One Week with the One Touch 100 (RF2)

Twas the day before that major December holiday, and the Hanabibti and I were out rummaging around a new for-profit thrift store that opened down the street, when I dug deep into a jumbled mass of old electronic components and pulled out the Nikon One Touch 100.

Sure, the front was scratched up a bit and the neck strap connector was torn out of the side, but at $1.98, the price was right.

I opened the battery compartment to check for corrosion and found two AA’s inside, the old type with the little pads for checking the charge on the side. I checked them and both showed about 1/3, so I reinstalled them, pointed the camera around the shop and clicked the shutter some. The the shutter clicked, the flash fired, the winder motor wound: it looked and sounded like it worked…

$1.98? Sold.

These days, the One Touch 100—known as the RF2 everywhere else in the world—is not a  particularly popular camera. There are two brief user reviews on photographyreview.com, a few pictures on Flickr and Lomography (6 for the One Touch, and many more for the RF2); there’s a one-paragraph entry in the History section at Mir and a one sentence synopsis at Niko van Dijk‘s site (scroll down a bit); it’s in Sylvian Hagland‘s collection… other than that, I couldn’t find any particularly thorough reviews, so here you go!

 

Specifications (from the “manual“):

  • Automatic Everything: autofocus, autoexposure, auto flash, auto shutter lock, auto film loading, auto film advance, auto film speed setting, auto film rewind, auto film rewind stop, and auto-ready lens cover
  • programmed electronic shutter serves as diaphragm blades*
  • Automatic ISO settings at 100, 200, 400, and 1000 for DX coded films; all non-DX coded films are set at 100
  • Lens: 35mm f/3.5 (4 elements in 3 groups)
  • autofocuses from .65 meters (~2.1 feet) to infinity
  • Automatic flash has a guide number of GN9 (ISO 100, in meters)
  • takes 2 AA batteries (rechargeables work fine); Nikon specifies ~24 rolls of 24 exposures with 50% flash, with 1.5v Alkaline Manganese AAs
  • Dimensions: 133mm x 71.3mm x 48.7mm

The all plastic body has a pleasant heft to it, with a decent grip on the front and huge ribbed section on the back for your thumb. It may not be the smallest or prettiest camera out there, but it’s really easy to handle and has a friendly sort of goofiness to it. I doubt anyone will pay it much mind on the street, except for the noise and flash. It doesn’t scream “photographer!” and no one is likely to come up and gush about what a cool camera it is or start talking gear.

The One Touch has a grand total of four, well-placed buttons/switches: the lens cover switch falls where your left pointer finger might rest if you shot two handed, and it’s easy to find and thunks nicely into place. The focus lock button is nearby, small and out of the way, but easy to find and press if needed. I should probably say something more about the focus lock, but I didn’t test it or find a need for it. A small self-timer button is on the top, well out of the way so you don’t accidentally trip it. And last, but certainly not least, the shutter release is where you’d expect it.

These four buttons/switches serve very limited purposes:

  • the lens cover switch turns the camera on and off and protects the lens
  • the focus lock button locks the focus for 30 seconds
  • the self timer button locks focus and sets a 10 second timer: if you hold the button down for 3 seconds to activate the two shot self timer, and it will (theoretically) take a second shot ~5 seconds after the first
  • the shutter release can be half-pressed to lock the focus (but not exposure); a full press sets in motion a whole chain of events, it:
    • sets exposure
    • trips the shutter
    • winds to the next frame (and if it hits the end of the roll, it rewinds the film)

One Touch, indeed.

How does it shoot?

First, the bad: as a user, you have absolutely no control over exposure; you can’t turn off the flash; you can focus and recompose, but there’s no way to lock exposure; the winding noise after every shot is loud and obnoxious, and the winding happens when the shutter closes, rather than when you lift your finger off the shutter, like some later (and earlier?) models; it might be pocketable, but only if you’re still wearing JNCOs.

But these limitations make shooting it simple, pleasant, even. If you just let go and shoot, it’s even easier and more fun than the Pentax Espio, which I never really took much of a hankering to. I think it came down to all the options. The Espio, after all, has 9 buttons and a zoom-rocker, and 4 of the buttons have multiple functions, so I had many opportunities to fiddle with technology instead of shooting. I’d forget to turn off the flash, or forget how many times to click a button, and there would go another frame. With the One Touch 100, there are no such problems: with it, I can shoot, or I can not shoot. It’s as simple as that.

