If you like rangefinders the size of a point and shoot, the Ricoh 500G is a great option. In my opinion, I think it’s an under appreciated and overlooked gem.
The Ricoh 500G was produced in Taiwan in 1972. It’s part of a series of compact rangefinders put out by Ricoh. You may also know it as the rebranded Sears 35RF. At first glance, it doesn’t offer anything great. The build isn’t anything special as far as quality goes. The shutter speeds only go up to 1/500th of a second. In fact, the shutter is more of a clunk than say, the beautiful snap of a Leica.
Regardless of the lack of flair and style, the Ricoh 500G has everything you need and more. The body is metal, not plastic. The lens is a Rikenon 40mm f/2.8 which offers sharp, and contrasty photos. The meter, called the electric eye, is a CdS type located on the lens and needs only one LR44 button cell battery. Inside the view finder is the match needle type of interface which helps with fast shooting. The downside is that it only goes up to 800 ISO (located inside the lens barrel), which may be a deal breaker if you push film a lot or shoot 3200 speed films.
Surprisingly, the camera offers manual shooting as well as shutter priority. You set the aperture dial to A and the camera will choose the aperture for you, which again is great for fast shooting like taking photos from your car the way I did. I’ll show you what I mean later. There is also a self timer and B setting if you want to take long exposures.
The light seals are located all over the inside of the door, and are often found in bad shape with these cameras. I demonstrated how to clean out the old light seals and replace them here.
My Experience with the Ricoh 500G
I received this camera in a mail call from Uncle B. Right away I was taken by it. The size and weight of it was right up my alley.
After changing the light seals, I have found myself bringing this camera with me whenever I leave the house. It’s not expensive so I don’t have to be afraid of hurting it the way I do my Leica M2, and it’s so small that I can fit it in my bag or even my jacket pocket.
What’s really made me love this camera is the way it can help you shoot quickly. Like I mentioned earlier, you can set the aperture to automatic. This is helpful to me since I love to take photos from the car while going to doctors appointments. The distraction is a huge help for my anxiety.
Drive by Shooting
By setting the aperture to automatic, on a sunny day, I set the shutter to 1/500th and it works like a point and shoot. Especially when shooting from the car. I can leave the lens focused mostly at infinity and barely ever have to adjust my settings. I think this would also make it a great camera for street photographers.
These photos were taken from the highway while we drove by at pretty fast speeds. My window was up and served as an ND filter in a way because it was pretty bright even for 1/500th of a second.
The way the shutter speed ring, aperture ring, and focusing ring are all laid out one after the other on the lens barrel is really convenient, especially when needing to take photos quickly from a moving car.
PLEASE take a moment to sign up to get my articles in your inbox!
One issue I ran into was due to the missing handle on my rewind knob. When winding the film, I have to use a coin and insert it where the missing handle is supposed to be. The problem is that if I let go of the knob, the film winds back and reattaches to the teeth inside the camera. Several times this has caused my film to get caught and rip, costing me many frames.
If I could just find a replacement handle I could fix this issue, and the camera would be perfect. This is really the only snag I’ve had with the Ricoh 500G.
Other than the broken handle, this camera has been a real pleasure to shoot with, and I find myself grabbing for it a lot.
If you’re a street photographer and can’t really afford a Leica M6, or if you want a good quality point and shoot, but can’t afford the Yashica T4 type of cameras seen all over YouTube, the Ricoh 500G can be a really great option.
Obviously the Rikenon lens is no Zeiss glass, but for under $100, you can’t argue that it isn’t a nice option. That is the whole reason I have this website and my Youtube channel. I want to bring you the options that are a little more affordable and feasible. We’ve all experienced those moments of envy while watching a YouTube video, or scrolling instagram when we saw a beautiful Leica, or a Contax point and shoot, but that price tag is just not reachable. I want to show people that it’s ok. Don’t let it discourage you from shooting film, because even if you have a box camera found at a flea market, you can shoot film.
If this article has helped you and you’d like to contribute to my site and channel, please click the button below to “buy me a roll of film.” All donations go into what it takes to make these articles and videos.
Until next time, stay motivated and keep shooting.