5 frames with...

5 Frames with a Ricoh TF-500 – By Adam Kendall

January 27, 2019

The late 1980’s were, without a doubt, a time of transition. Not only were hit American television shows such as Saved by the Bell and Walker, Texas Ranger on the horizon, compact cameras were continuing to evolve into more capable machines. And among these was the Ricoh TF-500 (also referred to as the Ricoh TF-900). At this point, camera companies were beginning to offer dual focal length fixed lenses. Much like other companies, the Ricoh offered both 35mm and 70mm focal lengths–switchable at the touch of a button atop the camera.

I came across my Ricoh TF-500 while visiting a local thrift shop this past spring. After I had purchased the camera, I began looking online for a great deal on the 6-volt battery needed to operate the camera. Almost a full year later, I finally put a roll of Fuji 400 speed color film into the camera, and spent the next two weeks with the camera while out and about Northern Michigan. Over the years, I have found it wise to run an inexpensive roll of film through the camera before trusting it with Ilford XP2 Super film. There is nothing more disappointing than the sound of an take-up spool engine kicking the bucket midway through a roll of film. I am sure many out there can relate.

Over the course of two weeks, I took the camera along with me on shopping trips, hikes and family functions. By doing this, I can get a feel for where the camera is at its most effective (where It shines). It is because of this I own a variety of film cameras. Each camera excels at different things.

Though the Ricoh may not have been quite as lovable as Zach from Saved by the Bell, or as delightfully timeless as Chuck Norris busting scumbags, I have grown quite fond of the camera. This is especially true when it comes to landscape photography.

The Ricoh’s lens performed flawlessly during this sunset at a favorite trail.

My family visited The Hop Lot (a microbrewery) outside of Traverse City a couple of days before Christmas.

I always incorporate large buildings into my first frames with a new camera.

One of my favorite locations to photograph at Brown Bridge Quiet Area.

This image was also taken at Brown Bridge, though further up the trail.

For a user report of the camera, feel free to visit my blog at: the-wilderness-journal.blog

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  • Reply
    Gordon Palmer
    January 27, 2019 at 11:44 am

    Super article! Makes me want to pick up the tf900 again and give it a second go – had used a roll of ‘novelty’ tinted colour film the first time around, was a little disappointed with those results.

    • Reply
      January 28, 2019 at 7:45 pm

      Gordon, give the Ricoh another chance. You may be pleasantly surprised, just as I was. Let me know if/when you decide to put another roll through the Ricoh…I would be interested to see the results from your neck of the woods.

  • Reply
    Alan Yahnke
    January 27, 2019 at 12:18 pm

    I came across this camera a few years back and have two now. The camera focuses and fires almost instantly, I think it would be great for a street shooter.

    • Reply
      January 28, 2019 at 7:43 pm

      Alan, you make a good point, the Ricoh TF-500 would indeed be a great street shooter…that shutter button is so darn fast!

  • Reply
    January 27, 2019 at 8:50 pm

    Nice nature images with that cam

  • Reply
    Graham Orbell
    January 28, 2019 at 7:10 pm

    All of which shows that results from old film cameras can be every bit as good as from the latest digital cameras by the time they are displayed.

    • Reply
      January 28, 2019 at 7:41 pm

      Thank you for the kind words! I had a hunch that the images would turn out acceptable, but was quite surprised when I loaded the images onto my computer. I cannot wait to try a roll of BW film at some point soon.

  • Reply
    Taylor Ervin
    February 3, 2019 at 2:41 am

    Interesting camera and some nice shots . Are you able to set ISO manually on this camera? Are you able to cancel the flash?

    • Reply
      Adam Smith
      February 12, 2019 at 1:25 am

      Hi Taylor, thanks for the kind words. Unfortunately the ISO cannot be set manually: that would have been a great feature. Unfortunately, the flash cannot be cancelled. However, it can be held down.

  • Reply
    Adam Smith
    February 12, 2019 at 1:59 am

    Hi Taylor, thanks for the kind words. Unfortunately the ISO cannot be set manually: that would have been a great feature. Unfortunately, the flash cannot be cancelled. However, it can be held down.

  • Reply
    Alan Yahnke
    September 21, 2019 at 1:34 pm

    You can’t change the ISO, but it does have an exposure compensation button for compensating for back lighting, I don’t remember trying it though. Pressing down the flash to cancel it is easy. Studying the manual is definitely worth the time. I shot a farmer’s market with expired film and thought the results were interesting. The camera is extremely responsive for snap shooting.

  • Reply
    Tim G.
    April 4, 2020 at 4:59 am

    Your photos came out great! I acquired a TF-500 a couple of years ago and shot a roll of Kodak Gold 200. I was pleased with some of the photos, but some were out of focus and blurry. In at least one case, I think I was too close to the subject, but that wasn’t the case in a few others that were disappointing. In any case, I’ll probably give it another try, but I have a couple other point and shoots in line ahead of it.

  • Reply
    Dana Brigham
    August 28, 2020 at 2:32 am

    Hitting this thread a little late. I have two TF-500s and they both seem to suffer the exact same problem. Everything seems to work fine (with an old roll of film in the cameras to put them through their paces) — but when the cameras determine that the flash is needed, it pops up, but then the battery indicator goes to “empty” and flashes — and the cameras won’t fire. Push the flash back down and everything is fine again — indicator shows a full battery and the cameras function. Have tried several batteries. I find it odd that I have the exact same issue with two of the same camera. Any ideas? I would like to use them mostly “as-intended” — so that would mean flash working when needed. Thanks!!!

    • Reply
      August 28, 2020 at 7:04 pm

      Hello Dana,

      I hope you are enjoying your TF-500’s! In regards to the flash, I think it is just one of those quirks that the designers may have skimmed over. Keep in mind the camera is targeted for users that want the camera to make all the decisions for you.

      Personally, I wish flashes were always able to be overridden…especially when it comes to landscape photography. In any case, the camera is a gem, and is very capable. What expired film are you using? 🙂

      I would love to see the images you are able to capture with the camera!

      Take care.

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