Vivitar Tec 45 & Panasonic C-600

Vivitar Tec 45 / Panasonic C-600 Review – Remarkable Machines Without A Reputation – By Thang Nguyen

This maybe the first time you have heard of The Vivitar Tec 45? It’s a re-branded camera made by Panasonic for the US market, and is branded as the Panasonic C-600 for the rest of the world. I came across this hidden gem because I am an avid fan of Panasonic cameras, they are usually under-appreciated for their capabilities. For the most part, the film community often overlooks the name Vivitar because of an association with cheap products.

The Vivitar Tec 45 is a flagship compact auto-focus debuted in 1985, what caught my attention is the price tag – was more expensive than the big name cameras such as the Canon AF35m II, Nikon L35AF, even the Canon MC.

Vivitar Tec 45 & Panasonic C-600

The Panasonic C-600 and the Vivitar Tec 45 are identical in specs with a few minor cosmetic changes. The most notable change is the lens covers which act as the on off switch, on the Vivitar is a sliding cover that slides in and out similar to the Olympus Mju, on the Panasonic it’s a clear cover that will snap open quickly with a latch. To close, use your finger and drag the lens cover flap all the way to its original position until it snaps into place.

Despite looking more interesting, closing the lens cover on the Panasonic C-600 requires you to turn the camera over, facing you and use your finger to pull the flap back, not ideal if you have big fingers or want to turn the camera off quickly. Because of this I found the Vivitar Tec 45 to be more practical, also you can’t use auxiliary tele/wide lens on the Panasonic.

Vivitar Tec 45 & Panasonic C-600
I really like the “retro-futuristic” design of both Vivitar Tec 45 and Panasonic C-600, it’s minimal, neat and modern which makes it look more advanced than the rest of its contemporary competitors. On the top, you will find an LCD that strictly displays frame count, a self-timer switch and the shutter button.

Vivitar Tec 45 & Panasonic C-600 Top
Vivitar Tec 45 and Panasonic C-600 Top View

At the bottom there’s the 2 step rewind switch, a lens cover latch (for the Panasonic version only) and 2 battery compartments, one for 2 Lr44s batteries and one for double A battery. The Two Lr44s are used to power the LCD display so that it will always display the frame-count even if the camera is set to off. You don’t need Lr44s battery to use the camera, without it the camera will display the letter E instead of the number of exposure taken, to know the frame-count simply half press the shutter button with the camera on and it will show you. I wouldn’t bother with the Lr44s batteries unless you really want to see the frame counter when the camera is off.

Panasonic C-600 Bottom View
Panasonic C-600 Bottom View

The shutter button on the Vivitar Tec 45 is responsive, there’s a positive half press to lock focus. The viewfinder is bright, tinted, with guide lines and a focus lock confirmation circle inside along with 2 typical leds on the side. One thing I like about the Vivitar/Panasonic is that it doesn’t have the tendency to trigger the flash. You can also hold the flash down prematurely before taking a photo to turn it off without having to have it pop-up first.

Using the Vivitar and the Panasonic was a pleasant experience, the camera is so snappy that there was virtually no start-up delay, you can shoot as soon as the cover is open. The Vivitar/Panasonic is a two hands operated camera, the camera is sized just right for that purpose, the grip on either camera helps with securing itself onto your hands.

Vivitar Tec 45 and Panasonic C-600 Back
Vivitar Tec 45 and Panasonic C-600 Back
Panasonic C600's Unusual Lens
Panasonic C600’s Unusual Lens

Let’s talk about the greatest part of the Vivitar Tec 45 / Panasonic C-600 cameras: the lens with an unusual aperture of f3.2, it has 4 element in 4 groups. It’s very sharp, sharper than any of modern compacts I own, even sharper my Konica Big Mini F. The lens will produce a soft glamour glow from lens flare, which gives the pictures a gorgeous atmospheric lightning.

The images produced by this lens are neutral, meaning it will not crush your shadow and you will get more details on the highlights and shadows. The camera focuses from 3 feet (0.9 meters) and the shutter ranges from 1/30 to a fast 1/500. Here are some sample pictures below to give you an idea of the result produced using either of these camera.

Kodak Ektar 100
Kodak Ektar 100
Kodak Ektar 100
Kodak Ektar 100. An example of a dreamy glow from lens flare.
Kodak Ektar 100
Kodak Ultramax 400
Kodak Ultramax 400
Kodak Ultramax 400
Kodak Ultramax 400
Kodak Ultramax 400

Both Vivitar Tec 45 / Panasonic C-600 cameras are amazing and worth trying out if you’re looking for a classic snapper with an inspiring design.

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About The Author

21 thoughts on “Vivitar Tec 45 / Panasonic C-600 Review – Remarkable Machines Without A Reputation – By Thang Nguyen”

  1. brian nicholls

    A nice punchy review Thang letting the pictures do the talking eh, and they certainly speak volumes about these ‘classic snappers’
    Very well done on your part and both are on my GAS must-have shopping list

  2. Holy Cow look at the prices!

    I got excited for one hot minute as I’ve got an old slide-lid Panny somewhere – turns out it’s the C-500 – different lens but still 4×4 (lens, elements). Might give it another go, see if it has any fairy dust on the lens too.

