PHOTOGRAPHY   © mike connealy
35mm Point & Shoot Cameras
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Until recently, not many junk stores were without a box full of cheap plastic cameras. For a dollar or two, you could get a camera with surprising capabilities, and the most consistent performers were likely to carry the Vivitar name. The plastic point & shoots which accepted 35mm film cartridges were sold in great quantities in U.S. discount outlets, but these days, one is more likely to find only cardboard disposables which are often poor performers.

The reloadable 35mm point & shoots all featured fixed focus, shutter speeds and apertures, and most offered the option of switching between the normal full-frame 35mm format and a panoramic mode achieved by a mask which produced a wide view by cropping off the top and bottom of the 35mm image.

The Vivitars were distinguished by their superior construction, ergonomics, compactness, and lenses that were extraordinarily sharp with remarkably little distortion for a simple lens design. The lens performance was achieved at very low cost in Hong Kong factories, often using computer-generated aspherical designs molded in acrylic plastic.

The plastic point & shoot cameras are diminutive descendants of the earlier box camera designs which also offered fuss-free operation, and like them, the little point & shoots allow the photographer to focus on style and content without technical distractions. Unlike the old box cameras, the last generation of plastic point-and-shoot cameras are ultra-compact and light weight, as well as having shutters with faster, shake-suppressing shutters.

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The Persistence of Film

"Film vs digital" and "The death of film" are two themes endlessly debated in the on line forums. Oddly, the relevance to the subjects of simple cameras is seldom brought up. If you need some some evidence of the importance of the Ultra Wide and Slim or its cousins to these issues, just take a quick look at the Flickr groups devoted to them. Participants in those groups -- as well as in the ones devoted to pinhole picture-making -- number in the tens of thousands.

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Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting PN2011
This was the first of my Vivitar 35mm point & shoot cameras. For two bucks, it made some great pictures.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hostingcv35
One of Vivitar's flashier models with a transparent case and built-in flash. Holga-like images with sharp centers and soft edges.

ULTRA Wide & Slim
The latest in the lineup. Increadibly compact
with a two-element wide-angle lens
that is very sharp across the frame.
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