Ultra, Slim, & Wide: The Vivitar UWS and Superheadz Slim & Wide

2017-09-27 17

A long-time fan of plastic cameras, Argentinean writer and photographer Lorraine Healy is the author of “Tricks With A Plastic Wonder,” a manual for achieving better results with a Holga camera. In this article, Healy teams up with @honeygrahams224 to sing the praises of two plastic toy cameras.

Image left by @honeygrahams224 using the Vivitar UWS, cross-processed. Image right, Superheadz Slim & Wide, by @lorrainehealy.

In my last article, I shared my discovery of the Holga 135BC as the perfect camera for my ongoing project of shooting old storefronts and old signs everywhere I go. I shared that one of the limitations of the camera was that it was hard or impossible to use in certain places (like the narrowest streets of the old parts of my native Buenos Aires) because the focal length did not allow for complete capture of the storefront in question. I mentioned that I had found the Superheadz’s reinterpretation of the old Vivitar UWS as the perfect solution for shooting storefronts in narrower streets. My Lomo friend @sirio174 very pertinently suggested I also could use the Sprocket Rocket and crop the sprockets, if I so desired—another great solution for dealing with storefronts in narrow alleys. I asked Lomo friend @pinkbutterfly, who is carrying out a similar project with old storefronts in Japan (a beautiful series, make yourself you check it out!), what she used in the way of lenses for her project, and she replied “Nikon FM3A with the 35mm lens, sometimes the 50mm or the 85mm. When I want to shoot the whole building, I use the 35mm lens.“ I think @pinkbutterfly has the right idea: by using the same camera (the Nikon FM3A) she keeps a consistent look throughout the project while using the three prime lenses as needed by the situation.

Images from Route 66 taken with my very first Superheadz Slim & Wide, the “Blue Ribbon.”

I remembered @honeygrahams224’s enthusiasm for her Vivitar UWS, essentially the same camera as the Superheadz Slim & Wide. She joins me here to talk about this fabulous toy camera and its loveable quirks.

From @honeygrahams224: The Ultra Wide and Slim was meant to look like the pocket-sized digital cameras that were popular at the time, early 2000s. Perhaps the wide angle was meant to give the photos the look of a higher quality camera.

The Vivitar Ultra Slim & Wide, with its fake digital looks, sold as “already gift-wrapped”, and its simple instructions. Photos courtesy of @honeygrahams224.

The camera is tiny, flimsy and plastic, but made to look like a chrome digital camera. I love the box that it comes in, from "gift express" somewhere in China. This looks like the type of pre-wrapped gift that would be at stores like Brookstone, or little airport shops. It was obviously meant for traveling. The instructions are as bare-bones as it can get. But I really do see a difference in how the original works, versus the Superheadz version.

Four cross-processed images by @honeygraham224 with her beloved Vivitar UWS.

According to Michael Raso of the Film Photography Project, other than the bright colors in which the Superheadz Slim & Wide comes, the cameras are essentially the same. Not so, say the original Vivitar UWS fans!

The vignetting is way more pronounced with the Vivitar, as well as a well-known, wacky artifact when shooting into the sun, which can be used to great advantage.

Shooting against the sun with the Vivitar UWS, as shown here by @honegrahams224’s great image, gets you this fabulous quirk.
Shooting against the sun with the Superheadz Slim & Wide, in this image by @lorrainehealy, gets a bit of the artifact in the bottom left, but nothing like the previous image.
Very respectable vignetting from the Superheadz “Pink Flower” model using Fuji Velvia 50, by @lorrainehealy.

From @lorrainehealy: I was given my first SuperHeadz (a “Blue Ribbon” model) a few years ago after Vivitar had stopped making the original UWS. I took it on my first beginning-to-end Route 66 trip in 2011 and really liked the results. I have included a couple of images taken with that camera, with old, expired 35mm film. It really was my first experience with wide angle and didn't use it much after this trip. I put it away, refound it (as we do when cleaning the stacks of cameras!), wore it out. I immediately bought a replacement, this time a bright pink model nicknamed “Pink Flower.”

The image on the top left shows why the little Superheadz with its 22mm lens works so perfectly for my old storefronts project, with this corner tavern in North Portland, Oregon. Superheadz Pink Flower, various films, Oregon and Washington.

The technical information on both cameras: * All-plastic point and shoot 35mm film cameras * f/11 aperture * 22mm wide-angle fixed focus lens * Shutter speed is also fixed at 1/125s (it could be 1/100s or 1/90s) * All mechanical, no batteries needed * The film advance cog might break when used repeatedly with 36 exposure film, it seems to put too much tension on the system. Use a 24-exposure film.

