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Who made that Vivitar Lens?

Vivitar is a famous Los Angeles photo marketing firm that competed with the big boys as major 35mm SLR lens makers from about the mid 1970's to the late 1980's with their Series 1 lenses.   No, Vivitar did NOT  own their own lens factory.  Instead Vivitar hired the best lens designers they could find (using then state of the art computers in the USA)  to make the best lenses they could under the premium "Vivitar Series 1" brand name.     Super lens designs were produced, some which had never been seen before.   Series 1 lenses of this period were very good lenses indeed, often as good or even better than major lens manufacturers.  One legendary Germany manufacturer bought the 28-90 Series 1 Vivitar zooms and relabeled it as their own.  Vivitar accomplished this with innovative Series 1 lens designs from great lens designers,  demanding quality control, and having independent lens manufacturers bid to make those lenses to Vivitar's specifications.   Interestingly,  a particular lens could be made by one lens maker one year, and by another winning bidder lens maker to the same specs the next year.  Contrary to popular opinion, you will soon realize when checking serial number codes that all Series 1 lenses were not made by a single manufacturer.  In fact, many lens makers produced classic Series 1 lenses.

So how do you know which factory really made which Vivitar lens?   A  former Vivitar executive provided this info.   Vivitar used this lens numbering coding system from about 1970 to 1990,  for ALL their 35mm lenses.   As personnel changed with the sale of the company, older lens suppliers probably continued this number system for an undetermined time after 1990, however the newer lens suppliers did NOT use it.   If your lens does not match this numbering system, it was manufactured either before 1970,  or after this numbering system was discarded under new corporate ownership circa 1990.

The 1st TWO digits generally indicate lens manufacturer, except serial numbers starting with 6 or 9, which are single digit lens maker codes

The 3rd digit indicates the year of manufacture.  This is a bit confusing, as you have to know which decade a particular style and type of lens was made.   8 as the third digit might mean 1978,  or 1988, or even 1998.  Hopefully you know enough about your lens to guess its decade.

the 4th and 5th digits indicate the week of the year of manufacture, from 01 to 52

the digits thereafter indicate the manufacturing serial number

Vivitar Subcontracted Lens Makers

 (1st two digits of serial number)

  • 6  Olympus

  • 9 Cosina

  • 13 Schneider Optik

  • 22 Kino (aka Kiron)

  • 25 Ozone Optical

  • 28 Komine

  • 32 Makinon

  • 33 Asanuma

  • 37 Tokina

  • 42 Bauer

  • 44 Perkin Elmer (US)

  • 47 Chinon

  • 51 Tokyo Trading

  • 56 Kyoe Schoji

  • 75 Hoya Optical

  • 81 Polar

Remember this number system was used for circa 1970 to 1990 Vivitar lenses.  It went into gradual disuse starting in 1990 with new corporate ownership.  This list is to my knowledge the only list on the internet to give you a starting point to help determine your Vivitar lens' family heritage.   This information is copyrighted.  You may Not copy it and repost it elsewhere.


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Revised: November 26, 2003 Copyright  2003  Stephen Gandy. All rights reserved.    This means you may NOT copy and re-use the text or the pictures in ANY other internet or printed publication of ANY kind.  Information in this document is subject to change without notice.  Other products and companies referred to herein are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies or mark holders.