Collecting Cameras

Is the new Reto Ultra Wide and Slim worth buying over a used, original Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim?

The Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim was so influential that it has now been remade at least twice.

The original VUWS. Alan Duncan photo.

This camera, which the cognoscenti call the VUWS, is an all-plastic 35mm fixed-focus point-and-shoot camera. It’s the kind that, when new, you found packaged in a blister pack and hanging on a hook in the photo aisle at Walmart.

Two things set it apart. First, it was barely thicker than the 35mm film cartridges that it took. Second, and far more important, its 22mm f/11 lens delivered surprisingly wonderful results. There was a little vignetting and softness in the corners, but everything else was tack sharp.

Photoblogger Mike Connealy (check out his site here) gives his VUWS frequent exercise and regularly shares incredibly pleasing images like these:

Mike Connealy photo, used with permission.
Mike Connealy photo, used with permission.
Mike Connealy photo, used with permission.

If you’d like to see more from Mike’s VUWS, this link will show you everything he’s published from this camera.

The VUWS has achieved cult status and prices reflect it. This camera probably cost under 20 bucks when it was new, but you can’t touch one for under $50 today on eBay, and prices are much more typically $60 to $75.

A company called Powershovel was first to remake the VUWS as the Superheadz Wide and Slim. Reviews around the Internet (like this one) say its lens is almost as good as Vivitar’s, but its rubberized body becomes tacky in time. The Vivitar’s body is non-rubberized plastic and remains smooth under use.

Reto Ultra Wide and Slim.

A toy camera company called Reto is in pre-production with another VUWS clone. You can pre-order one right now (here) for just 30 bucks.

Like the original, it packs a two-element 22mm f/11 acrylic lens set in a 1/125 sec. single-blade mechanical leaf shutter.

If you don’t like it in blue, you can also get it in charcoal, cream, pink, or yellow.

Unfortunately, shipping to the US is a whopping $25, making this camera not that great of a bargain. Patient and persistent eBaying will net you an original VUWS for not much more.

I’ve been impressed enough with Mike Connealy’s VUWS work that I’ve considered buying one, or a clone, for myself.

I think I’ll wait for a good price on an original. There’s not much to go wrong with these, and I’m sure to get original VUWS goodness rather than roll the dice that a clone is exact enough to capture the full magic.

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17 thoughts on “Is the new Reto Ultra Wide and Slim worth buying over a used, original Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim?

  1. Andy Umbo says:

    I’m always surprised at the results of modern computer aided lens design, coupled with precision acrylic lens molding. Within the confines of image size, the results are always surprising!

  2. Hey, thanks for featuring my pictures from the little vuws. I have a big collection of great old cameras, but the one that has made the most pictures for me in the last fifteen years is the Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim. I paid ten bucks for my first one, but I subsequently found several in thrift stores, and the last cost just one dollar. That has gotten a lot harder to do, but I’m sure there are still a lot of them out there that were purchased during the high point of interest in the vuws which now go unused. It is worth visiting the Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim group on Flickr where some very talented photographers have posted their work with the camera.

  3. I had a Superheadz Black Slim Devil for a while, and agree they have a great charm. Unbelievably light, and small but not too small that they’re fiddly to use.

    The biggest struggle I had with mine initially was framing and knowing how much would be in the shot. As I recall, the viewfinder showed much less than the 22mm field of view the lens captured. A couple of test shots on fixed signs helped me figure this out, and from then on it was fantastic fun to use.

    I sold the black one, regretted it, then bought a purple one, the “Slim Olive San”.

    Another similar camera I had was a Pentax PC-330. Not quite as wide at 25mm (according to the manual, though it says 26mm on the lens) but it had a much better feel to it. Annoyingly the flash was set to be always on, so I removed a couple of screws and cut a wire and that issue was solved. Great for sun flare shots.

    Slightly wider still is the Minolta AF50 Big Finder. It really does have a massive viewfinder, bigger than virtually all other compacts I’ve used. Also surprisingly sharp in decent light, and again great fun with the wide angle, simplicity of use, and that huge viewfinder that brings a smile to your face every time you raise it to your eye.

      • Yeh, though I miss those big immersive viewfinders found in the best film SLRs, I so love that with a digital camera with a screen, what you frame in that screen is exactly what you capture.

  4. This is one of my favourite cameras! I reviewed it last week on my blog along with who actually manufactures the camera. If you’re not picky about the color, you can pick one up for $28 new from the manufacturer on one of their brand websites (jelly-lens.com) and I believe that includes the shipping (at least it does for me).

  5. I have one of the superheadz versions of these in yellow and I still use it and love it – if that ever broke (and it has taken a battering in the last 12 years) I would definitely buy another. In fact I might just buy one of these just in case ha!

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