A review of the Vivitar v4000 with a Ricoh 50mm lens – find out why this camera would make a good option if you are considering buying your first single lens reflex 35mm film camera. For those who already own an SLR, this would make a more than decent secondary shooter!
A while ago, I bought some second hand photographic equipment. What I was really interested in were the accessories (colour filters, etc.), rather than the 35mm film camera that came with them. After all, I have quite a few cameras already. The new addition was a Vivitar v4000 SLR (single lens reflex) – it had a crack on the back, and I had no idea if it would even work!
A roll of Rollei Retro film I had lying around would soon address my curiosity. I loaded it into the camera and made a few test shots. Being eager to see the results, I didn’t even use up the whole roll before processing…
Wow, not having expected much, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the images!
The 50mm Japanese Ricoh lens that came with the camera made the images really crisp, with nice sharp definition. (I think these cameras originally came with a Vivitar lens, so this must have been a modification by the previous owner.)
The bokeh from this lens can create quite an eye-distracting background, as seen in the next photo. But that wouldn’t bother any Lomographer! Who knows, maybe I can put it to good use as an effect in certain shots.
A bokeh effect that looks (to me) like it was painted with streaks of moving light:
To help spice up my film choices, the focussing ring has an extra red mark for use with infra-red films.
The camera attaches to the lens via a ‘K mount’ – a standard lens attachment mechanism developed by Pentax. Many lenses use this standard, which means there is a wide range of lens options out there in the second-hand market that you can use with this camera.
For Lomographers, plastic is always fantastic. This Vivitar has a plastic body and therefore an advantage of being lightweight compared to the heavy-duty metal body SLRs. The camera itself weighs only 370g (excluding the lens), which suits me because I hate dragging a heavy bag around town!
A possible down side of the plastic housing is that it is not as rugged. A search on the internet showed that the crack is not an uncommon problem with this camera. But mine, repaired with glue along the crack by the previous owner, presented no problem whatsoever.
Shooting with this camera is a breeze. It has a built-in light meter with an LED display in the viewfinder; it’s so simple to use, it frees you from getting bogged down by technicalities. The split image viewfinder makes focussing quick and easy.
The decent ranges of shutter speeds (bulb, 1s to 1/2000s) and ISO (25 to 3200) gives a lot of versatility in the choice of films you can use and the types of shot it can handle.
Having a window at the back (so I can see if there’s a film inside the camera and what film it is) is an extra bonus. The standard hot shoe mount on the top will let me fit on different flashes, including the Lomo ringflash.
If you are looking for your first SLR, I can recommend this as a good value for money option to consider; or as a secondary camera that’s a decent full-size SLR you can carry everywhere in your bag without feeling much extra weight. Having overlooked this camera initially, I guess I will be using it more often!
Summary features at a glance
- Shooting modes: aperture priority/shutter priority
- TTL (through the lens) exposure metering
- Shutter speeds: bulb, 1 to 1/2000 second
- ISO 25 to 3200
- Uses two LR44 or SR44 batteries