Point & Shoot

Rollei Prego 125 Review – Shooting a Should-be-Cheap Camera Expensively

September 7, 2020

When I look at the Rollei Prego 125, I have a horrible feeling that it might have temporarily ruined autofocus point & shoot cameras for me. It’s pretty much as dull as they come, and whilst it has some “interesting” features, none of them are particularly redeeming – at least not for me and my needs. But how much of my negativity comes down to the camera, and how much comes to how much I have spend on it and shooting it?

The Rollei Prego 125 is a late 90s point & shoot with a 38-125mm lens. Like many cameras of its ilk it has a small viewfinder with the usual pair of green and red LEDs that light up or blink to tell you about focus and a need or otherwise for flash.

It has a few buttons along the top and one on the front that might give the impression that it has some useful features. In actual fact, they are the fairly standard for a camera designed to simply have a slightly longer spec sheet than the next essentially middle-of-the-road consumer camera on the shelf.

To kick off, there’s a set of flash modes; auto, fill, off, and red eye reduction. I used this button to turn the flash off every time the camera warned me it was going to use the flash. I didn’t use any of the other flash features.

Starting at the other end of the buttons it has a ‘time’ button for setting the time and date imprint. I didn’t use this feature. Next up there’s a spot meter and snap mode. Possibly useful? I didn’t use them.

It also has a self timer, and even an interval timer that lets you set the camera to fire automatically at intervals between 10 second and an hour. Fun? Maybe, but I didn’t use these feature, I never have on any film camera, and I wasn’t about to start here.

Last but not least, I suppose I’d better not forget the button front of the Rollei Prego 125. This is a button that seems to force infinity focus. I didn’t use this feature either. That all said, one feature I did use – albeit only once – was the panorama mode. I’m a sucker for a panorama mode!

I guess this near-total lack of embracing of the Rollei Prego 125 features kinda makes this a poor review? The problem for me is that all this stuff is just clutter. It’d be mostly ignorable clutter of the camera was cheap as chips. But it wasn’t.

More expensive than its worth

As I mentioned in a previous post about losing track of how to shoot film in a cheap and fun way, point & shoot cameras have fallen out of favour with me a little bit. I’d gotten to the stage that I was buying these sorts of cameras for more money than I felt they were worth, loading them with expensive Portra 400 and then finding myself enjoying the experience a lot less.

There’s something enjoyable about shooting cheap cameras with cheap film and processing the film on a tight budget. It makes for an experience that feels throwaway, and there’s often a lot to be said for that – even in the world of film. It’s easy to forgive a camera of a lot of failings when it only cost a few quid. But load a basic camera that cost a lot of money with expensive film and somehow it feels like I’m setting myself up for disappointment.

This Rollei Prego 125 is case in point. I can’t remember when or where I bought it, but I do remember that it cost slightly more than “cheap”. I then loaded it with Portra 400, and it went downhill from there.

I took the Rollei Prego 125 to the West Midlands Safari Park back in the before-times when days out with the family were fun and carefree. Unfortunately, it didn’t end up care free for me as I wasn’t enjoying the camera. It’s a bit bulky, the zoom is slow, the lens never really retracts properly leaving the lens feel a bit crappy, and as mentioned the viewfinder isn’t that great either.

As such, every shot felt like I was wasting the posh film that I like shooting in posh cameras. It was really frustrating. I only shot half the roll, and then left it for so long I’d forgotten what I shot until I recently forced myself to finish the roll and had it developed. The results were fairly average too. So much for the “Rollei Germany” lens…?

Photos

Rollei Prego 125

Rollei Prego 125

Rollei Prego 125

Rollei Prego 125

Not sure if there is a bit of motion blur in this one – but if this is the long end of the zoom, it’s very week!

Rollei Prego 125

Rollei Prego 125

Rollei Prego 125

Rollei Prego 125

Rollei Prego 125

To be fair, this is incredible – lovely 3D pop and colour! Where ever this is in the zoom and aperture range, it should be shot at this exclusively!

Destined to fail…?

I do wonder though, would I have enjoyed the Rollei Prego 125 more had it cost me only a couple of quid and I had loaded it with cheap film. The answer is probably: yes, I think would have. But as it was, I did pay more for it, and I did load it with expensive film, and it did make me feel crap about shooting point & shoot cameras. Not entirely its fault, I concede, but there we are.

Measures of success

That being said, there is a silver lining to all this. Through the experience I had with it, and the experiences I’ve recently had that have helped me come to the decision that I want to shoot cheap cameras cheaply again, the Rollei Prego 125 has helped me define a few measures by which I might start including in some of my cheaper camera reviews.

Those measures come down to a few simple questions, as follows:

  • Do I feel like I paid over the odds for this camera?
  • If not, knowing what I know having shot it, would I buy it if cost more money than I paid for it?
  • Would I load this camera with expensive film?
  • If not, would I load it again with cheap film?

Of course “more money”, “expensive” etc are fairly non-specific. But I do think that as measures they will help define whether or not any cheap camera I might find is of merit.

