Film Beginner’s Guide To The Benefits Of A Cheap Camera Part I: Vivitar V3800N

Good morning you guys! A friend recently asked me to recommend him a good film camera but before I could give any recommendations, he asked me “Should I get a Leica? Contax? Nikon?”

That got me thinking. In all honestly, especially for the beginner in film photography, I really don’t think you need an expensive camera!

So that’s how today’s article came about! Keep in mind, this is a lighthearted article. Part humor and part reality ๐Ÿ˜Š

THE VIVITAR V3800N

The Vivitar V3800N is a 35mm single lens reflex (SLR) film camera. The lens mount is Pentax K. The actual year of its release is uncertain, but based on my research it appears to have been introduced and marketed by Vivitar in 2009.

The camera itself was apparently made by Cosina of Japan. To me, Cosina is the Yashica of today in that they can produce cameras and lenses of any type for any budget. From the very high end modern Zeiss Ikon (not to be confused with the original Zeiss Ikon of Germany) cameras to the Vivitar V3800N!

I am unsure however if Cosina made the 50mm f/1.7 Vivitar lens or if it was produced by a Chinese manufacturer. Cosina makes some very high quality Voigtlander branded lenses which are popular with the Leica community.

BUT…

While the Vivitar V3800N is the star of today’s article, it is really NOT about the Vivitar specifically. It could be about any cheap camera!

YOUTUBE VIDEO

For you folks who prefer videos, here’s my YouTube video on the subject. It’s about 6 minutes, much easier to view and much better for my sanity!

I’m doing it today on my new happy place, a place I call the “Lazy Couch” ๐Ÿ™‚

Got tired of that old backdrop, so while waiting for a new backdrop I’m on the Lazy Couch! Somewhere in this video I accidentally dropped the F… Bomb ๐Ÿ˜‚ Sorry about that!

OK, THE BENEFITS OF A CHEAP CAMERA!

  1. It’s Cheap! The Vivitar V3800N cost me $30 for both camera and lens! But again, it doesn’t have to be a Vivitar
  2. It’s a good conversation starter! Let’s say at a photo meetup your friends pull out their Leicas, Contaxes, Nikons, etc, etc, and you pull this out? Conversation starter!
  3. You can say you’re a student! The Vivitar V3800N is a camera that was used by many photography students in high schools and colleges.
  4. The V3800N doesn’t rely on batteries, except for the meter.
  5. If you use a 50mm lens, which I heartily recommend, and you stop the lens down a couple of stops, you may be quite surprised with your results. And your friends might be surprised too!
  6. And if you lose or damage the camera/lens or get it stolen, you will be out a bit of change but your Leica, Contax, or Hasselblad shooting friends will be out thousands!

PRICE, AVAILABILITY & OPTIONS

As I mentioned, I got the Vivitar V3800N plus 50mm f/1.7 lens for $30. You could find it for that price if you’re lucky or patient. More likely it will cost you $50-60 for both, still not bad.

The “ultimate” cheap camera to me, used to be the Pentax K1000. It was the original 35mm students camera but now prices have gone up quite a bit. Still, if you want higher quality than the Vivitar and all the benefits of the Pentax K mount, try to find one for under $100 with lens.ย Old Chinon cameras that use the Pentax K mount are also a good option.

As a fan of the Olympus OM series, the Olympus OM-1 can still sometimes be found for under $60. Get the 50mm f/1.8 Zuiko and you’ll get excellent results! That was one of my my favorite carry around combos when I shot OM exclusively for a while in the mid 90s.

A Nikon EM with old Nikon lenses are also a good bet! You know, the more I write this, the more I realize I could write a whole book with the options I could recommend so to cut this short I’ll say this…

It doesn’t matter what manufacturer you choose. Just try to choose these factors: 1) Purely manual camera, no need for batteries 2) Get a 50mm f/1.7 f/1.8 or f/2 lens 3) Make sure all this will not cost over $100 USD! Often, it should be far lower than that!

I hope this helps, especially for beginners or those wanting to try film. You DO NOT need to spend a lot of money to get started with film photography!

Feel free to leave a comment should you have an opinion on this! Thanks for reading and happy shooting folks!

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Sale On The Vivitar V3800N!