The Shooting

I started the week with a brick shot to test distortion… There is a bit of mild pincushion distortion in brick walls, but it’s invisible in real-world photography and Capture One Pro gets rid of it easily.

After that, the One Touch 100 travelled around quite a bit… I took it on a long walk around the Johnson Branch Unit of the Lake Ray Roberts State Park up in Pilot Point, TX. I intended to take a brief walk around this 1/2 mile loop I saw on the map, but I took a wrong turn somewhere and ended up walking near 3 miles one way, so I guess the $7 entry fee was well spent.

Shortly after I left the park, I was glad to have an autofocus camera when I was crossing this bridge with the light and clouds just so. I don’t think I could’ve gotten this shot with any of my other cameras:

When I got home, I stuffed the One Touch in the backpack and carried it back and forth to work for a couple of days without firing a shot, and then it went on a brief end-of-year holiday to Houston and Galveston with Hana and me.

Alongside, I shot some expired film in the Olympus XA that I’ll share at some other time, and while the XA is eminently pocketable, quiet, and a joy to shoot, I fully enjoyed every bit of time with the One Touch 100, and I’m quite pleased with its performance through it all. No focusing, no forgetting to adjust the aperture or ISO, no wishing I’d brought the flash: with the One Touch, I just shot…

Outdoors with plenty of light or indoors with what the camera considers low light, the One Touch 100 just keeps shooting. I sometimes wished I could turn the flash off, but it really did a decent job, and I have an appreciation for the point-and-shoot flash look from this camera.

There were a couple of times I wished I could shoot without it, but it made for some interesting accidents.

I hoped to visit the Cy Twombly Gallery and Rothko Chapel while in Houston, but Allah had other plans, and I somehow managed to leave the One Touch in the bag when walking around Houston and visiting various masajid, so I only have some pictures from the hotel window to share.

As an aside, Houston was great! My wife got no looks for her hijab, and we got no looks for our different skin tones; I had a rather delicious halal chimichanga at M&M Grill, and some decent fried chicken at Jones’s; overall, people were friendly, the weather pleasant, and the food halal and delicious: it was a good trip, all praise and thanks be to God.

So that was my week with the Nikon One Touch 100. It was the first, but won’t be the last… I have a couple of ideas for projects or series that would make use of the point-and-shoot flash aesthetic, and this camera will work very well for that, methinks.

And in the realm of RTFM, by reading the manual, I found that, while you can’t turn off the flash, you can force it to fire: just cover the auto exposure window with your finger, and *poof* instant fill flash.

That’s definitely something to keep in mind for the future.

Final Thoughts

For a snapshot camera to take on family holidays and to parties, the Nikon One Touch 100 (RF2) is a great, inexpensive, and fun tool. It can get a bit pricy on the internets, but it’s definitely worth $2, and I might even pay $5 for one. The build quality is probably fine, but it’s all cheap plastic. And as far as point and shoots go, the One Touch is as it’s name suggests: it’ll shoot in pretty much any environment with One Touch, and won’t often hesitate.

Purpose
Price
Craftsmanship
Ease of Use

Overall, I’d give it 4.1 stars…

I like the One Touch 100. Sure, it’s relatively enormous, loud, slow, and prone to firing the flash, but the lens is sharp, the focus is sure and spot-on, and when it rewinds the film, it leaves a little flag sticking out, so I can save cartridges from it for potential hand-rolling at some future point. There are other compacts out there, older and newer, with more functions, better build quality, more classic aesthetics, and other perks, but I didn’t find any of them in a pile of old electronics at a local thrift store,** and the Nikon One Touch 100 (RF2) is unquestionably the best $2 I spent on a camera in the last 10 days of 2016. I fully intend to keep it around and look forward to shooting it again.


* I was unable to find the minimum and maximum shutter speed. If you have any idea, please let me know.

** To be fair, there were two other cameras there: a broken plastic slr-looking thing, and an Olympus of a similar vintage that looked functional, but was that awful golden/champagne color that was so popular for awhile.

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