We all want a decent shot of ourselves in front of the Egyptian pyramids, but no-one wants to pester a man in a fez until he agrees to take a shot of you. With a flip-out screen, the Vivitar iTwist F536 hopes to provide the answer to this problem. At around just £80, it could be a very cheap way to put yourself in the picture.
Vivitar is an American company known mainly for producing lenses, flash guns and other photographic accessories. Recently, the company's tried to move into the digital camera market, and the F536 is typical of the kind of populist cameras that the company makes.
The F536 is available in a veritable rainbow of colours, including black, blue, silver, pink, purple and red. From the front, the device looks like many other family-friendly cameras.
The iTwist's unique selling point is its screen. Unlike most compact cameras, the F536 features a fold-out LCD panel, similar to that which you might see on a camcorder.
This screen appears to serve no purpose other than enabling you to see yourself when taking self-portraits. The screen doesn't even rotate upwards or downwards, which would have helped when taking high- or low-angle shots. The hinged panel also makes the camera feel large, adding a good half inch to the thickness of the unit.
The screen itself is of a pretty poor quality. It's almost like something you might have seen on a digital camera from around five years ago. It's also fairly small, measuring just 2.4 inches diagonally. It's pretty low-res too, producing smeary visuals and wholly inaccurate colours.
The build quality of the F536 is poor. The buttons feel cheap and plasticky and the door to the battery and memory-card compartment feels flimsy. In fact, the spring-loaded SD card slot on our review model started to show signs of malfunctioning within just a couple of days of regular use.
As well as a 5x optical zoom, there are a number of other features available, including a somewhat ineffectual anti-shake mechanism, and the usual face-detection and red-eye-reduction capabilities.
The on-screen menus are crude but fairly easy to navigate -- or at least they would be if there were an instruction manual on hand to tell you what all the options actually mean. Our unit was supplied only with a brief 'easy guide'. The full PDF guide we expected to find on the supplied CD-ROM was entirely absent.
The camera's sensor might be capable of capturing 14.1-megapixel images, but that doesn't necessarily mean you're guaranteed a good photo. Indeed, the picture quality is very unpredictable -- and that's being charitable.
The camera's automatic functions seem unable to make a good call on any front -- exposure, sensitivity, focus and colour are all wildly off the mark. There's loads of picture noise in every frame, even when you're shooting in broad daylight.
The F536's packaging has the term 'high definition' plastered all over it, but we couldn't find an option to record video at anything higher than a standard-definition, 640x480-pixel resolution. The video quality is, frankly, appalling and the mono microphone is barely able to pick up any sound at all.
Vivitar's much-touted one-click YouTube feature certainly makes it relatively easy to upload clips to the website, but the chances are that you won't feel like showing off much of the footage you shoot on this camera.
The only interesting thing about the Vivitar iTwist F536 is its twisting screen, and, technically, it doesn't even twist -- it just folds out. Otherwise, it's a wholly unremarkable piece of equipment. We've seen better photos and videos from mobile-phone cameras. It can't even justify its budget price tag. Avoid.
Edited by Charles Kloet