Vivitar Professional 180mm f/2.8

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The Vivitar Professional 180mm f/2.8 lens is a rare telephoto lens prototype made for Ponder & Best. The "Vivitar Professional" name was only applied to a few, rare lenses distributed by Ponder & Best (later Vivitar). The most well known example is the Vivitar Professional 135mm f/1.5, which was initially developed for a government customer, then marketed and sold to the public in small numbers. The 180mm f/2.8 is even more rare. It is not known how many of this model lens existed but it was never advertised or sold. Only one example of the Vivitar Professional 180mm f/2.8 is documented (see photos on this page). The serial number is 1000002, suggesting that at least one other copy existed. The date of manufacture is unknown, as is the identify of the manufacturer; however, the lens is marked "Made in Japan". The known example was obtained in 2011 from a Mister Money pawn shop in Caper, WY[1] and was attached to a Honeywell Spotmatic SP camera. The store owner had no record of who pawned the equipment or when and considered the lens of inconsequential value compared to the camera.

It was not unusual for Ponder and Best to receive prototype or pre-production lenses from their Japanese manufacturers. Bill Swinyard, Product Manager at Ponder and Best from 1968-1971, explains:

Pre-production samples or one-off designs were often lent to magazine editors and local photo pro's (e.g., Gordon Chittendon, freelance photog for Road & Track magazine) and we rarely got them back. The editors considered it a perk of their position. I personally often would take a new product sample over to Hollywood Boulevard -- there were always dozens of semi-pro street photographers there -- and ask them to preview the lens for me. These lenses didn't make it past prototype or pre-production versions because (1) they were of poor quality, (2) their US-landed cost would be too high to find a market (Vivitar was an amateur brand; most pro's scoffed at it), or (3) there wasn't a reasonable position in our product line for it. One great lens doesn't make a new product line; and we sold lens lines, not just lenses. That's what our US dealers wanted.[2]

The Vivitar Professional 180mm f/2.8 appears to be a case where the cost would have been too high and, unlike the 135mm f/1.5, there was no government customer to justify production.


  • Badging: Vivitar Professional
  • Manufacturer: unknown
  • Manufacture Date: unknown
  • Focal Length: 180mm
  • Aperture Range: f/2.8 - f/32
  • Diaphragm Type: Preset /Automatic (selectable)
  • Diaphragm Blades: 8
  • Filter Diameter: 86mm
  • Minimum Focus: 1.38 meters (6 feet)
  • Mounts: M42
  • Elements: unknown
  • Groups: unknown
  • Weight: 1,408 g (3lbs 1.7oz)
  • Accessories: tripod mounting ring and retractable hood
  • Example Serial Numbers: 1000002
  • Original Stock Number(s): unknown



  1. Mister Money, Store 28, Caper, WY
  2. personal correspondence between Bill Swinyard and Steve Rainwater, 17 Feb, 2012