Vivitar 400mm f5.6 For Canon FD Mount On A Fuji...At The Zoo...In Houston
The title to this blog post is meant to impress upon you that these vintage lenses don't have to be from the same brand as your camera in order to work well with your camera. For example, this lens is made by a company called Vivitar. Vivitar marketed cameras and lenses made by other companies. They made lenses for Nikon cameras, Olympus Cameras, Canon Cameras, and others.
This particular lens is a 400mm lens for the Canon FD mount. I took it to the zoo to see how it performed.
WHAT IS IT?
This kind of lens is THE reason I buy vintage lenses. Fujifilm has a 400mm zoom lens in the 100-400mm, but it is ghastly expensive. The lens is the better part of $2,000.00. That's more than I paid for my first 2 cars put together, and all for just a piece of metal and glass. What would I do with such a costly piece of photographic gear. Take pictures of things very, very, very far away.
The question begged by such a thing is, "How often am I going to be very, very, very far away from my subject, and does that frequency justify the expenditure of such a large amount of funds?" The answer to this question is "Not often enough to justify spending the cash." I go kayaking, hiking and go to the zoo to take pictures of animals. Other than that, I usually am less than 10 yards away from my subjects. That's where lenses like the Vivitar 400mm come in. I paid $30 for this lens. To answer the question posed above, "Yes, I'd gladly pay $30 for the ability to take pictures of animals at the zoo."
With a cheap adapter (you can see it above) this lens mounts to my Fujifilm X-T2 the same as the native Fujifilm lens would. It works just fine on the camera as well. This lens gives me the 400mm reach at a tiny fraction of the price. The lens is definitely not as good as the Fujifilm lens (I can say that without testing the Fujifilm lens), to be honest, it's not all that great of a lens in general. If this lens were a 50mm, I'd say skip it. However, because it has the reach and it costs so little, it's a must buy for anyone who wants to take pictures of animals.
WHY DID I BUY IT?
I bought this lens because it was $30 and it gave me telescope reach. I could stop right there and it'd be pretty accurate.
I took a chance on it. It's not a stunning lens by any stretch of the imagination. wide open is fairly soft and lacks contrast. It's gigantic and difficult to focus. It's not fast enough to work in lower light. It's heavy and too bulky to fit easily in my camera bag.
This doesn't tell the whole story though. This lens is adequate in the performance category. There's better glass out there, but, at this range, good glass gets expensive. I know I keep coming back to price, but this section of the review is titled, "Why Did I Buy It?" For $30 this lens will get you close to lions.
I'd say you can't put a price on that, but it turns out, the price is $30. That's the point. This lens will produce results that you cannot achieve with a 200mm lens. It will get you close to animals you would never want to be close to. It will allow you to make images that simply aren't possible without the range.
HOW'D IT WORK OUT?
This lens is very difficult to shoot with, I'll be honest. There's nothing easy about shooting with a lens this long (both in millimeters and in shear size of the lens itself). To get really sharp pictures, you really need to shoot it with a tripod. I shot all of the images (save the ones of the lens itself, which were taken with my iPhone) handheld and propped against whatever I could find at the zoo. You have to understand that a 400mm lens on my Fujifilm X-T2 is really a 600mm lens due to the size of the image sensor. This means that I had to keep the shutter speed pegged right around 1/500th of a second in order to get clear shots without camera shake.
Other than that, which would be the same for any lens this long without image stabilization built in, I thought this lens was a pretty good performer, all things considered. Like most of these older lenses, it's softer wide open than its modern lens equivalents. There's no autofocus, so you have to rely on you own two eyeballs for a sharp shot. There's also no image stabilization, which would help this lens perform much better.
However, this lens is sharp enough when stopped down a bit (f8.0 is only one stop down from wide open). Considering I'm not going to be shooting pictures at the zoo at night, shutter speeds of 1/500th or more and an aperture of f8.0 work okay. In bright sunlight, which will usually be the conditions you're shooting in with a lens like this, the lens performs well.
The bokeh on this lens is not too shabby either when close focusing. It renders backgrounds that are relatively smooth.
In closing, I would definitely recommend this lens. I wouldn't say it's particularly sharp, fast, or feature-rich. It offers two things. The first, is that it's cheap, and the second is that it has serious reach. Really and truly, to sum up this lens, you just need to determine if you want to shoot things very far away for a very small amount of money. If the answer is yes, get yourself a copy. If you are a serious wildlife photographer, you already know you don't want this lens.
Just know that you're getting a lens that's going to require a substantial amount of patience to use and that it has some limitations you have to operate within and you'll be happy with this lens.