Ricoh Shotmaster Tru-Zoom Date

Ricoh Shotmaster Tru-Zoom Date Review – A Mystery Camera in the Mail – by Frank Lehnen

How I discovered the Ricoh Shotmaster Tru-Zoom Date: Recently, 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

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.

Ricoh Shotmaster Tru-Zoom Date comparison photo
These are all 35mm cameras, but not all the same size. The Olympus XA2 is gorgeously small but the Canon T70 SLR is not much bigger than the Ricoh ‘compact camera’ with lens retracted.

The Ricoh Shotmaster Tru-Zoom Date 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.

Ricoh Shotmaster Tru-Zoom Date size comparison

But the Ricoh Shotmaster Tru-Zoom 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!

Ricoh Shotmaster Tru-Zoom Date rear view

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…..

The photos

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  Shotmaster 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 Ricoh Shotmaster Tru-Zoom Date has focused. This shot should not have been too tough to get right, but somehow the Ricoh messed it all up. Fuzzy all over.

Agfa Vista Plus 200

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!!)

Ricoh Shotmaster Tru-Zoom Date - Agfa Vista Plus 200

Now the Lomo LC-A is not the camera with the sharpest lens, certainly not, but the Ricoh Shotmaster Tru-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.

Ricoh Shotmaster Tru-Zoom Date


Fuji Superia 200 - Lomo LC-A+
Lomo LC-A

Can’t even tell what the Ricoh focused on….

The macro mode

Let’s talk a bit about the Ricoh Shotmaster Tru-Zoom’s 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 from the Shotmaster – the muted colors, rainy, foggy atmosphere, looks good I think, apart from the inherent fuzziness:

Ricoh Shotmaster Tru-Zoom Date cityscape photo

Final thoughts

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!

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14 thoughts on “Ricoh Shotmaster Tru-Zoom Date Review – A Mystery Camera in the Mail – by Frank Lehnen”

    1. Thank you, Aukje! I shot some more color film lately, testing my ‘new’ Olympus Trip. You can see the results on my humble blog…

      Though my love is with black and white!

  1. Hi, Frank,

    Focusing issues aside, I much prefer the colour rendition from the Ricoh shots. The one taken with your Lomo LC-A in sunny conditions just looks like cross processing to me and doesn’t look right.

  2. Ricoh are very hit and miss aren’t they? They made some excellent stuff – I’ve had a few of the Pentax K mount Rikenon 50/2 lenses, and a 50/1.7, and they’ve been very good. I’ve also had FF-3D AF and TF-900 compacts, which has also been excellent for their class, amongst the best. I extracted the lens from a broken TF-900 and played with it on my Sony NEX and was blown away with the results. The R1 and R10 have great potential, if you can get a fully working one. I also had a very simple FF-9, which was dull but perfectly competent. Then they made things like this Shotmaster…Hmmm…

    I also like the last image of yours above, it has a lovely timeless quality and look.

    Frank, one question though, why is this post on Hamish’s blog and not yours? I expected you to say it was a camera he had sent you, so I don’t see where he comes into it?

    1. Thanks, Dan. Yes I guess Ricoh are a mixed bunch as camera makers. They built strange stuff like this and they built jewels like the GR (as long as they work…).

      As for this post, I just wanted to share with some more people what I had experienced. And on my small time blog it would be lost a bit.

      I really like the idea of mystery camera sharing and I thank Dank Spangle (a pal of Hamish’s) a lot.

      1. I well remember your ups and downs with the Ricoh R series!

        The camera swap idea is a great one, maybe it’s something Hamish can instigate in a slightly more formal way here between readers of 35mmc.

  3. This line had me laughing : “e MODE and SUPER MACRO ‘buttons’ – well they will one day be buttons when they grow up ”
    Thanks for the superb writing.

  4. This is a really great post, despite your impressions on the camera is looks like you had a lot of fun experimenting with it. The images you have captured and really creative and it’s great to see the different images you have taken!

  5. I just bought one for 99 cents at a re-store. I almost hate to spend $10 for a battery based on your review, but maybe mine will focus better than yours. I’m always looking for P&S film cameras to have fun with. I have an Olympus Epic 2.8 but I pray to find an XA2 sometime. I did pick up a Canon Sure Shot 115u for $3.00 and it is a pretty cool camera. Even though it’s a zoom, it’s not much larger than my Epic, and my first test roll was pretty good.

    1. Yes, those batteries are expensive. And when they cost ten times the price of the camera it gets insane!

      As for the XA2, the SR44 or LR44 batteries are much cheaper, last longer and honstly, you can spend more on the camera. Totally worth it. Mine was 45€ and I consider it a good buy.

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