Epsonís R-D1 rangefinder is even more retro than you might have imagined. Weíve finally held one, examined it closely and have detailed information about its conception and even price.
for the official Epson press release.
This article has been updated - see additional pictures and captions below and additional page here
the Epson R-D1 on the dpnow.com forum.
Yes, this really is a digital camera
At a briefing this afternoon in London, Epson answered a lot of the questions that were being asked after Epson displayed
several mysterious prototype Leica-style rangefinder digital cameras at the PMA show in Las Vegas last month.
Photo-i's Vincent Oliver gives some scale to the R-D1, which is ar elatively large digital camera
At the time, Epson was saying nothing more than that the project was a joint one with camera manufacturer, Cosina and that it would be compatible with interchangeable lenses designed for use with Leica rangefinder bodies. We didnít even know if the cameras were destined for production.
Now we do know. Epson officially launched the R-D1 in Japan two weeks ago, but today we got to play with a prototype, though it was not working and so no pictures could be taken. However, further down this page is a set of pictures taken, believe it or not, on a table in a West End restaurant, of the R-D1, earlier this afternoon and these should give you a good impression of this most unusual of cameras.
Here's another shot of Vincent with the R-D1 from a different angle.
Pricing and availability
The Epson R-D1, body only, will go on sale some time this summer for an approximate price of Ä3,000, or about £2,000 or US$3,500. We were told that only 10,000 would be made and perhaps half of these will sold in Japan, so if you want one desperately, you will need to be quick off the mark.
The R-D1 is remarkable in a number of ways. First of all, itís the only digital rangefinder camera in existence. Its retro looks are not just skin-deep. What looks like the film advance lever isnít just cosmetic Ė you need to operate it to re-cock the shutter after each picture is taken Ė this even saves battery power. What used to be the film rewind knob now functions as a jog dial for making settings adjustments. There is no host PC connection, USB or otherwise. It seems like an SD memory card slot was grudgingly incorporated into the retro design Ė a compact flash slot was ruled out because it would have taken up too much space, apparently.
Notable digicam features left out
You wonít find autofocus or digital zoom on the R-D1 and you canít view live through the lens even though a good-sized 2 inch 235,000 pixel reversible colour monitor is built into the back of the camera. There is no video capture mode and nor is there a TV-out socket. Epson even resisted the temptation to include a direct print facility to work with its wide range of printers.
6MP sensor, but not full frame
What you do get is a 6 megapixel APS-C sensor. This means the cropping factor is 1.53x, so a 35mm system lens of focal length 50mm will capture the same field of view as a 76.5mm focal length lens. A guide on the back of the camera gives the user some equivalence examples.
Apart from the LCD viewscreen, there are no other digital displays on the camera. Analogue gauges and dials are provided to indicate or select shutter speeds, ISO, white balance, between colour and black and white mode, life left in the proprietary lithium ion rechargeable battery, etc.
The vertical travel multiple-leaf metal focal plane shutter offers speeds ranging from 1-1/2000th second, with a bulb mode and 1/125th second X-sync for electronic flash. There is no support for dedicated flash modes on the top-plate hot shoe. Manual and aperture-priority exposure modes, only, are provided and the metering sensitivity ranges from ISO200-1600.
The R-D1 has a Leica EM-compatible lens mount and can take L-series lenses using an adapter.
This article has been published in a bit of a rush, but it will be updated tomorrow (Friday) with more explanations concerning the design philosophy and target market, plus detailed product specifications. In the mean time, here is a set of shots taken today for your perusal:
The R-D1 is a large 'compact' camera by modern digital camera standards but will feel right to traditionalists
It's a fine looking camera but from this view there is nothing to suggest that it's a digital camera
Neither does this view from the rear give the digital game away
On the back of the reversible 2 inch LCD monitor is a convenient RD-1 to 35mm focal length conversions reckoner
The flip-out screen only does so in order for it to be reversed. It doesn't offer a live through the lens preview
This is as far as the screen goes - it's only meant to be used flush to the back of the camera
Only with the screen on show does the back of the camera actually look like a digital camera
This close-up shows the exquisite detail of the of the analogue gauges and that extraordinary lever
A top-plate switch selects the bright frame viewfinder between a field of few for 28, 35 and 50mm lenses and the 'rewind' knob is actually a jog dial control
the Epson R-D1 on the dpnow.com forum.