Vivitar IC101

I've been admiring the photos Heather's been taking with her Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim for a while now, but I was really impressed with some of the shots she got with it on the latest leg of the Flickr World Tour. At the same time, epmd put the idea in my head to go looking for funky old film cameras.

Thus is was that I started an eBay keyword search for "vivitar". I figured I'd just see how much a Vivitar cost, and go from there. I found a few Ultra Wide & Slims for seven or eight dollars from a seller in the UK, but I didn't bite right away. Instead I bid on a new-in-box Vivitar IC101 Panoramic, just for shits and giggles. The minimum bid was $4.99, and the shipping was $5. I ended up being the only biddder, so for $9.99, the camera was mine.

the new camera box

Al's first remark when I opened the box was, "aren't those the kind of cameras companies *give away* as swag?" Uh, yeah. It's cheap plastic, light as a feather, requires no batteries as far as I can tell, and creaks under the pressure of my thumb when I advance or rewind the film. Perfect! Well, perfect for using up all the expired film I have lying around the house.

I used to shoot film quite a bit, but when I moved out of San Francisco and no longer had access to the dark room at the Harvey Milk Center, I let my film stores languish. I still take my Minolta x700 out from time to time, but after the instant gratification of the digital cameras, I found I was impatient waiting for film to be developed, and I grew annoyed at the expense. I also grew annoyed at the snobby film store employees who couldn't understand why I only wanted a CD and negatives, not prints ("why not just shoot digital, if all you want is a CD?"). I didn't think I should have to explain.

Anyway, back to the Vivitar and the expired film. I've got film canisters all over the place, some still in the boxes with dates on them (mostly 2004 and 2005), and some not (these could date as far back as 2000-2002, I'd guess). I figured that if I stuck these rolls in the IC101, took the camera with me on errands or my morning walk, and then got the film processed and scanned onto a photo CD at a local drugstore, it wouldn't be prohibitively expensive, and I might get some interesting results. Not beautiful, maybe, but interesting.

I picked up my first roll of 400CN (expired 10/2005) from CVS this morning, and I must say that I was pretty pleased with the results. As with everything I shoot, some shots worked and some didn't; some errors were the fault of the camera, some were mine. But once in a while, the two of us collaborated to make something special. Oh: before I get to the shots I like, I should probably mention that what Vivitar means by "panoramic" is not the same as what Kodak meant when it released its panoramic cameras that took special film, or what the Horizon will turn out. Vivitar means that it takes ordinary 35mm frames and letterboxes them.

This, as you can probably guess, totally confounded the film processing machines at CVS, so I got my negatives back as a taped roll rather than cut, and the JPGs on the CD didn't break at the right spots. Instead, up to a quarter of the previous frame would be included with up to three quarters of the next one. This isn't an entirely unpleasant side effect, and in fact enhanced at least one photo, in my opinion:

riding for exercise

I also kind of like the black bands of letterboxing, and I especially like how the upper edge of the frame is a bit ragged, giving a sort of sloppy borders effect.

view on a hazy morning

I took a mix of shots, experimenting with architectural details, different kinds of light, and following motion, as in the case of the two shots I took of bicyclists.


I also tried a few vertical shots.

outside the art museum

I like the slight distortion around the edges of the frame, which give some of the shots a surreal quality. I have no idea about the technical specs for the IC101 other than what I've read here; there was nothing aside from the label "focus free" on or inside the box. I can tell from looking through the viewfinder (which is cropped as the photos will be—helpful!) that the lens is pretty wide.

In any case, I've got my next roll (a standard Kodak 400 color film that I think I bought in bulk at Costco and that expired in February or April of 2004) in the camera now, and will post the results, if any, to Flickr. Just look for the vivitarIC101 tag.

railing, art museum

Posted by Lori in photography at 9:27 AM on September 19, 2007


These are great. What a cool experiment!

Posted by: juliloquy [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 19, 2007 10:51 AM

Neat photos!
I also like the happy accident of the mis-cutting of the jpgs-

Posted by: lara at September 19, 2007 11:00 AM

I love it! I use to develop photos and we had a special mask for developing panoramic photos. A lot of the staff would get confused when the film came out the developer and it didn't look like normal 35mm pics. It would always take a few times of explanation to get the employee to understand how to develop the picture correctly.

Anyway, I love the overlapping effect that occurred in the development of your pieces. Especially the last one, with the pavement on the left and the bridge on the right. I could easily see a piece like that on the wall in my undining room.

Posted by: Jenifer at September 19, 2007 5:32 PM

those are powerful stills indeed. I skimmed down part of the post, but the black and white i had to comment on.

Posted by: Ade Feks at September 25, 2007 1:40 PM

Hmm. Those are very nice shots. I wonder what kind of distortion and vignetting you would get on the corners and edges of the frame if you could remove whatever mask is producing the "panoramic" effect.

Posted by: Mitch at September 27, 2007 8:29 PM

Probably a decent amount. I'm already getting some with the mask on, and I've seen shots from others who've scraped the mask off (though I've yet to see anyone who was able to remove all of it). I'm having a ball with it -- I've got some TMAX 3200 in there now. :-)

Posted by: Lori [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 27, 2007 10:07 PM

I love these...I gotta get one o' those cameras sometime.

Posted by: Angela at September 28, 2007 3:21 AM

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