Sunday, November 03, 2019

The Ricoh XR-M SLR

 By the mid-1980s, camera manufacturers were moving towards more plastic in the bodies of 35mm SLR cameras. Point and shoots had already achieved this, as the ABS plastic was found to be excellent for camera bodies.  The consumer-level SLRs such as the Canon T50 and T70, Nikon N2000, and Pentax P30 featured plastic bodies with internal metal chassis, or in some cases, more ABS plastic.  Ricoh introduced its XR-M SLR in 1987, and this manual-focus auto-wind camera features design elements that remind me of both the Canon T70 and a  Minolta Maxxum 7000.

The Ricoh XR-M has a bunch of features that place this camera as being quite advanced and I am surprised that it didn't get more attention.

Fairly good control layout!  Looks much like a 1990s SLR

There is an optical frame counter - no IR for you.

clean design

Features and Specifications
  • Top-deck LCD display panel
  • Program modes - P, A, M, S
  • ISO setting via DX or manually entered from 12-6400
  • Auto film loading, film auto-advance and rewind
  • film loaded window
  • Viewfinder with the following functions visible:
  • AE lock indicator
  • Subtractive film counter
  • Exposure Compensation
  • Over/under exposure indicator
  • Shutter speed
  • Program mode (PASM)
  • Shutter speed
  • Flash ready
  • Aperture
  • Auto backlight indicator
  • Spot metering indicator
  • Averaged metering indicator
  • Fill Flash indicator 

Obviously presaging cameras such as a Nikon N50, based upon the above specs!

  • Viewfinder - 91% coverage, the XR-M has an angled split image focus spot and microprism focus collar, as well as a matte screen to aid in focus.  In use, I found the split image focus spot to be very easy to see and use.
  • Depth of Field Preview button!
  • Self-timer with variable time settings
  • Programmed flash photography with Ricoh Speedlights
  • TV mode - for photographing TV screen, set at 1/30 sec.
  • Center-weighted metering and spot metering modes
  • Interval timer- set to fire shutter 1 sec to 1 hour for time-lapse
  • Single frame shooting to continuous, as well as multiple exposures
  • AE lock!
  • Exposure Compensation +/- 4 stops in 1/3 stop increments
  • Bulb setting
  • Left hand-shutter release can be programmed
  • Power- Requires 4 AA cells
  • Shutter - vertical focal plane shutter 30 sec - 1/2000 sec, plus B- 1 sec to 1 hour
  • Lens mount - Ricoh system R-K mount.  You can use other K-mount lenses with this camera, but I do not think all will work in Program mode.
  • Tripod socket
  • Weight with 50mm lens and 4 AA cells is 1 lb 11 oz.
Have yet to test out the flash and the zoom lens.

Available accessories:
  • Super Data Back 4
  • Data back 3
  • Interchangeable viewfinder screens
  • Speedlight PX
  • XR Speedlight 300P, as well as other speedlights

Overall, a staggering amount of options and control for a 1987 off-brand SLR.

This camera came to me with the control button cover missing. That's just a small piece of plastic that covers the 4 orange control button on the left top of the camera.  You really do need the the manual to get the most out of this camera. However, once you figure out the system, it's pretty easy to use in most of its operation.

I found that the right-hand grip (which contains the 4 AA cells, much like a Minolta Maxxum 7000) makes the camera very easy to hold, with my index finger falling directly over the shutter button.  There is no screw-in cable release, but a small remote socket on the rear of the body, which looks a lot like that of a Canon rebel's simple remote socket.

The interval timer is pretty cool. I set it to shoot a frame every two seconds and had fun standing in front of the camera and letting it fire away. It went through a 24 exposure roll of Kentmere 400 in less than a minute.

I took the camera out to the River Arts District of Asheville on a nice day in late October and shot a couple of rolls of film.  The auto-advance of the film combined with shooting it in P mode, made it act like a P&S SLR - much like a Canon AE-1P, but with auto-wind. I really like the way in feels in the hand, and it was easy to shoot with.

I'm not sure why this camera hasn't gotten more love.  Maybe it was just a bit ahead of its time, and maybe if it had autofocus, it might have been a bigger deal. In any event, I found it very easy to shoot with, though perhaps at the time it came out, not having dials and traditional SLR-style controls was considered to be too gimmicky.  The controls certainly would have been right there with 1990s cameras, though.

I say that the camera reminds me a lot of the Canon T-70, and it really does have a similar look and feel to that camera, right down to the gray plastic body.  However, the Ricoh XR-M has far more modes and control options than the Canon T-70. Perhaps if the camera had a Pentax logo on it, it may have fared better.  It certainly seems better made than a lot of the Pentax plastic-bodied SLRs from that era.

This camera came with the 35-70 zoom as well as the 50mm f/2 Rikenon lens (which I used), as well as the Ricoh XR 300P speedlight (which I did not use).  The overall package is one that would be quite usable by any photographer.

