Using the classic Epson RD-1 by Gus Adi Gunawan Go

Using the classic Epson RD-1 by Gus Adi Gunawan Go

Hi Steve! Greetings from Brisbane, Australia! First of all, awesome addictive website! I visit it everyday to see what updates you have for us all to read. What I love the most about your website is your generosity in hosting your reader experiences and post them as daily inspirations. It definitely makes your website unique and highly enjoyable to read.

I have been using many different digital cameras starting from a simple Sony point and shoot in 2005, then moving on to a canon S90, then to a dslr, and then to a mirrorless . I have always been curious about range finders ever since I stumbled upon your website a couple of years ago. You have made me (and million other readers) a huge fan of Leica M9, a camera that I can never afford/justify to get one (at least for now). But the pictures you took with your Leica gear are insanely surreal and your description of how enjoyable using a range finder camera always makes me want to buy one myself. I decided to hunt down an affordable digital range finder and I found your Epson R-D1 camera article that you wrote some time ago. After a bit more research I was convinced and I managed to buy a second-hand R-D1s sold together with a Voigtlander 35mm 2.5 color skopar on eBay. It was a last-minute buy that I initially regretted but after holding the camera in my hand feeling how solid and retro it feels I immediately fell in love with it. I didn’t actually use the camera all that much initially and it just sat idle in my dry box for a couple of months and I occasionally took it out to take pictures of stuff in my house.

Since I rarely use the camera my confidence in bringing the camera as the only camera for a holiday was a bit low. But I decided I have to try my best to learn as I use it and hopefully it will become a second nature for me. Luckily, I get used to it after a couple of days and managed to take pretty decent pictures with it. I love how you can access all the camera basic functions from the top plate buttons. I learned to use the exposure compensation dial/ISO dial quite effectively and I find manual focusing enjoyable.

The camera ISO performance was really decent and I am happy with ISO 800; at ISO 1600 it still produces usable images. The Voigtlander 35mm 2.5 CS was able to produce really nice, sharp, contrasty images and I am very happy to have it as my first M mount lens. Here are some pictures I took during my holiday trip to Melbourne and Sydney. It was a holiday camera so a lot of pictures of my family and friends but I also snap anything interesting along the way. I can’t really decide which 3 pictures to submit so I am sending all the pictures that I like and you can decide the 3 you want to use πŸ™‚ Enjoy!

Gus Adi Gunawan Go









  1. I have to agree with this 2 year old thread and the last commenter…this is a dream camera to me. I can’t remember when I’ve bonded with a camera like this one.

  2. Love the pictures and welcome to the RD-1 fraternity. The images that this camera is capable of rendering with its 6 mega pixels never ceases to amaze me. I shoot about half my photos at 1600 iso and am totally pleased with the resolution. One of the things that makes this camera so unique is its ability to render perfectly throughout its entire iso range . I use a J12 35mm myself but would love to try a Color Skopar.

  3. I recently took my R-D1s to Langkawi Malaysia for a week and it performed wonderfully aside from the focus patch being out of alignment.

    Very overcast weather and lots of low light shooting made it difficult at times, but i still got a few good shots.

    I’ve had my Epson for about a year and would consider it my favorite camera yet, its beautiful in so many ways.

    I’m slowly getting through my photos, im about halfway through so far. I took 9 SD cards with me (2gb max size), so i have quite a few photos to sort through.

    I have a holiday set on my Flickr page, but not all the holiday shots are in there just yet:.

    Anyone thinking about getting an Epson should definitely give one a shot.

  4. Hi Gus, love how the Epson and VM renders, lovely feel to your shots, keep up the good work. Bit of a mystery why Epson have not continued this line of cameras when you see the results.

    • Hi Peter Land thank you for your kind words! I agree the camera needed some update but I am happy as it is now πŸ™‚ They should just produce the same camera but at lower price πŸ™‚

  5. Hi Adi, I like the feel of your images and the moments captured as well. I particularly like the 2nd shot Keep up the great work and I look forward to seeing more as your style and skills evolve. The RD-1 is a cool camera which I have never tried, and should serve to continue to inspire you.

