Epson released the R-D1s rangefinder in 2006 and sold it for three years before taking it off the market. Recently while organizing a warehouse, the company discovered 30 brand-new ones and rather than throwing them out, wants to offer them to fans.
The R-D1 was originally announced by Epson in March of 2004 and was the first-ever digital rangefinder camera. It was the first in a series that eventually included the R-D1s, R-D1x, and R-D1xG. Though the original R-D1 was discontinued in 2007, these subsequent models were marketed and sold as late as 2014, when the R-D1x — the last of the series — was discontinued.
The original R-D1 camera featured a 6.1-megapixel APS-C CCD sensor (the same one found in the Nikon D100) and used the Leica M-mount, but also could accept Leica screw mount lenses with an adapter. It could capture images in two sizes ( 3008 x 2000 and 2240 x 1488) and was able to record images either as JPEGs or 12-bit CCD RAWs.
It was jointly developed by Seiko Epson and Cosina, the company that now manufactures the Voigtlander line of optics. The R-D1 had an aperture priority and manual exposure modes, a shutter speed range of one second to 1/2000 seconds, and exposure compensation of +/- 2.0 EV in 0.3 EV steps. It also featured the world’s first 1x viewfinder that allowed photographers to view scenes through the camera as if they were looking at them with just their eye. It also featured a two-inch vari-angle rear LCD with a 235,000-pixel resolution.
The camera also had an unusual manually wound shutter, so the controls operated similarly to film-based rangefinders.
The R-D1s is very similar to the original R-D1, but added a JPEG+RAW shooting mode, Adobe RGB mode, noise reduction for long exposures, and a quick view function. It was possible to upgrade the original R-D1 cameras to have the same features.
There are a few steps that are required to be eligible to get one. First, applicants must live in Japan. Second, applicants must prove that they were at some point a user of the R-D1 series of cameras by sumbitting a photo taken with the camera (EXIF data will be checked). Since there are a limited number of cameras, anyone who enters will have their name put into a lottery. Those who are selected will have their photo exhibited at the Epson Square Marunouchi Gallery in January. Those lottery winners will be given the chance to purchase the R-D1 for 2,000 yen, which is about $18.
That cost is likely associated with the refurbishing of the cameras since they aren’t in perfect condition despite their in-box state. Age has appeared to have set in as shown in the images shared by Epson. For one, the rubber on the grip was in what is described as a “peeled state” but the company plans to fix them before they find a new home.
One of the reasons Epson says that only owners of R-D1 systems are eligible to enter the lottery is that the battery is not included, likely another item that didn’t stand the test of time. Epson says that only current users of the R-D1 can successfully operate these cameras by using batteries they already own.
Applications are open until November 4, and winners will be sent their cameras at the end of December. Full details on how to enter can be found on Epson’s Japanese website.