If you’ve been involved in the resurgent film photography community for a while you may have noticed the same question pop up from time to time. That question being ‘can’t someone start making new film cameras again?‘
In January 2022, with the announcement of the Reto Ultra Wide & Slim, someone was. Well, technically kind of, at least. Because while these cameras are new in the sense that they’ve been freshly made and have the Reto branding, they’re not new in terms of… much else, really.
That’s not a bad thing though. Not at all. For reasons I’m going to get into in this review, I really like my Reto Ultra Wide & Slim – from the concept, to the shooting experience, and on to the results it gave me.
Read on to find out why. And if what you learn makes you want to pick up one of your own, you can from Reto direct, or from any of their official dealers in your country – including B&H Photo in the US and Analogue Wonderland in the UK.
- 35mm film camera
- Slim and lightweight
- 22mm ultra wide lens
- Suitable for new film photographers
- 1 What is the Reto Ultra Wide & Slim?
- 2 Why the Reto UWS isn’t the second coming of the Vivitar version
- 3 Reto Ultra Wide & Slim specifications at a glance
- 4 Reto Ultra Wide & Slim features and construction
- 5 Reto Ultra Wide & Slim image quality and qualities
- 6 Reto Ultra Wide & Slim shooting tips and experience
- 7 What film should you use in your Reto UWS?
- 8 How to load film into your Reto Ultra Wide & Slim
- 9 Why I bought a Reto Ultra Wide & Slim
- 10 Where to buy a Reto Ultra Wide & Slim
- 11 Final thoughts on the Reto Ultra Wide & Slim
What is the Reto Ultra Wide & Slim?
The Reto Ultra Wide & Slim is a small, simple and lightweight plastic camera. Requiring no batteries because there’s nothing even remotely technological for them to power inside it, it has a fixed f11 aperture, a single 1/125th of a second shutter speed, and a 2-element focus-free lens. Which is also plastic.
With all that in mind, it needs something to make it stand out and worth buying – even at the very cheap price point it sells at. And fortunately, it does. That lens may not be glass, but it is an ultra wide 22mm focal length.
This very fun point ‘n’ shoot – or toy camera even – is the second offering to be sold by the Hong Kong-based Reto, coming after their 3D half-frame camera.
As we’re about to find out though, it’s not a design that Reto have come up with themselves. It’s not the first Ultra Wide & Slim camera of its type. It’s not even the second, or the third, or the… etc.
A few decades ago, a simple camera called the Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim, or VUWS, appeared. It had – get this – a fixed f11 aperture, a single 1/125th of a second shutter speed, and a 2-element focus-free 22mm lens.
The exact date of the VUWS’s debut eludes my research as I write this, but for a ballpark estimate I think we’re talking somewhere around 1990, give or take a few years either side.
If you look at the images below, you’ll see that the VUWS doesn’t only share the technical specs and Ultra Wide & Slim name with the new Reto offering.
Save for a few minor cosmetic details, they appear to be the same camera. And that’s because they are.
Vivitar was never really a company that made their own photography products. Many of their SLRs were made by Cosina, while their range of excellent lenses from the 1970s and 1980s were designed in-house and farmed out to various subcontractors for their manufacture.
With that in mind it should come as no surprise that the VUWS wasn’t made by Vivitar either. For that, we have to thank a Hong Kong operation called Sunpet Industries Ltd.
It was a mutually beneficial partnership of course, as cameras with Sunpet branding wouldn’t have sold half as well as these did with the Vivitar name on them, while Vivitar again didn’t have to worry about the manufacturing process.
Initially sold very cheaply and even given away as a free gift alongside other purchases in some cases, the VUWS eventually gained a loyal following for the lo-fi results it gave with its uncommonly wide lens.
The simplicity it brought by having zero manual controls also made it a ton of fun to shoot.
Fast forward to January 2022 and Reto announced the RUWS second addition to their camera lineup, to go along with that Nishika-like Reto 3D they were already selling.
With the same 22mm plastic lens, fixed f11 aperture and a single 1/125th of a second shutter speed as the VUWS, and with them looking almost identical, there is your answer to the question what is the Reto Ultra Wide & Slim?
