The plain plastic exterior of the Vivitar UWS gives you very little idea of the star quality lurking within. The 22mm lens and the fixed f11 aperture and 1/125s shutter speed shouldn't add up to lomo magic, but somehow it does.
Film format: 35mm
Lens: 22mm plastic
Shutter speed: 1/125s
Tripod thread: no
Flash/hot shoe: no
I’d heard a lot about the wonders of the Vivitar UWM (Ultra Wide & Slim) before I managed to get my hands on one. Many people said it was like shooting with an under-featured LC-A. As I already owned, and loved, my LC-A I was in no great hurry to buy a lesser version of the same thing, but one day I found one for a couple of pounds and, as we all know, it’s downright rude to refuse a bargain!
Without a film in it, the UWS weighs practically nothing – it’s completely made of plastic, it doesn’t take batteries , it has no flash or hot shoe and it doesn’t have a tripod mount. Frankly, it looks a bit cheap and you could be forgiven for thinking, as I did, that it’s just a disposable camera you don’t dispose of.
It so happened that Britain was under feet of snow a day or two after I got the UWS, and on a Sunday afternoon I decided I wanted to go out in a blizzard and take pictures of it blizzarding. My only problem was how to keep my precious lomo-companions dry. No way was I getting the Horizon wet, nor the LC-A, any of the old rangfinders, the Diana etc, etc. But the UWS, well frankly, what harm could it do… and a camera with no fiddly controls, no adjustments or decisions to make would be prefect for when my hands were too numb to feel for anything more delicate than the shutter release!
A couple of days later I saw the results of that snowy walk and I was amazed. Firstly, the 22mm lens gives you such a lovely wide frame for landscapes. And the shots it produces have a gorgeous, soft quality to them, a sort of ready made vintage feel. My only disappointment – not much vignetting. And, for the record, the camera got quite wet with no ill effects at all.
The next time I used the UWS was when I wanted to travel light. I wanted something that would fit in a shirt pocket as I was planning a long farewell walk around my favourite fields before I packed up and moved to my new life in Sevilla. As it happened the film came along in the camera and I finished the roll during my first few days in Spain. One thing that impressed my enormously was that the little f11 1/125s lens coped really well both with the soft autumn UK light and the bright Seville sunshine. And I got my vignetting.
So now, whenever I think it might be cold, wet or muddy, whenever my bag is full to bursting and I can’t carry a heavy camera or whenever I just want to take great pictures, I grab the Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim. I know it looks a little plain, but it’s lomo-soul is beautiful.