30mm and 24mm, autofocus, small, fast, built-in flash… Need I say more? Enter the prince of wide-angle compacts!
Let’s start off with the most important feature on this beauty, the 24mm lens. There’s a little catch though, it’s not “fullframe”. But, rest assured, there is also a solution.
The R1 has a 30mm f3.5 lens in standard mode, but it has a 24mm lens in panorama mode. One might wonder why the designers of this camera decided to f*ck up that wide-angle lens by putting a panorama mask on it. Nevertheless, there is a solution! On the internet you can find a couple of ways to block the mask, which results in a full-frame 24mm lens, a unique feature on a camera this size. The thing that worked best for me, can be found on this website
The lens wasn’t designed to be used full-frame, which results in vignetting and loss of sharpness, but aren’t those the things we love so much? A small disadvantage of the 24mm lens is that it has a minimum aperture of f8, but that’s no problem when you use it on clear (or slightly cloudy) days and you can always use the flash.
There’s a switch on the back to put it on 30mm standard, 30mm pano and 24mm pano (but since I blocked the mask, it’s just a 30 and 24mm). That switch is handy, cause you can keep it on the lens you want to use. I practically use the 24mm all the time, only when it’s a low light situation I switch to the 30mm since it can stop down to f3.5.
The R1 switches on fast, is autofocus (3-zone), and the AF does the job well. I haven’t encountered any problems other than when I made a mistake myself. It can focus to a minimal distance of 35cm, nice!
It has a couple of modes you can select. There are three buttons on the left on top of the camera. First off, the flash modes (red eyes/off/on/slow synchro), when you haven’t selected anything it’s auto. The second button is the timer button, which you can use to trigger the camera with a remote (optional) or take pictures with a timer of 10 seconds. Last of all, you have the “creative modes”-button, which hides a couple of nice extra’s: super night mode, infinity mode (focus on infinity) and single AF mode (spot focus).
A little bit more on those Creative Modes. In Super Night Mode “the camera automatically selects the optimum settings for pictures of night scenery, pictures of people at night (slow synchro photography), and evening or day landscape pictures.” So the R1 decides itself whether it uses a flash (fill-in, slow synchro,…) and whether focuses on infinity (landscape) or closer. I haven’t tested this thoroughly but it must be handy in some situations. The Infinity Mode is useful in situations where there’s little contrast in the picture and the camera could have trouble focusing (snow, mist,…). The Single AF Mode is used for pre-focus shooting.
It’s very small. The right side of the camera is about as thick as a 35mm film canister, it just fits a film. The rest of the camera is smaller. It fits easily in a coat’s or even a pants’ pocket. I’ve already dropped it a couple of times by carrying it my pocket, although it has sustained a bit of damage, it’s still working fine. A well-built machine. The R1 is fueled by a CR2 battery, which are quite expensive, but if you don’t use the flash that often it probably lasts a long time.
The Ricoh R1 has built up some cult-status in the meantime, but is still quite affordable. But beware, there is a common problem with lcd’s that died out, which doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t use the camera. On mine the lcd works fine and I’ve only paid about 30 euro for it, which was a bargain. Normally they go for twice or three times that price. If you ever encounter one of these for a nice price, don’t hesitate, you won’t regret it. It’s one of my favourite’s since I bought it. The only thing it lacks is maybe an mx-button (just reload it) and a hotshoe (you could use a slave flash).
Now about the pictures. In some of them you can still see the panorama mask. At first I wasn’t able to block them completely, but since I found another way to do it, the mask is gone. I really like the results this camera produces, especially with the 24mm, what a nice lens to have on a compact. The camera is excellent in daylight and especially on sunny days. For low light photography the 30mm is recommended. I’ve tried it with three films: a cross-processed Elitechrome 200, a Fuji Reala 100 and a Klick max 24. I prefer the cross-processed ones, but that’s personal. I’m doing a multiple exposure now, check my home for a new batch soon.
There aren’t a lot of other compacts that have a wide-angle like this. There is the Vivitar UWS, but that’s another league. Nikon has the AF600 which has a 28mm (expect a review of that one soon), which is yet to be tested but hihgly promising. In the higher price range there’s the Ricoh GR1 (24mm), Nikon 28ti (28mm, next to the 35mm lens on the 35ti) or the Ricoh GR21 (rare, with a 21mm lens!). That’s about it, so this camera comes highly recommended, especially considering the price and features. They’re quite rare though so be on the look-out.
Let’s sum it all up:
- and let’s not forget a nice 30mm
- good autofocus
- several flash and creative modes
- a 24mm!
- built-in flash
- 24mm lens minimum aperture is only f8
- modification needed for fullframe 24mm
- cr2 battery
- no hotshoe/mx-button
- dx (you can’t change the iso manually, or you’d have to use home-made dx-labels)
Conclusion: find one!