It’s the latest reboot of the Vivitar version from a few decades ago. I say latest though because there have been others in the meantime too. We’ll cover those in the next section.
But as far as this Reto one is concerned, I can confirm that all these years later it still gives great results for such a small and simple camera and is indeed still a ton of fun to shoot.
Why the Reto UWS isn’t the second coming of the Vivitar version
When the Reto Ultra Wide & Slim was announced, all the articles I saw mentioned how it was a modern day version of the Vivitar one. And it is. They weren’t wrong in saying that.
What was wrong though was the assumption that I made about it. The assumption being there had once been a camera, that it had long been out of production, and that only now were we getting a new version of it.
That’s not quite true. Because in between the VUWS and the RUWS, we’ve had the JLUWS and the TUWS.
There have also been versions that didn’t use the Ultra Wide & Slim thing, like the Popeye Camera, the Rainbow V, a version from someone called Superheadz with its ‘Super Fat lens’, and the Eximus Wide & Slim.
Of those, I believe the Superheadz version is the best-known. It’s also infamous for its rubbery coating that becomes sticky and horrible to the touch after a while.
Another hat-tip needs to go to Going Lomo for digging up this nugget too: if you look at the edition of the Sunpet Industries catalogue that was published on this site in 2014, you’ll see the Ultra Wide & Slim camera right there, available and ready to be sold with whatever branding you like on it.
And that is why the Reto is not this camera’s second rodeo. It’s not the second coming of it. It’s more like the eighth.
Reto Ultra Wide & Slim specifications at a glance
Before we get into some of the shots I managed to get out of my Reto and tell you how they are to shoot, here are some of this camera’s specifications. Just so you can see at a glance exactly what you’re dealing with here.
A lot of it is quite ordinary and as you would expect from a simple plastic camera like this, with the 22mm wide lens being the most remarkable thing.
It takes 35mm film, is focus free, and has a standard viewfinder. Its manual film wind and rewind and lack of metering or flash means it requires no batteries either.
The fixed f11 aperture and 1/125 of a second shutter speed also mean your film choice will be based on the shooting conditions – there’ll be no opening up the lens or slowing down the shutter if it becomes too overcast for the ISO 100 roll you’re only halfway through.
The Reto UWS weighs just 68.8 grams, measures 100mm x 59mm x 28mm, and is available in five different colours. These are:
- Pastel Pink
- Muddy Yellow
- Murky Blue
Why those first two options didn’t get an adjective in front of them I do not know. But in the interest of trying to remain a little more inconspicuous whilst using mine, I went for the boring Charcoal option.
|35mm / 135
|Lens focal length
|2-element optical grade acrylic
|Focus free, 1m to infinity
|Plastic, reverse Galilean
|Manual wind and rewind
|100mm x 59mm x 28mm
|68.8g without film
|Main camera material
Reto Ultra Wide & Slim features and construction
You’ve already seen a few photographs of the front of this Ultra Wide & Slim camera, and this next section will show you the top, back, bottom, and insides of the thing too.
You can see the shutter release button and the film counter in the first image below.
The slightly teardrop shape of the button is not really something I noticed when I was shooting this, and I didn’t have any issue looking through the little window to see what frame I was on either.
This next image shows you the film door release latch and the winder. The former is reassuringly stiff on mine and showed zero signs of accidentally being caught and allowing the camera back to open up.
The latter feels good in use too, with enough tension to feel confident that your film is being wound-on properly. Just keep an eye on the rewind handle underneath and see if that is moving too to be sure.
Note also that this wind-on wheel is on the left of the camera, as the film is loaded into the right-hand side of it.
The following image shows the release button and the film rewind handle on the underside. The former is small enough and in a large enough recess that you won’t catch it accidentally, but the latter is unfortunately the weakest-feeling part of the Reto Ultra Wide & Slim.
It does feel like it could break when you’re using it, so just go steady is my advice.
Three things that you won’t see in any these photographs though are a hotshoe, a tripod mount, or any way to use a cable release. Because the Reto UWS has none of those.
