The 1970’s were the heyday of the fixed lens compact rangefinder. Truth be told there can be little to pick from these beauties with the Konica C35 series leading the pack. The Ricoh 500RF and its posher brother the 500G manage to stand out from the crowd as they offer some of the best user control of exposure in the class.
Whereas Konica C35 and it’s wannabes used full automatic exposure, the Ricohs offer either shutter priority or full manual (with metering) in the same compact. they weren’t the first to do this, the Olympus 35RC is a good earlier example, but they offer it in a much more compact package.
Ricoh 500RF Specs
- Lens: Rickenon 40mm 1:2.8
- Focus: Rangefinder
- Metering: CdS
- Aperture: f/2.8-f/16
- ASA range : 25-800
- Shutter: 1/8-1/500 + B
- EV 100asa: 6-17+
- Filter-Thread: 46mm
- Battery : PX675
The core specs out with exposure are pretty class standard. The All the expected accoutrements are there (timer, cable release and industry standard 46mm filter thread). The fastest shutter speed is a bit slower at 1/500 sec compared to the usual 1/650 sec but makes more sense with the exposure system. Oddly 1/15 and 1/8 are on offer but I suppose it can be tripod mounted with self timer or cable release.
40mm 1:2.8 lens is good and sharp and runs a close second to the razor sharp C35 IMHO. The diamond shaped focus spot in viewfinder is a tad small which is my only issue.
The exposure system is what sets this apart. Set the aperture ring to A and you lock it into shutter priority mode selecting the speed on the second dial. A needle meter in the shows aperture and as ever you can lock this by half depressing shutter. This pretty flexible but if you are a total control junkie knock it off A and you can set the aperture as well. A large M shows in the viewfinder to warn you you’re in manual but the metering still works.
For night photography junkies this system allows for aperture control in Bulb setting (most compact rangefinder of the era did offer bulb but only at widest aperture). The camera obviously sets flash by f-stop rather than GN. The camera meets my EV17 rule allowing films up to 400asa to be used in most conditions. The camera actually supports 800asa for metering but you’ll need to shoot that in less optimal conditions as the Max 1/500 & f/16 means that it will over expose in sunny conditions.
I really like this camera and it does just have that little edge in flexibility versus the rest in it’s class. The 500RF and 500G are basically the same camera except the 500RF has more plastic as far as I know. The camera was also sold as the Sears 35RF in the US. This creates a slightly less smooth appearance compared to its rivals
They are less common than others and usually can be found for cost between the C35 and its wannabes like the Chinon 35ee. Light seals will need replacing but this is pretty easy. The metering requires the now defunct px675 mercury cell but cheap zinc air hearing aid batteries like the 675za work well enough (you can get 4 in Poundland for a quid)
- Konica C35 series – The classic benchmark compact rangefinder
- FED Mikron 2 – Soviet take on 1970’s rangefinders
- Chinon 35EE – Cheap as chips compact rangefinder
- Olympus 35 RC – Classic shutter priority compact rangefinder