    • Hi Ashwin, thank you for your kind words! I have actually been reading a lot of your posts here at Steve’s website. I have always been impressed by your artistic and beautiful pictures, definitely inspired me to get into the world of rangefinder camera. Interestingly I used to take jumping pictures all the time for my sister using a superzoom cameara and the success rate was low, even with continuous high frame rate it was not great. With epson I only need one take, which I think is because of near instant shutter lag πŸ™‚

  6. It’s a shame about the tone of certain posts, it sure brings down the mood. Oh well, it reminds me of the joke slogan of our “national” airline (Air Canada), we’re not happy ’til you’re not happy. Anyway, I really enjoyed the pictures, especially the airplane pic – it certainly evokes the moment. As for the R-D1, I shoot with it (as well as Leica digital Ms) because of the sensor. It shared a sensor with the Nikon D70s and that was considered a very successful camera in terms of the image quality. 6MP is all you need, as we can see here – I doubt many of us are printing big gallery images; if you are, you don’t need us to tell you what to do. The lens is also a little beauty, I consider it a peer of the Summarit and the Biogon, pretty fast company.

    Keep up the great work, Steve, and don’t let the bastards get you down.

    • Hi Mike thank you for your kind words and encouragement! I am happy to know there are plenty of folks out there still actively using their R-D1 camera. Lets home epson make an R-D2 πŸ™‚

  7. Glad to hear & see you’re enjoying the RD-1! I’ve always wanted to see one, the analog-style meters and the fact that it’s a digital camera that has to be recocked manually fascinate me.

    Your experiences remind me of the thoughts I had when I initally got my M8 few years ago. Welcome to the rangefinder club and remember to have fun!

    • Hi Mondostic! Thank you for your comment! I really like capturing moments with a rangefinder camera, helps me slow down and appreciate the process more than an autofocus camera.

  8. That is an amazing lens and the color and contrast reminds me a lot of the 15mm Heliar.
    Voigtlander makes some amazing lenses and this 35mm is one of those.
    Thank you for sharing these pics and showing off this classic camera and lens combo.

  9. Btw., the Skopar 2.5 is a sleeper-lens, absolutely phantastic. Not only if money is an issue, but also if you want a really small lens, this is the one to get. Besides being small, it is optically almost perfect. If I had an MM with that insane ISO performance, I would shoot this lens for sure. On the M8, I need every half stop that I can get πŸ˜‰
    Actually, when I still was using the R-D1 (oh what a love-affair), which looks really nice at ISO 1600 in bw, this was my favourite lens for being so small. The combo RD-1 with Skopar was made in heaven.
    While typing this, I wonder why I switched to the M8? Oh I remember, those tiny batteries. If Cosina would remake this beauty with contemporary electronics (even with the same sensor), I would immediately have my M8 for sale.

    • Hi Andreas thank you for your comment! I do agree Skopar 2.5 is a stellar lens and I do tend to use it at ISO 800 to 1600 indoor with epson. As I mentioned above I tried 50mm planar but didn’t see much benefit using that lens and it was too long for my liking. I have not yet tried M8 but I did consider it prior buying my epson, how do you like it compared to R-D1 given you have tried both cameras?

      • I’m not Andreas, but here are my quick comparisons (from owning & using both):

        M8: a lump of steel with a lens on the front
        R-D1: a clockwork delight

        M8: awful purple results shooting anything black or brown under electric light, unless you fit an infra-red filter over the lens
        R-D1: always true colours (plus built-in ‘electronic’ simulation of blue, red, green and orange to filters for black&white)

        M8: noisy shutter & re-cocking (M8.2 can be set to less noisy ‘discreet’ mode)
        R-D1: reasonably quiet metallic click, followed by manual re-cocking of shutter

        M8: faster sequential shots
        R-D1: slower sequential shots (shutter must be manually re-cocked after each shot)

        M8: automatic frame lines for all of 28, 35, 50, 75, 90, 135mm lenses
        R-D1: only three (manually-selected) frame lines: 28, 35, 50 ..guess the rest, or use external finder

        M8: focus patch always in centre
        R-D1: patch stays in same place but frame lines move when focusing, so patch may appear off-centre

        M8: short to reasonable battery life (number of shots per charge)
        R-D1: VERY SHORT number of shots per charge (even with higher power batts) – best to carry at least one or two fully-charged extra batts

        M8: built-in meter can be fooled by light at top of frame when held vertically
        R-D1: less easily-fooled meter

        M8: onscreen menus accessed via simple buttons and wheel
        R-D1: weird, ‘analogue’ scrolling through menus via “film rewind knob”(!)

