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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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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