This camera is simply amazing. It's not popular, but it's probably the best quality fixed lens point and shoot compact camera with manual controls, customisation, settings, and... Everything, really. And the size... The size is small, really truly pocketable camera with an amazing lens. Of course the history of the Ricoh GR starts with the 35 mm film GR series: GR1, GR1s, GR1v, GR21, and all the digital GR until this one GR digital V (or simply GR, 2013), and the current one GR II (2015, like this one, but with the WiFi included).
Now, if you don't care about the WiFi you can get the GR I for half of the price of the GR II. Really the only difference it's not worth double money. For around 360£ you can get a great customisable camera with a sharp bright 28 mm equivalent lens (a bit too wide for me, but more flexible). If the previous digital GRs had a small sensor, this one has a APS-C CMOS sensor, the same one you will find in the common non-fullframe DSLRs. You can shoot manually, or fully automatic, or whatever you like. You can customise it as you want, and its menu is clear and simple.
To highlight also some of the limits of this camera, I really miss a viewfinder here. Even just optical, not necessary Electronic one... Even just a tiny hole like the Mju's, but enough to frame. The screen is great (rgbw, with white pixels, very sharp and bright), but with a viewfinder this camera would be perfect. Or even a N.A. scope like the Yashica T3 Super. Another limit might be the fact that the camera is not weather resistant, but I care less about it. The new GR II could have proposed something in this sense, without a flash but with a viewfinder maybe, also to differentiate the new version from the older GR.
This camera is just a bit bigger than the Sony RX100 (another great little one) but with a super larger sensor. The Ricoh GR has the same sensor of the Fuji X100t, and even if I like Fuji I must say that this Ricoh feels more versatile. Another great point is the body: a design that just fits to your hand naturally, and a magnesium chassis with a great solid feeling.
You can buy the older film analog Ricoh GRs for less money, they also are great cameras, slim, small, and with an amazing quality. Huge fan of Ricoh (acquired by Pentax few years ago btw) for this series.
The Fuji X series is just great, and it's very popular among photographers of all kinds, amateurs or professionals. Cameras such as the X100, the XPro-1, and this XE-1 started a new chapter for Fujifilm and the digital camera industry itself. It's like if at some point companies understood that the future of the digital cameras was to point to the past, to the film cameras, and they took the right path to it. Sure, powerful cameras on smartphones really helped this turn I think, since the consumer and the prosumer segments could just avoid the entry level digital point and shoot cameras altogether, demanding for something more.
The XE-1, as for all the X series cameras, brings back the joy to control a camera in a simple, yet traditional, way. Not with the crappy digital modes and menus, but real knobs, rings, physical buttons and feeling. Aperture, shutter speed, exposure compensation, ISO, on the camera. The digital technology just helps in a right way, and no more than that. Electronic viewfinder, screen, settings to save and recall, information about the exposure... Everything in the right place.
Shooting with the X series cameras is a joy. I also used and thought to buy an X100 before choosing the XE-1 to play with its interchangeable lenses, but the feelings are consistent. The lenses are great, amazing quality even in the included zoom lens, the 18-55 mm Fujinon XF, good sharpness and quality. Later on I bought the XF Fujinon 27 mm 2.8 pancake, very compact yet good and light. With it the XE-1 becomes about the same size of an X100, which is good for street photography. I still use the 18-55 when I need to be more flexible, and have the extension macro ring when I experiment with close up shoots, or trying to set up my homemade scan lab for my 35 mm films (getting there, but still much work to do to reach this quality). I will write a post about this topic too.
This is an outsider, meaning that it's not a camera per se. The quality though, is pretty amazing considering where it's packed. A tiny camera and sensor capable to render pretty cool shots. Until the iPhone 4 cameras in smartphones were enough just to take some random snapshots, but now you can start to play on a little bit more serious level of snapshots. There are applications that let you play, within the device, with the postproduction, almost like a mobile Lightroom (and better than the real mobile Lightroom from Adobe). VSCOcam, for example, or Snapseed.
iPhones (smartphones anyway) can also be very discreet for street photography, since people are used to see them around all the times, even walking on the street. You don't need to clearly point it to the subject, the camera is wide (28mm), and it can take photos even with clicking the remote control of the earphones. Now that Apple removed the digital "CHACLACK" sound of the shutter it's also very silent.
The smartphones will be always more and more capable, and I think the entry level point and shoot cameras will just stop to exist at some point, merged with the mobile devices. What cameras will look like, I don't know (maybe more Lytro?), but I know for sure that digital and film cameras will both keep living together for some more time.
