Minolta Riva 90

Bestbeloved bought this camera new somewhere around 2000 – she cannot remember exactly when but the printed instructions are dated 1999 so not before then and she was using the camera in 2001. She remembers one problem, though – the long delay between pressing the shutter release button and the shutter actually firing. When Bestbeloved gave me the camera this morning, there was a new spare battery in a bubble card. When I inserted this battery into the camera all I got was a low charge warning. The BBE date on the battery was 2011 – and it was already flat by 2020!

This is a compact camera suitable for either a pocket or handbag, the camera weighs 225g. The construction is entirely plastic – it appears that this includes the lens. The camera is almost entirely automatic – you still have to compose the image and press the shutter release button yourself but the camera does everything else.

The camera measures 120 by 70 by 50 mm when closed and the lens extends to 55mm when open for use – this goes as far as 95 mm with the extreme telephoto setting .

Such controls as there are are on top of the camera. To the right is a chrome shutter release button. This is 10 mm diameter and is a bit too close to the edge of the camera for my comfort but still is eminently useful. Behind this is a rocker switch to adjust the focal length. Pressing the right hand edge of this switch extends the lens for a longer focal length – up to 90mm. Pressing the left hand edge of this switch retracts the lens for a wider angle focal length – down to 38 mm. This does not appear to be continuously variable but rather has five steps. When you first switch on the camera, the lens is set to its widest – 38 mm.

To the left of the shutter release is an LED screen. This measures 18 by 8 mm. This tells you the current state of the camera. There is an indication that there is a film loaded, the frame numbers and the flash setting. Behind this display are two grey buttons. The right hand button sets the delay timer. Setting this gives you a 10 s delay between pressing the shutter release button and the shutter firing. The other button sets the flash mode. There are five modes: off, on, auto, fill and night landscape.

To the left of the top are a further two buttons. The larger one is marked on/off and is exactly that. The smaller button is recessed and needs a pen nib or such to press. This button forces the camera to rewind the film mid-roll. Rewind is usually automatic at the end of the roll.

The front of the camera has the lens. While the camera is switched off, the lens is retracted to be flush with its surround and is covered by a guillotine cover. When the camera is switched on, the guillotine cover retracts and the lens comes forward to the 38 mm position, ready for use. The lens itself is moulded plastic and has a green tint. Above the lens are a number of windows – six, to be precise.

On the left, looking at the front of the camera, is a red-eye reduction lamp. This works by shining a red light into the subject’s eyes causing their irises to contract. This allows less flash light to enter their eyes and then reflect off their retinas and out again. Above this is the light meter window. The meter is a CdS meter – there is no readout for the meter as the camera ‘s exposure is fully automatic. To the right is one of a pair of autofocus windows. Next is the viewfinder followed by the second autofocus window. Finally, on the right, is the flash gun.

The viewfinder is rather good. It is not the largest – it measures 20 by 15 mm. Inside are bright lines that delineate the image area with a bright circle in the centre which indicates the area to be focused. As you use the zoom control to alter the focal lengthy of the lens, the focal length of the viewfinder changes to match so you see the final image.

The back of the camera has little on it. At the top, in the centre, is the viewfinder eyepiece. This is not the largest – 6 by 4 mm – but is adequate. Beside the viewfinder eyepiece is a green LED. This flashes while the flash gun is charging and remains steady when the flash gun is charged. It is not possible to take a photograph while this LED is flashing.

Below the eyepiece is the hinged back. This is opened by a small catch on the left edge of the camera. On the right hand end of the back is a small clear window which allows you to see the film cassette in case you forget what type of film is in there.

Inside, the film cassette sits on the right which is unusual but certainly not unknown. To load the film, you insert the cassette on the right and pull the film leader to the left edge of the inside. When the back is closed, the film is automatically fitted to the take-up spool.

The chamber for the cassette has two DX contacts. The DX system allows the camera to determine the film speed, film length and exposure latitude. To read the DX barcode on the film cassette requires six electrical contacts. This camera only has two contacts and so can only partially read the film speeds – the camera can detect 100, 200 or 400 ISO film film speeds. This means that 100, 125 or 160 ISO films will all be seen as 100 ISO; 200, 250, 320 or 3200 ISO films will be seen as 200 ISO films and 400, 500 or 640 ISO films will be seen as 400 ISO films. This does not really matter in practice as most of these film speeds are not made. If 125 ISO film is used, it will be very slightly over-exposed but still within the latitude of the film. The only possible problem would be using 3200 ISO film which is made but is very unlikely to be used by an owner of this camera – if used, 3200 ISO film will be exposed as 200 ISO film which will not work.

The right hand edge of the camera has the battery compartment. This takes a single CR123 battery which are still readily available. The base of the camera has the serial number and a 1/4 inch UNC tripod socket.

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