Point & Shoot

A Landscape Photographer’s New Companion: A Ricoh FF-90 Super Review – By Adam Smith

Ricoh FF-90 Super

A couple of months ago I found myself heading to Wilson’s, a local antiques shop. Overlooking the aqua- marine waters of Lake Michigan, this shop is a popular destination for antique hunters, tourists and those that are looking for an indoors activity on a rainy day. I often drive by, telling myself that I should stop in and take a quick look. But as is often the case, I drive by—wondering why I did not just make a quick stop—it’s just a simple right turn after all…

That all changed this past February. While working out at the local YMCA, I decided that today was the day. I had no afternoon obligations, so why not head over to Wilson’s to look around? Perhaps I would find something I could not live without. After finishing up at the YMCA, I walked out the doors to a bright, late-winter sun.

Now driving, I began to envision what I may find. Earlier that morning, I was searching the web for a fair price on a Ricoh FF-90 SUPER. Despite my best efforts, I ended the search in defeat. “Tick-tick-tick, tick-tick-tick”, turning the steering wheel, the tick of the turn signal level faded as I entered the parking lot. I had arrived. Upon opening the door, I offered a friendly greeting to the two staff behind the checkout counter. The bells on the door broke the silence as it swung shut.

My eyes scanned the first vendors booth for anything promising. Hmmmm…no luck. As I continued my search, a small box caught my eye. Tucked between some old flashlights and duck hunting decoys, I read the words RICOH FF-90 SUPER. I became quite excited, as I was not expecting to find the SUPER version of the FF-90. I quickly grabbed the box, inspected the camera, and headed to the checkout counter to pay $20.00 (around 15 pounds).

Ricoh FF-90 Super

I was pleased to see the camera come with the original box!

In the car, I again inspected the camera. Under the packing foam, I found the original paperwork.  I discovered that the camera was purchased by a local in 1988 from the local downtown camera shop.

At home, I took the Ricoh FF-90 Super out of the box, installed a battery and loaded a roll of expired test film to see if the camera was functioning properly. The shutter fired properly, the flash worked, as did the take-up spool motor. I was pleased when I heard the rewind motor rolling the film back into the canister. After about 20 minutes, the camera was cleaned up, and loaded with a roll of Kodak 400 TX. I was eager to take the camera with me on an afternoon hike (and around town). 

The box contained the registry card and the original user manual

Ricoh FF-90 Super

The camera powers on via sliding lens cover

Ricoh FF-90 Super

The camera boasts DX-coding from ISO 25-1600: very impressive

Ricoh FF-90 Super

The top plate is well designed with a self timer, ISO override, DEMO, and backlight compensation–not to mention the impressive LCD display…

Ricoh FF-90 Super

Loading the film is effortless and reliable

Blue Skies with the Ricoh FF-90 Super

I felt a bit odd leaving the house without my Nikon D-SLR. Typically, a retreat into the woods encompasses my D-SLR, a tripod, and a small set of filters (UV, HAZE, CP…). But today, and the past two weeks, I decided to leave the D-SLR at home, and rely on the Ricoh FF-90 Super to capture those indescribable moments in time. I always anticipate with much excitement heading out into the woods (or anywhere) with a camera in hand. I was very interested to see first-hand how the camera performed (function and image quality).

I arrived at the Pellazari Natural Area trailhead, grabbed my coffee and camera, and made my way into the woods. Up above, deep-blue skies permitted the sun to warm the understory. Evergreens and other mixed hardwoods gently swayed in the breeze. Ravens could be heard over the next hill, going about their daily rituals.

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As I continued to walk, stop, and take a picture or two, I could not help but be impressed with the handling of the camera. As a landscape photographer, I was glad to know I had the ability to cancel the flash. I was also impressed with the viewfinder…large and bright! Two hours later, I emerged from the woods—all 36 exposures wound back into the canister.

