There’s poor man’s Xpans, and there’s craptastic plastic. The Vivitar IC101 falls into the latter category. I picked it up for AU$10, which is probably twice as much as it’s worth, but it does have some cool features for a focus-free plastic camera. Firstly, it has a lens cover. Secondly, it has a frame counter. You may take these for granted, but in the world of cheap pano cameras, these are premium features.
The viewfinder is full pano, almost giving you that Hasselblad XPan feel. The lens is a 35mm plastic f/8 beauty, with the shutter fixed at 1/125 second. I took it down the beach on an overcast summer’s day loaded up with some ILFORD FP4 PLUS. I enjoyed using it in the surf and on the cliffs in northern New South Wales.
The lens is not sharp. In fact, it makes the images I took with another plastic camera, the Disderi Robot, look like they were taken with a Contax G2 in comparison. Yet the photos have a charming, lo-fi, impressionistic, almost pinhole look to them. Even more so because of the tiny jagged edges the pano gates have left on the images.
I only bought the camera because earlier in 2020 my friend Antony suggested I should run a pano challenge via my podcast, Matt Loves Cameras. Antony received a Wide Pic panorama in the 2019 EMULSIVE Secret Santa, from none other than Mr Sunny 16 himself, Graeme Jago. So I bought the Vivitar, and the competition was launched!
The Matt Loves Panos challenge is on until 30 June 2020. There are five rules:
- The camera must be made of plastic.
- The camera must be fixed-focus.
- The camera must weigh less than 150grams / 5oz.
- The camera must take taking images in panoramic format.
- If the camera needs any kind of battery to operate, it’s probably not eligible.
So far we’ve had some cracking entries in the plastic pano competition from Australia, the UK, the USA, Thailand and New Zealand.
If you have one of these cameras, this is a call to arms: let these fixed-focus plastic beauties have their day in the sun. When you’re finished a roll (or two), head over to the Matt Loves Panos competition page on my website where you can find details of how to enter.
The prizes aren’t worth mentioning, but if we get some good entries, we might do a zine.
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This series is produced in conjunction with Hamish Gill's excellent 35mmc.com. Head on over to read the other half of these stories there.
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