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Vivitar ViviCam F529 review: Vivitar ViviCam F529

The Vivitar ViviCam F529's price might be appealing, but there's nothing else attractive about either the compact camera itself or the photos it takes. Avoid it as you would a leper with head lice.

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Nik Rawlinson
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Nik Rawlinson

Nik Rawlinson has been writing about tech since Windows 95 was looking distinctly futuristic. He is a former Editor of MacUser magazine and one-time scribe for Personal Computer World. Nik is a freelance writer and is not an employee of CNET.

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3 min read

At just £55 or thereabouts, the Vivitar ViviCam F529 sits right at the bottom of the market in terms of price. Yet this compact camera boasts a 14.1-megapixel resolution, 5x optical zoom lens, 720p high-definition video and more. Could it be the bargain of the century, or is it an unspeakable waste of plastic and glass?

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3.5

Vivitar ViviCam F529

The Good

Cheap; small and light.

The Bad

Poor picture quality; tacky construction; low-res screen; useless anti-shake feature; numerous usability issues.

The Bottom Line

The Vivitar ViviCam F529's price might be appealing, but there's nothing else attractive about either the compact camera itself or the photos it takes. Avoid it as you would a leper with head lice.

Too good to be true

For £55, you might well expect a camera's feature list to be pretty sparse. The F529 seems surprisingly well equipped, though, boasting, in addition to its aforementioned specs, a 2.7-inch LCD screen, an anti-shake system, and red-eye-reduction and face-detection features. It's also conveniently small and light.

Colours are blotchy, grungy and either over-cooked or washed-out. Detail is poor, and the image is overly soft, as well as rife with picture noise. This is in a well-lit environment too (click image to enlarge).

Sounds too good to be true? It is. The shiny brushed-metal casing looks good from afar but, up close, you'll be able to see -- and feel -- how cheaply made the F529 really is. Everything from the tacky metal-look plastic rear to the hard-to-press buttons and the dodgy, spring-loaded SD card slot all reek of low-cost manufacturing.

Switch the camera on and you'll find yourself twiddling your thumbs for a good 5 seconds before you can actually take a photo. When the LCD screen finally spasms into life, you'll be treated to a blotchy, bleached-out, low-res picture that's barely adequate for composing your shots.

Sucks bad style

So far, so disappointing. But the F529's real problems aren't obvious until you actually start using it.

The camera's menu and navigation systems are pretty old-school but not entirely unintuitive. More annoying is the fact that important settings, like macro, are buried deep within the menus.

Simply taking a shot poses something of a problem, in that the shutter-release button is so resistant to being pressed that you invariably end up bodging your photo. The anti-shake feature does nothing to compensate for this or, from what we could tell, any other type of camera movement.

As for the photos themselves, one look at our test shots should tell you everything you need to know. The F529 produces dull, bleary-looking shots in which some colours are violently overcooked, while others -- highlights in particular -- are rendered as a greeny, grainy mess. Even in good daylight, your shots will look bad. There's so much picture noise that your eyes will go deaf. Chromatic aberration abounds and the overall image is soft to the point of being one big blur.

Detail is totally lost by the F529, despite having a 14.1-megapixel image sensor at its disposal. The anti-shake feature is a deeply unamusing joke (click image to enlarge).

Indoor photos are even ropier. An orange hue descends on everything you photograph and picture noise increases exponentially. ISO sensitivity settings of up to 400 are available -- as long as you can be bothered to hunt through the menus for them -- but, even in fairly well-lit interiors, shots end up far too grainy and blurry, unless you employ the built-in flash.

Video quality is just as bad and the accompanying audio is limited to tinny, barely audible mono. It's just as well there's no HDMI output, as you're unlikely to want to watch any of your footage back on the big screen.

Conclusion

It's almost impossible to say anything good about the Vivitar ViviCam F529's picture quality. Combine that fact with the usability and build-quality issues, and we just can't recommend this camera. It sucks.

Edited by Charles Kloet