As my chronicling of cheap toy cameras continues, not too terribly long ago I picked up a Reto Ultra Wide & Slim (yes, that’s the camera’s full name) 35mm film camera off of Amazon for about $30. I guess these things have been around for a few years now but, honestly, I just found out they existed, and for 30 bucks I figured why not and clicked the “buy now” button.
If there was ever a 35mm film camera made for the selfie age, this might be it.
As it’s name implies, the Reto is equipped with an “ultra wide” 22mm lens. It’s also super simple to use, just like most of the cheap toy cameras on the market, and is a great starter camera for kids or beginners looking to get into film photography. The camera has a button to fire the shutter, a manual winder to advance the film, and… that’s pretty much it.
All you have to do to take a decent selfie is flip the camera around and push the shutter button.
The lack of options on the camera really frees you up to focus on the photography side of things, or just goof off because you have a small plastic toy camera in hand, which is pretty much the route I took with the first roll.
Similar to other plastic cameras, you never really know what you’re going to get out of the developing take. There’s heavy vignetting, soft corners and soft focus, lens flare, and the possibilities of light leaks and other imperfections (although I didn’t have a single light leak on this roll, and with the way the film door is seated it may never happen). The 2-piece lens is a very simple design and is uncoated, which means you get some pretty funky flare when photographing into the sun, kind of like this:
One of the biggest selling points to me is the size of this camera. It is tiny. I means like fit in the palm of your hand tiny, like half the size of an Olympus OM-1 tiny, which is already a camera known for it’s compact size. It is by far the smallest camera I own, possibly the smallest film camera ever made(?). If there’s ever a smaller design they’ll be shaving millimeters because there’s a physical limitation to how small you can make something and still fit a roll of 35mm film inside.
Another boost, you guessed it, is the 22mm wide-angle lens. It’s wider than any of the lenses I actually own aside from a Canon EF 16-35mm zoom, and that lens alone is probably trip the size of this camera. I work on a 32-foot charter fishing boat during the summer months. It’s got pretty limited deck space, and the wide angle on the Reto should be good for capturing the chaos on the back deck.
Some other things worth noting, the Reto’s shutter only has one speed, 1/125s, which means it’s well suited for outdoor daylight photography and not much else. It’s also a good idea to load it with 400 speed film, or maybe even 800 speed if you know it’s going to be an overcast day. This camera is not good for indoor or low-light photography. None of my indoor shots produced a usable image.
With that said, I decided to load the camera with a roll of Kodak Color Plus 200 that I had laying around and push the film 1 stop during developing (so no real surprise the indoor shots didn’t come out). That’s mainly because it was the only consumer-grade film I had at the time and I didn’t want to burn a $15 roll of Portra 400 (prices for some of these film stocks have gone crazy post-pandemic *eye roll*).
The only real issues I had with this camera were mostly self-inflicted. I got my fingers in the frame on several pictures (as you can see above) probably because the camera is so small and the lens so wide. Just make sure to keep them behind the box and you’re good. I also took a bunch of crooked photos. I’m normally pretty good about holding the camera level, but I guess I’m still getting used to this one and its perspective. Other than that, the film door is kind of hard to get open because of the tiny latch. I’d rather have that problem than have to worry about it flying open though since I’ll be pocketing this camera most of the time.
If this camera peaks your interest you might also check out the harder-to-find Werlisa Color Club 35mm or the cult-classic Holga medium format camera.