Now some sample photos, of course! These are all on Tmax 100.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Trippin' with that Lomochrome Purple!

Last year, I reported on using my one and only roll of Lomochrome Purple XR 100-400.  In the fall, I immediately placed an order for 5 rolls when Lomo announced they were accepting pre-orders for a new batch.  The film arrived back in May, I think, but due to the whole moving thing, my rolls were tucked away until things were settled here in North Carolina.  In August, I finally shot the first of my Lomochrome Purple in my Olympus Trip 35.  I sent the roll to The Darkroom earlier this month, and they processed the film.    I scanned the negatives in my Epson V700 scanner, and of course, I am really liking the results.  I shot the film at ISO 200, and the Trip 35 is the perfect camera for these wacky films.  I am not tying up an SLR with an unusual film, and as the Trip 35 takes up so little space in my bag, I can carry it with me on multiple photo shoots and it's there when I see something that I think would look good in that alternate reality world of Lomochrome Purple.

Here are a few images from the roll.  Most of them are on my Flickr page, as well.  I think the 200 ISO rating gives some nice results, and it's like a faux color infra-red film.  I know that I'll get the best results in full sun, so I try to go with that when I can.  I really enjoy using the Olympus Trip 35, and it remains one of my favorite little cameras.

Sierra Nevada Brewery, Mills River, NC

These flowers are really yellow and orange. 

Bridge over reed Creek, UNC Botanical Garden

UNC Botanical Garden

UNC Botanical Garden

Kudzu, of course. Now otherworldly. 

NC Arboretum

NC Arboretum

A favorite spit is the deck at New Belgium Brewing
New Belgium Brewing, Asheville

New Belgium Brewing, Asheville

New Belgium Brewing

Friday, October 25, 2019

Ilford's New Ortho Plus!

image from Ilford Photo
Ilford Photo has been teasing us for the past week or so, with references to something new.  Alas, they revealed their new products  on 10/24 at the Photo Plus Expo in New York City.  Reports are that analog photography has a much bigger presence at Photo Plus this year, which is a great sign.  Ilford has introduced two new products -- their Multigrade V RC paper, and a new film in 35mm and 120 format.  Ilford Ortho Plus is an Orthochromatic film with a daylight ISO of 80.  What's an Orthochromatic film, you ask?  Ortho films are insensitive to red, and that means you can develop them by inspection UNDER A DARK RED SAFELIGHT.  Amber  (OC)  safelights will fog the film. Ortho films are great for landscapes and architecture, as they tend to have finer grain than panchromatic films, and are contrastier, with red/oranges  being dark.   The Ilford Ortho Plus is a good sign that Ilford is listening to the photo community, as it is a bit of a niche film.  The faster speed is nice.  The problem with other ortho films is that they are usually very slow, and too contrasty without a special developer.   While Kodak's Kodalith (of course, no longer made) is an ortho film, it's not a good pictorial film, as it's made to do high-contrast (i.e., pure black and white) images.  There are examples out there of other ortho films, most of which I have tried, and all are special-purpose emulsions that don't usually work well for pictorial use.  So, I am excited about the Ilford Ortho Plus.   I know the Ortho Plus film has been available as sheet film for some time, so it's good that us roll-film users get a chance to also shoot with it.

The Ilford Ortho Plus spec sheet gives developer information as well as how to adjust for reciprocity for exposures longer than 1 second.  That's important, because this film would be great for photographing waterfalls. Also, note that if you use it under tungsten lighting, the ISO rating is 40.

Anyhow, I look forward to testing a roll or two and see how it performs. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The Ricoh FF3-AF Point & Shoot

Back in the early 1980s, we were being treated to a  plethora of small, plastic-bodied 35mm point and shoot cameras.  Few attained the cult-like status of the Olympus XA (1979), which I think set the bar for design, ease of use, and image quality. Of course, the XA isn't a true point and shoot, but the XA2 that followed it is. Incorporating a flash always made for a larger camera, and because of that, the XA series with the separate flash module always were smaller than the cameras that incorporated a flash in the body.  Ricoh, while not a household name at the time, produced some interesting cameras, and probably made cameras for other brands.  The Ricoh FF-3 AF was introduced in 1983, and while it does not exactly stand out in the crowd, it doesn't try to do too much, and that is a good thing.

