other Ricoh cameras in my collection
1970 - Ricoh TLS401 SLR
1972 - Ricoh 500G Rangefinder
Ricoh Auto 35 [1960 - 1964*]
The Ricoh Auto 35 is a completely automatic, no focus, viewfinder camera (save for initially setting the film speed, and when using flash).
It has a fixed focus lens (Ricoh Kominar 40mm f/2.8, comprising 3 elements in 3 groups), designed to produce sharp images at any distance between 5 feet and infinity.
Automatic exposure is determined by selenium cell which surrounds the lens, and sets the aperture using a trapped needle mechanism. The film speed is set on a lens barrel control dial, which is scaled from 6 to 2 (plus M - flash sync, and B - as in
Bulb). A table on the back of the camera shows either the film type these numerical setting correspond to (on earlier cameras), or the ASA/DIN film speed (on later models). This control sets shutter speeds as follows:
↪ Shutter Speed
|2 and M
For flash photography, the camera is equipped with a (cordless) flash contact on the accessory shoe (a hot shoe), which automatically synchronizes with type M type flashbulbs (a table in the user manual helps select the correct type of bulb ... but let's not get into that), and an exposure guide scale (on the bottom of the lens barrel) has to be set to the camera to subject distance (scaled in feet and meters). This control sets the aperture as follows:
|6-8 feet||12 feet||25 feet|
The styling of the Ricoh Auto 35 is quite unusual, but not unique. It has a large shutter release on the side of the lens barrel (like a Werra, or Agilux Agimatic). The wind crank is on the bottom left (facing away) of the camera, with a fold-out tip and the film is effectively exposed upside-down (like a Canon Canonet in both respects). The rewind crank is also on the bottom of the camera. The strap lugs are removable, and attach to the camera by matching up two blue marks before pushing into place. Removal is by turning the lug until a blue and red mark are aligned.
The camera has all the normal extras that would be expected on a more sophisticated model: an under exposure warning indicator, a tripod bush, a cable release socket, a screw port for a Ricoh self-timer, a lens filter thread, and a bright-line viewfinder.
This camera also allows manual exposure control: the shutter speed is set by the film number, and aperture via the flash distance scale. For example: film speed setting
5 and distance setting
12 feet sets an exposure of 1/100th at f/8. Brilliant!
According to an advertisement in a June 1964 edition of Amateur Photographer magazine, the Ricoh was still in production (*), and had a UK price tag of 19 guineas.
The guinea was a UK/GB coin made of approximately one quarter of an ounce of gold. Originally worth one pound sterling, the value of the guinea changed overtime as gold prices increased. In the Great Recoinage of 1816, the major unit of currency became the pound, and guinea became a colloquial name used to indicate the amount of 21 shillings. The term guinea continued to be used to price luxury items until decimalisation in 1971.
In 1964, the average UK weekly wage was about £22, so the Ricoh cost a little less than a week's pay.
In 1961 a variation of the camera sold as the Ricoh Auto 35V, and was zone focusing. The design was replicated by the Soviet KMZ company as the Zorki 11. There was also a 1961 rangefinder equipped Ricohmatic 35, which was copied as the Zorki 10.
Viewfinder: Bright-frame type with fixed parallax correction marks.
Lens: Ricoh Kominar 40mm f/2.8, comprising 3 elements in 3 groups.
Close Focus: 5' (1.5m).
Diaphragm: Stops down to about f/20.
Shutter: 1/25th, 1/32nd, 1/50th, 1/100th, and 1/160th (not directly adjustable), plus Bulb setting.
Cable Release: Standard socket in camera body.
Meter: Selenium cell around lens (automatically incorporates any filter factors).
Exposure: Automatic with
Film Speed: 10 to 200 ASA (11 to 24 DIN).
Filter Size: 46 screw-in.
Flash: Hot shoe and PC terminal.
Film Advance: Wind crank.
Frame Counter: Count-up with automatic reset and advance.
Rewind: Via crank and bottom release button.
Back Opening: Via a catch at the bottom left.
Size: 132mm x 66mm x 59mm (W x H x D).
I paid £3.70 for this camera in July 2015. I bought it because I really liked the retro-futuristic
Buck Rogers styling, and automated simplicity. There were two cameras listed for sale the week I got mine, and I went for this particular one because it still has its strap lugs (which are apparently often missing).
The camera required a good clean, and has a few signs of use: the grey paint finish has worn off on the bottom corners, but this nicely reveals the underlying brass (I've read elsewhere that the camera is made of Bakelite: it definitely isn't!). The light seals have deteriorated, but that's to be expected. It feels nicely made, solid and of good quality construction. My camera is a later model, with an ASA/DIN table on the back cover. Everything works (and that doesn't really cover a lot) with one significant exception - the meter - which fails to register any light levels. Obviously, the way to check this is to set the camera to a low shutter speed and fire the shutter while looking through the lens via the open back cover. At differing light levels, the aperture should be seen to change while the shutter is open. Mine maintains a constant f/2.8, indicating that the meter is not influencing exposure.
Within the viewfinder bright-line frame, there is a red coloured section at the bottom. Superimposed over this is a fine white vertical needle image. This is an underexposure zone. On my camera, the needle is permanently in the red zone, and does not move.
The instruction manual for this camera clearly states -
If there is no film in the camera, the TRIGGERMATIC ACTION LEVER will not cock the shutter nor will the FILM COUNTER register. My camera works without film in it, so I can only guess that later versions of the Auto 35 were changed (the manual is for an early version).
I didn't expect to get a fully working camera for £3.70, and feel it was well worth the money for a display only item. However, it would have been nice if it was working, because it's the sort of camera that would temp me to load-up with film, and perform some snap-shot photography. I could set exposure manually, but that defeats the point of the camera.