The instant you see the Ricoh ff90 you know it was made in the 1980’s. it looks like it got in a fight with 80’s style and lost! Just look at those angles! I am fortunate enough to like this sort of design, it is possible that being a child of the 80’s and being subjected to such things at an impressionable age left it’s mark. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t choose something based on this sort of design, I’m just not offended by it. It’s also somewhat of a brute of a thing, it’s taller and wider than my Yashica T5, not fatter though. Luckily I’m a wearer of loose fitting trousers so my pockets are plenty big enough for a camera like this, but I would doubt everyone would be comfortable with the bulge in the trousers it creates … So to speak …
The handling isn’t ideal. Despite Ricoh ff90 being so huge, because the lens is offset toward the side of the camera with the shutter release the grips have been designed so you clasp the edge of the camera. It’s not particularly comfortable to grip in the intended way, but it does at least mean that stray fingers don’t naturally want to go anywhere the lens.
The viewfinder is fine in most circumstances but suffers quite badly from internal reflections should you choose to shoot into light. I find this a little distracting, and even with the little use I’ve had out of it so far there have been a few occasions where the subject has been partially obscured by these reflections. Otherwise it’s fine, bright yellow frame lines with parallax correction marks within a slightly blue tinted view. There is also a 3-symbol-based focus zone indicator, a head and shoulders for close up, two people for the middle distance and a group of people in front of a mountain for the furthest distance. Not the most informative viewfinder I’ve used, but better than nothing!
Frame, Window – taken at my mate Chris’s house – This framing did cause a few problems with reflections in the VF, but it didnt cause any issues really.
The top of the Ricoh ff90 is fairly OTT! I’m not sure there needs to be such a large screen for such a relatively small amount of info… It looks cool though! There are four buttons, although one of them ‘display’ switches some sort of screen demo on and off so can ignored (unless anyone can tell me otherwise). BCL/+2 is a +2ev exposure compensation button for correcting for a backlit subject. A self timer button and an ISO button. The ISO button is for setting the speed of non DX films. Putting a DX coded film in the camera locks you out of the functionality of the ISO button, but if you put a bit of tape over the DX coding strip you can set the film speed to whatever you wish (up to 1600). This feature also gives a slightly rudimentary method for exposure compensation. Unfortunately you won’t be able to make any decisions in a hurry as the single button for ISO selection means you have to click through settings one by one.
One of a few shots I underexposed by 1ev on this roll by playing with the iso button. This also one demonstrates it’s eagerness to shoot, I had no problem jumping into position and firing the shutter for this shot!
The flash is a bit oddball in its operation, it is essentially a fully auto flash with two very manual overrides. When flash is required a little switch will pop up on the top left hand side of the camera, it squeals until charged, and once charged allows the shutter to fire. For fill flash, to switch the flash on when it is otherwise disengaged you have to put your finger over the light sensor next to the lens. The auto flash can also be overridden by pushing the button back down again when it pops up.
This actually makes for a very useable flash, the camera effectively remains on auto the whole time then depending on the situation you can override it on a shot by shot basis.
It would have perhaps made more sense to make the seemingly pointless ‘display’ button a flash mode button, but I actually quite like how this flash operates. An extra button with more features might not have made anything any easier … I often leave my cameras with the flash set to off. It is sometimes a faff to have to switch it back on. At Least this way it’s always there if needed.
One thing I really like how about the Ricoh ff90 is how eager it feels, of you have read my yashica review and Konica Big Mini review you might be familiar with my fondness for an eager shutter. This camera feels like its ready to snap as soon as you are. This shot demonstrates this nicely, I had barely framed the shot when the bird flew into frame… I was able to react quick enough to capture it in flight. Had this been the Konica I doubt very much that I would have got the shot here.
Overall I would say I like the Ricoh FF90, I’m not sure the results quite have the punch of the Yashica T4/T5 but they are good enough to be very happy with.
Plenty of detail captured by the lens
I really like this shot, the second chap in is a mate Tom who has moved to the other side of the world.
A few more from the roll are here on flickr
I expect I will use the Ricoh ff90 again at some point, if for no other reason than how quick it is! It also looks awesome … well, provided you grew up with transformer toys anyway!
