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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.