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The Best Camera I Never Knew: The Super Ricohflex

Hello everyone! Looking back on my writings, it seems we haven’t had one of these “Best Camera I Never Knew” postings in a while! Over a year in fact!

So today we’re back with a camera that may not be well known to the masses, but is quite popular on photo sharing sites like Flickr and elsewhere. And you guys, my dear readers, are NOT the masses! It is a cult favorite, the Super Ricohflex.

THE SUPER RICOHFLEX

The Super Ricohflex was introduced in 1956 by Ricoh of Japan. It is a Medium Format twin lens reflex camera that takes 6×6 images on 120 film.

At its heart is the taking lens which is an 80mm f/3.5 Ricoh Anastigmat. It uses a geared focusing system much like the Kodak Reflex of 1946.

The camera has a shutter speed range of 1/10-1/200 secs plus Bulb in a Riken shutter. I have read of other models with higher shutter speeds, but I have had three of them at different points in my life, from different random sellers and they all had up to 1/200. If you have a model with a higher shutter speed range, I’d love to hear about it!

114621440.1bR7aP9r.SuperRicohSam

“Super Ricoh Man” 2009. Super Ricohflex, Ilford HP5 Plus in T-Max Developer. More than a narcissistic selfie, I hope you can see that stopped down a little, the Super Ricohflex is capable of nicely sharp images ๐Ÿ™‚

WHAT I LIKE ABOUT THE SUPER RICOHFLEX

When in working condition, the Super Ricohflex is capable of giving images with “character” especially wide open at f/3.5. That is the best way I can describe it.

The 80mm f/3.5 Ricoh Anastigmat is one of those lenses capable of giving you that ever popular on Flickr “swirly bokeh” look.

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“Escape To Reality” 2009. Super Ricohflex, Ilford HP5 Plus in T-Max Developer. An example of the swirly “dreamy” image that the Super Ricohflex can make.

In my opinion, this usually comes from a lens that is optically not at its technical best, and the swirly bokeh is somewhat overplayed by bokeh fanatics, but that said, if used judiciously it can produce “dreamy” memorable images.

Stopped down, the images can be very sharp at f/5.6-f/8 as are most decent lenses.

YOUTUBE VIDEO

For those of you who prefer to watch a video, here is my first “The Best Camera I Never Knew” episode on YouTube starring the Super Ricohflex! ๐Ÿ˜Ž

It may seem like a shameless plug, and it is, but I am trying to expand your experience here and I’ll be tying in videos as I can so get used to it! ๐Ÿ™‚

Think of it this way? Why would I want to do double work, blog and video, when I could just do one or the other? If it weren’t for you guys, my fellow Camera Lovers, I’d not bother with the videos!

And because I had received a critical comment from a reader who did not understand what ย this series is about, I address this in the video too. Plus trying out some new theme songs haha! ๐Ÿ™‚

WHY IT DIDN’T JIVE WITH ME?

Simple. I had three of these cameras! I got my first one in 2009. I sold one and I still have two. All three of them ended up having the infamous “Frozen Focus” issue. And what is that?

In the introduction, I mentioned that these cameras use a geared type of focusing mechanism. What that means is the viewing lens and taking lens are geared together and by moving one you move the other.

That in itself shouldn’t be an issue, but whatever grease Ricoh put into these lenses have been known to notoriously seize up with time.

Out of my three copies, only one was working, and even that one was already on the outs when I got it. It was not perfectly smooth. I left it on the shelf for about, I’m gonna guess cause it’s been years, but approximately 3-5 months. The next time I picked up the camera…stiff as a rock!!

So as of today, the two copies I have are pretty much worthless as shooters. Thankfully, they did not cost me much!

REPAIR?

A competent camera technician should be able to repair these cameras. From what I have heard, it’s not a simple matter of taking the lenses off and regreasing them yourself. It’s a bit of a delicate process. Therefore it’s better to leave it up to the experts if you have no experience with camera repair.

One person I remember offhand that might do the repair is Mark Hansen out of Wisconsin. He’s a great repairman with a solid reputation for working on Zeiss and Rolleis. I believe he is still in business though I do not know if he’s willing to repair the Super Ricohflex and if he is, how much it will cost. If you contact him, tell him Sam from CameraLegend.com sent you!

