The Vivitar Amphibia is a little yellow chunk of plastic comes with a cool underwater housing for your Lomographic needs, both in and out of the water!
image from Amazon
Sadly the era of dirt-cheap Vivitar film cameras seems to have ended when the owners of Vivitar went bankrupt in August 2008. The brand was sold on to Sakar International, who plans on focusing on digital cameras. When I picked up my Vivitar Amphibia about a year ago I paid £1 + P&P, but at the moment a new one is listed at £15 upwards on ebay!
Above water this piece of plastic is nothing special, I’d opt for my Vivitar UW&S any day. But underwater it definitely has a bit of magic.
The camera is yellow, made in China and generally cheap-looking. It takes 2AA batteries to make the motor and the flash go, and it’s got a fairly wide 28mm lens. The box advertises all kinds of magical features like red eye reduction and a close up accessory. I love the flash on this thing, especially in the water. Everything in the dead center of the frame comes out completely overexposed, everything else is underexposed, which creates this blue halo deepening into dark, navy blue vignettes.
The housing is big and chunky with a rubber grip and a wrist strap. There’s a detachable “sport” type view finder and a tripod mount, I’ve never used them. The trigger button tends to slip into locked position while you’re shooting, which can get really annoying. The over/underwater exposure guide on the back of the housing is useful in theory – only you have to remember to look at it. Swearing may occur while putting the camera inside the housing, it’s a snug fit, the latch is hard to close, and the Pac-Man-pie chart on the latch doesn’t necessarily make sense, but once it’s in there it’s waterproof to 82 feet/25 meters.
Because the underwater housing traps a lot of air, the camera floats – which is great if you drop it in the water, but it makes shooting self portraits from below using your big toe to push the shutter button kind of difficult. If you’re into that kind of thing.
The Amphibia needs plenty of speed if you’re going under water, especially indoors such as pools or bathtubs. You should probably make it a rule to use 800 iso film. The gallery pictures were done on 200 iso film, and although the underexposure is really pretty, the side effect was quite a few frames of nothing but blue.
I’ve had a lot of fun with this camera, but I probably wouldn’t spend £15 on one.
For more info about Vivitar check out Wikipedia