The great thing about being someone who creates things – I’ll avoid calling myself an “artist” – is you don’t need expensive equipment to create it. Van Gogh used pretty cheap materials as that’s all he could afford. Brian May made his own guitar with his dad and still uses it today.
I have decent equipment with my Nikon FE and FM3A, along with quite a few other cameras! But having decent equipment doesn’t guarantee a good picture. Ever hear the old adage “All the gear and no idea”? There is a certain allure to using something that is cheap and working within its limitations.
I bought a plastic fantastic Diana+ at a car boot sale last summer for the grand sum of £2. I’d been “volunteered” by my wife to help out at a large local boot for the horse charity that she helps out a lot at. I didn’t realise when I said that it would be fine that it meant we were to set up at 6:30, on a Sunday! At least I should be able to find a few film cameras to choose a treat for myself I thought. Unfortunately, there were slim pickings, quite a lot of low-end digicams so heaven if you are a hipster millennial but nothing more suitable for me. I guess you can blame the internet for that. Then I spotted the said Diana, it seemed to work, not that there is much to go wrong with it.
I took it on holiday to Crete and was pleasantly surprised with the results. So I fancied getting another cheap plastic fantastic but in 35mm to make it more portable.
After a bit of research, I decided on the Reto slim and wide. Mainly because it’s fairly new and easy to get hold of. Also, the reviews all indicated that the results were a lot better than you would expect for a £45 camera with a plastic lens.
So I popped one in the basket when getting some film from Analogue Wonderland.
I went for the blue one for a change as I’ve got so many black cameras I thought I would spice it up a bit, plus I think the colours add to the charm and make it look even more innocuous. You are certainly not going to be called a pap and asked to move along with one of these. Although their choice of names for the colours is a bit weird with Murky Blue, Pastel Pink and Muddy Yellow. Marketing must have had the day off when they came up with those names.
The first thing you notice is how light it is, plus it’s nice and small so it easily disappears in a pocket or bag. So no excuse for always having it with you at all times.
Now the dilemma of what film to shoot.
The first choice is easy, I’ve moved completely to black and white now. Partly due to the availability and the cost of colour film but also because I’ve grown up on black and white and that’s sort of how I see the word.
But what about speed?
The camera is focus-free and only has 1/125 of a second shutter and a fixed F10. So it’s mainly down to the sort of conditions you are facing. ISO 100 or 200 for bright days or 400 for overcast.
I live in the UK so 400 ISO it is.
At the end of November, myself and my wife had a weekend away in Brighton so I popped it into the top pocket of my jacket.
Having zero input on focus, shutter and aperture is very liberating. You can just concentrate on composition. The 22mm lens gives you a nice alternative view of the world and the depth of field means pretty much everything will be in focus.
You just have to have faith in the latitude of film to get a decent image. Although that is quite tricky as the viewfinder only shows a part of the final image, I’ve still to work out just how much extra you do get but it’s worth noting. Also, be careful of where you place your fingers as I did get a few shots with mine in them.
We then had a trip to Kew Gardens in early January. The weather has been absolutely shocking for most of the week but luckily the day we had booked turned out dry with some patches of sun. So it gave me the opportunity to see what it was like with better weather.
After developing and scanning the images I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the images. They were a lot better than I was expecting from a 2 element plastic lens. The weather was not the best and was very overcast for most of it. But it still did a good job considering, I’m really looking forward to giving it a go in better conditions. The sun did come out on a few occasions, one thing I really like is the insane lens flare you get when shooting directly into the sun. A full 360-degree one.
The build quality of the camera is pretty good considering, not quite as flimsy as a disposable camera but not too far off. The rewind crank does seem a bit on the frail side so I’m careful with it at the end of a roll. It’s very light and small, pretty much the smallest camera I own and certainly the lightest. I do a fair bit of trail running so I’m going to take it with me moving forward, it will easily fit into a pair of shorts that have pockets.
I’ve had a lot of fun with the two rolls of film I’ve put through it and look forward to using it more, I can’t wait for the brighter weather as I think this is where it will really shine.
Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed it.
You can find more of my images on my own blog or over on the Flickr
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8 thoughts on “5 frames with a Reto Ultra Wide and Slim – By Shaun Edwards”
“ Marketing must have had the day off when they came up with those names.” – haha! Indeed! Great photos from this fun-looking camera!
Enjoyed the read and totally agree – all the gear and no idea is what I see all over the web and social media. People obsess with sharpness and resolution and forget that photography is supposed to be about light, tone, colour, subject and composition – not resolution or sharpness – to be honest our smartphones pretty much have sharpness and resolution covered now but the photos from phones are sooooooo boring sooooo
Sh*t that I can only yawn at them. They’re all obviously smartphone photos. Photos from high end digital likewise hence its refreshing and so pleasing to see photography as an art and you have presented some really pleasing and enjoyable work
A tip regarding the frail rewind crank – lift the lever and insert a 5p coin or similar sized washer and use that to turn the rewind spool.
Loved the images – espcially the Pagoda !
Great tip! Thank you for sharing it!
Love the expansiveness of the wide shots — without a ton of distortion. Unless I missed it, you did say that you used ISO 400 film — but not which particular brand/type. Medium grain, medium tones — so an older, more established emulsion — HP5 Plus? Does not look like a Delta or TMax….
Sorry I should have put what film I used. It was Kentmere 400 and developed in Kodak HC-110.
Shaun, maybe a simple plastic lens would be a good option for our Canons and Nikons. Your excellent photos are only enhanced by the cheap lens. Especially the pagoda with ample flare..And the noticeable grain in a couple of your shots only adds to their appeal. After all Van Gogh who you mentioned didn’t paint in high resolution fortunately.
As Ibraar pointed out there is an obsession with sharpness and resolution rather than with content and composition. This has only come about since we involved computers in our photography, that enable us to forensically analyse an image.
As regards lightweight cameras; years ago I visited my regular camera mechanic. He said “Hey have a look at this” He was working on a cheap 35mm Adox camera. The owner was worried that there was a loud rattling noise coming from inside it. Turned out that the Adox was fitted with a heavy zinc alloy internal ballast weight to give it a “quality” feel, and it had come loose.
You could well buy another couple of Retos and load a different speed of film in each.
Getting another one for a different film stock is a great idea. They aren’t expensive and the multiple colours would help telling them apart.