Plenty more of these 35mm 3.5 lensed cameras to review, I’m looking at putting one together for the mju-ii soon a camera I’m currently enjoying quite a bit. I am still yet to find one I like as much as the Yashica T5 though!
Cheers for reading,
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36 thoughts on “Ricoh FF90 Review – The camera that got in a fight with 80’s style, and lost!”
well, you’ve made me want to try my Ricoh AF-55 or whatever it is. :d maybe it will be better than Leica Mini? :d
Man, that’s an ugly camera! But the way you describe it, I’ll see if I can find one anyway 🙂
Obviously you weren’t as much a fan of transformers as me! (the original, not the iffy films…)
Get one, embrace the 80’s, you will love it! 😉
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Great review! I’ve heard that FF-90 is quite noisy in operation. Is that true? Is it as noisy as Nikon AF600? At least the AF600 doesn’t make noise while autofocusing.
I’m not sure I remember specifically, I would check, but I’ve leant it out to a mate. The majority of cameras of this era are fairly noisy, and even some of the best (the Ricoh GR1v for eg) make noises that are less than ideal in the quietist of environments. So I’m going to say that yes, it probably is fairly noisy, if it was quiet, I would have picked up on that in the review. But eually, if it was really noisy, I wouldn’t have missed that either.
Is quietness something you are looking for specifically? Or just a concern about this camera?
If the latter, I wouldn’t worry… If the former, then there are possibly other cameras I could recommend …?
Hamish, thanks for the quick response. I have Nikon AF600 and it is somewhat noisy when advancing or rewinding the film. But to its credit it doesn’t make noise while hunting for auto focus. It is not a true stealth camera but one notices you only after the shot has been taken. I don’t mind Ricoh FF-90 making sound for advancing the film, but it would be terrible if it makes sound while focusing too. I have the option of choosing between Ricoh FF-90 and Pentax PC35-AF. Which one would you recommend for a) Image Quality b) Stealth c) Superior ergonomics? Also, any recommendation for quiet compact camera will be of immense help to me.
The AF noise tends to come with cameras that have “passive AF”. It’s not a hard and fast rule, but seems often the case. I’m not sure why, but the cameras that more often than not move their lens after the button is pressed are the “active AF” types. A good example of a very nice, fairly quiet active AF point and shoot is the olympus mju-ii. As I say in the review I did of it, it is a hard camera not to recommend. The wind on motor is quiet too! The Pentax is very stealthy though, quiet AF and manual film advance combine to make it a great camera. Finding one that works is not so easy though, I have had a few that the AF has failed. Also beware of the AFM version which has a fairly noisy film advance. The Ricoh would certainly be the noisiest of the bunch. Image quality wise, they are all about equal I’d say … Ergonomics is a bit too subjective to comment, but possibly the Pentax is the best all-rounder in the respect, being not to big or too small.
Thanks again Hamish. So, if the AF of Pentax PC35 AF doesn’t work, is the camera as good as dead or is there a way out? I mean, does it zone/scale focus?
It’s dead …
The two I have at work both have the same issue. When you half press the button, regardless of the distance of subject the camera is pointing at the little marker inside that shows you what zone you are focused on 9/10 times just points at the closest zone. I think I have had three end up like this, and I know of at least one more owned by a mate… Fortunately they are cheap as chips, so there isn’t much risk. If you do get one though, be careful not to knock it, as that’s what kills them I think!
Ah! That’s pretty sad. I guess I will instead look for a Olympus mju ii.
Thanks for your insightful responses Hamish! 🙂 And have a great day.
… I definitely can’t do a direct comparison with the AF600 unfortunately, as I recently gave it to someone who lives in Slovakia :/
I recently bought a Ricoh AF-2 on eBay and all seems to working well. The AF frame adjust automatically, flash and the shake (low light indicator) works.
However the zone indicator will only move to the infinity (mountain symbol) no matter what object is in the AF frame. Does this mean the zone indicator is broken?
Have you tried fresh batteries?
The pentax pc35af focus indicator reads infinity when the batteries are dead (at least from memory) …
Since other functions are working I might be leading you up the garden path … But I have no detect experience of the AF2, so I’m not sure I can be any more useful I’m afraid :/
Thanks for the tip Hamish. I changed the batteries and the result is the same.
