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
- 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.
- Wide-ish lens - the 32 mm f/3.5 lens is deadly sharp. Certainly wider than a 35 - 38mm seen on many compacts.
- ISO Range - DX coded 35 mm cassettes from 25- 3200. Non-DX cassettes are assigned an ISO of 25.
- Focus Range - 1 foot to infinity!
- Panoramic Mask Function - not for everyone, but nice in a wide-angle camera.
- Power - 1 CR123A 3v cell.
- 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.
- 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.
- Auto film loading, winding, and rewinding at end of roll.
Lots of control and information
- The LCD on mine is only partly operational.
- The chrome finish is attractive, but it does wear off.
- 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!