So you want to own a legendary Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim? Looking around the internet you'll find lots of tips, rumours, modifications and examples of this plastic wonder but it can be overwhelming for the newcomer. Here is my tutorial tipster for buying, owning and using a Vivitar UWS.
You can still find examples of the original Vivitar UWS for sale on eBay or if you’re lucky in charity and thrift shops, flea markets and car boot sales. The examples on eBay can carry high reserve prices though as people are becoming aware of the camera’s rarity and popularity. I saw one recently in the UK with a reserve price of £150!
Fear not though as there are plenty of clones available which perform just the same. They are manufactured currently so are available to purchase as brand new items. Prices tend to be around £20-£30 in the UK and in my opinion worth every penny. There are also clones available in the market like the Black Slim Devil / While Slim Angel. Apart from colour they look identical to the original UWS and feature the same 22mm lens.
TIP: Search charity shops and car boot sales for the original or buy a clone
I have heard that opening the back of the camera can be very difficult making loading and unloading film frustrating. Some have even gone to the extent of modifying their UWS to make it easier.
TIP: Hold the camera upside down and let gravity do the work
The 36 Exposure Myth
When looking into buying my first UWS there were plenty of people online suggesting only 24 exposure film should be used to reduce tension on the spool and winder to avoid breakages. In truth I have almost exclusively used 36 exposure film and don’t find it to be a problem at all.
TIP: Don’t overwind the camera/film. When you feel tension, stop!
Best Film Choice
The UWS seems to do contrast by the bucket load. I have never been disappointed by the contrast and saturation every time I get my photos back from the lab i both colour and black and white. To push contrast and saturation further film choice is all important. Remember though that with the fixed shutter speed and aperture (I have been told approximately 1/125 and f/11) it’s an outdoor camera and unless it’s a really bright day stick to the higher film speeds e.g. ASA400.
TIP: Sensia, Velvia and E100VS cross-processed will produce plenty of colour saturation and T-Max 400 has bags full of contrast
Mind Those Fingers
It can be a surprise just how wide the UWS is with fingertips accidentally appearing in shots if you’re not careful. Finding a method of holding the camera without getting your fingers anywhere near the lens will keep your shots finger free.
TIP: Don’t grip the camera around the sides like a traditional camera but on the top and sides
Now go out there and shoot!