Vivitar 220/SL: The Charm of a 1970s Film Camera

Last Updated on January 15, 2024

The Vivitar 220/SL 35mm film SLR is an intriguing blend of vintage charm and practical functionality. Priced affordably at around $20-30 US, this camera presents an excellent entry point for enthusiasts of film photography or collectors seeking a piece of history.

Vivitar 220/SL

Vivitar 220/SL Specs

Canon AE-1 35mm Film
The iconic 35mm camera stays as relevant as ever, boasting its AE (Automatic Exposure) system and focal plane shutter.
Year Release1975
Camera TypeSLR
Film Type35mm
MountPentax M42 screw mount
Shutter Speed1 to 1/1000, bulb
ISOASA (ISO) 25 to 1600
OperationMechanical, no battery needed (except for light meter)
Self-timer10 sec
Shutter TypeVertical moving metal Copal Square
Metering SystemSmall tab reset after each shot
Available ColorsProfessional black (often brassed) and silver-topped
Additional FeaturesExposure counter, film plane marker, X Sync hot shoe, M Sync terminal
FocusingMicroprism spot on focusing screen
Battery Requirement1.35 volt mercury cell (PX-675, E-675), Zinc Air Wein cell

General Aspects

One of the Vivitar 220/SL’s key attributes is its compatibility with the Pentax M42 screw mount, offering versatility in lens choice. The build quality is robust, featuring solid metal construction that contributes to its enduring appeal.

The camera’s top features include a manual film advance lever, a responsive shutter button, and a range of shutter speeds from 1 second to 1/1000th of a second, including a bulb mode for long exposures.

Adjustability is a key theme in the 220/SL’s design. The ISO setting can be modified by lifting the knob, allowing photographers to adapt to varying light conditions by changing the film speed. Remarkably, the camera operates mechanically and does not require a battery, except for its light meter.

The camera’s aesthetic is enhanced by the presence of patina on black models, which adds character and a sense of history. The self-timer feature, integrated with the light meter, is a useful addition for group shots or self-portraits.


Viewfinder clarity is critical in any SLR, and the Vivitar 220/SL includes a needle for the exposure guide in its viewfinder. However, it is susceptible to dust, necessitating occasional maintenance. Cleaning is straightforward, with the recommendation to use rocket blowers or a soft cloth.

While the light meter is a crucial component, its reliability can be a concern. Prospective buyers are advised to purchase from reputable sellers, as many units on the market may have nonfunctional meters. In terms of lenses, the camera can be upgraded from the standard Vivitar 50mm F1.8.

Options like the Takumar 55mm or 50mm are suggested for their superior quality. For portrait photography, a 35mm F2.8 lens is recommended for its better build and optical quality.

The camera’s shutter is a vertical moving metal Copal Square, its metering system, similar to older Spotmatics, includes a small tab that resets after each shot. The Vivitar 220/SL was manufactured by Cosina, based on the Hi-Lite 202 model, and is available in professional black and silver-topped versions.

Kodak Portra 400
Professional 35mm film: captures natural and smooth tones with precision.

Additional features include an exposure counter, a film plane marker, an X Sync hot shoe, and an M Sync terminal. The focusing system incorporates a microprism spot on the focusing screen, aiding in achieving sharp focus. The battery required is a 1.35-volt mercury cell PX-675, specific to its light meter.

The film speed range is broad, accommodating ASA (ISO) 25 to 1600. An indicator near the rewind crank shows whether a film cassette is loaded, a handy feature for avoiding accidental film exposure. It’s important to note that the Vivitar 220/SL lacks certain features present in its sibling model, the 250/SL, such as a battery check and a locking collar around the shutter release.

Vivitar 220/SL Photos


The Vivitar 220/SL is suitable for various photography types, thanks to its manual exposure control. This feature allows photographers to exercise creative control over their images. The condition of these cameras can vary, but typically, they are mechanically sound. However, the light meter might be nonfunctional, and it’s advisable to check the internals for cleanliness or try Sunny 16 Rule.

The Vivitar 220/SL stands as a testament to the enduring appeal of film photography, offering a blend of classic design, mechanical simplicity, and a degree of manual control that can be both challenging and rewarding for photographers.

Author: Jorge Ferrufino

Written by Jorge Ferrufino

I am a fashion photographer and an analog photography enthusiast since the beginning of my career (15 years ago). I have had the opportunity and honor of showcasing my work in various galleries and publications around the world.

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