Commments on 35mm compact cameras

These comments were made by: Vasu Ramanujam (

I have the Yashica T-4, Nikon Lite Touch, Konica Big Mini HG, and the Ricoh R1. The Pentax UC-1, which I don't have, is also a pocketable, fixed focal length camera in the same class. Here are my impressionistic comments on the first four cameras:

Yashica T-4. Made in Japan. Deserves its reputation for sharp, German spec'd, lens (35mm). Have run both slide and print film through it, and obtained uniformly excellent results. Features the fastest exposure time of 1/700 sec, but slowest is only 1 sec. Reported flaws: poor sealing of the viewfinder and LCD window areas against dirt; camera back can leak light if left in strong light for a long time (according to Consumer Reports, who nevertheless rated it tops); quirky rewind mechanism that will sometimes rewind before reaching end of film; not rugged, so of questionable reliability. I haven't run into any of these problems myself, however, but I take good care of my equipment. Not a true pocketable, compared to the other three.

Nikon Lite Touch: Made in Indonesia. Delivers excellent sharpness and contrast, widest lens on a micro p&s (28mm) (ignoring the 24mm panorama option on the Ricoh R1.) Lowest price, you can pick up a Lite Touch for under $100 in many camera stores. Shortcomings: limited exposure range, 1/4 sec to 1/250 sec (if I remember right). Poor flash coverage, can't really expect that tiny flash to cover 28mm indoors in places with high ceilings and few reflecting surfaces. I never use the flash except for outdoor fill. Two shot self timer a unique, but to me, a quite pointless feature. I seldom use the self timer. Panorama feature nice, but better on the Ricoh R1. I don't have to remember if it's on or off, the viewfinder tell me. I use the Ricoh when I want panorama, as I can go to either 30mm or 24mm with it.

Konica Big Mini HG. Made in Japan. Beautiful camera with metallic grey finish. Excellent flash coverage, sharp lens (35mm), exposure compensation +/-1.5EV. Slowest shutter speed of 7.5 sec, and fastest 1/360 sec. Variable power flash. Love this camera, wish it had a 28mm lens. That'd take the Lite Touch off of this list altogether and very likely cause me to offer the other two for sale on Shortcomings: no lens cap, smudges and fingerprints inevitable, keep lots of lens tissue handy. Also keep a paper clip or ball point pen handy, as you may have trouble, as I do, with the control buttons which are too small for normal fingers.

Ricoh R1: Made in Taiwan. The most feature laden, the most compact of the lot. Thinner than the Lite Touch. I have the QD model. They have put the controls for the QD on the side of the camera: clever! Provides spot metering as well as average metering, two focal lengths (30mm - normal, panorama; 24mm - panorama only). Yielded surprisingly sharp indoor group shots on recent trip. Probably the most versatile of the lot. Shortcoming: Passive autofocus, although I haven't found this to be a limitation yet. Worked fine inside the Cleveland Metro Parks rain forest, which is pretty dark in places.

In my opinion, the Konica Big Mini HG and the Ricoh R1 must both be seriously considered by anyone looking for a truly compact package with an impressive array of features.

Bottom line: If owning German optics is important to you, buy the Yashica T-4. If you'd like to be able to occasionally override the normal exposure (backlighting, snow, dark subjects, etc.) choose the Konica Big Mini HG. For maximum versatility in a tiny package, go for the Ricoh R1. For a low priced camera capable of overall good performance in mainly outdoor use for scenics, pick up the Nikon Lite Touch.

I know it's a difficult choice, since each camera offers something lacking in the other. That's why I bought all four :-)