34223 fixed auto, silver Auto Vivitar TELE ZOOM LENS chrome nose ridged silver diamond textured vinyl eBay
34326 fixed auto, silver Auto Vivitar TELE ZOOM LENS chrome nose ridged silver diamond textured vinyl eBay
34796 fixed auto, silver Auto Vivitar TELE ZOOM LENS chrome nose ridged silver diamond textured vinyl website[7]

Version 3 Preset T Mount

  • Date: 1968 - 1969
  • Serial Numbers: 37954 - 22939238 (approximate)
  • Badging: Vivitar TELE ZOOM LENS 1:3.8 85-205mm

The third preset T Mount version of the lens is based on the external design of the Bright Band family. The Silver ring at the front tip of the lens has been removed to make room for a black built-in extendible lens hood. The silver zoom ring remains, matching the bright silver bands of the members of the lens family. The focusing ring is metal with longitudinal ridges. The top section of bottom grip area is used for the aperture preset rings. The upper preset ring has a small window to show the preset aperture. The lower preset ring has a distinctive graphic showing a red triangle inside a white direction indicator. The remainder of the bottom grip area is smooth black metal. Collectors consider this lens a member of the Pyramid Preset family.

Photos


Serial numbers

Serial # Mount Aperture ring Badge Nose style Focus ring Zoom ring Rear grip source
10048 T mount w/Bolex adapter preset, black (2) Vivitar CINE ZOOM black hood ridged silver diamond smooth metal eBay
37954 T mount preset, black (2) Vivitar TELE ZOOM LENS black hood ridged silver diamond smooth metal eBay
22830049 T mount preset, black (2) Vivitar TELE ZOOM LENS black hood ridged silver diamond smooth metal steevithak[8]
22939238 T mount preset, black (2) Vivitar TELE ZOOM LENS black hood ridged silver diamond smooth metal eBay

Version 3 Auto Fixed Mount

  • Date: 1968 - 1969
  • Serial Numbers: 35692 - 22939928 (approximate)
  • Badging: Vivitar TELE ZOOM LENS 1:3.8 85-205mm

The third automatic version of the lens is based on the external design of the Bright Band family. The Silver ring at the front tip of the lens has been removed to make room for a black built-in extendible lens hood. The silver zoom ring remains, matching the bright silver bands of the members of the lens family. The focusing ring is metal with longitudinal ridges. The bottom grip area has a bumpy plastic covering. Collectors consider this lens a member of the Bright Band family.

Photos


Serial numbers

Serial # Mount Aperture ring Badge Nose style Focus ring Zoom ring Rear grip source
35692 fixed auto, silver Auto Vivitar TELE ZOOM LENS black hood ridged silver diamond textured vinyl Good Will auction
36366 fixed auto, silver Auto Vivitar TELE ZOOM LENS black hood ridged silver diamond textured vinyl eBay
22831145 fixed auto, silver Auto Vivitar TELE ZOOM LENS black hood ridged silver diamond textured vinyl eBay
22831721 fixed auto, silver Auto Vivitar TELE ZOOM LENS black hood ridged silver diamond textured vinyl eBay
22833328 fixed auto, silver Auto Vivitar TELE ZOOM LENS black hood ridged silver diamond textured vinyl steevithak[8]
22834644 fixed auto, silver Auto Vivitar TELE ZOOM LENS black hood ridged silver diamond textured vinyl eBay
22902818 fixed auto, silver Auto Vivitar TELE ZOOM LENS black hood ridged silver diamond textured vinyl eBay
22939928 fixed auto, silver Auto Vivitar TELE ZOOM LENS black hood ridged silver diamond textured vinyl eBay

Version 4 Preset T Mount

  • Date: 1969 - 1970 (approximate)
  • Serial Numbers: 22950222[9]
  • Badging: Vivitar TELE ZOOM LENS 1:3.8 85-205mm

The lens is now all black, to match the coloring of the contemporary Vivitar lens family. The built-in lens hood remains, as does the metal focus ring with longitudinal ridges. The zoom ring now has a black diamond grip pattern. The top section of bottom grip area is used for the aperture preset rings. The upper preset ring has a small window to show the preset aperture. The lower preset ring has a distinctive graphic showing a red triangle inside a white direction indicator. The remainder of the bottom grip area is smooth black metal. Collectors consider this lens a member of the Pyramid Preset family. Ponder & Best did no known advertising of the Version 4 T mount, instead focusing on the more popular automatic. It's likely that very few were made. The result is that this is one of the rarest versions of this lens. So far, only a few of these have been documented, though others likely exist.

