Rollei Prego 100WA is a beautiful point-and-shoot with a 28-100mm 𝒇5.8-𝒇10.5 Vario-Apogon lens (the maximum aperture changes based on zoom level). It can focus as close as .5m with “macro” mode or .65m/2’1½” normally. The camera has a decent shutter that actuates between 1 and 1/500th of a second. You can use 35mm film with an ISO range of 50-3200, DX code required.
This is perhaps the nicest-looking autofocus point-and-shoot I’ve had that costs less than $300. It feels great in-hand and fits nicely in a jacket pocket. The viewfinder is OK in size; it has thin black parallax markings and focus-area brackets. Like most modern-ish automagic cameras, you will be forced to manually shut off its flash every time in the dusk light, and there is no manual override for focus or exposure.
The camera takes a single CR-2 battery, which is a little rarer than a CR-123 but isn’t particularly difficult to find. Drugstores may carry those as they are often used in medical devices.
If you’re lucky, a wireless shutter trigger/remote will be packaged with your Rollei Prego. Alas, I am not.
Build quality, design, and ergonomics.
This Prego has a pleasantly-shaped and well-put-together plastic body with an aluminum faceplate. Significantly better made than something like Vivitar IC 101 but perhaps a step down from the Revue 35XE, which has the best plastic-only build I’ve seen. Overall, it feels relatively modern — most won’t recognize it as a film camera.
The LCD, combined with the D-pad control, is very easy to use. Very helpful, considering how many times I had to switch the auto-flash off. It lights up green once you turn on the camera and switches to orange as you cycle through settings until you confirm your selection with the “menu/set” button.
I appreciate the clear battery life indicator and a ginormous frame counter.
The screen’s size allows for an easy layout for all the features in four categories: flash, self, mode, and date. “Flash” defaults to “auto” and could be set to redeye reduction, always-on, disabled, or fill. “Self” has options for the self-timer to delay taking one, two, or three photos in a row by 10 seconds, with the final setting enabling the remote trigger. “Mode” should’ve been named “focus” — it lets you enable macro shots for close-ups or force an infinity focus. “Date” is the only setting that persists on this camera once you turn it off.
Other than the LCD controls, the mint-green on/off button, and the shutter button, there’s a zoom toggle located just under your right thumb. The lens changes its focal length in five steps; the zoom isn’t continuous. The viewfinder approximates the composition with its movable glass parts, just like most other cameras of the type, i.e., Olympus Infinity Zoom 80.
The lens will focus after you hit the shutter button, reasonably quickly, which is a similar approach to an older Pentax PC 35AF. Unfortunately, there’s no indication of where the camera decides to focus exactly, which is a shame as Prego has some trouble with infinity focus.
The lens retracts into the body on power-down, and the glass gets hidden behind the neat plastic doors.
Focus lock is possible by pressing the shutter half-way as you point the camera at an object within the distance you’re looking to photograph; after that, you can recompose and depress it completely to take the picture. Note that exposure is also locked together with focus via shutter half-press.
A green light next to the viewfinder will glow solid when the camera is ready to take a picture or flash if there isn’t enough light.
The film door latch is on the left side of the camera if you’re facing the LCD. Inserting 35mm canisters is a breeze; the motor takes care of everything. There’s even a button to rewind your film mid-roll at the bottom plate that you can activate with a sharp point like a pen or a pencil.
The battery door bulges out to the right of the LCD with a beefy hinge. I found that I had to snap it closed with a bit of effort. After 5 minutes of inactivity, the camera will power down to preserve its charge.
I haven’t plaid much with flash on my Prego, though the manual suggests that it can recycle in approximately eight seconds, and it can adjust its power depending on the lighting conditions and subject distance. It is also synched at different speeds depending on zoom levels — 1/45s on wide-angle and 1/70s on the telephoto.
Camera lens and image quality.
The lens on Prego 100WA isn’t necessarily bad. There are a decent number of keepers on the roll of Portra 400 I tried with it. I can’t tell which aperture it uses or which focal length it has during each exposure, but there’s certainly a noticeable amount of variation in terms of sharpness.
Aside from some modest aberration and the light leaks in the photo above, I’m rather happy with how it turned out. The below scan may seem OK at first, but if you take a closer look, you’ll notice that it’s slightly softer, and there’s considerably more vignetting. I’m noticing some barrel distortion as well. Quite possibly, this is the result of a wider aperture as this shot is taken in near-dusk.
My major complaint about the Vario-Apogon lens isn’t the distortions. I can live with the imperfect glass given the convenience of a small camera with well-designed controls. The main issue with the Rollei is its autofocus. It can’t focus well on objects with low contrast like a clear sky, and there’s no indication by the camera where the focus will fall.
If you know this camera well, you may be able to avoid some of those issues. Perhaps there’s a specific focal length and focusing technique that is the sweet spot. I know it can do better, but you will need time, effort, and sacrificial film to make it so.
I do enjoy having a zoom lens in such a small package. And I really, really like the way this camera looks. But I won’t be keeping it as I happen to have spent over a thousand bucks on another point-and-shoot; it nails the focus every single time and has a better lens, though, of course, it has its own issues.
Rollei Prego is a beautiful point-and-shoot, it’s quite versatile, and it is straightforward in operation. Despite its glaring focusing issues, it is capable of delivering adequate results. Perhaps less sky and brighter weather is the trick with this one.
☞ Fun fact: The manual states that this camera is being sold by an American company, it is marked as “Rollei Germany” on its lens barrel, and at the bottom, it says that it’s made in Indonesia.