Interestingly enough, when the flash is activated, the focus zone indicator will move to the second position (8meters) during half press of the shutter. It does not appear to be able to move to that position without the flash being active.
Thank you for the feedback. I just found your blog and also on Google+
Hmm… Im not sure it sounds healthy then… ?
Have you tried the manual? It doesn’t look to have any clues, but with the camera in your hand it might be more useful.
Sorry I can’t be more help :/
Thanks again Hamish.
Yup, I had downloaded the manual earlier which is how I found out that the zone focus meter should actually be moving based on the subject it focuses on.
You ‘re offending the Ricoh by compairing it to the Yashica T4/5! I have all the T’s and except for the T2 (that isn’t fitted with a Tessar BTW), the T’s are no match for this camera, except in size and design. I like the FF-70 and its quirks, it is one of the very few compacts from this era where the AF system can be trusted.
It’s the size that’s the big issue for me. And the fact that a have a soft spot for the T5 …
The ricoh is definitely a good camera, but I think it’s a far stretch to put as much gap between it and the t5 as you seem to want to
I knew as soon as I saw this camera, I had to have it. Between the 80s styling, 2.8 lens and reasonable price point, it just spoke to something deep inside me. It was the camera I wished my parents had bought (instead of a series of godawful, throwaway 110s).
I’m actually on my second. The first I won for 99p on eBay from a guy who was “pretty sure it was working” but apparently didn’t deem the turquoise goo seeping out of the battery door worth either investigating or mentioning. Still, he sent it to me in a genuine iPhone 6 box which I re-sold for £12, so I can’t complain too much.
The second, I had to convince a woman in Illinois to ship her late father’s beloved camera to the UK (she initially only wanted to ship within the US) and it arrived and I’m using it now. I’m yet to get the first rolls developed, so can’t speak for image quality, but I like using the camera. It’s a bit of a beast size-wise, but I actually like the ergonomics and think they’re a lot better than the Mju-II, which I find very fiddly. It’s also easy to lock focus without taking a shot, which I find extremely difficult on the Mju and waste a lot of film that way. It’s not all good, though. My impression of the FF-70/90 is that all the money went into the lens and the technology within it, and very little was spent on the plastics they used to build the thing. A lot of the problems they have stem from plastic components cracking, splitting or warping over time. The battery door on mine is on the way out and every time this camera loses its battery connection, it winds the film on three frames. I’ve fixed that by taping it shut, but the door’s indentation makes it impossible to tape it really securely.
If you’re on a budget though, and are prepared to buy a few lemons before you find a peach, then the FF-90 could be your poor man’s Yashica T4.
I definitely agree!
Be interested to see some of your photos…
Finally got around to catching up on my six month scanning backlog (having a baby will do that to you, as I’m sure you know only too well) and uploading my FF-90 shots. So far, it seems to be a camera with a bit of a personality disorder. Some shots come out nice and sharp, even a fair way into the corners, some come out soft all over. That may or may not be down to the less than entirely predictable autofocus. It’s the same story with colour and tone, with some shots coming out really nicely and others looking very, very flat. It’s not just a case of being strong only in strong light either, as I’ve had some really nice tones on overcast days and rather flat colours on sunny days.
Some of these shots were taken on well expired Kodak Gold, so I’m shooting another roll of fresh at the moment. I’m hoping things will actually come together with this one. If they don’t, I’ll probably sell the FF-90 on as it’s competing for its slot with my grandad’s last camera; a Miranda A-X (a 34mm F\4 P+S of dubious origin, rebadged as a Miranda by Dixons in the late 80s or early 90s). The ‘Miranda’ has proven to be surprisingly decent and does more reliably what I was hoping the FF-90 would do.
Yes, looks like you are seeing some underexposure – its this that will make the shots look more flat/dull
As for the Miranda – There is a lot to like about those photos, they have a much stronger vignette, which definitely adds a character! You should write me a review about that camera! 🙂
Ah, so probably underexposed because the elderly Kodak Gold is less sensitive than its box speed. Perhaps I’m being too hard on it then. Hopefully my current roll will turn out well, as I do really like the handling of the camera; the snap of the lens cover, the solidity of the build, the easily findable half-press on the shutter.