    1. The Panasonic C-500 or the Vivitar ps:35 are the economy versions of the C-600/Tec45, they look very similar to its premium version. They are still pretty great as they still a mid class p&s, there’s a review of it on this site, you should definitely try it.

      1. Looking back at the C-500 photos they’re not bad – Sounds similar in terms of contrast to it’s fancier brethren.

        However, also ordered a Tec45 from Germany woohoo (GAS is a difficult affliction lol) – Thankfully at around 1/6 the crazy price of the Panny, including postage.

    2. Keith McGovern

      They look strikingly like a Minolta 35 af-s, the vivitar has the same focal length and max aperture! I wonder if they are related somehow?

  3. Sacha Cloutier

    It’s funny how rebranding was such a common thing in the photography world. Companies seemed to have lower versions made, still reaping the rewards behind the scenes.

    Great review!

    1. Gosh yes – Loads of Rollei’s P&S models were rebranded Samsungs, some others were Panasonic, and maybe one or two were Fuji.

  4. Hi! I love your photos, and am very excited to see my first roll on this camera. I just recently inherited my dad’s Vivitar TEC45, and I’m still very new to it. I have a few questions, if you have the time.
    1. Does the film automatically rewind once the roll is done?
    2. What do the two buttons near the tripod mount do? lol.

    Thank you so much! I can’t wait for your reply.

    1. 1. No the camera doesn’t automatically rewind when the roll is done, if you reached the last frame, the camera will not advance after you try take another photo. You will know you need to rewind when you take a photo and the camera doesn’t make noise.
      2. Both button are for film rewind, you have you engage both in order to rewind the film.

  5. Have you had to replace the built-in lithium battery? I have a Vivitar TEC 35 that’s flashing “SOS” on the LCD display, which seems to indicate that the bill-in lithium cell needs replacing. I haven’t been able to find info online that says anything about replacing that battery.

    1. Both the Vivitar Tec 45 and 35 doesn’t have built-in battery. In the Tec 35 the battery is a replaceable cell battery that you can replace if you take the bottom off, fairly easy, may require soldering. The Tec 45 it’s a user replaceable 2 lr44 as you can see in the post. I went through like 8 Tec 35 and they seem to have all sort of issue. If the flash on your Tec 35 pop-up and it takes picture, it works. If the flash doesn’t pop-up then it likely won’t work, but yes, replacing the battery will remove the SOS error. I wouldn’t bother with the Tec 35s because of the overly complex circuitry combined with their old age, most are broken.

      1. Hi Thang, just got a Vivitar Tec 35 today, same problem…the flash won’t pop up, film won’t load. The SOS error. But the rewind button works. Must be broken. Dishonest ebayer I think.

        1. The only thing that works on broken TEC 35s is the rewind button, I’m certain yours is broken, replacing the battery won’t fix it.

  6. Love this review. Great photos that really give you a sense of the lens quality as well as just being beautiful to look at. I think the jetty and the fallen tree might be my favourites.
    I enjoyed your review so much I went on the hunt for one of these cameras, but Vivitars seem quite scarce and the Panasonics were too much money. Amazingly chanced across one with the old National branding. It looks exactly the same, but it has manual ISO settings on the front under the lens. Just hoping it’s still in working order when it gets here!

    1. Nice score, the Panasonic national model you have (C-500af) is the economy/ downgraded version of the C-600af/Tec45. It has a slower lens, no dx coding and the flash has to be manually activate, not automatically pop-up. The Panasonic National C-500af is a rebranded of the Vivitar PS:35.

      1. That is what I thought at first too, but the camera clearly says C-600AF on it, and the lens is the same: 35mm with aperture of 3.2 – not 3.8 like the 500. You can see it here:
        The manual ISO made me wonder if it’s slightly earlier than the Panasonic branded models.

        1. Yeah, you’re totally correct, it’s must be an earlier release as National is a Panasonic’s brand of consumer electronic. This version has a less defined design than the one with auto iso. Other than that I think it’s identical to the C-600AF, some people prefer manual iso as well.

          1. Camera has arrived and all seems to work except the flash – I haven’t yet got it to pop up or fire. I can feel some give from the spring so considering trying to gently lever it up. I haven’t got the LR 44 battery in but presume this shouldn’t affect flash function. Does it normally pop up as soon as the camera turns on?

          2. Yes, the Lr 44 batteries doesn’t affect the flash and no the camera flash only pop-up only when you half press the shutter button. Many of my Panasonic have that problem that the flash doesn’t pop-up, try this. Slide the camera cover open so it’s on, open the batteries compartment, now hold the shutter button half-way, rapidly push down until it touches the batteries and makes contact with the batteries (the lcd should show something and the led should light up), then quickly release the batteries cover. Keep doing this at least for a minute, remember to keep your finger on the shutter button halfway the entire time you’re doing this.

  7. Ibraar Hussain

    Really nice photos ! Really like the rendering and the look
    I have the Panasonic Mini C525AF – it was my first camera, bought by my sister in 1990 and she gave it to me in 1994 as I had been using it. That has a F 3.5 35mm lens with multi coating. Not sure whether it’s similar to the one on the 625AF.
    I’m going to be shooting it in anger for the first time since I last used it in March 2000. 23 years later – I’m going to write a review of it too and post it here

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