Up next are the insides of the Reto Ultra Wide & Slim, with perhaps the most obvious thing to notice being the film chamber being on the right-hand side and winding over to the left as you get through your roll.
A closer look at the middle of the picture will reveal a part of the design that may not have been necessary and is perhaps a little unexpected for such a cheap camera.
The single-leaf shutter is encased between the lenses two elements, with one in front – obviously – and one behind.
Another clever thing you’ll find inside the RUWS is shown in the final image in this section. With such a wide lens, you’d expect some noticeable barrel distortion in your photographs.
However, the curved ridges on the inside of the door are there to curve your film, which helps to minimise that effect and keep the straight lines in your shots straighter.
Reto Ultra Wide & Slim image quality and qualities
Now we’ve covered what the Reto Ultra Wide & Slim is, from its history and resurrection to its features and construction, it’s time to get into what’s actually important.
The reason we like film cameras in the first place. For the photographs you can get from them.
We’ll go through those and talk about the image quality and qualities I experienced with each when shot in the RUWS.
Sample images shot on Kentmere Pan 100
While it was a sunny day so I shouldn’t have been too surprised, the biggest impression the Reto left on me was the amount of contrast I got in these images.
Having shot some more Kentmere Pan 100 in a different camera since, I do now know it is quite a contrasty film anyway. But it certainly looks like Reto’s plastic lens accentuated that here.
Despite that lens being plastic, I didn’t think the detail in these results was too bad at all. And the shots are pretty sharp in the middle, although that drops off as we get out to the edges. For what this camera is, I was pretty impressed with the overall detail and sharpness.
Finally, the vignetting. That was to be expected, but I think it adds character rather than taking anything away from the images.
Overall – contrast, detail, sharpness in the middle, and that vignette – I liked what I got from my first roll in the Reto Ultra Wide & Slim.
Sample images shot on Kodak Gold 200
This time we have nicely bright colours to go along with that contrast and detail seen in the Kentmere Pan 100 images. But we do have some other image characteristics of this camera to examine here too.
First up is the shot of the Britannia pier, which I think is a good example of this camera not suffering too much from barrel distortion. The pole in the left foreground and the one in the right background do curve slightly inwards, but nothing like as bad as they could be doing with a 22mm lens.
Next up is, while the images are again generally sharp, that softness towards the edges and corners is present again. This is most noticeable in the second shot below, where ‘the to er complex’ is readable but the white and orange sign in the bottom left corner isn’t.
I’d heard too that you can get some glare coming in through this plastic lens – especially when shooting into the sun. I managed to get some whilst shooting with the sun in the third image below, but it’s fine. It doesn’t make it an unpublishable image.
Overall, this first roll of colour film I put through the Reto UWS left me as impressed as the Kentmere Pan 100 did. It seems like an ideal camera for carefree sunny seaside shots.
Sample images shot on Ilford HP5 Plus 400
This one returned less contrast than the Kentmere Pan 100, but maybe it was a little overexposed being shot on that sunny Yarmouth day. With no control over the aperture or shutter speed of the camera, it may have been more of an ISO 100 or 200 kind of light.
Again though, I was pleased with the detail in the first shot below, with the focus nicely on the furry face in the foreground and dropping off into the background.
The second shot shows that sharpness in the middle again, sliding off down towards the bottom left corner, while the third and fourth images again show that lack of distortion. You can shoot images with parallel lines and keep your horizons actually horizontal with this thing.
That barrel distortion is perhaps most noticeable in the final image, which is of a building shot more close-up than the lines in the previous two images, but even there I don’t think it’s too bad really.
Overall, I was again impressed with the results I got from this inexpensive little plastic camera. Of course they aren’t going to be Summicron quality, but if that’s what you’re after then shoot a camera with a Summicron lens on it instead.
For what this camera is in terms of cost and for what it’s trying to achieve in terms of being a fun thing to play with, I think the image quality and qualities it gives you are hard to disparage.
Reto Ultra Wide & Slim shooting tips and experience
As well as getting plenty of photographs that I was pleased with from my Reto UWS, I also learned a few things whilst shooting those first three rolls in it. Some that may encourage you to get one of your own, and some that will be things to be aware of if you do.