        M8: sharp, bright, high resolution images
        R-D1: softer, less sharply defined, ‘smoother’-res images

        M8: chunky, ‘hewn of iron’ feel; an awkward transition from film camera to digital
        R-D1: smooth, ‘identical-to-film’ feel ..doesn’t seem digital at all, till the image pops up on (optionally fold-away) rear screen.

        M8: nothing to hook your thumb on
        R-D1: hook thumb behind ‘wind-on lever’ (which cocks the shutter)

        My preference: R-D1 ..with extra batteries in my pocket!

        • Hi David thank you for your extensive side by side comparison! I do happen to carry 5 batteries with my when traveling with my epson. I think for the time being I will continue using epson until M9 price become more justifiable for me πŸ™‚

        • you forgot to mention that the rage-finder is better on the m8 πŸ™‚ (the epson’s one has a short base)

          And since shooting an M is all about rage-finder experience i dare to say all others flaws pale in comparison πŸ™‚ If this wasn’t the case why wold nowadays ppl even bother to buy Leicas? (of course not for the IQ since a well seasoned pro can obtain the same results with some pp….)

          • Hi Rudi,

            I just went to check my R-D1 (I’d been away, and was writing from memory): you’re right, of course; the base length of the “rage-finder”(!) on the R-D1 is shorter than the M8, BUT the magnification in the R-D1 viewfinder is pretty much life-size, (instead of reduced as on the M8 and all the other M cameras – except the old M3), so it’s actually easier and perhaps more accurate to focus (I find) with the R-D1, because you can simply keep both eyes open, and see everything in magnificent 3D when that rangefinder patch pops into perfect focus.

            [I also checked, and I’d got the ‘electronic filters’ wrong: there is no blue filter in the R-D1; they’re red, orange, yellow and green for black-&-white.]

      • Thanks David for jumping in: you already said many things that I had on my
        mind, and more

        Gus, my view on M8 vs R-D1 is following:

        Great sensor at all ISO settings (remember this is 2004 sensor!), good
        color, good bw-conversions, ergonomically almost perfect.
        The viewfinder is gorgeous at 100% magnification, bright and clear. But
        for eyeglass-wearers it is impossible to see the 28 framelines
        (40-equiv.). 35mm is perfect.
        The shutter is a mixed bag: it is instant and has no lag and no noticable
        vibration, but the sound is a high pitch and metallic. Still it is better
        than maybe 90% of cameras out there.
        Cons are very short battery life: for vacations this was a deal-breaker
        for me, because I would have needed multiple chargers.

        M8: unbelievable quirky beast. Leica and electronics just don’t go
        together,which holds true since the M6 TTL that drains the batteries.
        Sensor is magic at ISO 160 and 320, and sucks big time above that. My M8
        has issues with batteries at half-power, and others have reported that as
        well (Chris Weeks an his M9). The shutter just feels broken compared to an
        M6, it is hard to press and shakes the camera. I use it for my personal
        … *caugh* joy *caugh*, but wouldn’t dare for payed work for said

        If the R-D1 had decent batteries, and there was a version with a lower-mag
        viewfinder so that eyeglass-wearers could shoot a little more wide-angle,
        this would be THE camera, even with the old sensor! For people w/o
        eyeglasses that can live with using multiple chargers, it is still THE
        camera imho.

        I have said it before, but I repeat myself: If Cosina would bring an
        updated version which fixes the few quirks, even with the same sensor, I
        would camp in front of the photo-store to get one! Maybe Steve has the
        readership and power to kick Mr.K’s … motivation

        PS: I have an exhibition at the moment, where almost all photos were shot
        with the R-D1:

        • Textilviertel is amazing. I always wonder how some people make it seem so easy to produce images that really draw the eye in. Never was easy for me.

