Ricoh R10 Film Camera Review

The near weightless Ricoh R10, produced in collaboration with Elle Magazine in 2002 could be one of the last Ricoh point and shoot fun boxes created. The silver, flimsy shooter might feel tacky when you first pick it up. But, it’s a true hidden and widely unknown gem from film’s final days at Ricoh (if you can find one, that is!)

I have the Ricoh GR digital APS-C banger and it’s my go-to digital pocket shooter. I’ve shot it at night, on holiday at the beach and it generally lives in my bag as the only digital camera I’m carrying on the daily. These little Ricohs are cameras clearly designed by a photographer who is either super lazy or only has one arm. Either way, it makes for a joyous shooting experience to have all your controls and settings at your fingertips. It’s what inspired me to start looking for a film equivalent, I was seduced by the Ricoh lens and one hand shootability. I began my journey on the hunt for the analogue GR1, mainly to match my digital camera and in part because I figured the shooting experience would be much the same.

I’ve read that, for the most part it is, so it was my first choice and so began the hours of unnecessary and over the top online research. Then, I found my way to this article from a fellow Ricoh enthusiast and it scared me off big time. I put my search on hold for a long, long time due to the failing LCD and electronics issues mentioned.

It wasn’t until recently that I picked my search up again, I figured that most old automatic analog shooters die for no reason every day anyway, I might as well have some fun with it. And, mainly I wanted that sweet 28mm GR lens.

But, then suddenly the price of the Ricoh GR1 became all too real. Then reality set in as I was reminded that, it’s a $700 risk and potential paperweight I’d rather not have on my conscience

The next phase of my journey was pretty quick really. I found out about the lower cost alternative, the plastic fantastic Ricoh R1 that came in spewy-green or white-ish-silver colourways. It had a 30mm lens and a 22mm panorama mode, it also had that snappy Ricoh GR look housed in that plastic frame. But, it didn’t sit right with me. It dropped the snap mode (which I was OK with) but lacked any REAL GR features other than the reverse film wind in mode. The feature set didn’t really bother me though as the fixed prime seemed good enough and 30mm is odd, but useable. The hard ‘No’ for me was the availability issue: good luck finding one with a usable and fully working LCD screen. Not possible. So I passed.

After what seemed like a decade, I stumbled upon a listing for a beat to shit R10. It seemed to have the same capabilities as the R1 (for the most part), but the R10 had a more modern point and shoot look. It dropped the funky panorama function, a 90s obsession I’ll never understand and went with the solo fixed prime 30mm lens. It really didn’t take me long to find a used but only barely copy on eBay for a cool hundred, shipped, with box and classic over the top multi-language literature. That’s MUCH easier for the wallet and conscience to swallow.

Hardware

Apparently designed in collaboration with Elle Magazine, the original version of this camera was called the Elle after the magazine. But, Ricoh later rebadged it as the R10 a couple of years later after the deal had wound down. The R10 takes a number of cues from the classic GR range but is really more of a modern point and shoot footprint. My favourite part though: it weighs nothing. Even with CR123a battery and film loaded it’s light as a feather and truly pocketable, something my Olympus OZ-10 wishes it could do! It does maintain some key GR features though, minimal as they are sparse.

The power button, modification buttons for the data stamps (of which on this model there are about 15 options like WORLD PEACE and LOVE, yet another useless feature of the 80s and 90s I’ll never understand) and the classic Ricoh LCD all feature on this model. The LCD is guaranteed to die first, rendering your camera useless and inoperable after a few months! It’s even got the classic Ricoh wind-the-film-back-into-the-canister-as-you-shoot thing, which makes loading longer but unloading (if you will) pretty quick. Basically, it loads on the whole roll when you load your roll then passes each exposed frame back into the canister, exactly the same as the R10’s big brother the GR1. Making awkward door openings less costly and your exposed frames are nice and not destroyed, safe in the film canister.

Additionally, one of my favourite features is another carry over from the GR1: the shutter. I can’t say for certain that the shutter is exactly the same as the GR1 but it’d have to be remarkably similar in design and materials. When firing off frames on the street I can barley hear the shutter fire, let alone anyone else on the street which is perfect for when you’re out shooting street or documentary photography. One less thing to bother people in the street is a good thing in my book. How I tell I’ve taken a frame if shooting from the hip is that I feel for the film wind to the next frame, it’s far more obvious than the near silent shutter click.

It weighs nothing because it’s made of shitty, shitty soft and clearly not durable plastic. It does not feel robust or durable in the hand in any way. It does not feel like a professional piece of kit, but more like a toy that’s been mass produced for a market who don’t care about tossing it after a handful of rolls. Which it likely was.

