Camera Reviews

Reto Ultra Wide and Slim

A Chinese company called Sunpet has had this little 35mm point-and-shoot camera in its catalog for more than 25 years now. Several companies have slapped their names on it and sold it. The best-known company is Vivitar, who may have been the first to sell it back in the mid-late 1990s. So branded, it became a well-loved, almost cult classic. That’s certainly why so many other companies have sold this camera — they’re trying to cash in. Most recently, the Reto Project in Hong Kong has reissued this camera as the Reto Ultra Wide and Slim.

Reto Ultra Wide and Slim

Reto’s release of this camera created quite a buzz in 2022, especially given its $29 list price. That’s barely more than the cost of one roll of film and processing these days. I’m not normally one to jump on bandwagons, but I bought one of these the moment I could. Fellow photoblogger Mike Connealy does terrific work with his Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim (see some of it here), and I wanted a piece of that action.

Reto Ultra Wide and Slim

But I’ve buried the lede. What sets this inexpensive, fixed-focus, plastic camera apart is its extremely wide lens: 22mm at f/11. It’s set in a 1/125 second single-blade leaf shutter. The lens has a surprisingly sophisticated design, given this camera’s price, with one acrylic element in front of the shutter and another behind it. Also, baffles inside the camera’s film door forces the film to curve. This combination results in remarkably low-distortion images. The lens delivers some softness and vignetting in the corners, however.

Reto Ultra Wide and Slim

At 3 7/8″ x 2 1/4″ x 1″, the Ultra Wide and Slim is about the same size as the tiny Olympus XA. But the XA is a heavyweight compared to the feather-light Ultra Wide and Slim. This all-plastic, all-mechanical camera weighs just 2½ ounces!

The Reto Ultra Wide and Slim is available in five colors: charcoal, cream, pastel pink, muddy yellow, and murky blue. I went with the murky blue.

I’ve shot a number of point-and-shoot cameras over the years. Check out my reviews of the Canon Snappy 50 (here) and Snappy S (here), the Kodak VR35 K40 (here) and K12 (here), the Nikon Zoom Touch 400 (here), and the Olympus Stylus (here) and Trip 500 (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

My first roll of film in the Ultra Wide and Slim was some expired ISO 200 Ferrania color negative stock with Kroger branding that I picked up cheap. The images showed the grain and color shifts consistent with expired film. But just look at how much of the scene the Ultra Wide and Slim captured!

Down the street

Here’s a look down Main Street in Zionsville. It took me a couple of rolls to start to get the hang of this wide lens, and avoid having so much uninteresting foreground in my images.

Down the brick street

Just look at how straight all the lines are in this straight-on shot.

Blue garage

I kept going with a roll of Fomapan 400. In retrospect, I wish I had chosen HP5 Plus or Tri-X for the huge exposure latitude they offer. Several of the images I made on this film were badly misexposed.

Through the windshield, Downtown Indianapolis

The winder is the cheapest-feeling aspect of this camera. It makes quite a ratchety noise when you use it. On this roll of film I felt it tearing sprocket holes as it wound the first five or so frames.

Mailboxes

The film counter is hard to read. It’s not just that the numbers are small and my eyes are more than 50 years old. The plastic magnifying bubble over the numbers does more to distort those numbers than to magnify them. That bubble also reflects light, which further obscures the numbers. Finally, the numbers are printed in a faint red.

Knight

My next roll was some fresh Fujicolor 200. Some say that this camera can struggle to wind toward the end of a 36-exposure roll. I did not find that to be the case at all with this 36-exposure roll, or the 36-exposure roll of Fomapan that I shot.

At the food truck

The Ultra Wide and Slim’s viewfinder isn’t accurate — when I framed this yellow Pontiac, the cars on either side of it were barely in the frame. But then, hardly any point-and-shoot viewfinder is accurate. I don’t know why I expect better after all these years. The viewfinder also has a fisheye effect that the lens itself does not.

Yellow Pontiac

This simple image does a great job of showing how sharp this acrylic lens is. Reto recommends using ISO 100 or 200 film on sunny days, and ISO 400 film on cloudy days, to accommodate the camera’s fixed exposure.

Ellison

Despite the lens’s ultra-wide angle, I still had to tilt the camera to bring some subjects fully into the frame. However, I don’t think I could have managed this image with the 35mm lenses that are common to point-and-shoot cameras. I would have hit the building behind me before I backed up enough.

J. W. Marriott

I had trouble rewinding the first two rolls I shot in this camera. I thought I heard and felt the film leader pass into the cartridge, but when I opened the camera I found a little film was still wound on the takeup spool. A few frames on each roll were ruined because of this. On my third roll, I discovered that the rewind crank had wiggled down a little bit. I pushed it all the way up before I rewound. This time upon rewinding I heard the same steady clicking noise as when I wound the film. When the film came off the takeup spool and was fully in the film canister, the clicking stopped. Aha! So if you rewind this camera but don’t hear that clicking, press the crank/spool firmly back up into the camera.

Statues

I am deliberately not showing you the many images I made that featured one or more of my fingers. The lens is so wide that if your fingers are on the front of the camera at all, you are likely to see them in your image. By my third roll I had built a habit of holding the camera only around the edges, to eliminate all chance of getting my finger in the lens.

To see more from this camera, check out my Reto Ultra Wide and Slim gallery.

The Reto Ultra Wide and Slim is a blast to use, especially after you learn how to work around its quirks. It’s the kind of camera you want to keep loaded at all times, and slip into your pocket wherever you go. On a full-sun or cloudy-bright day, load this camera with your favorite everyday color film and be ready for some fun shooting.

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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Collecting Cameras

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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