Traditionally I have avoided the point and shoot class of camera because I wanted to be able to make my own exposure decisions. I either shoot Manual, or in Aperture Priority modes with one finger on the exposure compensation button.

Most of my cameras date from the 20th century and most of those are entirely manual. In short: I have always enjoyed telling my cameras what to do. 

She wouldn’t slow down so I shot this as I was jogging from knee height.

Just recently though I have been looking at compact point and shoot cameras. My daughter shot a couple of disposables last Summer that have been knocking around the place for yonks and I fancied a go on one. 

The idea of having something small enough to slip in and out of my pocket that just pointed and shot started to appeal. 

I do wager that if this camera was dropped in water it would survive once dried out thoroughly. 

But I would not – could not – buy a disposable. So I started to cruise the net looking at cheap “reusable”. 

There are quite a few to choose from with prices varying from under £20 to over £50. Lomography, Dubblefilm, ILFORD, Harman and Kodak are some of the names in the game here. 

A new kid on the block is The RETO Project with their take on the legendary Vivitar Wide and Slim – their second offering after their 3D half-frame camera. The laid bare simplicity of the RETO UWS appealed to me. No flash, no battery, just a tiny little body with an amazingly ultra wide 22mm lens.

The idea of having something small enough to slip in and out of my pocket that just pointed and shot started to appeal. 

A lot of the reusable compacts I looked at had 35mm lenses. This is a focal length I’m not keen on and a 22mm focal length was another tick on my list in the RETO’s favour. 

The Reto was on pre-order when I was browsing, so I signed up for an alert on Analogue Wonderland’s website and as soon I got notification I pulled the financial trigger. 

Out of the box the RETO UWS felt a little plasticky. I’m not sure I would want to drop this or subject it to any trauma. However, I wasn’t looking for a ‘tough’ camera. That’s a different kettle of fish and I don’t subject my cameras to trauma either. I love them too much.

I do wager that if this camera was dropped in water it would survive once dried out thoroughly. Maybe you could soup your film in-camera?

All my needs were serviced by the RETO and after decades of spurning point and shoot cameras I welcomed this one into the stable.

I loaded up a roll of ILFORD HP5 PLUS I had received from my EMULSIVE Secret Santa and went out to shoot. 

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In the hand the Reto UWS is a snug fit. At just 68 grams in weight — about 3x AA batteries — and with dimensions of 100 x 60 x 27 mm I think it is the dinkiest camera I have ever owned.

It was very refreshing to be able to just wander around with only composition on my mind and the 22mm lens is a great focal length to shoot with.

My user experience so far has been extremely positive and apart from a few frames where I got the strap, or my fingers, in front of the lens by accident, the images I have shot I am very pleased with.

The viewfinder is a nice size and bright to look through. 

The shutter button is a strange and vaguely pear-shaped oval sort of affair instead of being round, which I find pleasing under the finger.

The film wind-on is a toothed thumb wheel on the bottom-left of the camera that works without fuss.

Rewinding the film is a traditional cranking handle at the bottom rightbottom right and this is where I worry any potential weakness may come from. It’s not the strongest feeling component.

That one niggle aside, overall the Reto UWS feels fantastic in the hand and I am greatly enjoying it.

The images in this article were home-developed in Caffenol. Fixed in ILFORD’s Rapid Fixer and digitised with my lightbox and Nikon P7700 so apologies for any ‘Lo Fi’ appearance. Personally, I think that since I am shooting a Plastic Fantastic that just adds to the atmos.

The second roll is ready to go — my very last Agfa Poundland HDC — remember that stock? I knew I was holding this one back for something special, we’ll see how the UWS deals with colour.

I have only had this camera a few days but I can feel that it’s already secured a regular place in my pocket.

I got the charcoal version – I fancy a yellow one next.

~ Toby

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About the author

Avatar - Toby Van de Velde

After 13 years as a local news staff photographer, with a healthy little freelance business on the side, I have now launched into the world of the full-time freelancer. This blog will document the highs and lows of my photographic way of life as I talk about...

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  1. these are such great shots! I have the Superheadz UWS clone from a decade ago and still works! if that dies on me I’m glad I’d have something to replace it with. I, too, would go for the yellow one ~

  2. It’s not often you find a camera with such a wide lens. There’s something fun about taking pictures with these kind of plastic cameras. Your expectation go down and you tend to relax and just enjoy the ride. I find the images great and I’m impressed by the caffenol development. Definitely go for the yellow when you get the chance.

    1. I’ve certainly enjoyed this ride!
      Thanks for the image comment – and Caffenol is my go to in the darkroom right now.
      I just need to adjust my hold and avoid photographing my knuckles……

  3. Nice review and photos, my blue Reto is on the way. The UWS and its clones are more toy cameras though (fixed aperture / fixed focus / fixed shutter speed) rather than point and shoot cameras (automatic focus and exposure). It might sound pedantic, but there’s actually a world of difference between the two. Would be keen to hear how you get on with an 80s / 90s P&S.

  4. I guess it would swim if it fell into water. I once dropped an Olympus µ in a pond – it survived and was useable agin when dried out. Thanks for review, I am awaiting mine.

    1. Enjoy yours! With nothing except plastic in the Reto build I don’t doubt it would survive the dunking.

  5. I’ve been using a Superheadz – surely the same as this Reto – and found it helpful to glue a filter adapter on the front. With no ability to alter aperture or shutter speed I figured using a filter would give me the ability to adjust to changes in light. I love this little camera and will probably buy a Reto to keep in the car. Nice article.

    1. I think the Reto and the Superheadz are both carbon copies of the Vivitar.
      It’s the perfect glove box car companion isn’t it?
      My fleece chest pocket is the perfect fit for mine.
      The filter is a good idea. Maybe a red one for mono film?
      There is an Emulsive article on using an UWS camera for IR photography……