Vivitar 400 SL

Vivitar 400 SL

click for sample



Another great all-metal mechanical SLR right in there with its contemporary Ricoh, Mamiya, Fujica and Yashica M42-mount SLRs in terms of features and quality. Nicer than some, in fact — rugged, well-designed and well-made, a great ‘sleeper’ bargain. Great features like strong metal focal plane shutter a la Praktica and Konica; hot shoe, push-button stop-down metering, and mirror lock-up during self-timer exposure again like on the Konica T3.

So here I was doing the usual things like comparing body style, rewind release button, match needle indicator, etc. to determine that this was a Cosina-made camera and lo there it was on the bottom plate: “MFG. BY COSINA JAPAN”. Heh. That’s right up there with the little “Ricoh” sticker on the front of the Focal TLX, the K-Mart version of the Ricoh TLS, also sold as the Sears TLS. That camera was based on the Cosina Hi-Lite design (the forerunner to this model, which is based on the Hi-Lite EC design).

The Vivitar 50mm 1.9 standard lens is virtually identical to the Cosinon 1.8 that came with my Argus/Cosina STL 1000 (as the camera is), and since the reflections of the lens elements look the same I’ll conclude that this is also a 6-element, 4-group lens. A great performer too, even wide open, though the depth of field at close range at that aperture is very small, as you might expect. The sample photo was taken stopped down to f11 I believe.


Light seals. Otherwise great. A new favorite!

Tips & Tricks

Stop-down metering activated when you press the shutter release halfway — the aperture blades stop down and the meter turns on. What you would normally think is an aperture PREVIEW button is actually an aperture RELEASE button next to the lens. If you press the button halfway and the blades stop down, you press the aperture release button to open them up again and deactivate the meter. Aha! I found this very useful at small apertures.

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