I had actually been thinking about writing a piece for you on the Miranda, as I think I can put together quite a nice angle that ties in the sentimental value and the camera’s murky origins. It’s not a real Miranda, obviously, and the Dixon’s Miranda SLRs were rebadged Cosinas, but I haven’t been able to find where the compacts came from, even though they’re obviously pretty decent. You would think that unusual 34mm 4.0 lens would stand out, be an oddity from a particular manufacturer, but no. Anyway, I think I might need to put another roll through it to get some more shots for an article. Are there any particular types of shot it would be a good idea to add for a review?
Whatever suits you. I like the shots you’ve been taking so far, they suit the camera type well, so I’d keep doing what you’re doing. If you go to 35mmc.com/register you can sign up and make the post on the site.
As for the Ricoh, yeah, I had no problem at all with mine, and they have a good rep, so I’d blame the film first. You can always use the manual ISO to overexpose the film. With print film you can usually get away with 2ev or more of overexposure, even in bright conditions.
Just picked one of these up at a thrift shop for $4, ran a couple rolls through it and was super impressed with the handling and image quality. One issue though, my copy has a tendency to rewind in the middle of a roll for no reason at all, but otherwise I was so impressed that I’m gonna try and get a fully functioning one online. The ability to shoot 1600 iso / set iso manually (with a bit of tape) is awesome, especially in a camera I can get for way less than hundreds of dollars. That’s the one thing I really miss since selling my contax t3 and depending almost fully on my Olympus XA for point and shoot / compact stuff. Probably that and a built in flash, which as you mentioned the ricoh is amazing in that regard. Also can’t beat that 80’s retro look lol, people say it’s loud, but I didn’t notice, and if it is, fuck it, it adds to that 80’s charm. It’s design basically screams for attention anyway, so even if it were silent it’d still be a “loud” camera.
I’ve heard of this issue a few times now…
I have also since bought another, though ive not shot with it yet, I picked up the later “super” … I must put a roll through it and see if there is any real difference…
Enjoy, a T3 it is not, but probably much more fun to shoot with!
I recently stumbled across my dad’s old Ricoh ff90 and I’ve got everything figured out except what type of batteries to use. I did some research and found the manual online and it said to use “alkaline penlight batteries” but I can’t seem to find them online. What batteries did you use, and where did you get them? Thanks!
The ff90 takes AA batteries doesn’t it? The ff90 super takes a 223 6V
Yeah, ‘penlight’ is what people used to call AA batteries. I haven’t heard anyone use the term for a long time! It’s worth using fresh, good quality ones as these cameras can misbehave when the voltage drops.
I got one of these at the thrift store for $5 and it has the same problem mentioned above – it seems to rewind randomly in the middle of the roll. I suspect it might have something to do with the battery compartment. If you open the battery door and close it again, the frame counter resets and the camera fires off 3-4 shots thinking it was at the beginning of the roll. It’s a bit strange considering you might have to replace batteries mid-roll.
Maybe the best thing about this camera is it can be modified VERY easily to have an expensive feature set.
First you put a piece of tape over the DX contacts on the CAMERA (not just on your film). This will effectively make every roll un-coded so you can manually set the DX speed on any roll. There are EXTREMELY few P&S’s that can manually override DX code that have a modern iso range (most pre-DX cameras stop between 400 and 1000) and most of them are extremely expensive (GR1V, Klasse W, T3, etc). I push Tri-X a lot so DX Override is an important feature for me since I can’t faff about scratching every code sticker as I need it.
Second, if you are like me, you put a piece of tape over the Flash override button. This effectively keeps the camera from EVER using the flash so you never have to think about it. Again, this is a weirdly rare features on P&S’s often only featured on the most elite cameras in the category. Why everyone can’t just copy what the GR1 cameras did with a physical, non-menu switch for the flash is beyond me.
On top of all of that, this camera is 35mm f2.8 which isn’t quite as rare as these other features but is still noteworthy in the compact world. Again, lenses this fast are becoming more and more expensive, even in mostly featureless models.
So, basically, with 2 pieces of tape you can get this dirt cheap P&S up to having a feature set equivalent to some of the best cameras in the field. Really its only major drawback is its size but I rarely am without some kind of bag so it just lives in my bag for that day. If you want an MJUii but don’t want to cough up $200+ for a nice one, find one of these for $20 instead and bust out the gaffer tape.
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