Just like the previous one, this section will also include some shots that illustrate the points I’m making, broken down by the films they were shot on.
Things learnt from the Ilford HP5 Plus 400 roll
The first of these points is that, like a lot of point ‘n’ shoot cameras, the RUWS’s viewfinder can’t really be described as a ‘what you see is what you get’ kind of affair. It’s more of a ‘what you see is less than you’re going to get’.
I know I definitely composed the first image below – shot on Ilford HP5 Plus – with the front of the flowerbed closer to the bottom and the sides of the frame.
This isn’t ideal if you’re trying to compose super accurately and don’t want to crop your images afterwards, but it could be worse. ‘What you see is less than you’re going to get’ is better than ‘what you see is more than you’re going to get’ would be.
The viewfinder can make you think your shots will come out a little more fisheye-style than they end up doing, too. I certainly remember the curve of that kerb looking more bulbous when I was composing that shot.
To put a positive spin on this, both of those things could be seen as good reminders that this is just a fun camera and one that should be shot with that concept firmly in mind. Expectations need to be lowered and imperfections need to be accepted.
On that, the second photograph is an example of this being a fun camera. With zero controls to distract you, you can concentrate solely on your shots.
I saw the hole in the donut man and waited for someone to line themselves up with it. When they did, pointing and shooting was good, clean, simple fun.
The third image was made in a similar way, composing the scene and waiting for someone to enter it. It’s also a reminder that the burn on your first of the roll shot will be on the right-hand side, seeing as the film is loaded into the right-hand side of the camera.
Things learnt from the Kodak Gold 200 roll
The first of the shots below, taken on Kodak Gold 200, shows again that this is a camera you can walk around with and pull out to quickly shoot without worrying about any settings that may need changing.
All you have to worry about is composing the scene, and trying to do so before the bird in it flies away.
I think the three images here all again show the lens is pretty sharp in the middle, for what it is. A 2-element acrylic one.
As you can see from the shadows, all I was really doing was walking around with the sun behind me and shooting whatever looked decent in its light. It’s a good way to get through a roll of film, as you know your shots will have good colour and contrast if nothing else.
Accentuating colour and contrast is something this plastic lens seems quite at too, as seen in most of the results I’ve gotten with it so far.
Perhaps that’s the main thing I learned here from this roll of Kodak Gold 200 specifically. That when the sun is out and you want to capture colourful scenes in a carefree way, the Reto UWS is a fine and fun camera for doing so.
Things learnt from the Kentmere Pan 100 roll
The first shot here from the roll of Kentmere Pan 100 features something that appeared in quite a few of my results with this camera. That is, my own shadow.
That’s a result of going out to shoot on sunny days, because of the Reto’s limitations with its aperture and shutter speed, and shooting with the sun behind me to have well-lit scenes.
With a lens this wide and a viewfinder that doesn’t quite show you everything you’ll have in your final composition, you might find your shadow in more of your shots than you think too, if you shoot in a similar way to how I did here.
Something that I didn’t have in any of my results though was my fingers, which seems to be a common occurrence among other people that have written about this camera. Again, with this lens and viewfinder combo, just be sure your digits are well out of the way when you’re shooting.
The final two images below were taken as examples of the flare you can expect if you shoot into the sun with this camera. I knew the lens had a reputation for glare so I wanted to test that out.
Based on the couple of shots I tried, I think it’s something you could definitely play with and use deliberately in your shots. I can imagine it’d work well with colour film the next time I’m back at a beach.
A camera like this is ideal for getting creative, so do that. Go against conventional wisdom and shoot into the sun sometimes.
What film should you use in your Reto UWS?
35mm film, obviously. But I’ve got more advice to offer than just that.
Because the Reto Ultra Wide & Slim has a fixed aperture of f11 and just a single shutter speed of 1/125th of a second, you need to pay attention to the weather somewhat when deciding which film stock to load into it.
As a general rule, you should look at ISO 100 and 200 films on bright sunny days and ISO 400 for when it’s a little more overcast.
I think it was the HP5 Plus that fared the worst out of the three.