If for example I pick up a camera and once shot it I feel that I payed over the odds, then it’s on to a loser with me. If, on the other hand, I would pay more, it’s gonna get plus points. Lots of plus points added too if I would dare to chuck a roll of expensive film into it, and maybe a few plus points if I would shoot it for a second time with a cheap roll. And if it’s a goner after the first roll, well obviously that’s a big negative.

A should-be-cheap camera shot expensively

The Rollei – through my paying over the odds, and me loading it with posh film – was destined to be a failure in my hands. But this stuff is subjective. In a film photography world of ever-increasing hype and ever-aging cameras, everyone’s perspective is different. As I have said, even mine  would have probably been different if I’d got it cheap, and shot it cheap. And I suppose that’s the point here… As I talked about in that aforementioned article, so much of how good these sorts of cameras feel comes down to the cash that I throw at them. Of course, almost all zoom point & shoot cameras are a bit pants – this Rollei Prego 125 was just more pants because I spent too much money on it!

So, here’s an idea… does anyone out there want it? You can have it for free – I’ll even load a roll of cheap Kodak film into it. The one proviso: you write a review from the perspective of someone using it as a bargain camera. Comment if you’re interested. If I get few people, I’ll draw a name out of a hat or something and we can see how much more fun the Rollei Prego 125 is when it costs someone nothing!

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18 Comments

  • Reply
    John Driggers
    September 7, 2020 at 11:16 am

    I’d give it a go. It might be just what I need to do.

    My problem has been perhaps a digital equivalent of sorts. I get fascinated with older digital cameras. So I buy them, but then kit them out with all the accessories made for them to have a more complete kit…and then bingo, I’ve overspent. And yes it does leave you with an unsettling feeling that you’ve somehow screwed things up.

    Case in point–My Sony DSC R1, that legendary 10-megapixel bridge camera with a Zeiss zoom that is stunning. So now I have a fairly pristine camera, plus a soiled, sticky zoom backup camera for foul weather, the original external flash, wired remote, a handful of batteries, an external Sony dual battery charger that can also power certain Sony video cameras direct from AC, the Sony bolt-on accessory lens converter with the Sony wide-angle lens attachment, the original Sony close-up screw-in macro lens, user manuals, original boxing for almost everything…you get the picture (pun intended). It’s all a bit pathetic at this point…and I still find myself looking for the (unneeded) tele lens.

    And I find myself spending an inordinate amount of time scouring Google and YouTube for blog posts and videos from people still using that camera in 2020. I take pride in finding stories like Mitch Dobrowner starting his storm photography career with an R1 ( https://www.popphoto.com/how-to/2014/05/dramatic-storm-photography-mitch-dobrowner/ ) .

    Somewhere, in all of that, I have over-invested in equipment and time. I have lost track of the fun of shooting the first APSC mirrorless bridge camera with a really useful and high-quality zoom lens. It had a selfie screen before we even knew what they were for heavens sake!

    So yeah, those are my symptoms. And maybe shooting the Prego and trying a 10-year ambition to give caffenol a go is just what the heck I need to break the cycle.

    So I am more than willing to commit to a doing-it-simple review of the Prego. In the scheme of things, a small price to pay (yup, another intended pun–no more I promise) should you chose to send it to me.

    In any case, I look forward to chapter 2, Traveling Prego, from whoever receives the camera.

    Cheers, JD

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      September 7, 2020 at 8:39 pm

      Ah man, you’re in deep. Like 12 step plan deep … 😉

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      September 10, 2020 at 3:40 pm

      Hi John, I put everyone’s name in a spreadsheet and then random number generated and you came out. Email me [email protected] and I’ll get it sent to you.

  • Reply
    Ivan B. Palli
    September 7, 2020 at 12:13 pm

    Hi Hamish. Interesting article. I myself have set an upper limit of 25€ for compact cameras, though I might go over a bit if the camera seems to be in good nick, new old stock or has been professionally checked. There are only a few compacts I’m keeping an eye on, and some others which I might be get if really cheap, as I feel my collection is getting big enough. That said, I’ve been curious to use a Samsung camera (your Rollei is a re-badged Samsung) , especially for their snap and bulb modes, so count me in as a candidate for the review!

  • Reply
    Floyd
    September 7, 2020 at 12:15 pm

    Hamish: I’m in! It would be fun to add a “bargain” Rollei to my small family of Rolleiflex cameras: Rolleiflex 2.8F TLR (about 1986 Also in the bag is a Rollei B35. Now that’s an economy Rolleiflex. But I suspect it will feel as if I’m shooting a Leica IIIF compared to the Rollei Prego 125.

  • Reply
    Gordon
    September 7, 2020 at 1:02 pm

    Hi Hamish – Would love to give it a shot for you!

    Full disclosure, I’ve got a few of the Samsung models as well as the rebadged Rollei’s – Not tried the 125 model though, so this would be a decent experiment.

