Beginner's question(s) on an old Vivitar


TPF Noob!
Jul 4, 2013
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My very first post and not sure if it's best suited for the beginner's or film forum, so apologies if it needs to be moved.

Quick background: I have a Vivitar 35EF handed down from a now-deceased relative, and when I received the camera I had absolutely no idea what to do with it. It didn't come with a manual and I didn't know a single person still using film (I'm a 20-something with friends wielding iPhones for photo purposes), so I basically just loaded it up with a roll and started taking photos. That worked out well enough at first, I was downright gleeful when I had the roll developed and there were actual images there, but at some point I realized that I needed to learn the basics of film and figure out exactly what the hell I was doing aside from just pushing the shutter button.

I had someone check out the camera and I was told it's in good working condition, other than the fact that the meter is shot/isn't actuating. Truth be told, I'm not exactly sure what that means. Eventually I tracked down the manual (, and while it cleared some things up, I'm still pretty confused. My biggest concern: I assume the meter being shot is why I don't have the meter needle visible in my viewfinder, so it seems like the automatic exposure system isn't doing much for me. I also end up getting a few overexposed/underexposed photos, which leads me in my newbie brain to think that the aperture needs to be adjusted for certain shots (I keep the film speed at whatever is recommended for the film and pop the flash in the nighttime), but I take it that it can't be manually adjusted with an AE system? I know I'm talking Film 101 here, but if someone could help me out, it would be much appreciated. :)
Your camera is "AE only" so the only exposure adjustment you can make is the film speed setting. But, if the meter isn't working then changing that won't change your exposure. I presume the camera has a default exposure and that it was it's giving you.

Your camera accepts 2 sets of batteries -- one set (AA) for the flash and another (PX675) for the AE system. Have you tried installing fresh meter batteries? You can use "675 hearing aid" batteries available at most drug stores to see if that works.
I looked at the manual and saw that the range of the exposure system is from f/2.8 at 1/60 second, down to as little as f/22 at 1/350 second, so that should allow the camera to set "slow" or "longish" exposures with the lens wide-open at f/2.8, at 1/60 second for moderately dim indoor shots, up to sunny beach shots made at f/22 at 1/350 second, all assuming film of 400 ISO speed. You shoukld follow compur's advice above and get a light meter battery and install it, and then test the shutter to see if the exposure regulating system is working in both bright and dim light. With an empty camera, advanced at least to frame #1, point the camera toward bright light and look into the lens from the front and watch closely as you shoot blank frames; the shutter should appear to run "fast", and with a small opening visible very briefly. Aimed toward dim light, the camera ought to open the shutter slowly, like at 1/60 second, and a BIG hole ought to be visible (f/2.8) when you look carefully into the lens from the front.

The meter's NEEDLE might very well not be functioning; meter needles were notorious for conking out. But the shutter's timing circuitry and the exposure regulating system might be workable, if there's a battery to power the shutter timing circuit. I looked at the manual, and could not find a basic, mechanical shutter speed or f/stop listed, but it was pretty common to have ONE, single mechanical speed on many cameras of that era that used electronic timing.
Thanks much for your replies. I went right out and bought a new battery, and since I can now see the meter needle (for the first time since I've started using the camera) and the shutter seems to be working properly, I think I'm good. Guess we'll see once the roll is done and developed, but I think this is going to be a much better set than I'm used to. By the way, Happy 4th!
Be careful!! Shooting film can be addicting. My experience has been that I take better pictures using film because I know I can't take a dozen shots and throw 11 away like the digital. Right now I have 4 cameras l oaded with film for various purposes. There is always a digital camera in the glove box in the car but it gets used very little as I usually have film handy. There are so many film cameras available so cheap on Craig's List & E-Bay it is always easy to upgrade.

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