colour photograph of a red compact camera

Texet TX-500 review – Fake Autoexposure Compact ? – by Rock

I’m guessing that no-one, or hardly anyone, has heard of the Texet TX-500. From the mid 1980s? What about the Premier PC-500? It’s the same camera. It also goes under a Wizen brand, plus Fotorama and no doubt some others that I’ve not discovered yet. I do know of Texet, but as stationery providers such as calculators, certainly nothing concerned with photography! Needless to say I was intrigued when I came across this during a search for a cool looking retro red compact. Yes, I bought this camera because it is red. Why not?

Anyway, it was made in Taiwan by Premier Camera Co, a prolific manufacturer back in the day who not only distributed their own brand 110s and 135 compacts, but also made stuff for others. Your ‘made in Taiwan’ Ricoh or Chinon is quite likely a Premier. I’m also fairly confident that the PC-500 and the TX-500 were meant to have been a sort of budget Canon Snappy 20 ‘copy’. It even came in a very similar colour line such as red/black, blue/black, black/black etc. Okay, it’s not a real clone but it is somewhat similar, superficially anyway. How would it perform? Like a Canon maybe?  Here’s my review…

To date, I’ve run seven films through the Texet TX-500 covering the ISO range 100 to 400 that the camera (apparently) automatically exposes for. Everything else is manual: loading, winding on, rewinding, flash switch. It is fixed focus. Of these seven, only one film is b/w as I prefer mono work with at least a yellow filter which, of course, is not possible with such a compact.

black and white photo of a wooded area
just one b/w film has been through the TX-500 – straight from the scanner with no post processing (Kentmere Pan 400)

The Texet TX-500 lens is (apparently) maxed at f/4, and there is a f/5.6 version also. However, it only operates at f/4 when you use the flash. You can easily see the aperture move from a smallish round hole to a fairly large one when you move the manual flash switch. At all other times, the aperture stays as one size. I can’t find out what size this is so can only estimate at f/8, 9.5, 11 or something. In reality, this camera only has one aperture, so the so-called auto exposure must mean a variable shutter speed, right? The film speed is set with a little wheel and shown in a tiny window on the front above another tiny window that proclaims “cds”.

close-up of a red camera
the everyday shooting aperture is basically a small hole – what is the f stop value? Notice the two tiny windows.
close-up of a red camera
switch to flash and the hole opens up – to f/4 apparently

So how accurate is the exposure from the Texet TX-500? Well, to be honest, I’m not quite sure. You see, I’m not convinced it actually meters at all. I started getting a bit suspicious about things a few rolls in. This was especially so when I forgot to set the ASA, or ISO as we now tend to call it, a few times. With no apparent consequence and always getting nice skies. Hmm, time for some testing. So I made sure that on my last few rolls, I shot the same scene thrice, altering the film speed every time.

colour photo of a countryside scene

colour photo of a countryside scene

close-up of a red camera

Exposure wise, the three shots appear nearly identical to me. This was repeated over several tests. I appreciate the tolerance of C-41, but surely there should be a bigger and more noticeable difference between these frames? Thus, I have concluded, maybe wrongly, that the camera has a fixed aperture and a fixed shutter speed, there is no auto exposure, the AA batteries are for the flash only and the little windows must be a little con!

colour photo of a field with metal gate and fence
I believe I could have exposed this frame at ISO 100, 200 or 400 and got the same result – sorry about the drying marks (Fuji Superior 200)

What about handling, I hear you cry? Truly, I  like using the Texet TX-500. It’s stretchy width makes sense when you consider the viewfinder is located very near to the middle. This leaves enough space either side to hold the camera grip with your right hand, and your left hand easily supporting underneath, available to easily switch on the flash. I find the whole design better than a more conventional box shape. Also, I do like to have a manual switch to avoid those unexpected or unwanted flashes. So well done there.

close-up of a red camera
manually selected flash – excellent!
colour photo of grafitti
flash has helped to light up some underpass graffiti – I much prefer to manually select flash (Fuji Superior 200)

Returning to the Texet TX-500 viewfinder. Being located roughly above the lens, I know that what I compose through it will be pretty much the same on the film frame (better than the Canon). It also has clear frame lines with parallax correction. All good so far. There is the addition of a central box in the viewfinder – no idea what that is for. After all, it is not auto focus and I don’t think it’s auto exposure!

photo showing reflection in a barber shop window
red chair, red camera – the author’s self portrait showing how easy it is to handle this camera (Fuji Superior 200)

The whole Texet TX-500 feels a bit plastic, but I wouldn’t want it any other way and it does feel safe and secure in the hand. The glass lens is (apparently) made in Japan. Actually I don’t disbelieve this claim. It seems a decent enough performer, especially for a budget compact. In fact, I’m happy to declare that the camera, as a whole, is a decent enough performer.

