Ricoh 500 - Echoes of my youth.

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Ricoh 500 - Echoes of my youth.

Post by GrahamS »

Posted by Graham Serretta : Tue Jan 10, 2006 9:56 am

I have been wanting a Ricoh 500 for some time, as it was the first "proper" camera that I ever owned, back in the late '50's. Craig Nelson was good enough to let me have his Ricoh 519, a later model with a f1.8 lens but unfortunately it did not survive the trip over the pond. All is not lost, however, as I am now the proud owner of a Ricoh 500 thanks to the generosity of my good friend Dennis Gallus, who has very kindly sent me one that he had been using for many years.

Produced from 1957 to around 1959, the Ricoh 500 underwent some changes in styling and specification. It is a basic rangefinder camera with a fixed lens. The "original" 500 has a flat top plate and does not have a bright-line viewfinder. A later model (De Luxe) has a stepped top-plate and a larger viewfinder with bright-line framing. Another variation was the flash synch/delayed action setting - mine has a small lever on the side of the shutter ring for X-M-V, a previous version had an adjustable ring on the front of the lens barrel. It has a 45mm f2.8 Riken coated lens which gives good, but not brilliant, results and exhibits a fair amount of curvilinear distortion. The shutter is a Seikosha with speeds from 1 sec to 1/500th. The later model 519 was fitted with a 45mm f1.8 lens with exceptional performance. There is also a black paint version, which is quite rare.

Two features make the Ricoh 500/519 stand out from the crowd - one is the focussing, which is adjusted via two "paddles" that protrude on either side of the focussing ring at the base of the lens barrel. With the camera held naturally, these are extremely easy and quick to operate with a finger of either hand. The other is the film advance - this is done with a bottom-mounted lever similar to the "Leicavit" concept except that it swings through an arc of about 160 degrees, and with practise, a fairly rapid frame advance rate is possible. The viewfinder is nice and clear, with a bright rangefinder patch. The strap lugs also swivel, which is a nice touch.

Here are some of the shots from the first roll of film that I have had through the camera - Ilford Delta 400 processed in Ilfosol-S for 7 mins at 20C. They were taken in Ipswich just after Christmas, St Nicholas Street being named after you know who.

The Ricoh 500
Ricoh 500
Ricoh 500
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Old Church in Ipswich
Old Church in Ipswich
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My niece's farmhouse in Lincolnshire
My niece's farmhouse in Lincolnshire
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Tudor street art - not Banksey.
Tudor street art - not Banksey.
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St Nicholas Street, Ipswich
St Nicholas Street, Ipswich
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Dennis Gallus
Joined: 12 Aug 2005
Posts: 46
Location: Northern Virginia
PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2006 10:07 am Post subject: Reply with quote

Those are nice B&W shots! I'm happy to see that you are getting such good results from the camera. I know they aren't considered rare, but other than a few on Ebay from time to time, I've never seen another in a camera shop in all my years of wandering.

I'll look forward to more posts.

Have a great day,


Joined: 03 Aug 2005
Posts: 1033
Location: New Mexico
PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2006 1:28 pm Post subject: Reply with quote
Congratulations on finally getting the 500. You've gotten some nice performance from it.

Posted: Tue Jan 10, 2006 4:49 pm Post subject: Reply with quote
That's an unusual little machine and you've got good results there. I've not been to Ipswich and didn't know it was that pretty.
Joined: 04 Aug 2005
Posts: 982
Location: Wales, UK

Age brings wisdom....or age shows up alone. You never know.
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