On December 20, 2022, Ricoh Imaging made an announcement that few in the photography community saw coming. The owners of the Ricoh and Pentax lines of cameras announced that they are looking at making film cameras again.
In this video on the Ricoh YouTube channel, product designer Takeo Suzuki explained that the company wants to encourage young people to get into film photography. Not only are they looking at making film cameras at an affordable price, but they will be backed by a solid warranty.
Suzuki then outlined a roadmap of four cameras they are hoping to produce, starting with a compact film camera followed by a high-end compact film camera, an SLR, and finally, a fully mechanical SLR.
As a point and shoot fan, hearing that Ricoh is looking at making compact cameras was music to my ears. So, which film cameras should Ricoh Pentax bring back? I’ve shortlisted five cameras I would love to see them seriously consider as starting points for future compact film camera projects.
Pentax Espio Mini / UC-1
Both Pentax and Ricoh have an amazing heritage of classic film cameras, so it might be a surprise that I’ve only picked one Pentax camera in this list: the Pentax Espio Mini, also known as the Pentax UC-1.
Unlike many other Japanese camera companies, Pentax never made a premium point and shoot that you could shoot in aperture priority mode. The mid-range Espio Mini is as close to a premium model as they came.
It’s a lovely camera to look at and hold, nice and compact, and has a classic clamshell design. I really like the 32mm f/3.5 lens, the shots I took were nice and sharp and looked great. It’s also relatively quiet, which is a bonus.
Lovely compact design
Doesn’t remember flash settings when you turn the camera on and off
The MF-1 was essentially a Japanese version of the export-only Ricoh 35R released in 1999. It looks big and bulky, but it weighs less than 10 oz (230 g).
Its specifications are enough to make it intriguing for any film photographer. It has a fairly wide 30mm f/3.9 lens, and you can shoot in program mode or you can choose three different apertures on the front of the lens: f/5.6, f/11, and f/22.The MF-1 has autofocus as well as four-point manual zone focus, along with exposure compensation and exposure bracketing. Perhaps the strangest thing about the camera is that it has an inbuilt flash as well as a hot shoe.
I was so intrigued by the camera, I bought one from Japan. I’ve enjoyed shooting my test roll, though it is an odd beast. At once, it feels both plasticky and premium, and it’s neither compact nor bulky. I’m looking forward to getting my scans back from the test roll to see how it performs.
- Lots of features for enthusiast photographers
- Relatively slow lens
Ricoh R1 / R1s
As a fan of compact cameras, I’ve been interested in the Ricoh R and GR cameras for a long time. Imagine how happy I was to pick up an R1 a few months ago for just $65 at a local camera fair.
The R1 is unbelievably thin and compact, fitting in a jacket or pants pocket without you realizing it’s even there. It’s super light, weighing just 145 g or just under 5 oz. It has an unusual 30mm focal length with a maximum aperture of f/3.5.
It also has a cool party trick: like many 90s cameras, it has a panorama mode, but the R1 also has the ability to shoot at the super wide 24mm focal length only in panorama mode, at a set aperture of f/8. I never use panorama modes on cameras usually, but I found myself using the wide angle panorama mode quite often. The framing guidelines in the viewfinder help you get that poor person's Xpan feel.
I've owned a lot of point and shoot film cameras, but I hadn't felt this excited in a long time. Unfortunately, my love affair with the R1 came to an abrupt halt, as after two rolls, it stopped working. I still love the images I took with it - you can check them out and hear my thoughts on why the Ricoh R1 is the perfect 35mm pocket camera in this video on my Matt Loves Cameras YouTube channel.This encapsulates the issues with electronic cameras made in the 90s and early 2000s: reliability and repairability are major issues.
- Light, compact, and thin
- Excellent lens
- Fun to use
- Not known for their reliability — will need to be more durable for the 21st century
Ricoh Auto Half
With the price of film rising substantially in the last few years, half frame cameras have become more talked about as a frugal way of shooting film. When talking half frame, usually Olympus is the go-to brand for classic half frame goodness. I own the Olympus Pen FT, and it is a fantastic camera, and if I could only keep 10 film cameras, it would be one of them.
But what you may not know is that Ricoh also had a line of half frame cameras: the Ricoh Auto Half line. They were originally made in the early 1960s, with a few new models popping up in the 1970s. Search the web and you’ll discover that the Auto Half came in an incredible range of retro colors and designs.Imagine if Ricoh created a 21st century version of this camera with autofocus and autoexposure. Given the success of the recent plastic Kodak Ektar half frame camera, a new Ricoh Auto Half would sell like hotcakes.
- Small and compact
- Cute design
- Camera would need autofocus and autoexposure to class it above more basic film cameras in the market
- Half frame will deter some photographers
When we talk about high-end point and shoot cameras, the Ricoh GR1V is always mentioned alongside the likes of the Contax T3, the Minolta TC-1, and the Fujifilm Klasse S.
Released in 2001, it was the last in the GR line to feature a 28mm f/2.8 lens. The camera has the same ultra slim form factor as other R and GR series cameras, making it one of the smallest and lightest advanced cameras ever made.
The GR1V has autofocus, manual focus, and the ability to shoot in both program mode and aperture priority mode. It also features a couple of firsts for the GR line: the ability to set your ISO speed and autoexposure bracketing.
I’ve been watching this camera for about a year now, but have never actually pulled the trigger. Given that my first Ricoh R1 suddenly stopped working, I am a bit hesitant to pay so much money for one. If Ricoh put this into production again as their premium compact, it would sell very well.
- Premium compact point and shoot
- Lots of features in a compact design
- With premium features, there will be a premium price
If Ricoh Imaging are going to bring back any camera on this list, I hope they start with a more durable version of the Ricoh R1. This compact classic gets rave reviews due to its ultra slim form factor and the excellent lens. A return of the R1 would be a stunning comeback for the company and will generate huge excitement amongst film shooters. Given that the Pentax division is spearheading this project, maybe it will be called the Pentax P1?
Looking at the second stage of the roadmap, a new version of the Ricoh GR1V would be a surefire winner and would generate even more excitement. Both the R1 and the GR1V have similar form factors, so perhaps components could be shared across the two models, making it easier for production and for repair technicians.
I also considered a few other cameras as possible contenders for Ricoh Pentax to bring back; check out my video to find out which ones. What are your thoughts on compact film cameras they should bring back?