The Ricoh FF3-AF is an autofocus camera with a 5 element 35mm f/3.2 lens.  The lens cover slides back and forth across the front of the camera.  Uncovered, the camera is ready to go.  You set the ASA (ISO) by rotating a dial to the L of the lens, and film speeds range from 25 to 1000.  This was 1983, remember?  The film advance and rewind are motorized.  The self-timer is 10 seconds, and I think the close-focus distance is about 1 meter,  There is a window on the film door, so I don't recommend the camera for IR film.  A green light shows up on the L side of the top deck to indicate that the film is winding properly.  Just below it, a light indicates the self-timer is operating. You manually select the flash (a good idea) by pushing a tab to the L on the front of the camera. Best of all, the camera needs only 2 AA batteries to operate.  There is a tripod socket on the bottom.  No fiddly controls, and everything makes this autofocus point and shoot a bargain buy if you find one.  I especially like the fixed focal length of 35mm, making it a good candidate as a street camera.  As I said, there are no truly outstanding features, but the sum total is a compact, easy to use camera with a very good lens.

I did something I rarely do with a new camera -- I loaded a long-expired roll of b&w film. I used a roll of 1988 dated Agfapan 400.  Because of its age, I set the ISO at 100 on the front of the camera. There is no DX sensor inside to set film speed, which I really appreciate.

Loaded up with film, the camera weighs 12.8 ounces.  It fits into a pocket on my photo vest (which is a vest from Duluth Trading).  I took it around with me on several outings, and shot the roll of old Agfapan 400.  While there was some base fog, the scans came out pretty well.  In fact, I am quite pleased with the results from this old film!

My conclusion -- it's an underrated point and shoot camera that isn't particularly common.  I think if you find one for less than $10, pick it up.  It fits into a coat pocket quite easily, and the images from it will be just fine.

Now, some of the images...

Wednesday, October 16, 2019


Whew!  I checked my stats this morning and saw this:

When I started Random Camera Blog back in 2004, blogging had become popular, and little did I anticipate that I would still be writing about cameras and photography in the same venue 15 years later.  I started Random Camera Blog in mid-October 2004, as well as joined Flickr at the same time.  With almost 700 blog posts and over 13,000 images on Flickr since then, I guess I can say that I have some staying power.   For me, photography is a huge part of my life, and making photos is what really drives me.  While I have done my share of digitally-based images, film is where my head is, and where I enjoy the process the most.

The older I get, the more I acknowledge that someday this will all end.  At 62, I think I have about a decade or so to really immerse myself into what I love.  Perhaps, like Imogen Cunningham, I'll be wielding a camera into my 90s, but who knows what the future holds.  So, I am out shooting a bit almost every day, and now that I am in North Carolina, there are many places that I'd like to photograph that are within just a few hours of driving. I live very close to Asheville, and it's a great place to take a quick drive and test out cameras and film, but also has many photographic subjects that will keep my attention. You will see more camera and film stock reviews ahead, as well as more of my photography. 

I am as enthused by photography as I was 20 years ago, but now, with the mantle of experience, I can write  about a lot more than I could then.  I know that you CAN teach an old dog new tricks, as I have recently become unafraid of disassembling lenses to clean them, and I owe my thanks to those helpful people that put up the YouTube videos. I had a well-used, 85mm f/1.8 Nikkor-H portrait non-AI lens that had a big blob of fungus dead center.  After viewing some online videos, I knew that I could easily fix the problem.  Once I got the lens apart, the fungus was removed from the back of the forward lens group and the front of the rear lens group.  I used ammonia solution, wiped it with lens tissue and cotton swabs, then used Isopropyl alcohol for a final clean, dusted, and put everything back together.  The lens now looks fantastic. It had been AI-modified, so I'll be using it on one of my Nikons to give it a good workout.

The 85mm disassembled lens. Minolta X-570, Ilford Delta 100 film

Speaking of fixing things, last week I replaced the faulty capacitor in my Minolta X-700.  I last used the camera in May or June, and it had been reliable at the time.  I took it out to test some film, and realized that things were not good.  I had a box of Minolta X-370s, and an X-570 that also needed the fix, so I finally ordered 100 of the 220 microfarad 4v capacitors from Digi-Key.  At less than 15 cents each per hundred, it was worth buying enough to last for whatever repairs may lie  ahead.  Anyhow, only one of the repaired Minoltas still had a problem, but it was not capacitor-related.  The rest are all working great.  Aside from the desoldering/soldering aspect, it's an easy repair.  My next repair project is getting several Canon QL-17s working - at least in manual mode.

So, what's next?

More of the same, with film and camera reviews. Personal insights, examples of my work, and of course, whatever photographically-related topics that may come up.

By the way, if you have not yet seen the documentary about Jay Maisel titled "Jay Myself" -- you should.  It's on Amazon video, and the rental is $3.99. It's a glorious movie about Jay's long career and the selling of his home and studio that was housed in an old bank building in the Bowery district of New York City.  It's hard to fathom all of the things Jay collected, and why, but there is no doubt of his success as a commercial photographer.  I think you'll find some things that resonate as he describes his career and his thought process about shooting.  It's great that he allowed himself to be the subject of the documentary, and I laughed a lot as he interacted with the cinematographers. 

Finally, I'd like to say thank you to all of you that have followed  Random Camera Blog, and I hope that you have found it to contain some useful information over the years!