A new and updated Vivitar logo unveiled in 2016.
|Founded||1938; 79 years ago (1938) (as Ponder and Best by Max Ponder and John Best)
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
|Products||Camera and photographic accessories|
Vivitar Corporation was a manufacturer, distributor and marketer of photographic and optical equipment originally based in Santa Monica, California. Since 2008 the Vivitar name serves as Sakar International's house brand for digital imaging, optics, mobile accessories, and audio products.
The company's product line has included 35 mm SLR cameras, zoom lenses, flashes, film enlargers, binoculars, digital cameras, night vision products, point-and-shoot cameras, tripods, underwater cameras, and other photographic accessories.
The company was founded in 1938 as Ponder and Best by Max Ponder and John Best. Max Ponder headed the sales department, while John Best ran the operations side of the company. Ponder and Best first imported German-made photo equipment. After World War II, the partnership began to import cameras and photographic equipment from Japan. They were instrumental in the introduction of many brands into the American market, including Mamiya/Sekor 35mm cameras, Kobena 8mm movie cameras, Sankyo/Komura wide/tele adapter lenses and a full line of photographic darkroom equipment imported from many manufacturers throughout Japan and later Taiwan. Ponder and Best were the first to gain acceptance for lenses with interchangeable mounts allowing customers to use the same lens on different manufacturers' camera bodies.
In the early 1960s, the partners created the "Vivitar" brand to compete with major lens manufacturers. The company commissioned experienced lens designers and top-line Japanese optical lens manufacturers such as Kino Precision to produce their lens designs. By carefully positioning their limited product line with key photo retailers, they quickly built a reputation for good quality lenses at modest prices. The retailers found that they could make good margins while giving good value. As their reputation grew, many contract lens manufacturers sought them out to carry their products under the Vivitar brand. In the 1970s, Vivitar introduced its now-famous Series 1 lenses. These computer-designed state-of-the-art lenses were well priced and often outperformed the optics of camera manufacturers of the day.
After the success of its aftermarket lens line, Vivitar later introduced its own line of 35mm film cameras manufactured by Japanese companies such as Cosina. These include the Cosina-made Vivitar SLR and the Vivitar 35ES/EE series of rangefinder cameras.
Vivitar also offered a new type of semi-professional flash unit from National/Panasonic under the Vivitar label called the Vivitar 260. The flash was acclaimed for its innovative design, but criticized for its use of expensive 9 volt batteries. Recognizing the problem, Max Ponder travelled to Japan to meet with the manufacturer, offering suggestions for improvements based on the feedback received from customers. The improved flash was introduced in 1970 as the Vivitar 283. The Vivitar 283 quickly became the number one professional and enthusiast flash unit, outselling all its competitors combined and selling 3,000,000 by 1973. In production for over 30 years, it was twice returned to production after being discontinued in response to customer demand. The 283's sister flash was called the 285, and featured a zoom head to cover different focal length lenses and a built-in variable power setting. Earlier made-in-Japan Vivitar flashes have a trigger voltage of 250v, which can damage the circuits of some digital cameras. Newer units made in China and Korea are low-voltage units producing 5 to 12 volts. A point of note is the 283 has a removable sensor (as has the 285) and coupled the optional remote sensor cord, off-camera flash is possible with the gun still in auto mode.
After the deaths of Max Ponder and John Best, company ownership was transferred to a variety of owners. Some digital compact cameras were launched but were not successful. In November 2006, the corporation was purchased by public company Syntax-Brillian Corporation for US $26 million in stock and was operated as a wholly owned subsidiary. On August 21, 2008, subsequent to its filing for bankruptcy, parent company Syntax-Brillian completed the sale of the Vivitar brand name and intellectual property to privately held consumer electronics maker Sakar International, based in Edison, New Jersey. Sakar did not purchase Vivitar’s equipment, facilities or accounts receivable. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
In August 2008, Sakar announced plans to position Vivitar as a brand for its current mass retail digital cameras in the midprice range of $70–$300, along with certain camera accessories. New Vivitar-branded products such as digital photo frames are also planned, as well as potential licensing opportunities. In January 2009 Sakar introduced 3 new Vivitar-branded cameras and a digital SLR lens series. The products are Sakar's first Vivitar-branded SKU's since Sakar acquired the Vivitar brand. In addition to other electronics products, in 2013, they announced and then shipped the $150 XO Tablet, a 7-inch Android tablet designed for children, with a bilingual English/Spanish interface.
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