One of the reasons I love going to the thrift shop is its unique finds. This Ricoh 35 EFS is one of them. So I added it to my collection of vintage cameras and decide to take it for a whirl.
Ricoh 35 EFS: Cold Hard Facts
Produced by Ricoh in 1980, the 35 EF is a part of the company's long-running series of rangefinder film cameras. The Ricoh 35 EFS, in black, is the same, only with a self-timer built into it. Partly metal and partly plastic, the camera weighs in at around 390 gram without batteries, which is on the heavier side of the point-and-shoots in my opinion. It's got a built-in flash which may be manually switched on that requires 1 AA battery. Aside from that and the light meter, the camera is fully functioning without a battery. And although I have never ventured into the dark side myself to be needing the flash, it is a comfort knowing that it's there as an option.
The camera's shutter speed is automatically set to 1/125, and exposure is also fully automatic. This means the camera can adjust exposure automatically according to the brightness and film speed. All you need to do is load the film and adjust the speed accordingly by turning the film speed selector ring. Any speed between 25, 50, 100, 200, and 400 ISO is fine, but any other would require you to figure out the exposure yourself.
Ricoh 35 EFS: Ease of Use
Taking photos with the Ricoh 35 EFS is fairly simple. First, you just need to adjust the focus range, which can be anywhere between 0,9m - infinity. Then it's just to aim and shoot.
Although a good portion of the Ricoh 35 EFS is made of plastic, the camera feels quite sturdy. You get a sense of this when advancing and rewinding the film, both of which can be done manually. The lever feels solid and not fragile as it may feel with other cheaper-built point-and-shoots.
When it comes to loading the film, though, I must say I am not impressed. I have loaded films into this camera and others many times, but I find it especially tricky with the Ricoh 35 EFS. I can't really explain why, but there is just something in the way the film take-up spool and sprocket are built that makes it difficult for the film to latch on. And once it does latch, closing the cover of the camera often unlatches it altogether.
In addition, I have also often seen instances from other people's experiences where the back cover of the camera breaks, which makes it impossible to close fully. Fortunately, this never happened to me. But if you are one of the unlucky ones then I suggest you get taping.
Ricoh 35 EFS: Image Quality
With Ricoh's very own Rikenon lens, the 35 EFS produces good image quality that is comparable to other mid-range range finder cameras. As you can see from my photos below, there is not much vignetting as well.
That being said, it can be quite challenging to adjust the focus manually on a range-finder camera, which can unfortunately result in a few out-of-focus photos. It's one thing to do this on an SLR film camera, where you can actually see how the camera focuses for yourself, and know exactly what the camera will capture. With a range-finder, you would have to make an appropriate guess for the focus range. Even if you're incredibly good at measuring distances, it would still be difficult to focus on smaller objects. Like many other range finder cameras, the Ricoh 35 EFS also has quite limited coverage (85%) on its viewfinder, which in combination may not be ideal if you are a beginner.
Ricoh 35 EFS: Final Verdict
Overall, I have enjoyed shooting with the Ricoh 35 EFS. It is simple to use, yet it also leaves enough room for learning. With the Olympus AF-1, for example, pretty much every feature is automatic. The Ricoh 35 EFS at least has some additional knobs and wheels to turn before the automation starts, which can be a good opportunity for beginners to learn more about film. Or, an opportunity for intermediates and pros to push and pull their film.
Approximating the focus range can be quite a challenge if you're a beginner, especially on a range-finder camera. So be prepared for some potentially blurry photos. After all, it is these "happy accidents" that add to the reasons to shoot with film. Or, if you are risk-averse, taking panoramic or street photos with the infinity focus should put you on the safer side. Once you get the hang of it you should be able to produce some decent photos either way.