    Agreed there’s a sweet spot with a lot of these zooms – And the far end is never it lol. Found it’s usually best to shoot widest, up to maybe 50-60mm at the most, for near/mid distance subjects.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      September 7, 2020 at 8:40 pm

      For sure. It’s the same with these modern mega-zoom things

  • Reply
    Gianmarco Maioli
    September 7, 2020 at 1:48 pm

    I would love to test it! I had a few cheap p&s (mostly Pentax), but I cannot stand the hype for these little fellas. Yet, I would be honoured to test it with that mindset. I also have a YouTube channel, so it would be cool to record this test.
    Feel free to contact me through Instagram (@gianmarcomaioli) or mail ([email protected]).
    Cheers!

  • Reply
    Maioli Gianmarco
    September 7, 2020 at 4:09 pm

    Hi!
    I had a little experience with cheap p&s (mostly Pentax), but I’ve never joined nor liked the hype for these little fellas.
    I cannot stand their prices and still believe they should go for way cheaper.
    Yet, I was thinking to give it a go again, as I wasn’t as experienced as I am when I first picked em up, so I would be glad to help you and review it!
    I also have a YTB channel, I could record the complete experience.
    Let me know whether I could be suited for your case.
    Cheers

  • Reply
    Andrew Karlson
    September 7, 2020 at 4:45 pm

    Hi Hamish–

    I’m pumped up to shoot and write about the Rollei per your parameters; I sent an email to your “info” address as well!

    Andy

  • Reply
    Trisha Presnell
    September 7, 2020 at 6:21 pm

    I would love to try this little camera out for a review. Free is good! Free camera and a free roll of film, how could I go wrong?

    I would even venture to try a few of the pesky little buttons that you avoided… Thank you for the consideration.

  • Reply
    Chris Storey
    September 7, 2020 at 7:44 pm

    Interesting thoughts abut how “vale” can or cannot affect how much “fun” you experience with a given camera. I really do love shooting with my Holga and other cheap toy cameras. I’d have to say they are sometimes have more “fun value” that my other more costly cameras. Although I will admit that I really do love , as you called it, posh Portra 400! If your offer for the giveaway is still open, I’d love t put my name in for the chance to spend soem time using a fun bargain camera…. I promise that I’ll even use Ektar 100 or something equally cheap.

  • Reply
    James
    September 7, 2020 at 8:31 pm

    A negative review about a camera he obviously hates. Why bother? There are a lot of old P&S cameras that are worth a comment or two. But come to think of it, this website no doubt appeals to readers who are a cut above the average ‘net surfer, so why not concentrate on older film cameras that are interesting? Zeiss, Certo and other folders. Contax, Reid, Kodak and other RF’s. Leica R’s, Rollei’s and other SLR’s. Think about it, please.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      September 7, 2020 at 8:35 pm

      Have another read. And actually read it all. You will see that you have totally missed the point of the post.

    • Reply
      Ben Garcia
      September 8, 2020 at 1:31 am

      Yes, James, read more of this site’s posts. There’s tons of exactly the kind of content you’re looking for. Then again, It’s nice to see other things, different things, every so often.

  • Reply
    Sacha Cloutier
    September 7, 2020 at 10:10 pm

    Hey Hamish!

    I would definitely be down to giving it a try. My GAS is currently on a wife sanctioned hiatus. At this point, my only chance to play with a “new” camera is when I either someone gives or lends me a film camera.
    I am also beginning to initiate some friends to film photography and I want to show them all the possibilities, including point and shoots.
    Also, like you may have seen in the Instagram message, our articles here are used all over the world, including my hometown Montreal.
    Whether it be myself or another photographer here, can’t wait to see an article to match up against yours. It’s always fun when the community collaborates to give their views.

  • Reply
    Fontaine
    September 8, 2020 at 4:56 pm

    I would love to give it a shot! I’ve recently fallen out of love with my SLRs, and I’ve been using strictly point and shoots on vacations and outings with my fellow film shooters. It would be interesting to use a cheap camera that’s been hyped to the point of being expensive, and give my thoughts on it.
    I definitely can see your points here, I’ve been putting Portra in my Canon Prima 5. Not too sure if it’s been worth it to be honest.

  • Reply
    Thang Nguyen
    September 9, 2020 at 4:07 am

    Hello Hamish, after reading your review it makes total sense. This camera is obviously not for you because there isn’t any feature on this camera that you particularly need or like. Coupled with the fact that you chose this camera because you paid more for this camera and had high expectation of it, it’s no surprise that you didn’t have a good experience using it. To me, the Rollei Prego 125 is very uninspired, it starts as 38mm like other hundreds on compacts produced. Also the fact that this camera seems like it was built on the Samsung Evoca zoom 115’s chassis, I figure the lens doesn’t retract properly because Rollei removed the door. If you take a look at the Rollei Prego 115 which is also a rebadged Samsung Evoca 115 you will see my point, it just looks so wrong just like the camera you’re reviewing. I see a lot of Samsung cameras (Rollei rebadged in this case) as feature rich photograph devices and not cameras designed with love and care. So it’s maybe natural that you dislike this camera.

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