You can read a lot online about this small camera. There's a reason when a camera gets this kind of cult status (at least among the film community). This little camera has an amazing lens, the Olympus 35mm 2.8 that you can carry everywhere and anytime because the camera is really small, and also weather resistant. You can buy one from eBay for a price range between 50£ and 90£ depending on the conditions of the camera. Usually the black ones cost more, while you can find silver and champagne versions for around 50/60£.
The Mju II is highly recommended, and while you can find the Mju I (Infinity Stylus) and other Mju I & II with zoom lens for less money, I suggest you to go straight to the Mju II (called Stylus Epic in US), because the difference is quite huge in terms of quality of the lens (while body and design are very similar). The other models are just OK, while the Mju II is great.
The body of the these Mju (all models) feels a bit cheap plastic, maybe a little bit less evident in the black models. The camera has a nice design anyway, very 90's, with a slide cover that protects the lens when the camera is off. You switch on the camera simply by sliding the cover. For the Mju II just slide the cover and it's ready to shoot, since the lens doesn't need to extend. If you don't want to shoot with flash you need to turn it off every time you switch on the camera, since it resets the settings when it's off. The shutter button is OK, you can feel the half press to lock the focus, but since it's is very sensitive don't keep the finger on it while you walk.
If this camera had a solid metal body and a larger viewfinder (which is really really tiny) it would be among the best consumer point and shoot ever made, and anyway the lens still is among the top of its category.
Before buying the Mju II, I got a zoom version (38 ~ 80 mm). I expected some great results from this camera since I had read a lot about the Mju II. The photos though where quite disappointing, even if for this special occasion I chose to process and scan the film in a good (and expensive) lab in London. The camera has a slow lens and it produced soft corners in the pictures. The overall quality of the photos wasn't the same one I could get from the Konica Mini 510z (zoom camera as well).
When I bought the Mju II with the prime 35 mm lens I really noticed the difference. The design of the camera is nice anyway, just slightly bigger than the Mju II prime lens. The flash pops up instead of being fixed like in the Mji II 35 mm. Generally the price for this camera is really too high for what it offers, probably because it contains "Mju II" in the name. I suggest to buy a Mju II with the prime 35 mm, or go for a cheaper and better camera, like the two following Konica ones.
This Konica has also a zoom lens, and while generally I suggest to avoid zoom lenses (specially in compact cameras), with this one I could get very nice quality pictures. Its sisters Konica Big Mini models are quite famous among the compact point & shoot film cameras, since the lenses are great, and the designs of the cameras are simple and clean. I also had a Konica A4 (broken now), which basically is the first Big Mini (BM101) and doesn't have the zoom. While I could see much difference between the Olympus Mju II and its zoom counterpart, with these Konicas I didn't notice the same huge gap between the two cameras. The Konica Big Mini 510z has a simple and nice design body. The shutter button feedback is very good. You can buy it very cheaply on eBay since it doesn't have the attention that people reserve to the Big Minis 201 and 302. If you need the zoom, this is a nice choice.
You can find still cheap Konica A4s as well, since it doesn't have the name "Big Mini" on it. Still, this camera is a Big Mini, indeed the first one of the series (code BM101). Also the shape of the body is very similar to the Big Mini 201, even if the A4 feels much more 80's in its design than the later Big Mini versions. The camera is light and slim. It has a 3.5 lens (that extends when switched on) just like the later Big Minis, except the Big Mini F which has a 2.8 aperture. I could get some very nice quality pictures from the A4. The macro mode has a dedicated button on top (I think it's really handy). The shutter button is too sensitive, and it happened to shoot a photo while I was trying to lock the focus with half pressing the button. It's a bit annoying. It's a bit difficult to see the LEDs inside of the viewfinder sometimes, but the viewfinder itself is bigger than the Mju one.
Anyway I recommend the A4 over the Big Mini zoom, prime lenses are always better, but if you need a zoom the Big Mini won't disappoint either. The Konicas are made in Japan, and the overall quality of the cameras feels better than the Olympus Mju, more solid and with a less cheaply plastic body. The lens is comparable but behind the Mju II's. This camera broke, and I tried to recover the lens somehow. Still experimenting with it, but could use parts of the lens on the iPhone's camera for some macro close up.
This camera often gets less love than its famous sisters Yashica T4 and T5. Less love means less money (well at least for cameras), so you can buy this model on eBay for a lot less than a T4/T5. It also has a faster 2.8 lens comparing to the 3.5 lens of the T4/T5. Anyway, these are all good cameras, with a lovely and sharp and contrasty Carl Zeiss T* Tessar 35 mm lens.