Photos


Serial numbers

Serial # Mount Aperture Badge Nose style Focus ring Zoom ring Rear grip source
22950222 T mount preset, black (2) Vivitar TELE-ZOOM black hood ridged black diamond smooth metal website[10]
22051177 T mount preset, black (2) Vivitar TELE-ZOOM black hood ridged black diamond smooth metal steevithak[8]

Version 4 Auto Fixed Mount

  • Date: 1969 - 1973 (approximate)
  • Serial Numbers: 22012969 - 22330184 (approximate)
  • Badging: Varies with age, Vivitar TELE ZOOM LENS 1:3.8 85-205mm or AUTO Vivitar TELE-ZOOM 85-205mm 1:3.8

The lens is now all black, to match the coloring of the contemporary Vivitar lens family. The built-in lens hood remains, as does the metal focus ring with longitudinal ridges. The zoom ring is now has a black diamond grip pattern. The bottom grip area has a bumpy plastic covering. Most Version 4 lenses are automatics.

Photos


Serial numbers

Serial # Mount Aperture ring Badge Nose style Focus ring Zoom ring Rear grip source
22907148 fixed auto, black AUTO Vivitar TELE-ZOOM black hood ridged black diamond textured vinyl eBay
22909027 fixed auto, black AUTO Vivitar TELE-ZOOM black hood ridged black diamond textured vinyl eBay
22001471 fixed auto, black AUTO Vivitar TELE-ZOOM black hood ridged black diamond textured vinyl eBay
22012969 fixed auto, black  ? black hood ridged black diamond textured vinyl eBay
22021209 fixed auto, black AUTO Vivitar TELE-ZOOM black hood ridged black diamond textured vinyl eBay
22024954 fixed auto, black AUTO Vivitar TELE-ZOOM black hood ridged black diamond textured vinyl eBay
22101975 fixed auto, black  ? black hood ridged black diamond textured vinyl eBay
22107728 fixed auto, black  ? black hood ridged black diamond textured vinyl eBay
22112344 fixed auto, black AUTO Vivitar TELE-ZOOM black hood ridged black diamond textured vinyl eBay
22116577 fixed auto, black AUTO Vivitar TELE-ZOOM black hood ridged black diamond textured vinyl eBay
22118474 fixed auto, black AUTO Vivitar TELE-ZOOM black hood ridged black diamond textured vinyl eBay
22119404 fixed auto, black AUTO Vivitar TELE-ZOOM black hood ridged black diamond textured vinyl eBay
22133960 fixed auto, black AUTO Vivitar TELE-ZOOM black hood ridged black diamond textured vinyl eBay
22201656 fixed auto, black AUTO Vivitar TELE-ZOOM black hood ridged black diamond textured vinyl eBay
22203948 fixed auto, black AUTO Vivitar TELE-ZOOM black hood ridged black diamond textured vinyl eBay
22206311A fixed auto, black AUTO Vivitar TELE-ZOOM black hood ridged black diamond textured vinyl eBay
22208144 fixed auto, black AUTO Vivitar TELE-ZOOM black hood ridged black diamond textured vinyl eBay
22208711 fixed auto, black AUTO Vivitar TELE-ZOOM black hood ridged black diamond textured vinyl eBay
22220563 fixed auto, black AUTO Vivitar TELE-ZOOM black hood ridged black diamond textured vinyl eBay
22224654 fixed auto, black AUTO Vivitar TELE-ZOOM black hood ridged black diamond textured vinyl eBay
22228724 fixed auto, black AUTO Vivitar TELE-ZOOM black hood ridged black diamond textured vinyl eBay
22240385 fixed auto, black AUTO Vivitar TELE-ZOOM black hood ridged black diamond textured vinyl eBay
22300141 fixed auto, black AUTO Vivitar TELE-ZOOM black hood ridged black diamond textured vinyl eBay
22304049 fixed auto, black AUTO Vivitar TELE-ZOOM black hood ridged black diamond textured vinyl eBay
22304061 fixed auto, black  ? black hood ridged black diamond textured vinyl eBay
22304081 fixed auto, black AUTO Vivitar TELE-ZOOM black hood ridged black diamond textured vinyl eBay
22306797 fixed auto, black AUTO Vivitar TELE-ZOOM black hood ridged black diamond textured vinyl eBay
22309099 fixed auto, black Vivitar 85-205mm 1:3.8 AUTO ZOOM black hood ridged black diamond textured vinyl eBay
22311772 fixed auto, black  ? black hood ridged black diamond textured vinyl eBay
22314710 fixed auto, black  ? black hood ridged black diamond textured vinyl eBay
22318787 fixed auto, black Vivitar 85-205mm 1:3.8 AUTO ZOOM black hood ridged black diamond textured vinyl eBay
22326514 fixed auto, black Vivitar 85-205mm 1:3.8 AUTO ZOOM black hood ridged black diamond textured vinyl eBay
22330184 fixed auto, black  ? black hood ridged black diamond textured vinyl eBay
22331505 fixed auto, black Vivitar 85-205mm 1:3.8 AUTO ZOOM black hood ridged black diamond textured vinyl eBay
22333382 fixed auto, black Vivitar 85-205mm 1:3.8 AUTO ZOOM black hood ridged black diamond textured vinyl eBay
22334897 fixed auto, black Vivitar 85-205mm 1:3.8 AUTO ZOOM black hood ridged black diamond textured vinyl eBay
22336220 fixed auto, black Vivitar 85-205mm 1:3.8 AUTO ZOOM black hood ridged black diamond textured vinyl eBay