PRICES & WHERE TO BUY?

If seeking one of these cult classics, and I’m not sure that’s a good idea, prices are trending at $20-60. Keep in mind, due to the possibility of the camera needing a CLA, the low price you might pay belie the true cost after the camera has received a CLA.

However, once you get a CLA from a good repairman, I can attest that the Super Ricohflex is a good and fun budget shooter.

BOTTOM LINE

As I love all cameras, it is not my goal to pick on the Super Ricohflex. Ricoh is a Camera Legend whose cameras I have used and praised often. I do totally understand that a camera this old may need a CLA as most cameras of this vintage would benefit from also.

However, as I mentioned in the video…This is no Rolleiflex. And it was not intended to be. It cost much less than a Rolleiflex or even most Rolleicords, the budget Rollei TLRs.

A Rolleiflex could be sitting there for 30 years and I’d be willing to bet, most would still be functioning. Not so with the Super Ricohflex. If you have one, use it often, keep exercising those gears! Whatever grease Ricoh used in these cameras are infamous for freezing up.

That said, when it worked, this camera gave me some memorable images that left me curious for more. That’s why I ended up with three of them only to find out that the Super Ricohflex is indeed, one of the Best Cameras I Never Knew! ๐Ÿ™‚

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Photo Of The Day: “The Dark Cat”

Degi Hari

Just taking test shots with a Digital Harinezumi Guru, a 3mp “toy camera” that has a cult following, but probably not well known by the mainstream.

I’ll have more on this camera soon. All I can say for now is I wasn’t liking this camera, but the monochrome mode is growing on me. However, all this digital b&w stuff is really an attempt to emulate film and for that I should probably be shooting real film, shouldn’t I? ๐Ÿ™‚

The Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim Film Camera

UWSPic

The Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim and its virtual clone, the Superheadz Yellow Peace. Cult camera favorites of toy camera fanatics.

The Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim is 35mmย point and shootย filmย camera made by Sunpet Industries of China and distributed by Vivitar under their own name. The camera has an almost exact clone from Superheadz in different colors and different nicknames.

The actual year of manufacture is unknown or undocumented. At least, I cannot find it in my research. I suspect it was made in the 1990s or late 1980s.

The Ultra Wide & Slim is an all plastic camera with a plastic lens and low quality build. However, the camera has achieved cult camera popularity primarily due to its 22mm f/11 “Ultra Wide” lens which is unusual for a fixed focus point and shoot, even today.

As a camera, the Vivitar “UWS” has only one aperture, f/11 and only one shutter speed, 1/125. This makes it primarily usable as a daylight camera using higher speed film.

This was and is intended to be a cheap camera. However, the camera has become very popular with the toy camera, Holga, Lomography, etc, crowd for whom lens distortion, light leaks, and imperfect photos are much desired.

If you love cameras as much as I do, you’re bound to collect some cameras that you have yet to use. This is one (or two) of them!

Actually, I did get a roll of film through the Superheadz but when I developed the film the whole roll came out black. I’m not ashamed to admit that it was probably my mistake in development. I added too much water to Ilford ID-11 which is not a developer I use often, though some say D76 (which I have used often) is the same. However, I’m can’t be 100 percentย sure if it was me or the camera so I will try again.

Any camera with a 22mm lens is bound to give you some very dynamic looking photos and I don’t mind the flaws, especially for the price. If you know what to expect, you won’t be disappointed.

If seeking one of these, prices used to be very cheap, but now is trending at $25-50 for the Vivitar in used condition, and from $24-60 for the Superheadz version, price dependent on the model and seller. For example, the black version called the “Slim Devil” runs near $40 from most sellers. You may find a good selection of the Superheadz version HERE.

I got my Vivitar on eBay for under $10 and paid $25 new for my “Yellow Peace” Superheadz clone. These cameras probably cost a few bucks to make, so even buying it for $25 is probably too much in principle. But since we don’t make these cameras (and no one else does) we have no choice ๐Ÿ™‚

Don’t go too crazy with these cameras. As I said, they were intended to be cheap and fun cameras, but now some may argue that they are Camera Legends in the toy camera department. Take that out of your head, they ARE cheap cameras. Try to find one cheap! ๐Ÿ™‚

***DEAL ALERT***

One great thing about Spring, other than the weather, are all the photographic deals going on. Some great deals and savings on Nikon Lenses are going on right now. If you’re going to buy, please buy through the link and help support this site. I greatly appreciate it, thanks!

