Compact film camera comparison

Somewhere out there is the perfect compact film camera. Pocketable; solid; a beautiful wide lens; the features you need to hand, the ones you don’t not getting in the way.

Or perhaps it isn’t out there. I’ve tried plenty and haven’t found it yet.

(That said, I’ve got a soft spot for all compact film cameras… perhaps this comes out in the scoring.)

Here’s how some of the ones I have tried stack up. (Have a look towards the bottom of this page to see how the categories work.)

The scores

Ergo- nomics
Picture quality
Total 55
Konica Big Mini1023241738
Ricoh Shotmaster Tru-Zoom Date433371232
Canon SureShot Zoom XL344481639
Olympus Mju II1023371742
Olympus AF1723371638
Olympus AF-10 Super733371639
Nikon AF3733451537
Nikon L35AW543441535
Olympus XA2923381237
FujiFilm Klasse W753481441
Leica Mini Zoom522361129
Ricoh GR1954481747
Ricoh GR10944461845

The categories

Size/weight: These are compact cameras; pocketability counts. Max 10 points.

Camera features: Infinity lock, flash control, changeable defaults, exposure compensation; all get points. That said, these are point and shoots so I’m not too worried about bells and whistles. 5 points tops.

Lens: Speed, focus distance. The most important aspects of the lens come out in picture quality, so we’ll give these other features 5 points to play with.

Ergonomics: Points for the buttons being in the right places and working as you’d expect. What I care most about is whether the shutter button works (by no means a given – see the Big Mini). 5 points tops.

Build/reliability: Does it keep working? Does it feel like it will keep working? Can I use it as a hammer? 10 points max.

Picture quality: It’s not all about resolution; it’s about feel. And a bit about reliable exposure and focus. The quality of the end result is what really matters, so 20 points to play for.

I seem to have missed out value for money… I think I’ll leave it that way; why sully ourselves with vulgar talk of money. (The Mju II would win… £2.50. Or perhaps the R10 – another astounding bargain at £10.)


Funny how with differing strengths and weaknesses most come out with roughly the same late 30s early 40s score.

Or perhaps not that remarkable. In digital digital camera terms, these all have the same sensor (35mm film) and image processing engines (Max Spielmann). So we are comparing lenses, exposure and focus. And the camera’s ability to be ready at the right moment.

Anyway, the current winner is… the GR1; though that’s for the one I own. If I was scoring others I’ve seen, it would score a lot less on build/reliability.

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