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Johnny Wilson
  • Johnny Wilson

Compact Camera Club - Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim

Updated: Jan 14, 2021

The Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim is an all plastic, all manual, compact 35mm film camera with an astonishingly wide angle 22mm lens and is one of the tiniest, lightest film cameras you could ever hope to get your hands on! According to Camerapedia the camera has an f11 aperture with a 1/125 shutter speed, so using high ISO film is more recommended but I've mostly shot 200 ISO film and had positive results? Like disposable cameras there's no adjusting the settings, there's no light meter, there's no built in flash or hot shoe, you just point and shoot. I remember first finding mine, sometime in 2011 apparently, in ExtraCare charity shop in Coventry (charity shops great places to find old cameras by the way) and not really knowing much about it, just being mildly impressed that it was so small and had such a wide angle lens I bought it. I also remember it being silly cheap, like two pounds maybe? As you can see from the photo mine has seen better days but still works just as well as the day I bought it. As mentioned the camera is all plastic, save for some metal essential internal components, that means plastic lens, plastic winding mechanism, plastic body. Yup. All plastic. The aforementioned plastic lens sometimes produces a weird light flare depending on the angle of the camera and the angle of the light affectionately referred to as the 'Viv Flare', I'll post an example below, and the internal plastic winding mechanism is V E R Y delicate. Using 36 exposure film is not recommended and although it's never happened to mine, I've heard that the tension created with 36 exposure film can snap and break the winder completely.

The "Viv flare". Ooooh. Spooky.

Owing to the fact that the lens optic is situated so close to the film frame, and because of the wide angle nature of the lens, photos taken with the camera have a very strong vignette. This is half the appeal with the VUW&S though; vignetting frames the photos and adds a degree of dramatic effect that you only get with quirky cameras like this one.

The small stature of the camera also means that you have to be very careful when holding it to avoid having a big smudge in the bottom corners of your photo caused by a stray fingertip. I tend to hold the camera steady with both hands resting both my thumbs underneath and holding the camera delicately with an index finger on the side and an index finger on the top to fire the shutter button. It's so light that you can hold it with one hand but it's lack of weight makes it very easy to blur a photo with camera shake this way. You'll also find it very easy to fire the shutter by accident when pocketed or in your bag, so I tend to not wind the camera on until I'm ready to take a photo, it's easy to burn through 5 or 6 shots by winding on straight away and accidentally pressing the button when pulling it out of your pocket!

Nowadays the camera has a cult following on the internet thanks to the great lens, portability and simple to use operation, especially amongst the Lomo crowd. Finding one in the wild is quite difficult and they fetch eye watering prices on eBay. Superheadz sell clones of the camera but I can't vouch for their operation, or how similar they actually are to VUW&S. I loved mine so much and trusted it enough that it made the journey to Paris with me in 2012 and I used it to capture the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe. If you should ever see one for not too much money, I certainly recommend buying one. Just remember to treat it delicately, only feed it with 27 exposure film and don't rely on the viewfinder too much, just point it at whatever you want to photograph and fire the shutter!

No idea what happened here...!

(all the photos on this page we're taken with my Vivitar UW&S, I have a gallery on Flickr with the rest of the photos here.)

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