          Miked700 @ Flickr

      • Gus, one more thing: I really don’t want to start some religious debate here, I just speak from experience and so highly recommend that you shoot raw with the Epson.
        First, the files are tiny anyway, so no issue with drive space.
        But more important is the progress of raw converters. From Lightroom 2 to version 3 I basically got new cameras, because the grain in high ISO files got so much nicer, that it effectively gained me one stop. Moreover, you never know what you are going to do with your files in the future, and if you want monochrome conversions, you won’t have much fun with 8 bit jpegs.
        Also consider that the files from the RD-1 are “only” 6 megapixels, so you will need every bit of information to make larger prints (have printed A2 from raw without a problem).
        Another reason is that the RD-1 uses a fairly strong AA-filter and therefor produces files that need some sharpening. And you sure want to decide on sharpening depending on your intended output, not in camera.
        Believe me, even if you are content with jpegs now, you probably will regret it someday, if you fiind a favourite image of yours limited by lossy 8-bit compression and in-camera bayer-interpolation.

        • Andreas,

          Your Textilviertel (“garment district”) photos are very reminiscent of black-&-white film printed onto proper traditional fibre photo paper, with very dense blacks, a modicum of greys and fairly pale whites.

          They have a “fibrous” quality to them – maybe I mean a little “grainy” – which really is the closest I’ve seen to real film: they’re nostalgic and delightful!

          • David,

            thanks for looking at my photos. “Garment district” is a cool translation, never thought of that! Seems you speak German also…?

            Regarding the look: first I am glad that you find them “fibrous”, even on screen. Incidentally, they are also printed on fiber paper with an Epson 3880. The blacks are quite important to me, but I learned over time that you should not have “true” black (about 0 to 5 % luminance in Lightroom) in an image that is intended for fiber paper, because these tones will produce solid areas that look like glued to the paper.
            At least in my calibrated and profiled setup is like that. I am wondering though if this is normal, or there is some black-level or ink-saturation issue with my profile.

            Grainy they are indeed, I used SilferEfex to introduce some grain. Can’t stand digital bw-photos without a texture. I even heard of people shooting the R-D1 at 1600 exclusively for the nice grain-like noise-pattern. Though I never did that because of the reduced dynamic range.

  10. Great Pictures Gus and a fun camera to use, especially with the Voigtlander. If you have a moment check out Ailen Skin Exposure, NikSoft SilverEfex or the Topaz Black and White effects applications, they are fantastic and will give you even more creative freedom. At least Alien Skin did for me.

    Aye Alan

    Now where’s my can of Trollbegone?

    • Hi Alan, thank you for your kind words! I will certainly give those a try as Steve himself highly recommended these apps.

  11. Like Gus, I really enjoy this site and appreciate and admire Steve’s generosity. I like the photos Gus has posted here, the colours, exposure and subjects are really nice. I have just purhased a Black X100 and I am also finding the shooting experience diferent to what I am used to with my D90. The shots I have taken so far are also “centered” which I had not noticed till now. Leiya’s comment above has really made things gel for me now, thank you. Thank you to Steve for what you are doing here.

    • Hi iain, thank’s for you kind words! I was very tempted to get myself an x100 thinking it was an autofocus version of my epson RF but decided I have too many cameras now πŸ™‚ I am keeping my epson for the time being. It is definitely a different but very pleasant shooting experience compared to using dslr or mirrorless camera.

  12. God there are some wankers up their own opinionated arses commenting tonight.
    What a absolutely fantistic and simply beautiful first shot (on the plane) …superb photography, well done Gus! That pic is a winner!

    • 100% agree……and this was not a daily inspiration…it was the readers benefit to see what this camera can produce but they have a back handed crack at Gus……

      Thanks Gus as I have been curious as to what output this has. Did you do much PP with these?

    • I agree too, these pics all have nice colours, exposure and focus-not typical non-photographer holiday snaps at all, which was the condescending implication.

      The shot on the plane isn’t “perfectly centred’ either, the child’s head is almost at the the third point vertical and horizontal.

      Even the shot of the girl jumping has a vanishing point almost at the third point in the vertical as is the centre of gravity of the girl herself. Likewise the shot of the drainage grating.

      The implication that all great photos or pictures must follow the rule of thirds is just plain wrong. If would be a different matter entirely if every subject in these photos was located slap bang in the middle of the rangefinder patch, but I don’t see this in these. Then again maybe there is something wrong with my eyesight?