When I compare the results I got from the Reto with those I got from the same film in other cameras that do have light meters and variable apertures and shutter speeds – like these from the Yashica Electro or these from the Lomo LC-A, for example – they do look perhaps a little overexposed here.
Previous personal experience means I’d recommend you really do use an ISO 100 film on sunny days only too. With the Ultra Wide & Slim’s fixed aperture and shutter speed, it’s possible to hamstring yourself if you go with too low an ISO on a day with not enough light.
Shooting an ISO 200 or 400 film in this kind of camera gives you more leeway. It can be bright and sunny or can be dull and overcast and you’ll still be fine either side. Thanks to its exposure latitude, it has the ability to work both sides of the ideal light for its box speed.
With an ISO 100 film though, you might find you only have that leeway in one direction. Even its latitude might not help if dark clouds come over. The light can go as bright as it likes and you’ll be fine, but if it dips below a certain level, the film can’t cope and you’re going to end up with a bunch of underexposed images.
I’ve done this before with another camera with a similar level of technical features: a Holga 120N. As you can see in this post here, I loaded some ISO 100 film and ended up with most of the roll being very dark and useless.
At the time, I was used to shooting with the aperture priority Yashica Electro GSN. I could always just open the lens up to compensate for poor light. This made me complacent and just believing it’ll be okay, and that caught me out with the Holga.
So don’t do that with your Reto. If you’re used to having exposure, aperture or shutter speed controls on your usual camera, understand they won’t be here to bail you out on this one.
At the other end of the scale, while the HP5 Plus shots from my Reto may have been a little overexposed, there were still perfectly usable. Again, with the exposure latitude giving you leeway, I’d much rather be shooting an ISO 400 film in bright sunlight than an ISO 100 one on a gloomy day.
So I’d maybe say just load some ISO 400 if the light is going to vary or be less than ideal and you want to be on the safe side, and keep the ISO 100 for when you’re convinced the light will be good enough until your roll is done.
Obviously ISO 200 film lies between those and is a good middle ground, albeit a less common speed to find on the market today.
Anything ISO 800 or above might be too fast for the fixed shutter speed if you’re shooting outside in the daytime, although it could be an option if you wanted to shoot in low light with your RUWS.
Another thing to mention about what film to load into your Reto Ultra Wide & Slim is the oft-repeated advice of shooting 24-exposure rolls in it only. Apparently, the flimsy mechanism inside the camera is susceptible to breaking when dealing with the increased tension of winding a 36-exposure roll.
Whether this is true or not, I do not know for sure.
I get the feeling it may be something that happened to a few people once and the legend has snowballed to where every article online – yes, including this one – mentions it to this day despite it never having happened to most of the respective authors.
Something else that makes me lean towards it not being something to worry about too much is that if a 36-exposure roll meant likely death for these cameras, there would surely be hardly any of the old Vivitar ones left.
It’s hard to imagine the ones that are still useable have all been nursed along with 24-exposure rolls only for the last three decades.
That said, the first three rolls I put through my RUWS were indeed 24-exposure ones. I just wanted to play it safe until I’d got some photographs from it and could write this review.
From now on though, I’ll load anything into it. If it dies, it dies.
- 35mm film camera
- Slim and lightweight
- 22mm ultra wide lens
- Suitable for new film photographers
How to load film into your Reto Ultra Wide & Slim
If you’ve ever loaded film into any other camera before, you’ll have no trouble loading some into a Reto Ultra Wide & Slim, as there’s nothing special or remarkable about how it works.
There’s a latch on the back on the camera to open the film door, and the flimsy-feeling rewind handle on the underside of the camera can be pulled out to allow you to get the film into the chamber. Once it’s in there, pull the leader across and feed it into the single slot in the take-up spool.
The spool itself rotates in the same direction as the wheel when you turn that. This means your film goes over it as it winds on, rather than behind it like it probably does in your more advanced camera that has a more advanced mechanism.
Once your film is in and engaged with the sprockets above and below the lens you can fire off a shot or two and wind it on to ensure it’s loaded properly before closing the camera up again.
