Lately, I had a very nice experience – a camera swap with a fellow blogger, the famed Dank Spangle. Nice blog, lots of fun with strange cameras!
On December 8th he wrote a post about his SLR collection, specifically his Canon FD cameras. At the end of the article, he mentions a camera still missing he’d like to try out, the Canon T50! As I read this I looked to the left of my screen and contemplated the T50 sitting there, doing precisely nothing. I bought it for small change, put a film through it with rather astonishingly good results for such a basic camera. In fact, it’s just a point (focus) and shoot, disguised as an SLR with exchangeable lenses.
Nevertheless, it features the great Canon exposure system, the metal shutter of the T70 or T90 and of course the fabulous FD lenses. But it’s UGLY…. yes, compared to the older A-Series cameras it’s a lump of plastic, strangely shaped, looking awkward. A child of the eighties. But when you hold it in the hand it shows its qualities. The strange shape is just right, feels good and even solid, not plasticky. But I let Dank tell you about it HERE, because we decided to swap… with him sending me a mystery camera.
So that takes me to just a week later when a parcel shows up on my doorstep. Is it a Leica, a Nikon F… no! I didn’t get my expectations too high and I was not disappointed, at least size-wise. In the parcel, I found a… … ok, I take a deep breath to say the full name:
Ricoh Shotmaster Tru-Zoom Date
How’s that for a mouthful. Not simply GR1 or R10, no a really big name. And a really big camera too.
It feels and looks a bit like a brick, a big one. After sourcing the corresponding strange looking battery it woke up with a terrible racket. Big cameras make big noise – some engineer at Ricoh must have thought.
But this camera is not only a haptic disaster, it also sports a really stupid layout of buttons. The viewfinder slider turns on the camera – flash and all – the lens extends to the sound of grinding gears and the contraption is ready to take pictures. There’s a rubbery shutter button at exactly the wrong place, too close to the front and right, there’s a rubber SELF (timer) button with no tactile feedback. Then there’s the MODE and SUPER MACRO ‘buttons’ – well they will one day be buttons when they grow up – they sit in very small depressions so you can just barely operate them with a fingernail. No kidding!
The zoom slider… let’s not get into that, please, it’s really not good…
OK, no more talk; action! In goes the Agfa Vista Plus 200 supplied by Dank (Thanks!!) and off I go into the cold wet winter weather. Strange, I wasn’t worried about this camera getting wet… I visit some of my haunts around my workplace, and happily snap along, finishing the 24 exposures in record time.
The Ricoh noisily rewinds the film and I just have to wait for my Tetenal C41 developing kit to arrive from Fotoimpex. We’ll see if at least the lens is any good, it’s Ricoh after all…..
A couple of days later development kit arrived and I quickly mixed the chemicals, brought a plastic tub of water to the right temperature and soaked my film in the magic potions.
Now, it might be part of my not liking color photographs, part the dreadful overcast misty and rainy day I shot these photos, but I really don’t like the results.
Technically, I had very nice ‘telephone lines’ on all the frames (see below). I think they were from the camera as I didn’t wipe the film or something. Then, the film gate is grungy, terribly so. I have used older cameras but never had so much stuff showing in a full negative scan. A bit of cleaning would certainly get rid of these problems though.
But that’s not really too bad, I can always crop the frame tighter and clean up the hairy stuff later.
Then again, there’s no real way to see if and on what the camera has focused. This shot should not have been too tough to get right, but somehow the Ricoh messed it all up. Fuzzy all over.
What focus there is, is more on the background than on the important stuff.
Focus, let’s talk some more about that. It’s soft, as in non-existent. Even this shot, straight at old Afro-Adolf doesn’t show a lot of sharpness. (I long for my XA2!!)
Now the Lomo LC-A is not the camera with the sharpest lens, certainly not, but the Ricoh Shotmaster Try-Zoom Date is even less sharp, and less punchy. OK, the sun did help the Lomo LC-A a bit for this comparison shot, but well, it still confirms my opinion.
Can’t even tell what the Ricoh focused on….
The macro mode
Let’s talk a bit about that tiny super-macro button. A fine idea, but what does it focus on? Parallax, yes, heard about that, but how much to compensate for it when sticking the lens into a hedge? Apart from some parallax markings in the finder, fixed of course, you have no help at all. the result, a meaningless twig:
OK, I’ve got enough of that thing! And of color film also. So I converted the only photo that I deemed marginally OK to black and white, just to soothe my soul. And guys, if you tag the walls, watch your spelling, please!!
That all said, I did get one photo I liked – the muted colors, rainy, foggy atmosphere, looks good I think, apart from the inherent fuzziness:
In conclusion, the Ricoh Shotmaster Tru-Zoom Date is not great, even bad. It was an enjoyable experience to receive a mystery camera and get to use it though – something I would recommend to anyone! Despite my disliking this camera, I had real fun discovering it and writing about the poor thing. If anyone wants a go with it, let me know, I’ll happily swap it again!
Thanks, Dank Spangle for making me discover that I love my XA2 and that I’d like another LC-A… this was a lot of fun!