The Results…

The film (Kodak 400-TX) was developed and scanned at the same shop the camera was purchased from. I was eager for the results. Two weeks later, envelope in hand, I headed home to see the scans. The wait was certainly worth it. Each frame of the roll was well-exposed, focused and sharply rendered. I shoot primarily landscapes, but for the sake of a more well-rounded, complete review, I shot a few frames in town (as can be seen below).

Pellazari Natural Area: As a landscape photographer, I love to capture the interplay of light within a composition

Pellazri Natural Area: The Ricoh’s meter performed well, rendering the shadows and highlights within the composition

Reffit Nature Preserve: A vernal pool preparing for the arrival of spring peeper frogs: the woods echoes with their song each spring

Reffit Nature Preserve: My adventure companion Orson the Black Lab

State of Michigan Building, Traverse City: the lens rendered the details on the bricks impressively

Downtown, Traverse City, Michigan: M22 is a hugely popular outfitter (the M-22 logo is an iconic drive along the Lake Michigan Lake shore)

Final Thoughts

Overall, I loved my time with the Ricoh FF-90 super. The sharp lens (5 elements in 5 groups), light-weight body (300 grams without battery), and flash-override function combine, making a fine landscape camera. I also love the styling; being a child of the 80’s, the camera evokes a sense of nostalgia. I also appreciated the large LCD display. Finally, the camera can utilize a wide range of film speeds (ISO 25-1600) …another great feature for a landscape photographer.

Though I love the camera, I have two minor gripes. First, it’s too bad the tripod mount was not centered. I cannot fault the camera despite this—the camera was likely intended to be used handheld (street shooting). Second, threads for using filters would have been nice (think Nikon l-AF 35, Ricoh af-2,5…). Again, the camera’s intended market likely would not miss this feature.

Using the Ricoh FF-90 Super made me feel like a kid again: care-free, spontaneous and adventurous. Though I have visited this trail (and other places) many times, bringing along the Ricoh encouraged me to see my surroundings with a fresh set of eyes. Highly recommended.

Another Review of this camera: Ricoh FF-90 Super (1987) – By Mike Eckman
Hamish’s Review of the Ricoh FF-90

My Website – The Wilderness Journal

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6 Comments

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Nigel Cliff
    May 25, 2018 at 3:23 pm

    Had one back in the day it was a nice camera but in the euphoria of early digital gave it to a charity shop,another one that’s on the list to get again and use

  • Avatar
    Reply
    AdamKendall
    May 25, 2018 at 4:13 pm

    I totally understand! I once had a mint condition Nikon OneTouch (first model), and donated it back to the same place I purchased it from. I now heavily regret my decision. However, I am quite satisfied instead with my Ricoh AF-7–though it will never be the OneTouch…;)

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Mike Eckman
    May 25, 2018 at 4:34 pm

    Cool review! I reviewed one of these last summer and really enjoyed it! A neat feature this camera has that your average point and shoot doesn’t is that when you rewind the film, it leaves the leader out of the cassette in case you want to shoot half a roll and then transplant it into something else!

    As a left eye shooter, I didn’t love the position of the viewfinder, but I can’t fault the camera for that as more people shoot right-eyed, otherwise a very nice and less common 1980s point and shoot!

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Sławek Karwasz
    May 28, 2018 at 1:31 pm

    I purchased Ricoh FF-90D Super recently, it looks like something out of “Back to the Future”. Unfortunately the one I have, decided to do weird things with motor in the middle of test roll, it seems to wind 10 or so frames at once. I did not tried to fix it yet, but looking at lens and test shots it might be worth the effort.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Adam Smith
    May 29, 2018 at 11:34 am

    That is too bad about the motor in your FF-90D Super. I feel quite fortunate that my FF-90 Super works perfectly. I wonder how one would go about fixing the motor winder? If you attempt to do so, let me know the results of your efforts.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Florian Karsten
    January 2, 2019 at 12:21 am

    I recently got FF-70 (older version). In middle of second roll the film got somehow stuck and apparently destroyed the motor. I got it as gift for chrismas its great camera and i destroyed it :(. Is it even possible to replace the motor?

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