The film door is flimsy, you will not feel confident loading film in a minor breeze lest it be snapped clean off your camera (I mean, it likely wont but it FEELS very poorly made). The battery door sucks as well, many owners have reported it broken and most just superglued it back in place. Mine opens up all the time when in my bag to the point that I have tried to power it on and it’s failed because the battery has fallen out. I don’t even think the entire unit has got any metal on it, other than the tiny pieces on the circuit board and battery contacts. To be fair, most of you would think these bad things. I merely think they’re trade offs to reduce weight, because the Ricoh R10 is so light you’ll forget you’re carrying it. Which is exactly what I’ve been looking for in an everyday shooter!

Where the Ricoh R10 really excels is the lens, basically everything else about this camera is sub-to-below par. Everything, but the lens which is excellent. The 30mm f3.5 of the R10 isn’t quite at the ground shaking classically raved about level of the GR 28mm f2.8 lens, but it’s a decent trade off if you don’t want to risk the fragility of an ageing GR1, v or s. Obviously though, it’s a Ricoh lens and the same lens that lives in the Ricoh R1 (minus the additional wider angle piece), so it’s nice and sharp and every bit as usable as a GR, in my humble opinion.

Handling

It’s not going to surprise you that the R10 handles exceptionally well in the hand. It’s tiny, light and about the same size as the more popular GR1, it just weighs about one third of it’s premium counterpart.

Unfortunately, for those wondering the R10 does drop the unbelievable SNAP function that we all love so much, for many Ricoh GR1 users this feature is the main reason we use these cameras. It’s the main reason why I still have my Digital GR for street shooting. Sad I know, but the R10 is still 100% usable nonetheless. It’s not unlike every other film point and shoot camera I’ve ever used, only lighter. It’s only got a single center-weighted auto focus point, the AF is slow-ish in modern terms but not a slowpoke by any means (sup, Sony). In terms of golden age autofocus, the R10 is noticeably faster than my Contax G2 and very rarely misses focus as opposed to the Contax’s which seems to miss one out of five/six shots.

Other functions included at no extra cost are a macro mode (that’s surprisingly usable), landscape and various flash modes to get you through the boredom of yet another film point and shoot. The flash is usable, but not legend status like the Contax T2. The onboard flash is good enough to illuminate your subjects, it basically sucks all colour out of your film because it’s quite harsh – so it’s a trade off you’ll have to manage.

Results

Surprisingly, the Ricoh R10 produces some stunning results thanks to the sub-tier-GR-ish 30mm lens that it sports. I shot all of these with the remaining Kodak ColorPlus 200 film I had left over from my last Amazon order and was very impressed with how both film and camera responded. These days I much prefer to shoot what they call ‘consumer’ films as they produce decent colours in good light and cost about half of that of their professional counterparts. The R10’s lens really performed quite well with decent light, maybe not so much in low light.

I intentionally tried to see how the camera and film combo would work in varying light conditions and it fared… much better than I had expected, almost to ‘mind-blown’ level. The lens is WAY sharper than I had expected. The shot of the tree with the weird “do not cross” tape around it is super, super sharp for a little pocket film shooter with a consumer stock and the remaining shots are all of much higher quality than could have imagined.

For street work this will now be my go to point and shoot simply for the utility of the 30mm lens and the overall weight of the camera, which I can’t stress enough – this thing is LIGHT.

Availability

I’m not about to suggest that it’s impossible to find a decent condition R10 early on eBay. But, I’ll say that there is a lot of junk on there. Which means wading through listings of “for parts” or barely working copies with dead LCDs will become a chore quickly. If you’re really keen on one, or any Ricoh film point and shoot, I highly recommend sourcing one that has a clean and working LCD. You can use these cameras without it, but it’s just nicer to have it.

My copy cost me a cool $100 and I’d say it’s a pretty clean copy based on the research I completed online. Give yourself a timeline of a couple of weeks and see what listings pop up, don’t go for the first beat to shit copy you see as chances are you’ll regret it.

Overall, the R10 isn’t as widely available as the GR1 models but it’s not rare. Keep your eye on ebay and one will pop up eventually.

Final Thoughts

I’m really surprised there isn’t more hype around this little early 2000s beast. Produced in the days when Nikon was converting photojournalists to digital in their droves, it’s been long forgotten. However, at 30mm it offers a great fixed focal length that’s usable for daily shooting, travel and street without any major hiccups. I mean, it’s got a Ricoh lens in it! I can recommend this light and silent shooter enough.

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