RETO Ultra Wide and Slim Review: A Fun, Compact Film Camera Perfect for Travel! by Taylor Blanchard

RETO Ultra Wide and Slim 35mm film camera - RETO UWS review on Shoot It With Film
This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on a link and make a purchase, Shoot It With Film may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Written by Taylor Blanchard

My husband also enjoys film photography, yet he doesn’t suffer from GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) like I do. So, imagine my surprise when we were at Central Camera in Chicago when he suggested that we buy the RETO Ultra Wide and Slim (UWS).

He’d been talking to the salesperson while I was drooling over the store’s selection of film (I also suffer from film craving and film hoarding), and the salesperson suggested the camera to him.

I’d seen results from the RETO UWS via my friend Lissa, and at under $30, I didn’t need any convincing to make the purchase.

He also picked out some Let It Snow b&w film by Film Photography Project, which we immediately loaded into the RETO and shot during that long weekend.

Find the RETO Ultra Wide and Slim on Amazon.

RETO Ultra Wide and Slim 35mm film camera - RETO UWS review on Shoot It With Film

RETO UWS: Camera Details and History

The RETO Ultra Wide and Slim is based on a Vivitar camera by the same name, and the specs are very similar: a 22mm f/11 lens that shoots at a fixed 1/125.

RETO clearly was inspired by the design of the Vivitar: the notched plastic disc around the lens, the arched grip, and the Ultra Wide and Slim text stamped on the front.

The Vivitar version has a cult following for its “Lomo” results: vignetting and sun flares. The Vivitar can also fetch up to $80 or $90 in the secondhand market. You can check it out on eBay here.

Enter the RETO UWS, which was announced and delivered in early 2022. It’s quite easy to find at camera stores and online, and of course less expensive than the Vivitar. Apparently the Vivitar was mimicked many times before, but none as successfully at the RETO .

Feature-light, there isn’t much to the RETO Ultra Wide and Slim other than a choice of seven colors. (Ours is “murky blue.”) I’m a Holga devotee, so it was surprising to shoot a camera with even fewer features! The camera comes with a wrist strap and a protective cloth case.

35mm film image on the RETO Ultra Wide and Slim - RETO UWS Camera Review by Taylor Blanchard on Shoot It With Film 02
Amber D400
35mm film image on the RETO Ultra Wide and Slim - RETO UWS Camera Review by Taylor Blanchard on Shoot It With Film 02
CineStill BwXX
Grab your free copy of the Shoot It With Film magazine!

The RETO UWS in Action

Out of the box, you’ll notice right away just how small and light the RETO Ultra Wide and Slim is – clocking in at less than 70 grams without film. Even loaded with film it’s so light. While it’s 100% plastic, it feels sturdy and durable.

The film door of the RETO UWS is finicky to open as you must press down on the back lock while also pulling back on the door. For some reason, I often struggle with this movement.

Film is relatively easy to load. Much like other 35mm cameras, you just need to ensure the perforations line up with the teeth of the film advance mechanism. You press the shutter button and confirm the film is moving. Then you close the door and continue to press the shutter button until you see “1” in the counter window.

The viewing window is bright and quite accurate at rendering the 22mm lens, but it’s not quite perfect at framing. You’ll see a smaller image than the one you end up shooting.

RETO Ultra Wide and Slim 35mm film camera size comparison - RETO UWS review on Shoot It With Film
RETO UWS size comparison with the Olympus Stylus Epic point and shoot
RETO Ultra Wide and Slim 35mm film camera size comparison - RETO UWS review on Shoot It With Film
RETO UWS size comparison with the Canon AE-1 35mm SLR

The only issues I’ve had with shooting this camera is sometimes the film strap falls into the viewfinder, and I don’t notice. Given the wide angle, you’ll also need to watch out for fingers, hair, or other stray objects. Also, there aren’t any framing guides to help you compose an image.