This Yashica T3 camera is pretty big. You can compare the sizes of the camera on the first and last pictures here, with all the cameras all together. It's big, massive, thick, not really a beauty, but I love it. It reminds me of the Sega Master System (first version), and this might be another reason to love it. Its body feels really solid, good plastic, and a great grip. The feature I love at most (after the lens) is the N.A. Scope, an additional viewfinder, on the top of the camera. It's a great features, I really wonder why I don't see this additional viewfinder in more cameras. Not all the Yashica Ts have this N.A. Scope, you need to find a Yashica T3Super, or a Yashica T4Super, or a T5. Plain T3s and T4s don't have it. Another great feature (specially for discreet street photography) is that if you keep the shutter button pressed the camera takes the picture but doesn't run the motor to get to the next film exposure until you release it. Even if the camera is not very silent, this functionality helps a lot. The shutter button itself is too sensitive, but I guess you can get used to it. Just like the Mju II, slide the cover to switch on the camera, ready to shoot without lens extension (another good point).
The camera is also weather resistant, and it feels it can survive pretty much everything. Highly recommended if you don't need to carry it in your jeans pocket. Or enlarge the pocket since it's worth it. One of the best compact cameras for street photography.
I have mixed feelings about this camera, since it gave me inconsistent results. It's a Leica rebrand of a Japanese production (Minolta, Panasonic, or Kyocera), and it's made in Japan. The body itself feels quite cheap, plastic, light and not very strong. I got the Titan version, that has a champagne body without the black stripe in the middle (I think the version I have looks better). I wonder why they didn't include any cover for the lens, it just retracts in the body when off, but without cover. I also hoped for a better lens, since anyway it's branded Leica, but I wasn't very impressed. Probably when you think of Leica you get also higher expectations.
The start up of the camera is pretty slow, the lens takes a while to extract and be ready, and it's noisy during this process. The use is similar to the average common point & shoot camera: auto exposure with auto focus, with only the flash to set (usual settings, auto, on, red eyes, off, and so on). The autofocus is quite good, not particularly slow or fast, but precise. Also the shutter button feedback is fine, with a sound half press to lock the focus. The lens itself is a 32mm f/3.2, and in some shots it provided some sharp details with contrasty colours, but other times colours were quite weak and soft details overall, this inconsistency is what makes me wonder about the camera. The auto exposure was another point of inconsistency, with mixed lighting situation the camera doesn't behave very well.
This Leica Mini 3 is not a bad camera, and the 32mm focus length is an interesting one, even if a bit wide for my use. I would recommend it anyway for a reasonable price (being branded as Leica tends to be pricey), or you could find the more economic Minolta Riva Mini, or Minolta Freedom Escort that seem to be like the Leica Mini I and II.
The Leica Minilux didn't disappoint me. Loaded it first with a Ilford FP4 Plus 125 roll it deployed some alive and crispy black & white photos. I had worse and blurry results in lower light environments, or when I used the camera with the DOF hyperfocal distance, or situations where probably I pushed the camera to take the shot anyway.
The overall feeling is great, this Minilux is a lovely camera. Not one of the basic point & shoot like the Leica Mini 3, the Minilux is completely on another level. It has some manual controls as well, you can set the aperture to shoot in aperture priority, set the zone focus, or focus to infinity. There is control over the flash of course (which by the way works very well), and exposure compensation, too. The position of the control is also very good, aperture and AF or focus distance on two knobs one on top of each other, and with the aperture knob you also use to switch on the camera. The "P" mode is for the automatic exposure, both aperture and shutter speed. The autofocus is great, the fastest among all the film cameras I have. The camera behaved perfectly, giving balanced exposure every time, in all the situations I tested it.
The body of the camera is amazing, both the design and the quality of the material. It's a joy to use, and it's a camera that slows you down in a good way, making you think about each shot you take. It's a perfect camera for different styles and kinds of photographers, since it can be very flexible. Unfortunately you cannot put filters on the lens, I'd love that, but the lens itself is simply great: Summarit 2.4/40mm. It's so great that in Japan they take the lens from dead Minilux and convert it for Leica M mount. And why do they convert it? Well, this is the sad part of the Leica Minilux: the error E02. It's the definitive error that transforms your Minilux in a - still lovely - brick. So you want to continue to use the amazing lens, like a transplant. It seems that almost all the Minilux can get the error E02 at some point (assumption), no matter how it behaved until the day before. It's scary, and makes you use the camera with being afraid to meet read this code on the display. I got some information that suggests to change the battery when the camera still shows it as half-full, since it can help to avoid the error. I don't know if it really helps, but I'm going to do this for sure. The battery btw lasted just for a couple of rolls, which is quite ridiculous. When it's shown as half-full, swap it with a full battery, and use the half one on another camera.