As you can see by the work of both collaborators on this article, images taken with either the Vivitar UWS or the Superheadz Slim & Wide can be cross-processed, pushed, etc. While the instructions recommend the use of 400 iso film, we have used any speed film successfully, provided that it matches the prevailing light. The Vivitar UWS can be obtained through eBay auctions, and the Superheadz is available through many photo retailers. Give them a try!

An overcast coastal landscape this August in Oregon, Superheadz Wide & Slim, Fuji 200. I love how this camera captured the subtle differences in light in the clouds, the foam on the water, and the details on the big rock.

Many, many thanks to Lomo friends @sirio174 and @pinkbutterfly for their generous advice on issues for this article! Grazie, arigato!


Lorraine Healy (@lorrainehealy) is an Argentinean writer and photographer living in the Pacific Northwest. A long-time fan of plastic cameras and she is the author of “Tricks With A Plastic Wonder,” a manual for achieving better results with a Holga camera, available as an eBook from Amazon.com.

@honeyGrahams224 is an alternative photographer and full-time therapist exploring all the interesting corners of Minneapolis through the lens of a camera. She specializes in double-exposures and mixed-media creations. When not working or shooting, she is trying to organize all of her negatives and scans into some sense of order.

written by Lorraine Healy on 2017-09-27 #35mm #wide-angle #color #gear #vivitar-ultra-slim-wide #superheadz-wide-slim

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17 Comments

  1. metaluna
    metaluna ·

    Love the Vivitar UW&S. Four years ago I bought every UW&S on ebay. I have six

  2. akula
    akula ·

    Love my Superheadz Slim & Wide I am keeping my eyes open for the Vivitar original.

  3. montagu
    montagu ·

    @metaluna how many are still alive..?:)

  4. sirio174
    sirio174 ·

    wow! great article!!!!!

  5. zhenyaetoya
    zhenyaetoya ·

    @metaluna maaad

  6. fbeudaert
    fbeudaert ·

    The "sun artifact" is why I bought one :)

  7. sirio174
    sirio174 ·

    @montagu Superheadz = Vivitar. Small differences in results are due to unavoidable building tolerances of these toy cameras. Same for Holga, Diana, etc.

  8. pannydeters
    pannydeters ·

    Has anyone compared the original vs. the Superheadz? Is there any obvious difference, or is it just that each camera is slightly different, as Sirio says? There's certainly a HUGE difference between Lomography's Diana F+ and any Diana or other Diana clone. But at the same time, every Diana and its clone, and every Holga, is a bit different. I'm trying to ask if the Vivitar is just a bit different from the Superheadz, or if it's more like the original Diana vs. the Lomography version.

  9. pannydeters
    pannydeters ·

    (That was awful. I apologize. Normally I write very well.)

  10. honeygrahams224
    honeygrahams224 ·

    @montagu they are hard to find. I scoured eBay for about two weeks before I found my original one, still in the packaging. Most eBay sellers know that it's a collectors item, so they tend to sell for between $30-50.

  11. honeygrahams224
    honeygrahams224 ·

    @sirio174 thanks! The original Vivitars are difficult to find, but I like them better than the Superhedz version.

  12. honeygrahams224
    honeygrahams224 ·

    @pannydeters Personally I find that the cameras are quite different. I have two original Vivitars and I personally find the "Corona effect" and the vignetting more pronounced on the original version. That is to say, the original version seems to be more poorly made than the Superhedz version, which is how you get all the crazy effects. I will warn you that the original UW+S is incredibly flimsy and annoying to use. I have one in mint condition and one that's super broken. I have to change film using a needle nosed pliers.

  13. lorrainehealy
    lorrainehealy ·

    @metaluna Marc, did you leave any on eBay?! Must have cleaned them out! @sirio174 thank you for the praise and thank you for the advice! @honeygrahams224 let's do this joint writing more often, I hope you got the piggies! Thank you all for leaving comments!

  14. lorrainehealy
    lorrainehealy ·

    @akula @zhenyaetoya @fbeudaert @pannydeters uthanks for reading and for adding on!

  15. mcgloin
    mcgloin ·

    I have a Super Heads Black Slim Devil somewhere. I had it long enough for the rubbery outer coating to oxidize into sticky weirdness, which was oddly easy to remove.
    I live in Portland, and should probably take the camera out for a spin.

  16. ianluke_
    ianluke_ ·

    @mcgloin how did you remove the sticky plastic? I have the same problem and I really don’t use this cool camera because of I­t­.

  17. mcgloin
    mcgloin ·

    @ianluke_ Mostly a rag (shop towel) and elbow grease to remove the majority of the sticky stuff. I used a clean rag and alcohol to remove what remained.

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