The shutter click is audible but not too loud. The film advances easily. After clicking the shutter, you wind the film using the advance knob. You must advance the film after each shot; the camera won’t let you take a second shot for a double exposure.

The film counter window is small, and the numbers are difficult to read. I’m often guessing about how many shots I’ve taken or are left.

Rewinding the film is like other 35mm cameras: you press the rewind button and pull out a rewind knob, manually cranking the knob in the direction of the arrow. The rewind knob is very flimsy and does not feel sturdy. Once, I popped the rewind crank off the camera entirely; luckily, I was able to pop it back on.

35mm film image on the RETO Ultra Wide and Slim - RETO UWS Camera Review by Taylor Blanchard on Shoot It With Film 02
Kodak Portra 160
35mm film image on the RETO Ultra Wide and Slim - RETO UWS Camera Review by Taylor Blanchard on Shoot It With Film 02
FPP Let It Snow B&W Film

Film Selection for the RETO UWS

One of the biggest challenges is using a film that works for your shooting conditions. Your best choice is a 400 ISO film to give you a bit of latitude under different conditions.

You could shoot ISO 100 when you know you’ll be shooting in the middle of the day in very sunny conditions – one of my favorite films for this camera in bright sun is Kodak Portra 160.

I’ve shot 800 film at night once, at the Neon Museum in Las Vegas, where the only light came from the neon signage, and the results were fine, but not great.

A variable speed film like CineStill BwXX (or any film with a high degree of latitude) is another great choice for this camera.

I’d heard not to shoot 36 exposures in this camera because of the rewind process; however, I’ve never struggled with 36 exposures on this camera – whether shooting or rewinding. You will have to turn the rewind crank a lot, but just think of it as burning a couple extra calories.

35mm film image on the RETO Ultra Wide and Slim - RETO UWS Camera Review by Taylor Blanchard on Shoot It With Film 02
CineStill BwXX
35mm film image on the RETO Ultra Wide and Slim - RETO UWS Camera Review by Taylor Blanchard on Shoot It With Film 02
Kodak Portra 800

Results

Because of the plastic lens on the RETO UWS, the center of the image is sharp with falloff as you move out to the corners of the image. Vignetting is more pronounced in scenes where you have less light. I don’t mind the falloff, but again, I love my Holgas, so it’s an effect I’ve grown to expect and love.

Given the wide angle and vignetting, if you have people or objects close to the edges, you may get a bit of distortion. However, the distortion is much less than you might expect with a wide angle plastic camera.

This camera brings the lens flare as promised: I often shoot into the sun for dramatic results.

Of course, the lighting of the scene will affect your images, and you will get underexposed images with a more noticeable grain when there isn’t enough light. The camera renders colors well and produces images with good contrast.

35mm film image on the RETO Ultra Wide and Slim - RETO UWS Camera Review by Taylor Blanchard on Shoot It With Film 02
Amber D400
35mm film image on the RETO Ultra Wide and Slim - RETO UWS Camera Review by Taylor Blanchard on Shoot It With Film 02
Kodak Portra 160

Special Features on the RETO Ultra Wide

None. End of section.

Seriously… There aren’t any special features. The biggest enhancement I want in a second generation (if that’s a thing… RETO, are you reading?) is the ability to shoot a double exposure. I thought I could outsmart the camera – pressing the rewind button and then rewinding the film one shot, and shooting a double, but it does not work consistently. I tried many times and could hear that the film wasn’t catching when I tried to rewind, almost like the film wasn’t taut, which meant my doubles were not lined up.

I’m all for blind double exposures and generally don’t mind unexpected results, but I would love to see a double exposure button (like the one on the Lomo Fisheye 2).

35mm film image on the RETO Ultra Wide and Slim - RETO UWS Camera Review by Taylor Blanchard on Shoot It With Film 02
Kodak ColorPlus 200
35mm film image on the RETO Ultra Wide and Slim - RETO UWS Camera Review by Taylor Blanchard on Shoot It With Film 02
PsychBlues Film

Recommended Uses

The wide angle on the RETO UWS is great for capturing landscapes, architecture, and city scenes.

