Over the past 70 years, Vivitar have built an excellent reputation in lenses and other photographic equipment. Now with a range of digital cameras, they're announcing themselves in the 21st century.
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Vivitar Vivicam 8370: Specification
- Resolution: 8Mp
- Image size: 3264x2448
- Zoom: 3x optical
- Aperture: f/2.8-4.8
- Shutter speed: 2sec-1/2000sec
- Sensitivity: ISO100-800
- Monitor: 2.4in LCD
- Storage: SD, Internal 32Mb
- Output: USB 2.0
- Power: 2x AA
- Size: 87.5x61.5x26mm
Vivitar Vivicam 8370: Modes and features
Around the same size as a pack of cards, the Vivicam 8370 makes no attempts to pass itself off as anything other than a point and shoot model. The approach that it takes is in fact quite refreshing as so many happy snapper cameras try to impress with hearty features and interesting modes. The face has the 3x optical zoom lens in a metal barrel but with plastic lens sheaths. The small flash at the top looks hardly big enough to illuminate even the closest of subjects but I've been caught out before with that line of thinking so I'll wait for the tests.
A small outcrop where the two AA batteries go act as a grip and the forefinger falls naturally into the curve. The top of the camera only houses the power button and shutter release and in a bid to keep everything simple and only three buttons accompany the menu and navigation pad. The zoom in the top right corner of the camera is an easy rocker device and feels sturdy with no give in the materials of the buttons. The thumb pad is raised slightly which is unusual but has been doubled up as the USB port. It's a good idea, but unfortunately the port is left open meaning dust, moisture and debris could get in and clog it up.
The three buttons are for playback, exposure compensation and mode button. Don't get confused by the latter as the icon is a letter M for mode, but I originally thought it was a manual mode. That is until I pressed it and it started scrolling through shooting, video and audio modes.
The navigation pad doubles up to allow quick access to macro, self timer, flash and audio recording modes. Pressing menu will take you into a rather unimpressive system of cartoon icons and Gameboy bleeps. The menu icons are reminiscent of old Kodak menus when they tried to get funky and youthful by using comic sans font. Luckily Vivitar haven't gone that far but have chosen Times New Roman instead. The menus are large and the writing small meaning you're confronted with lots of text and tiny pictures on each page. I think making the icons and letters larger and reducing the amount of stuff on each page would help even if it means adding a page or two of menus.
When entering the menu you're bombarded with a kaleidoscope of colours as you scroll through the system. The menu has been laid out quite badly in the sense that certain features don't need their own space. The face detection could have been put in set up and resolution and quality could go in the same area together. One of the tabs is OSD (On Screen Display) information and rotates through no info on screen, basic info, full info, rule of thirds grid and what Vivitar call a 6x4 grid. This grid is similar to the rule of thirds grid but has six lines across and four lines down. It's usually used by architects in their photography and when ePHOTOzine asked Hanika Joshi, PR executive for Vivitar UK, she confirmed that although the inspiration for the grid came from that genre, it's mainly added with the intent of aiding composition.
Not only is there many tabs in the menu, when the camera is switched to program mode from auto it opens up a whole load more. Extra menus include metering, continuous shooting, sharpness and effects which will change the image to black & white, sepia or negative. These features are a little behind the times as cameras are now becoming more advanced.
Vivitar Vivicam 8370: Build and handling
The Vivitar Vivicam 8370 has a styling similar to Nikon Coolpix compacts from a few years ago. It's slightly bulkier than today's compacts but the body does seem solid. Ergonomically, the buttons are roughly where you'd need them to be although my thumb sits over the mode button instead of the thumb pad.
The screen suffers little motion blur and no purple banding in bright light which is a problem more expensive cameras have succumbed to. This may be due to the aperture not working as quickly because when the camera is put in front of a bright area such as a window, it takes a second or two to adjust the aperture to compensate.
Working with the camera can be grating with the high pitched blip of each button press although the noises can be switched off in the menu.
The battery door is a force down and crush the batteries in type so opening it could cause them to spring out at you. The door is a little flimsy so be careful when opening and closing.
Vivitar Vivicam 8370: Performance
Start up time to get the screen activated is around the two second mark but isn't ready to shoot until nearer the four second mark, so wish that you're not in a rush using this camera. Focusing takes between one to two seconds depending on where the subject is in the screen. Shooting the macro image took some time as the camera struggled to focus on the subject.