Fujifilm Instax Mini Instant Film, 10 Sheets x 5 packs

Olympus has a very cool Trade Up program where you can trade in virtually any used camera and get monetary value towards the purchase of new Olympus gear including the OM-D series and the awesome new Pen cameras.

The Lowly Vivitar PS-20 Point & Shoot Camera

Vivitar PS-20

We live in a different age, different time. Everything is better. Cars, television sets, cameras. Heck, even the camera on your phone is likely better than many of the high end cameras you once had. Here’s a camera I wrote about in 2009:

This is my Vivitar PS-20 from 1987. Bought it for $20 bucks at a now defunct chain store called “Caldor”. This camera took me through the late 80’s and half of the 90’s, providing some of the most memorable (if techincally poor) images of my life.

It was part of my two camera kit in my simpler (and poorer) days of the 80s when I had only the Minolta X-700 and one lens, the MD 50mm f/1.7 plus this camera, the Vivitar PS-20. Somehow, I feel like I was much more focused than I am now with the countless cameras I have used. I long for those two camera days, and who knows, maybe that’s going to be a project for me…get rid of everything, use two cameras, and be a happy photographer again ๐Ÿ™‚

Ladies and gentlemen, this camera is the quintessential point ‘n shoot. It is what I would call a “SLC” or a “Super Low Class” camera. It is the ULTIMATE “Poor Man’s Camera!” It is poor, it is cheap, it is what people used to think of when they think of a point ‘n shoot camera. In fact, it says “Point ‘N Shoot” on the top of the camera! ๐Ÿ™‚

IT’S NOT ABOUT THE CAMERA

Today, lucky us, we have point and shoot cameras that can do so much more than this old Vivitar. Yet in some way, these new point and shoot cameras seem to have lost track of what it means to be a point and shoot!

That’s why I love this old Vivitar PS-20. It can’t do 30 megapixels. It doesn’t have a Zeiss or “GR” lens. It can’t do HDR. It can’t do HD Video. It’s not a “luxury” point and shoot. It makes no pretenses about being anything other than a point and shoot camera ๐Ÿ™‚

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“Joy Of Point ‘N Shootin” 2009. Baby Z gets a kick out of Papa’s old camera ๐Ÿ™‚

While this article is about the Vivitar PS-20, it is really not about the camera itself. It’s a tribute to the lowly point and shoot cameras of yore. To the thousands of lousy, but charming old point and shoots out there. The ones that are worth next to nothing, but have more heart and soul than a $3000 point and shoot.

The Vivitar PS-20 “Point ‘N Shoot” may never be a Camera Legend, but taken as a collective with its thousands of peers, they all could be considered Camera Legends.

SPECIAL NOTE ABOUT THIS CAMERA

This is the funniest thing, except it’s really not funny. A few years ago, some seller on Amazon apparently decided to swipe (steal) this pic from my Flickr stream and use it. You can see the Amazon ad in this link HERE.

I never made a big deal out of it because it’s not an award winning picture or anything and this camera is worth next to nothing. In fact, before I wrote about this camera back in 2009, I don’t believe there was any information on it anywhere on the web because I always do a little research before writing about anything.

As I said, I’m not mad or anything, but I do find it humorous. But if I, by some chance, had an award winning shot and someone used it without my permission, sure I would be pissed.

But this, nah, it’s something I’ve accepted as part of the deal when you post pics on the internet. When you post something to the internet, remember this is part of your “contract.”ย I’m sure the person who used the photo didn’t know any better.

The main thing people should remember here is, just as Napster once opened the MP3 Pandora’s box, so too do you when you post pictures to the internet.

I’ve always accepted that once you post something, it’s subject to theft or anything by anyone. So please, if you feel you have an award winning picture, DO NOT post full sized images. Put some kind of watermark or something.

If it’s just an average, everyday picture no need to do anything, no one will care. I hate watermarks or copyright logos actually. The only reason I put them here is so that people can remember the website, which is always a wise thing when you’re running a relatively new site.

More cameras to come, have a great week! ๐Ÿ™‚