3.15.2017

A Deal in Teal: The Vivitar 5500PZ

I call her Viv, and she's the 90's type!


Potentially insensitive remarks aside, some cameras make clear reference to the decade in which they were made. One look at a Kodak Bantam Special and it is rather quickly apparent that it is a product of the 1930's. A Kodak Brownie Hawkeye certainly exudes the postwar design of the 1950's. And then there is the Vivitar 5500PZ, a camera that more or less screams that it was made in the 1990's. 

Perhaps screaming is an overstatement. Perhaps a more fitting depiction would be to say that this camera strongly echoes its early 1990's origins.  And this embodiment is proclaimed in the simplest of forms: a few accents in teal. 

Teal was, perhaps more than any other, the official shade of the 1990's. The color spread through furnishings and fashions and seemed to be the mandatory color of choice for sports franchises born in the era. Fresh at the time, the tone gradually grew out of favor and presented a dated look. 

This Vivitar spotlights teal to contrast with its black body to present a look seemingly right out of the Jacksonville Jaguars uniform template. As a result, looking at it makes me crave a game of Super Street Fighter and a cup of TCBY.



Top view of this Vivitar reveals a very basic layout, showing an infinity focus button, self timer button, power switch, and shutter release that is hued in the trademark teal tone. 

But despite its dated styling, this rather ordinary Vivitar had one thing going for it that roused my interest: a Series 1 lens.   

See way back when, I had a buddy who had a similar Vivitar Series 1 camera (sans the teal accents) and I remember it being a particularly competent camera capable of impressive images. I had at one point toyed with snapping one up at some point,but never did. But here in the Goodwill, a very cheap example was looking at me, and I couldn't pass up the urge to see if the results from this camera really were as good as I had remembered.  It wasn't the most lovely camera I had ever seen, but it certainly beat most of the generic crop of point and shoots at being indicative of its era.  And the fact that I'd actually rather wanted a camera of this line at some point keeps it out of the Point and Shoot Pity Party company in spite of its low price tag and basic features.  

While I had wanted to see what sort of colors the Series 1 could render, my pickup of this camera as Winter approached led me to choose a roll of Plus-X Pan for its inaugural roll. By pure coincidence, this roll of film was more or less a complete contemporary of the camera into which I was loading it. I hoped for a 1990's match made in heaven the likes of Macaulay Culkin in a John Hughes movie, and expected the camera would rate the DX coded 125 film at 100 to add a touch of extra exposure for the 20 year old film. 

Sometimes, it is the oddest things for me.  I really like the font in the frame counter.  Not only is it easy to read, it reminds me of the numbers on old transit roll signs

The viewfinder is as basic as they come.  Some framing lines and a focus frame are superimposed, but no other information. 

Unfortunately, the old slow film and some endlessly overcast skies put old "Viv" to the test, and the results were some underexposed negatives that scanned to deliver some passable but grainy images.  This was actually OK, as the results seemed to complement the generally bleak settings, and still gave me a decent idea of the sharpness and snap of the Series 1 lens.  


Trick shot.  Didn't fool this camera!  It actually seemed to focus on the end of the rail in foreground to diffuse the focus in the distance!  Well played Viv! 

A wider angle shot shows impressive sharpness on the corners, even on this very dated film. 

On other shots, the camera didn't do as well with the old Plus X film.  Contrast is a bit lacking, but this scene was also not terribly well lit. 

Again, I can't bemoan the sharpness of the Series I lens on this image. 

I shot these images at the same time I was shooting with the Olympus featured in the Point and Shoot Pity Party #1, and I have to admit a certain preference for how this camera handled images over the beefy Oly.

A scene with challenging lighting was handled only marginally by the Vivitar. 

There was something interesting as to how this camera and film rendered contrast like this. 


Full Zoom above, widest zoom below.  Not a massive difference. Not a pair of very impressive photos either. 


Not the greatest tonality, but this is more due to the dated film and how it was stored. 

Again, very well played by this camera.  Not the most stunning bokeh in the world for the backdrop, but it's to be expected.  

Yet again, a decent result given the conditions. 

I just could not seem to catch a nice day to use this camera, but it did a decent job with its limited functions. 

Murky shadow detail.  Ugh.

The "Parking Garage With a View" warrants a return visit.  

A very quick "car is coming down the hill behind me so let me slow and snap this through the open passenger window" kind of shot that this camera actually pulled off! 

About a good a test of close focus as I could muster in the January murk. 

Some mushiness evident in the trees in the distance here. 

I'd hoped to focus on the tower but it thought the wall was more of interest. 

Again, it did what I'd hoped it would. 

On the surface the Vivitar 5500PZ is very limited in features, and will hardly be of interest to most shooters.  It just so happened that it warranted a nostalgia point in my favor to make me want to give it a try.  Overall, in looking at the results, I really can't say that I am greatly disappointed in any of them, and am actually surprised at how it managed to pull forth some decent results in some dismal light.  That said, I did try a couple of later evening shots and the camera failed to render anything of use, thanks to not having a very slow maximum shutter speed.  

Still, it is safe to say that I would gladly want to give this camera a go with some color film in better conditions in the not too distant future.  It turned out to be well worth the half a sawbuck that I put forth to pick it up!