First roll impressions: Reto Ultra Wide and Slim

We had an unseasonably warm and sunny day here recently, so I loaded some film into my new Reto Ultra Wide and Slim and took it on a lunchtime photo walk.

This small, light, all-plastic camera has good structural rigidity — it doesn’t bend or flex in the hand, and under use it makes no squeaking or creaking noises. I can’t say that for some other more advanced and expensive point-and-shoot cameras I’ve owned.

The shutter button feels sure. The winder feels thin and cheap, however.

The general experience of the Reto Ultra Wide and Slim is similar to a single-use camera.

I wanted to shoot ISO 400 color film in this camera, but I was out. I have heard that 36-exposure rolls can jam up, at least in the original Vivitar version of this camera. So I turned to some 24-exposure Kroger-branded ISO 200 color film I recently bought. It’s expired Ferrania stock. It was supposed to have been stored properly, but the images I got back all showed the hallmarks of expired film.

Blue garage

Images from the Reto show some vignetting and softness in the corners, kind of like an old box Brownie. Otherwise, the lens gives good sharpness.

Black Dog Books

I find it remarkable that the lens displays little to no distortion. I’d love to know how they got what’s probably a single-element plastic lens to do that.

Salon G

The viewfinder isn’t perfectly accurate. When I framed the photo below, the alley on the right wasn’t so much in the frame. This is normally a pet peeve of mine, and something that causes me to pass on a camera. But the inaccuracy isn’t terrible on this camera. I want to keep experimenting with the Reto. Perhaps I’ll learn how to compensate for its inaccurate viewfinder.

Green garage

This expired Kroger film didn’t show much exposure latitude. A few photos were so underexposed as to be useless. This one shows classic signs of underexposure — on this full-sun day, I shot a subject in the shade.

Little blue house

I very much enjoy how much context my photos from around Zionsville all have in the Reto’s lens.

On the brick street 2

None of these photos is going to win a prize. But I can tell that I’ve yet to find my groove with this camera. I have some Fomapan 400 in it now, and will keep shooting it for a while. A full review will come later, perhaps in the spring or summer.

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Comments

19 responses to “First roll impressions: Reto Ultra Wide and Slim”

  1. Jeroen van Weert Avatar
    Jeroen van Weert

    Hi,
    I think that the reason for the relatively good quality of the lens is the fact that it does not need to be a retrofocus design. The focal distance 22mm is where the lens is placed, whereas if it would be a single lens reflex design, in order to obtain the 22mm focal length one have to design it differently to obtain clearance for the mirror. This and the fact that although everybody calls it a plastic lens, it probably is actually high grade PMMA .

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      What a useful comment. Thank you. I wasn’t aware of PMMA and its use in lenses. You may be right.

      1. hasselbladuser Avatar
        hasselbladuser

        When the first CD players were made, it became obvious that the millions of lensed couldn’t be produced cheaply from glass. I think Kodak explored PMMA for lenses already in their single use camera’s and then Philips started using this for the cheap CD lenses to focus the laser o the dents in the CD.

  2. conspicari Avatar

    I like the colours on these, they give the images a vintage feel. You did really well not to photograph the ends of your fingers.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I did it in a few shots, which I didn’t bother to upload. I think I avoided it on the roll of Fomapan I just finished, I was careful.

  3. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    JVW’s got something correct with his surmise. Non-retro focus lenses can be sharper and simpler to make. As a life long professional view camera user, there are an amazing amount of simple wide angle lenses for large format from early days, that were tiny and sharp, as well as rectilinear, with the only disadvantage being a very slow maximum f/stop. Precision plastic molding can also allow for lens designs that contain curvatures that would be near impossible to grind, or expensive to do so. I’m amazed at how rectilinear these results are!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      What I know about lenses will fit in a thimble. I had to look up “non retro focus lens”!

      I’m thrilled with how rectilinear these results are. I’m used to having to do a ton of correction even with my 28mm lenses on my SLRs.

  4. Dan Avatar

    I think the photos look great! The reason for the lack of distortion is because the UWS has a curved film plane. You’ll see it when you finish and unload your roll of Fomapan 400. It’s easy to miss because we don’t expect to see it.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Does it? I notice there’s no springy plate on the door to hold the film flat, so I guess that would result in a curved plane.

    2. hasselbladuser Avatar
      hasselbladuser

      That is correct. I missed that. Actually, it is a well known solution, Agfa Clack fo instance is a classic example.
      So the RETO UWS has an even more clever design than I thought.

      1. Jim Grey Avatar

        I love how the Clack has a curved back for this. The Reto must be relying on the natural curve of the film against its flat back.

  5. Mike Connealy Avatar

    Assuming the lens of the RETO is the same as the original Vivitar, it is actually two elements arranged symmetrically on either side of the aperture/shutter. That is a very old wide-angle design.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      A later commenter confirms the two-element design of the Reto lens. Turns out I should have read the box.

  6. adventurepdx Avatar

    Nice! I just got mine the other day but have not used it yet, as this week has been the “make up” for all the rain we didn’t get in February. Sunny weather is in store for this weekend, so I’m going to load up a 24 exposure roll of Ultramax and give it a try.

    As for the lens, the specs from the package say: “2-element Optical Grade Acrylic Lens”.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I look forward to seeing your results!

  7. fishyfisharcade Avatar

    I’m halfway through a roll of Agfa Vista Plus 200 in mine. I’m waiting for some sunnier days before shooting the rest as I suspect dull grey skies and poor light will not serve the film or the camera well.

    I think I’m going to have a bunch of “let’s see what this thing will do” type shots from this initial roll, but hopefully there will be something of interest.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I look forward to your results!

  8. Sam Avatar

    I have the original Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim. This looks better! Nice lens on this!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It’s a ton of fun for 30 bucks.

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