other Ricoh cameras in my collection
1960 - Ricoh Auto 35
1970 - Ricoh Hi-Color 35 Viewfinders
1970 - Ricoh TLS 401 SLR
Ricoh 500G [1972 - 1979]
In 1968 Konica launched the C35. It featured a built-in coupled meter, coupled rangefinder, and fully automatic exposure. It was compact, light, easy to use, and took good photographs. This camera was an outstanding sales success throughout the world and much copied. Many manufacturers took the concept a stage further by introducing manual control in addition to auto exposure, and the Ricoh 500 G is one such example.
The Ricoh 500G is an original design, which offers shutter priority auto exposure. A viewfinder needle pointer indicates the aperture the camera will automatically select. Manual control is achieved by selecting an aperture setting other than
A (for Auto). While the meter still registers, the reading remains the same throughout the manual aperture range, and so reminds the user which aperture should (normally) be used according to the set shutter speed and lighting conditions. The B setting switches off the meter, which is otherwise continually active.
The lens based film speed control is quite unsophisticated. Rotating the selector dial brings different sized masks to cover the meter cell, so the slower the film speed, the smaller the opening through which light passes.
The construction is slightly unusual. It has what might be described as a solid core (painted black), which is covered by front and back plates, such that the film door completely wraps the perimeter of the camera body. Many Internet reviews curse the light seals, but rather than being the usual gasket in a groove type, it's a simple layer of foam that sandwiches between all door/body contact surfaces. Replacement is relatively easy. The seal is comparatively wide, which provides light proofing with little compression. I used 1mm thick foam, which I believe to be the thickness of the original, but also because I suspect that if the door was forced to compress a thicker seal, it might be susceptible to warping. I was going to make a like-for-like copy, but I opted for the simplicity of not trimming-down the section that wraps the viewfinder window. The original seal was a one-piece gasket; mine is in four parts. I also took mine right to the outside edges of the door.
These cameras were originally fitted with thin, clear plastic protectors under the strap rings: I thought they were packaging and ripped them off.
The 1972 price of the 500G was £49.95. In a 1979 edition of Amateur Photographer magazine, the Ricoh 500G was offered by several advertisers at £57.50. I suspect 1979 may have been the camera's last flourish: the late 70s was the beginning of a period when the market became flooded with emerging manufacturers and new camera models. Ricoh produced many variation of the 500G, such as the GX, ME, RF, ST and ZF. Some introduced additional features (such as a battery check, and multiple exposure switch), while others simplified the specifications of the original. All used cheaper materials (i.e. plastic), and lacked the individuality of the G, particularly the film door design, and thus more closely resembled the original Konica C35 (and its multitude of clones).
Viewfinder: Combined viewfinder/rangefinder. Fixed bright-frame parallax marks. Needle pointer display of Auto aperture selection. A floating
M appears when the camera is not set to auto.
Focus: Fully coupled rangefinder with manual focusing on lens barrel.
Lens: Rikenon 40mm f/2.8. Tessar-style four elements in three groups.
Close Focus: 3 feet / 0.9m.
Diaphragm: Four blade, stopping down to f/16.
Shutter: 1/8th to 1/500th + B. 10 second delay self-timer.
Cable Release: Standard socket in shutter release button.
Meter: Coupled above the lens CdS metering cell.
Exposure: Automatic shutter speed priority, or fully manual.
Film Speed: 25 to 800 ASA (16 to 30 DIN).
Filter Size: 46mm screw thread.
Flash: Manual flash exposure. X-sync hot shoe for all shutter speeds. Also has a separate PC socket.
Film Advance: Single stroke lever of about 170° travel.
Frame Counter: Automatic count-up and reset.
Rewind: Via crank and bottom release button.
Back Opening: Pull on rewind knob.
Size: 110 X 77 X 56 mm (W x H x D)
Battery: 1.35v PX675 mercury or equivalent. Only necessary for meter, which has a bridge circuit and will work with a 1.5v battery.
I obtained my Ricoh 500G in May 2017. It was given to me by a neighbour, along with a few others. It's a camera that hasn't travelled far, and still bore the original North Shields retailer's name sticker (which I removed during cleaning). It's in nice condition, and full working order (apart the from perished and sticky light seal). The Ricoh is a decent, rather than high quality construction.
I looked at sold listings on eBay, to get feel for what sort of figure these cameras sell for. Typically, prices are all over the place, but in the past three months, working, undamaged examples seem to have sold for between £20 to £40. Some have fetched as little a £5, but the average price of all 33 sold examples worked-out to be £20.93. I think I better go out tomorrow and buy my neighbour a nice bottle of wine!
This is not a model I would have considered buying, but it's a thoroughly likeable little camera, and much more distinctive and versatile than the totally automated Konica C35 and its clones. It's much nicer than my GAF Memo 35 ET.
The other cameras - by the way - were an Ilford Sportsman 300 (which is a rebadged Dacora Dignette), and a Boots Pacemaker CM (which is a rebadged Regula Sprintic C). I don't want to appear ungrateful, but these models are not my thing, so I'll be looking to gift them to another collector.