The colour chart image shows a boost to blue but pales all other colours out in comparison notably orange and turquoise.
Looking at the colour test chart shows the primary blue punching out of the picture making the others seem sedate in comparison. The red isn't quite as rich as I'd expect and the green gives off a vibrancy not normally seen but gives it a paler look. The orange above the primary blue is deathly pale which is a little disturbing and a few other colours are flatter than they should be such as turquoise, brown and any of the greens along the bottom of the card.
Maybe I shouldn't put the camera into landscape mode as this seems to boost greens to an almost sickening level. The landscape has been left with garish coloured grass and at the same time lacks definition.
Purple fringing is evident on the white bars and the background is out of focus thanks to the f/5 aperture despite being in landscape mode.
The landscape image shows a huge boost to green and a lack of definition.
The macro image has a really good focal plane which can be seen along the slate floor.
The soft effect image.
The sharp effect image.
When the Vivitar Vivicam 8370 is in Program mode, more tabs open in the menu and one of them is a sharpening tool. Three settings are available and I tested the two extremities to see if a passable difference could be detected.
Looking really closely, the high sharpen setting does have a faint trace of that painted look that over sharpening can give, so it is working and is borderline over the top.
The Vivitar Vivicam 8370 also has a nice macro feature which gives really good depth of field. I shot a toy car focusing on the wheel but from my perfect viewpoint, the macro feature only found the rear of the wheel arch. Looking at the piece of slate that the camera sits on, you can see the thin band which is the focus plane.
Although slightly underexposed, the skin tones are good.
Vivitar Vivicam 8370: Metering and focusing
After the landscape shot blew the colours out of proportion, I dreaded what was going to happen in the portrait test and I couldn't have been more surprised. Despite slight under exposure and what looks like noise even at ISO100, the portrait shot is a nice result.
Using a flash filled in the shadows and balanced out the white background while adding catchlights. Testing the face detection also gave a good result as I composed the subject off centre. The face detection located the subject and tracked as I moved the camera around.
Using flash has eliminated the exposure problem and given a really well balanced shot.
Face detection works on the screen and even tracks an off centre or moving subject.
For a basic happy snapper model, I'm pleasantly surprised to see that it has a spot metering mode. If you're unfamiliar with this it takes an exposure reading from a tiny percent in the centre of the frame which means if it falls on a shadow, then the rest of the image will be over exposed.
The standard metering mode is multi metering which will take separate readings from various areas of the frame and make an appropriate reading from the analysis.
Focusing has no overriding features with the exception of the face detection system.
The ISO100 test.
Vivitar Vivicam 8370: Noise test
The Vivitar Vivicam 8370 has no over-riding ISO settings which I find unusual in a camera that has spot metering and a sharpening tool.
I used the usual method of dimming the lights and moving them away to force the camera to increase the ISO and at first the camera started using slower shutter speeds to keep the ISO100 setting but eventually it couldn't go any slower. However instead of raising the ISO, it simply refused to focus on the subject claiming that their was insufficient light.
I mentioned on the portrait image that I could see noise and there's evidence of it in the black area with just a smidgen sneaking through onto grey. Detail is available in the petals though I've seen better.
Vivitar Vivicam 8370: Verdict
I'm baffled as to why the ISO refuses to change from the lowest setting despite the lack of light instead opting for a slower shutter speed and increasing the chances of camera shake. Then if the light is too poor it refuses to focus.
I can understand that all the images will have a nice smooth result and using flash is the answer but it's just not cricket.
The menus need to be cleared up and stop looking like Pentax quite so much. Although Vivitar don't manufacture their own cameras but source the parts from other companies so maybe the menu software came from Pentax?
I think if you're a happy snapper looking for a camera that gives good portrait results or you want to find a cheap and cheerful gift for someone, then this isn't a bad choice.
Vivitar Vivicam 8370: Plus points
Good features such as spot metering
Excellent exposure on portraits
Good macro function
Vivitar Vivicam 8370: Minus points
Menu isn't well thought out
Start up noise and beeps sound primitive
Some colours muted in colour test
ISO refuses to change
The Vivitar Vivicam 8370 costs around £99.99 and comes with a 1Gb card. Take a look at the Vivitar website for more details.