Before we view a few more photos, the final verdict on the Texet TX-500. A Canon fake, er… maybe. Fake auto exposure, quite possibly. But I kinda like it, especially as it’s a cool, retro red. Should I get a blue one…?

colour photo of a meadow
fixed focus with good depth of field – courtesy of f9.5 maybe? (Kodak Ultra 400)
colour photo of village sign and trees
Upper Bush – a tiny hamlet on the edge of my village (expired Colourcare Prima 200)
colour photo looking up towards a building
interesting building in Maidstone town centre – compacts are not really suited to architectural stuff (Fuji Superior 200)
colour photo of a yellow flower against a green fence
a sensible minimum focus distance? – five or six feet maybe? (Fuji Superior 200)
colour photo of river and bridge see through branches
Medway Bridges over River Medway in the distance – shooting through trees, no problem! (Kodak Ultra 400)
colour photo of a countryside scene interrupted by a dog
Noodle the Poodle – last word on the TX-500 comes from my dog (Agfa Vista 200)

Thanks for reading. Feel free to comment, of course.

I don’t have a website anymore, so have been generally putting stuff on my flickr photostream. I also have an Instagram account for lo-fi stuff, mainly 110.

Cheers, Rock

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15 thoughts on “Texet TX-500 review – Fake Autoexposure Compact ? – by Rock”

  1. You have a good eye. These are better photos than many guest contributions to this site. My opinion only, of course. Shows once again that gear is not so important for photo quality.

    For me, the pleasure I have in shooting with old film cameras is the mechanical quality and precision of the camera itself. I much rather use one of my old Leica IIIfs or Canon FT(b)s than an eighties plastic camera, be it something like this or even a Canon EOS. Much less my slew of m43 gear or Sony mirrorless.

    I suspect I’m much older than you, FWIW.

    1. I adopted a Canon FT a few years ago from my wife’s old art college stuff. Loved using it, became a favourite for a while. I was brought up on a Praktica MTL5b, and have always had a soft spot for these Pentacon mechanical masterpieces. Old Chinon 1970s SLRs are brilliant too. I have always tended to agree with your sentence. Until hand and arm pain prohibited their use any longer. I made the decision last year to part with most of mine, and have switched allegiance to keep me shooting. These days, you’ll find me with a retro 110 , when I can find film cartridges. I have just been gifted an EOS 300, but not convinced by it yet. I have kept a M42 mount Cosina with a bunch of Adaptall lenses. I am 52 in about two weeks time, and can’t yet decide on what, photographically speaking,to spend my money on!

  2. Rock, we’ve all no doubt seen those cheap and nasty plastic slr looking cameras that actually use an optical finder to waylay the unwary, but this must take the pits by having an ASA setting and cds window to give an illusion of some limited exposure control. Have you tried looking through the rear of the camera to see what actually hapens to the shutter speed as you change ASA settings? If anything is changing, which from your tests seems unlikely, then if you place a finger over the superfluous cds cell and fire the shutter this should elicit the slowest speed compared to what you will see if you do the same with your finger removed. I’d suggest 100 and 400 for this test as it offers (in theory) two stops, so if it is metering this should be more readily observable.

    Notwithstanding, your actual results show that for the uninitiated, those with no interest in the technical aspects of photography, and for whom simple 6×4 prints of their family trips to the seaside or parties, the results seem reasonable for the expectations of cheap High Street d&p of the era.

    1. All shutter speeds sounded the same to me, Terry. However, not tried anything like covering the cds window to test my theory. Maybe I should, just to satisfy my curiosity. I have become a bit of a point n shoot fan in recent times so will continue using this one no matter especially as I think it looks cool! Thanks for reading and your comments. Cheers, Rock

  3. Dear Rock,
    These nineties gems are not ‘cheap and nasty trash’ as some bloggers would advocate, they are legit, inexpensive, aimed at a market, pieces of photographic kit. I recall the joys of my 1963 Kodak Instamatic 100 which was all I could afford at the time and the now priceless images that my grandchildren rave over. The 100 had a single shutter speed of 1/90sec, pop up flash bulb holder and a f11-fixed focus lens and is therefore a similar spec to your Texet.
    You have turned in a fine body of work here that has not disgraced either of you. Well done.

    1. I won’t argue with that statement, Brian! I have a few Instamatics and Ektras that I love to use. Simple mechanics and a roll of emulsion is the perfect combination…

  4. I proudly succumb to coloured cameras. I have a red Konica C35 EF3, a blue one, a blue Nikon Action TouchAW35, a green Nikonos, an orange Nikonos..

    1. Thanks Sroyon. You’re right of course about the yellow filter, or even tape some yellow gel over it. I have another compact camera for testing, loaded with some fp4+ so maybe an opportunity here. Cheers, Rock

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