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I have several friends that are very into photography. These guys mean serious business, carrying around hundred of pounds worth of equipment at all times, with one of them even gaining recognition as a music photographer. It's always been something I'm interested in, but not something I could afford to spend a fortune on, being an unemployed student. So, last summer, I purchased a Panasonic Lumix Ls5 from Comet, which promptly went bust (both the camera and the store) leaving me once again cameraless. I did without for a while, then this February I purchased myself a Vivitar Vivicam S325.
The decision was made largely based on economics - I was on holiday with family in Sussex, we happened to be in currys anyway, and there was a sale on. This camera was £35, which, given that it has many features, including a rechargeable internal battery, 16.1 MP resolution, and 3x zoom, was pretty good. Since mine was the last in the store, I managed to haggle a further discount for it being ex display, paying £30 with a 16gb SD card thrown in. My camera looks almost identical to the one above, except it is red.
Leaping straight in with the criticism here, the camera seemed to come with an awful lot of bumph. You naturally get the camera, the charger (which comes in two parts, allowing you to charge from the mains or via usb. The usb cable also allows the transfer of images to the PC.) and a driver installation disk (which I didn't use, my computer recognized the camera right away. There was also a lot of paperwork included - which initially was very pleasing, as I thought I was going to get nice in depth instructions that would really help me figure it out. Sadly, not so - there were seperate instruction books in different language, and the one in English was actually very brief. It shows you via diagram how to install the SD card, how to install the software, and how to download images. That's it. I'm going to go out on a limb and imagine more detailed instructions are included on the software disk, but I can't be too certain.
So, I figured out how to use the camera myself - and it wasn't that tricky, once I figured out which button enabled me to change modes. The camera does have all the features you're expect in a basic camera - an optional flash, options to take colour, black and white, or sepia photos, and an option to shoot video. There is of course a playback mode allowing you to view and delete shots, and you can change the quality of the shots you take, so if you want to take more you can lower the quality to make each image a smaller file. It's all very simple to figure out really, and I do think this camera would be a good one for a beginner, as it does have plenty of features, but nothing too confusing.
One of the features I do like is the rechargable battery, as my old camera would just eat them up and cost me a fortune. Don't get me wrong, battery life on this isn't terribly long on this, though it's quite sufficient for my needs - a full charge will last me for maybe 200 pictures (taking into account I view each after it is taken, and do tend to keep my camera on between shots just in case). Charging the camera to full takes maybe an hour and a half to two hours, and of course I can do this via the USB cable at the same time as uploading and viewing my images.
I have found the zoom, particularly when used in combination with the macro mode very useful, particularly for nature photography. Yesterday I went down to a local lake, and was able to take some stunning natural shots of a swan without getting close enough to disturb it, or more accurately for it to peck me. The zoom really has proved handy in picking out those little extra details that help to balance a shot.
The display on the camera is 2.4 inches, which is enough to give you a basic idea of how an image will turn out, though you never really can tell until you get it home and uploaded. I have on occasion taken shots that looked stunning on the on board display, but rubbish when shown at actual size. There really isn't any way of getting around this though without adding a lot of bulk to the camera, and I like that this is a nice compact camera that will easily slip into a small coat pocket or handbag for a night out. I've found thanks to the flash, adjustable ISO, and the opportunity to select a night mode it is also good for taking candid shots of nights out, provided areas are reasonably well lit.
I have had issues on a couple of occasions with the camera freezing - this needs resetting with a pin, that I carry about in the camera case at all times. So far, it has only happened a couple of times, but I am keeping an eye on it, as if it becomes too common an occurence I will perhaps have to return my camera to the shop.
I've had the camera a couple of months now, and so far I'm very happy with it, barring the odd instance of freezing up. A lot of my early photos with it were quite bad as it did take me a little while to figure out the focusing (which does take a few seconds each shot) but I've now gotten to where I feel confident taking a good shot, and I've even taken a few I would class as great.
I'm no camera expert, so I've not included a full list of all the various features - just mentioned the ones that I use and understand. For a list of full specifications you can visit http://www.vivitar.com/products/1/digital-cameras/1043/vivicam-s325 .
To see examples of my recent photos taken with this camera, feel free to visit http://fatalillusionphotography.imgur.com
Overall, I'm very impressed with this camera - it's sufficient for my needs, is easy to use once you've got the hang of it, and is lightweight and portable. The only slight concern is the freezing issue, for which I'm deducting one star.