Guest Reviews Rangefinders (Fixed Lens)

Ricoh 500G: A Great All-rounder – Guest Review by Andy Rowan

I picked up my Ricoh 500G rangefinder for $8 at a ‘Vinnies’ charity shop here in Sydney. Manufactured from 1972, I’ve had this for about a year now. It was my first film camera pickup from a charity shop. Maybe that’s why I like it so much!

Late afternoon on a boat – Kodak 400

I had to replace the light seal when I bought it, and replace the small LR44 battery it uses. From that point on it hasn’t really let me down, despite a few little flaws.

The main problem I’ve come across is that with some rolls, at the 21st or 22nd shot, the film advance lever locks up and crunches the film. The remaining shots on the roll don’t wind properly and aren’t worth shooting. So I make sure I only put 24exp rolls in this camera. I haven’t worked out how to fix this problem or what causes it. Also, the little needle light meter in the viewfinder worked some of the time when I first got the camera, but it doesn’t seem to be working at all now – it doesn’t matter, since I don’t rely on it.

The cap on top of the film advance lever fell off somewhere one day too, but I noticed this before I lost the lever. Some superglue and an earring backing that my wife had made a quick fix to this.

Finally, I occasionally end up with a double exposure or a light leak. Don’t really know how this happens inconsistently, but it’s not that bad. Sometimes the results are kinda cool!

My mate Nick – Kodak 400

My beautiful wife, New Zealand – Superia 200

Ricoh 500G sports a 40mm f2.8 Rikenon lens, which, to my eye, seems to provide very sharp photos. Along with the body of the camera, it’s a very compact lens.

The aperture and shutter speed rings move easy and are tactile. Focusing is simple enough, just line up those two diamonds in the rangefinder (initially it took me a little while to ‘see’ those diamonds – surely I’m not the only one who has had this experience, right?!). Film speed is adjustable via the front of the lens.

Apparently using the modern LR44 batteries throws off the meter, so I set it half a stop lower (according to another blog review I read on the camera). Seems to work just fine. To avoid the battery draining unnecessarily, setting the shutter ring to bulb mode turns it off. Genius.

The shutter release button is very comfortable to use, when compared to an older Asahi Pentax H2 SLR, which is small and hard to push down. It fires easily and quietly, and the film advance winds well.

La Perouse, Sydney – Kodak 400

Having now put 6 rolls through it, including 2 rolls from a holiday to New Zealand in 2016, I find this camera to be really versatile.

What make it so effortless to use is the fact that it has a shutter priority feature. Set the aperture ring to ‘A’ and set the shutter speed to whatever you think is appropriate for the scene, and the camera seems to get it right nearly every single time! Whether it’s in bright sunlight, cloudy conditions, or in the evening, there hasn’t been a shot overexposed or underexposed.

This convenient feature means that I rarely use it in full manual mode. All the photos you see in this post are taken using the ‘A’ setting.

Dim light, but steady – Superia 100

I really like how this camera renders portraits. Very sharp, with a bokeh that I really like. The bokeh has a cool circular effect when wide open too. Images seem to also remain sharp over the whole frame with the corners not diminishing in clarity.

Colour of the printed photos is true to life – I’ve shot with Kodak Ultramax 400 and Fuji Superia 100 + 200. The greens in Superia 200 were delicious when shooting in NZ!

A New Zealand Kea. See what I mean about the bokeh?! – Superia 200

Overall, I really like this camera. Small enough to throw in my pocket or over my shoulder, sharp enough for my needs, a really good all-rounder in almost all situations. The semi-automatic feature makes it easy to use and hard to get a bad photo. A wider aperture would be useful in dim light, but 2.8 is still fast enough most of the time.

Excellent friends, and the camera gets it right again – Superia 200

I hope you’ve enjoy my photos from this little rangefinder – I’ve enjoyed taking them!
You can see all these and more on my instagram @instagremmy.

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7 Comments

  • Reply
    Terry C
    May 14, 2017 at 7:47 am

    Had one, but found that my Yashica Electro 35 GSN produced better results.

  • Reply
    Christos Theofilogiannakos
    May 14, 2017 at 10:01 am

    That’s a truly nice camera and nice shots. I had it myself and the results were fabulous, really sharp and contrasty. What I didn’t like about the little Ricoh was the dinky overall feel during actual use and the suboptimal viewfinder. I ended up selling it over the more solid and identically spec’d Olympus 35RC which has a much better viewfinder and a theoretically better lens (5 over 4 elements) although in practice the Rikenon seems to be sharper. Just a small correction: The camera doesn’t have a fully auto mode, it’s either shutter-priority AE, or full manual.

  • Reply
    Dok Madrid
    May 15, 2017 at 1:07 am

    this was my very first rangefinder film camera. had two. sold two. I like how compact it was and very sturdy. It produced great shots. Seeing this review, not sure why I sold it.

  • Reply
    Daniel
    May 15, 2017 at 6:37 pm

    I have the 500G as well, and it still suprises me every time I shoot a roll how good the pictures come out. The rikenon lens is absolute top class in my opinion. The camera itself have great build quality but the dials for focusing and shutter speed are a bit cheaply made and small to grab, but they do the job. I use hearing aid batteries (zink-air type) which are 1.4 volts which is very close to the mercury cells and I have found the meter working very well. The 500G is a hidden gem which can be bought for next to nothing, get one while you can.

  • Reply
    Neil T
    May 16, 2017 at 8:22 am

    I picked one up along with a couple of Olympus trips in a charity shop earlier this year. Cracking little lens, very sharp even at bigger apertures. Rangefinder is bright and accurate, The meter seems spot on even with an LR44. One of the messiest seal replacement jobs I’ve ever carried out though. Almost the entire back door is covered in foam, that at this age is pure sticky gunk dust. Most that I’ve seen since on eBay are in a similar condition. Don’t let this put you off, with a little patience, some acetone and a ton of cotton buds, it’s a worthwhile job. The battery holder on mine had come loose, which required the base removal and 2 screws tightening. Oh, and careful with that chimney-like shutter release. It’s one of those cameras you won’t want to wind on until you’re ready for the next shot.
    Fabulous review Andy, cheers

  • Reply
    Nnamdi Ozo
    May 18, 2017 at 5:05 am

    Nice review, I have the Ricoh 500RF, which also comes with a 40mm f2.8 Lens. Strangely enough it is also fond of ripping up my film after ~24 frames.

  • Reply
    Lee
    June 26, 2017 at 8:12 pm

    Great camera to learn RF photography: focusing/manual exposure bc it’s so cheap and the lens is wonderful. But the body is utter junk, constantly falling apart, light leaking, seals etc. My 30 year old Holga is more reliable. Have had 2. Often thought if I could only take off the rikenon lens and mount it on my Leica III or Nicca3s that would be something.

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