I mentioned a display, and this is another great feature of the camera. When you half press the shutter button the small display on top of the camera shows the aperture (if automatic mode) and the shutter speed. This is absolute helpful when you want to check the exposure before taking the photo, and if you want to tweak it. The camera is silent, and the shutter button is great, too, sensitive but still easy to half press. A negative point is the viewfinder. It's really too small and completely bare of information about the shot, except the green and red LEDS. They could have done much better, and it doesn't feel at the same level of the rest of the elements.
You can get this camera on ebay for about £200/300, it really depends on the moment, on the conditions, and if you're lucky. Since the error E02 is quite famous, and it always appears with googling the name of the camera, people tend to buy the zoom version of the Minilux (because it doesn't get the error E02) that has a 35-70mm f/3.5-6.5 zoom lens. It's very different. It's not as good as the Minilux prime lens Summarit 2.4/40mm. Leica doesn't repair the camera anymore, but there are some other local stores that could repair it.
This is a camera from the 70's, and not really a point & shoot in terms of auto focus and auto exposure. It has a selenium-meter, with an aperture ring on the lens to shoot in aperture priority mode. The body is simply great, a made in Germany design masterpiece. The camera has a HUGE and clear viewfinder, and the famous HUGE red/orangish shutter button, even if the body is small and compact.
Like many other compact cameras without rangefinder from the 70's it has a zone focusing system. In a sunny day, with f/22 or f/16 aperture, you can easily get a clear DOF zone focus using the hyperfocal distance, even on a 40mm lens (not really a wide focal length). The lens is a 40mm f/3.5 and it's quite sharp, but the other Agfa Optima Sensors such as the 535 or the 1035 with also the rangefinder have a brighter f/2.8 lens. I suggest to go with the latter one, since it seems to be the more complete. I like the 40mm focal length, I find it to be the right one for my style. I enjoyed using this Optima Sensor for this focal length, for the aperture ring on the lens, for the film wind single stroke (instead of the electronic motor), and for the overall mechanical feeling of the camera. The batteries are used just for the meter (shutter speed), that is precise with consistent results. I think shooting with a more mechanical camera is a refreshing experience, that slows you down in a good way.
I was not disappointed by the photos this camera takes, I kind of expected a certain amount of quality in the Canon lens, even if a zoom one. The lens is a 38-135 (hence the name Z135) f/3.6-8.9, not too bad for a lens zoom (better than the Mju II zoom 80 and its 38-80 f/4.5-8.9), even if I almost always used it at 38mm. The camera is big, very big. Longer than the average, and quite thick. The lens is also quite long even when the camera is off. The camera has some nice options on its back, the ring you can find pretty much on all the Sure Shot series cameras. Macro, sport, portrait (with a limited but existing DOF), auto, and so on. The body is really nice, the front part is metal, and its design fits very well when holding the camera. This model can also imprint the date and a caption on the photo. I tried the date, since it reminds me of the 90's, and I think I won't use it anymore since it just makes me want to erase it with Photoshop.
I think this model is almost completely unknown, at least ignored by the compact point & shoot film community, as people pay a bit more more attention to the Canon Sure Shot Classic 120. I don't really think they are so different in terms of performance, since this Z135 holds up quite well, and I could get some good photos with it.
The camera metering gets a bit confused in mixed exposed situations I think, I tested it in particular lighting situation and it didn't behave as well as the Yashica T3 for example. I also noticed the auto focus went off in a couple of shots, focusing on the background or near the point I wanted to focus. The camera anyway behaves quite well also indoors and in low light without flash. It has a good shutter button, you can easily get the half stop for focusing, so it's never happened to take a photo instead of a half stop press.
I think this would be a nice camera for a general photography, specially for travel. It's not really a camera for street photography itself, but it doesn't suggest a particular purpose either.
Here is a list of the cameras I currently use or actually used in the past; both digital and film. For some cameras I wrote a short review, but since the list is long and the time is limited I think I won't write a review for all of them, not even a short one.
Leica M6 LENSES:
Voigtlander 35mm f2.5 Color Skopar Pancake
Leica Summicron-C 40mm f2.0
Leica Summarit 50mm f1.5
Jupiter-8 50mm f2
Yashica T4 lens, with 3D printed LTM mount YASHICA:
Yashica Electro 35 GTN
Nikon EM LENSES:
Nikon 50mm 1.8 Series E
Sigma Mini-Wide II 28mm f/2.8 Macro