5 frames with...

5 Frames with a Ricoh ZF – By James Cockroft

The Ricoh 35 ZF is a fixed lens, zone focus compact from the mid 1960s. I’m not sure where mine came from: maybe my step dad, or Grandfather, or an aunt. It doesn’t much matter where, really. I (mostly) enjoy it, and when I don’t shoot it for a while, I start to miss it. When it first came to me, the light seals were bad, but I didn’t know it.

I shot a couple of photowalks with it, put it away for a year or two, then finally replaced the light seals with sticky-backed felt. It’s been smooth sailing from there. The fixed, 40mm, f/2.8 Rikkenon lens is beautiful: sharp, with good contrast and saturation. Exposure is full manual or shutter-priority auto, with help from a meter designed to run PX635 mercury cells. The meter probably runs a bit hot on 1.55v SR44/v357s, but I don’t worry about it.

The aperture varies from 2.8 to 16, but ring is narrow and hard to grab, so I usually leave it on A and try to stay on top of the shutter speed. My biggest problem with it is the ZF part: Zone Focus. I’ve gotten better with it over the years, but still forget to set focus distance regularly and I have no idea what .8 meters (or 2.6″) looks like in the real world, anyway. One of these days, maybe I’ll pick up a 500G. It’s pretty much the same camera, just with a rangefinder instead of the simple VF.

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  • Avatar
    Stuart Herrington
    November 9, 2017 at 3:54 pm

    I use a Ricoh 500RF, bought from eBay for cheap and pretty much had never been used. It’s quite similar to this, and a cheaper version of the 500g. I recently bought a 500g for cheap but haven’t done much with it as it’s riddled with problems… I probably should’ve sent it back but didn’t realise it was as bad as what it was. The meter looks to be overexposing, the rangefinder glass isn’t fixed and moves around, the lightseals are too thick and the door gets stuck and I then realised the winder didn’t wind on 60% of the time. It just gets stuck for a number of frames. It didn’t cost much and when I get my screwdriver set from home, some felt and rubbing alcohol i might be able to fix it. As for buying a 500g… I’d actually recommend buying a 500RF, it’s the same, but appears to be slightly cheaper made (but still solid). With the RF being a newer camera and cheaper, there’s a chance you’ll pick up one that’s hardly been used in great working condition.

  • Avatar
    Chris Pattison
    November 10, 2017 at 1:16 pm

    I can heartily recommend the 500GX.

    • Avatar
      James Cockroft
      November 10, 2017 at 2:27 pm

      I have the ME too (and the Sears branded version of the 500 RF). All of the Ricoh 500 series are great little cameras: tiny, capable, and a great lens.

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