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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