Friday, June 28, 2019

The Pentax UC-1. If you see one, buy it.

I thought I'd seen all of the compact 35mm cameras made, until I picked up this Pentax UC-1.  I didn't know Pentax  made a camera so small, with such elegance and such a sharp wide-angle lens.  I suppose UC-1 means "Ultra Compact 1." but I could be wrong.  Maybe it means "Utterly Cute" or maybe it stands for "Use Continuously."  I was eager to put a test roll of film through this little beauty, also known as the Espio Mini outside of North America. 

The UC-1 is a clam-shell front camera, much like the Olympus Stylus Epic.  It's really a surprise to me that Pentax produced the UC-1, as it is so different than the typical Pentax P&S cameras that I have seen.  While it compares well with the Olympus Stylus Epic, it's really an even better camera in my opinion.

Strong Points of the UC-1

  1. Compact size and ergonomics - at only 4.2 x 2.3 x 1.4 inches,  and 6 ounces, this camera is truly ultra-compact.  It fits easily in the hand and the controls are easy to see and engage.
  2. Wide-ish lens - the 32 mm f/3.5 lens is deadly sharp.  Certainly wider than a 35 - 38mm seen on many compacts.
  3. ISO Range - DX coded 35 mm cassettes from 25- 3200.  Non-DX cassettes are assigned an ISO of 25.
  4. Focus Range - 1 foot to infinity!
  5. Panoramic Mask Function - not for everyone, but nice in a wide-angle camera.
  6. Power - 1 CR123A 3v cell. 
  7. Shutter Speeds - Programmed AE electric shutter with speed approx. l/400sec. -2 sec, Bulb: l/2 sec.- 5 min., Electromagnetic release  The Infrared remote is an option, but with it you can easily shoot in B mode on a tripod for long exposures.  Up to 5 minutes means you could easily use this camera for night skies.  
  8. Flash Control - Built-in auto flash with red-eye reduction mode, Automatic flash emission in low luminance or a backlight situation, Flash-ON:Daylight-Synchro/Slow-Shutter-Speed Synchro (up to 2 sec.), Flash-OFF:Flash override, Bulb Synchro: l/2 sec.- 5 min.
  9. Auto film loading, winding, and rewinding at end of roll.

Lots of control and information

Weak Points

  1. The LCD on mine is only partly operational.
  2. The chrome finish is attractive, but it does wear off.  
  3. Not a common model, which means prices on eBay are quite high -- over $100 for working cameras, higher for mint, and don't forget to search under Espio Mini! That's a debatable weak point if you are a seller.


Back in December I loaded a roll of Fuji Superia 200 in the camera  and went downtown to shoot the roll.  I forgot about the roll, and it sat with others until a batch went to The Darkroom for developing. 

I have to say that I am impressed with the results.  This is certainly a camera that could be easily carried in a pocket and taken out in a moment's notice to shoot with.  Right now, the camera is packed away for my move to NC, but I will certainly be using it more in the future.  The sharp lens, excellent exposure control, compactness and ergonomics make this camera a real treasure. If UC-1, buy it!


James said...

Great post - never hard of this Pentax P&S either - cute camera and great pics as always - good luck with your move.

Gary said...

Big fan of this camera too--and I agree with most everything you say. However, the camera was sold as the Pentax Espio mini here in Canada (last I checked, still a part of North America).

You can see my review on my web site but it's not much different than yours.