It’s one of my favorite cameras for travel given the size, weight, and ease of use. I love it for hiking because it fits in the pocket of my hiking pants. I generally hike with other cameras, occasionally even my 4×5, but the RETO is perfect for stopping to take a quick photo without an extended delay and digging in my pack.

It’s a fantastic travel camera for the same reasons; it’s a breeze when taking photos while walking around city streets. The camera barely takes up any room in my bag.

The camera is unassuming for street photography or taking any photos where you want to be inconspicuous. We’ve also used it to take film selfies while we travel.

This is a great camera for a teen or young adult interested in film, and I would recommend it as an incredible alternative to a disposable camera.

Image purists would want to avoid this camera given the sharpness falloff. But, if you like the “Lomo” look and want to capture fascinating sun flares, scoop it up! At the price and size, it’s a great addition to your camera arsenal.

What do you think? Do you have this camera? Let me know in the comments below.

35mm film image on the RETO Ultra Wide and Slim - RETO UWS Camera Review by Taylor Blanchard on Shoot It With Film 02
CineStill BwXX
35mm film image on the RETO Ultra Wide and Slim - RETO UWS Camera Review by Taylor Blanchard on Shoot It With Film 02
Kodak ColorPlus 200
35mm film image on the RETO Ultra Wide and Slim - RETO UWS Camera Review by Taylor Blanchard on Shoot It With Film 02
Kodak Portra 160

Thank you so much, Taylor! Taylor is a regular contributor here at Shoot It With Film, and you can check out her other articles here, such as Guide to Setting Up a Darkroom at Home and Kodak Tri-X 400 vs Kodak T-MAX 400 Film Comparison.

You can also check out Taylor’s work on Instagram.

Leave your questions about the RETO Ultra Wide and Slim 35mm film camera below in the comments, and you can pick one up for yourself on Amazon here.

Shoot It With Film Magazine Issue 01 Promo Image

Taylor Blanchard

Taylor Blanchard is a landscape and travel film photographer and a regular contributor for Shoot It With Film. Find her other articles here, such as My Foray Into Large Format Photography and The World of Infrared and Red-Sensitive Black and White Film.

Image Credit: Ashley Thalman

Tags:
Blog Comments

Wow! Great article! You got fantastic results with that camera. Excellent review with great images. Makes me want to go out and buy that little camera. Thanks for reviewing the camera!

Curtis – I really appreciate the comment. Definitely report back if you purchase the camera – would love to know what you think.

This article is timely as I just found another vivitar uws the other day ( my second now) and made the decision to dedicate myself to shooting with them this winter and into the new year. I just finished a roll of ektachrome e100 and one of fpp retrochrome 400 and got them processed as slides. They turned out beautiful! Thanks for the article!

Thank you Eric (and for your comment on Instagram). I’d love to see a comparison of the original Vivitar to the Reto UWS. You’ve also inspired me to shoot slide film in the Reto.

You got some really good shots with it. I especially like the church in the vineyard. To me one of the biggest pluses of this camera is its simplicity and portability, which you described perfectly. It’s also cheap and pretty failsafe (technically speaking – I’m not talking about failing at ultra wide composition, which is a very deep abyss) so I have one in the glove box of my car and I’m sure that it will do what it’s supposed to do when I reach for it, no matter the environmental circumstances. A lack of light might be the one that could hinder me then, as it’s really slow. To me 400 film is a must. There are interesting guides online about modifying the UWS (search for it under the Vivitar name), like adding a tripod mount, cable release and last but not least a flash trigger. I’ll have to give that a try yet, but it might be of interest to someone more motivated in these aspects.

J – thank you for your comment and I love the idea of keeping the camera in the glove box. I didn’t know that people have made mods to these cameras – I’ll definitely look into it.

Leave a Comment