Version 5 Auto Fixed Mount

  • Date: 1973 - 1974 (approximate)
  • Serial Numbers: 22337475 - 22452242 (approximate)
  • Badging: Vivitar 85-205mm 1:3.8 AUTO ZOOM

The focus ring, zoom ring, and bottom grip area are all covered with black diamond grip rubber. Like previous changes, this allows the lens to match the contemporary Vivitar lens family.

Photos
Serial numbers

Serial # Mount Aperture ring Badge Nose style Focus ring Zoom ring Rear grip source
22028937 *[11] fixed auto, black  ? black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay
22337475 fixed auto, black  ? black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay
22338973 fixed auto, black Vivitar 85-205mm 1:3.8 AUTO ZOOM black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay
22343763 fixed auto, black Vivitar 85-205mm 1:3.8 AUTO ZOOM black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay
22344076 fixed auto, black  ? black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay
22344405 fixed auto, black  ? black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay
22345143 fixed auto, black  ? black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay
22345735 fixed auto, black Vivitar 85-205mm 1:3.8 AUTO ZOOM black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay
22345952 fixed auto, black Vivitar 85-205mm 1:3.8 AUTO ZOOM black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay
22346572 fixed auto, black Vivitar 85-205mm 1:3.8 AUTO ZOOM black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay
22406175 fixed auto, black Vivitar 85-205mm 1:3.8 AUTO ZOOM black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay
22406837 fixed auto, black  ? black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay
22413515 fixed auto, black Vivitar 85-205mm 1:3.8 AUTO ZOOM black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay
22420780 fixed auto, black  ? black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay
22423334 fixed auto, black  ? black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay
22424141 fixed auto, black Vivitar 85-205mm 1:3.8 AUTO ZOOM black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay
22426150 fixed auto, black Vivitar 85-205mm 1:3.8 AUTO ZOOM black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay
22427398 fixed auto, black Vivitar 85-205mm 1:3.8 AUTO ZOOM black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay
22431252 fixed auto, black  ? black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay
22442143 fixed auto, black Vivitar 85-205mm 1:3.8 AUTO ZOOM black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay
22448254 fixed auto, black Vivitar 85-205mm 1:3.8 AUTO ZOOM black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay
22449963 fixed auto, black Vivitar 85-205mm 1:3.8 AUTO ZOOM black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay
22451598 fixed auto, black Vivitar 85-205mm 1:3.8 AUTO ZOOM black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay
22452242 fixed auto, black Vivitar 85-205mm 1:3.8 AUTO ZOOM black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay
22505464 *[11] fixed auto, black Vivitar 85-205mm 1:3.8 AUTO ZOOM black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay

Version 6 Auto Fixed Mount

  • Date: 1975 - 1977 (approximate)
  • Serial Numbers: 22500780 - 22710532 (approximate)
  • Badging: Varies with age: Vivitar 85-205mm 1:3.8 MACRO FOCUSING AUTO ZOOM or Vivitar 85-205mm 1:3.8 CLOSE FOCUSING AUTO ZOOM

The exterior design is the same as Version 5 but there have been internal optical changes to allow close focusing.

Photos
Serial numbers

Serial # Mount Aperture ring Badge Nose style Focus ring Zoom ring Rear grip source
22500780 fixed auto, black  ? black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay
22502618 fixed auto, black  ? black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay
22516030 fixed auto, black MACRO FOCUSING AUTO ZOOM black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay
22518833 fixed auto, black MACRO FOCUSING AUTO ZOOM black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay
22519650 fixed auto, black MACRO FOCUSING AUTO ZOOM black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay
22527616 fixed auto, black MACRO FOCUSING AUTO ZOOM black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay
22535439 fixed auto, black MACRO FOCUSING AUTO ZOOM black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay
22541488 fixed auto, black MACRO FOCUSING AUTO ZOOM black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay
22600564 fixed auto, black CLOSE FOCUSING AUTO ZOOM black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay
22606282 fixed auto, black CLOSE FOCUSING AUTO ZOOM black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay
22614150 fixed auto, black CLOSE FOCUSING AUTO ZOOM black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay
22616282 fixed auto, black CLOSE FOCUSING AUTO ZOOM black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay
22616290 fixed auto, black CLOSE FOCUSING AUTO ZOOM black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay
22646939 fixed auto, black CLOSE FOCUSING AUTO ZOOM black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay
22647035 fixed auto, black  ? black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay
22649894 fixed auto, black CLOSE FOCUSING AUTO ZOOM black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay
22651933 fixed auto, black CLOSE FOCUSING AUTO ZOOM black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay
22702640 fixed auto, black CLOSE FOCUSING AUTO ZOOM black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay
22706304 fixed auto, black CLOSE FOCUSING AUTO ZOOM black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay
22706584 fixed auto, black  ? black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay
22707653 fixed auto, black CLOSE FOCUSING AUTO ZOOM black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay
22709376 fixed auto, black  ? black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay
22710532 fixed auto, black  ? black hood black diamond black diamond black diamond eBay

References

  1. Wikipedia: idiomatic use of "Rosetta Stone"
  2. Flickr: photo of Panagor 85-205mm lens
  3. Based on photo identification and specs in eBay listings
  4. MFlenses Forum: Vivitar 85-205mm Zoom Pamphlet Advertisment
  5. April 1967 Vivitar ad for 85-205mm f/3.8 Zoom Chrome Nose lens
  6. Feb 1969 Vivitar ad for 85-205mm f/3.8 Zoom Bright Band lens
  7. whitemetal.com: Vivitar 85~205mm f/3.8 zoom screw-mount
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Flickr Set by Steevithak: Vivitar 85-205mm Zoom
  9. Vivitar 85-205mm f3.8-22 T mount for sale Photos of the version 4 preset
  10. Vivitar 85-205mm f3.8-22 T mount for sale
  11. 11.0 11.1 Out of sequence serial number, probably indicative of a repair job or prototype unit

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