      • Hi Lain, thank you for your kind comments! The pictures that are not slap bang in the middle are either pre-focused or the moved away from the focusing patch πŸ™‚

    • Hi Simonjx and Andrew, thank you for your kind words! I do like the plane picture the most, it was ISO 1600 and handheld at about 1/12 of a second. I use JPEG for all the pictures OOC, almost no PP only minor cropping. I haven’t been shooting RAW the reason being I can’t find any added between JPEG OOC vs JPEG from lightroom processed RAW. I have to say the JPEG processor on this camera is the best I have seen so far (I have OMD as well and I would still prefer epson JPEG over OMD).

    • spot on comment. Melbourne laneways are a subculture of their own and great for street photography. Being laneways (narrow alleys) traditional composition is not necessarily applicable. Very nice collection, great kit.

  13. Very good camera. The lens is not very good though, if you can get a summicron with this RD1s, it would be a great combination, just saying. I love the moment you captured.

      • Hi G.V.PhotoG and Steve, I would agree with Steve that this lens is quite amazing for its size and value. I recently sold my zeiss 50mm planar since even though it is sharp, I find it too long for the cropped sensor epson camera and it did not offer any added sharpness for me (in my opinion).

      • Nope, doesn’t work. Maybe you could ask for a permission to share it? Even a screenshot version would do.

    • It’s an astounding lens, even more so considering the price. I had one and a 35 Lux FLE; they are indistinguishable right down to f2.5.

    • The best lens is the one you’ve got…

      I’m sure the Summicron is a superlative lens but for the fraction of the cost, the Color Skopar is more than capable. It’s a great lens!

    • Have you ever used this lens, G.V.?

      I use a small range of Leica and Voigtlander lenses with an N-7 and the Voigtlanders more than hold their own. Great build quality, too.

      • Indeed, I’ve bought and sold many Leica M mount lenses over the past few years but the one constant that I will not sell is my Skopar 35mm f/2.5 pancake. Sure it may not be so sharp on the outside parts of the image but overall it is a stunning lens and generally very highly regarded by those who have used it.

  14. Nice shots! I was actually looking in to the Epson RD1 recently, but they are hard to come by. Did you get yours from ebay?

    Oh and I’m from Brisbane too πŸ™‚

    • Hi Morgan,
      I am trying to sell my R-D1, but on usual photo-sites it is quite hard (Canon and Nikon reign). If you are interested, drop me a line (you can click my user-name). Pics are here (hope Steve doesn’t mind linking):
      The R-D1 is still a great camera, but I am either using M8 or M6 now.

    • Hi Morgan, I got my R-D1s from ebay bundled with the lens. The price is quite stable but once in a while you do get bargain. Keep looking πŸ™‚

  15. really digging the look of these images! the RD1 seems like a fun bit of kit to shoot with. thanks for sharing — always nice to see an old digital camera still producing well.

    • Lol. You’re either a very experienced rangefinder shooter, or doesn’t know how a rangefinder works. Either way, the photos are “perfectly centred”, but maybe it’s artistic decisions, or, as I suspect, consequential for inexperienced rangefinder shooting. Since the focusing patch is always in the centre (for Leica M’s it is perfectly centred within the frame lines all the time, others may not follow the frame lines, but still close to the centre), it’s quite common for the shooter to concentrate too much on the focusing (and timing) of the shot, and forget about the framing altogether. Hence the subjects usually end up in the centre. It took me a while to start being conscious again about framing WHILE focusing – it’s a hard thing to do (on DSLRs and mirrorless it’s naturally easy, but as for rangefinders…). Not to mention, rangefinder frame lines exhibit parallax which, although somewhat “corrected” in varying degrees in different cameras, there’s always still parallax nonetheless. That’s the difficult part – you have to build a rapport with the camera. But when you get a shot you absolutely nail, you treasure it 100 times more.

      • Hi Leiya, I agree with your explanation πŸ™‚ I would say I am happy with nailing the focus on this camera but still learning more about framing and timing it properly.

      • I know how a rangefinder works, split image, AF, MF, the lot. They all have their limitations in achieving the composition you want. Letting the limitations of the particular system your camera has dictate what the composition is seems like a poor choice to me, with all due respect to the OP.

    • Another slave to the “rules” of photography. If everyone followed the same compositional rules wouldn’t it be a dull world. I like the fact that they are centred, they fly in the face of the “rules” and are all the more interesting for it.

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