The 1990s had a strange fascination with faux-panoramic and crappy plastic cameras. I’ve previously written about the Ansco Pix Panorama camera. I’ve also written about the Ultra Wide and Slim. Somewhere in between the two lies this camera: the Vivitar PN2011.
Vivitar, in classic fashion, merely hung their name on this camera. It seems to have been sold in Europe as the PN919 without the Vivitar badge. The Vivitar PN2011 was a “focus free” (fixed focus) 35mm plastic camera with a twist. With the flip of a switch, you could convert it from taking a wide angle shot to a panoramic shot. It wasn’t a true panoramic camera. There is no swing lens in that plastic body. There is a cool system that narrows the frame, essentially performing an in-camera crop to the shot.
When I first heard of these cameras, I was pretty stoked and went looking for one. Unfortunately for me, Lomography had just run an article on them and the eBay prices had shot up to absurdity. Eventually, they moved on to a different flavor of the month, and the insanity subsided.
This is the first plastic camera I’ve owned that I can talk about the build quality and say it actually has some. The plastic this body is made of is substantial. Unlike the Black Slim Devil, everything is easy to work and does not flex when I try to do it. The same feel applies to the mechanisms inside the camera that perform the panoramic crop.
The lens is a plastic 28mm f8 protected by a switch that is marked PacMan mouth open or PacMan mouth closed. While the viewfinder gives you much distortion, the lens thankfully does not. When it flares, though, it’s spectacular, often to the point of wiping the whole frame out. The lens is soft, more than I expected. The shutter is a single speed of 1/125th of a second.
The body has a tripod mount, which is a bit odd. The only shutter speed is too high to require a tripod. There is no way to add a shutter release, and the camera obviously lacks a self timer. I think the only way to shoot a self portrait with it is the classic My Space one arm approach. Which will probably end up being too out of focus to be usable. Which leaves only the Facebook bathroom mirror approach. The benefit is you can just scan the negative backwards and be done with it.
I’ll be tossing my PN2011 in a backpack for a jaunt up a mountain soon. Faux panorama cameras have earned a place in my tool box, and this is a fine one.
The Vivitar PN2011