To see for yourself how this works, you can watch this quick video from Reto’s YouTube channel.
Why I bought a Reto Ultra Wide & Slim
Obviously the Reto Ultra Wide & Slim is not the only cheap, plastic, reloadable camera that you can buy brand new today.
There’s the Lomography Simple Use range, which come with various types of their own films already inside but also the ability to load your own once you’ve shot that one.
If you want even more analogue near-doppelgangers, you also have the Ilford Sprite 35-II, the Kodak Ultra F9, this one from AgfaPhoto, and the Snap LF 35M. These do have some subtle differences, with the Snap’s 28mm lens perhaps being the most obvious compared to the 31mm that the other three have.
That’s a lot of options right here, but I’ve never really had any desire to get any of them.
With most of them having a 31mm or 32mm lens, I could just shoot the Canon Sure Shot AF-7 or the Olympus Supertrip that I already have with their 35mm glass lenses anyway, and enjoy their better construction, features, and results too.
So with all that in mind, why did I buy the RUWS?
Simply put, for what you see in this picture here.
The 22mm lens. That was really all it offers that was interested in.
If Reto had come out with another version of anything listed above, I wouldn’t have bothered with it either.
But I like wide lenses. I really like shooting with the 17mm Lomo LC-Wide. When I bought a Pentax K1000 body, the first lens I got for that was a 28mm.
It’s rare to find a 22mm lens on such a compact camera like this – especially for such a low price.
Providing one was all it took to get me to part with my money.
Where to buy a Reto Ultra Wide & Slim
As you can see in the image above, the Reto Ultra Wide And Slim box – which I noticed does use ‘and’ instead of the ampersand seen on the camera – has been designed such that it could be hung from racks in actual shops.
Whether that happens in the future, or is happening by the time you read this, I don’t know at the time of writing.
Fear not though, because there are of course plenty of places you can buy one online – the first of which would be Reto themselves. If you want something more local to you, you could take a look at their list of other authorised dealers too.
I can’t mention everywhere here but with Reto shipping worldwide from Hong Kong and the following stores having them too, it shouldn’t be hard for you to track one down.
- find a RUWS at B&H Photo
- find a RUWS at Analogue Wonderland
- find a RUWS at Safelight Berlin
- find a RUWS at Decisive Moment
- find a RUWS on Amazon
- 35mm film camera
- Slim and lightweight
- 22mm ultra wide lens
- Suitable for new film photographers
Final thoughts on the Reto Ultra Wide & Slim
I was going to write a section on this review describing the downsides to the Reto Ultra Wide & Slim, but the flimsy film rewind handle and the slightly inaccurate viewfinder are about the only genuine ones I can think of.
Anything else would just be opinion based and dependent on your viewpoint of certain things that could be seen by someone else as a positive. Like the complete lack of any manual controls or variable aperture or shutter speed. Or the image qualities the acrylic lens gives.
You might not like that and want something more technically advanced and that produces technically better photographs.
I truly like this thing for what it is, though. Just a fun little camera that you can walk around and shoot carefree and mindless – save for figuring out some half-decent composition if you can.
And with that 22mm focal length too.
I like wide lenses and I cannot lie.
It’s also not a disposable camera, unless that film rewind handle fails on you after one roll, and this is another plus point for me.
I would hope genuine single-use cameras are dying off now with all those cheap reusable options available from Lomography, Kodak, Harman, AgfaPhoto, Snap, and Dubblefilm that we mentioned earlier.
For the price this retails at – around the same as two rolls of Kodak Portra 400 – it’s a bit of a steal if you do enjoy the things it brings. The simple shooting and the distinctive results.
I can’t really say much more than that. You’ve seen the shots I got with mine. You know it’s very inexpensive. You know the film winding handle might break. And you know it’s highly enjoyable to shoot.
Get yourself one, or don’t. But if you’re even just slightly curious, I say do.
Because I’m pretty sure you’ll have a great time once you get out there playing with it too. 🙂
If you found that Reto Ultra Wide & Slim review useful, why not check out these other great film cameras too:
And if you think others will enjoy or benefit from this camera review too, help them find it by giving it a share. 😀