The Ricoh 500 G is probably not very suitable as a point-and-shoot camera but if it's okay for you to take some time to get the adjustments right you will be able to achieve great results.
The Ricoh 500 G is a small 35mm rangefinder camera which was introduced by the Japanese manufacturer Ricoh in 1972. The camera consists of a rugged steel body and comes with a nonexchangeable Rikenon Lens with a focal length of f=40mm. Around the lens you can find three different adjustment rings. The ring closest to the camera sets the aperture. You can choose from six steps between 2.8 and 16 or set it to “A”. “A” stands for aperture priority mode, which a lot of you know from the good old Lomo LC-A.
The second ring adjusts the shutter speed. The ring offers 7 settings from 1/8s to 1/500s plus “B” for bulb mode.
The third and last ring serves for setting the focus. You can choose from 0.9m to ∞. The scale is labeled in feet as well.
On the fron tside just around the lens glass you can find yet another ring, which is used to set the speed of your film. It ranges from 25 to 800 asa. Next to the lens on the left side there’s a small lever which turns out to be a mechanical self-timer (about 7 seconds). On the cameras top we have the shutter release which can also be equipped with a cable release. The film is advanced by using a stylish metal crank. Then there’s a hotshoe for your favourite colorsplash flash, the film-rewind knob and a picture counter.
If you take a look through the viewfinder you will see a scale on the right side where a small needlepoints at the right aperture according to your settings and the available light. This handy feature requires a small button cell to provide energy for the light-meter.
When I received my Ricoh 500 G as a gift it had spent the last decades in a cabinet without being used. When I opened the back door I found that the light-proof foam had turned into a sticky bubbly mess. This is a common problem with this camera. So before being able to use it I had to thoroughly clean the inside of the camera and replace the light-proof foam. You can buy it pretty cheap in most photo stores. Thanks to the straight and even back of the camera the replacement was pretty easy to be made. There’s still a minor light-leak visible on my photos but I can live with that.
Which brings us to the most important part of the review. What do the pictures look like?
When I got my first roll back I was surprised by the crisp sharpness the lens provides. Even with the manual focus and at most halfautomatic mode I managed to shoot some amazing photos. The amount of detail is great and the unsharp areas (bokeh) look awesome. I only shot one roll of black and white Rollei Retro 400 so far, but as soon as I try other films I will add the results here.
As a conclusion I think the Ricoh 500 G is a great camera. The steel body and controls seem very stable and long-lasting. I love the clean minimalistic design of the camera. The engraved typography, the combination of silver and black and the lovely crafted knobs and levers everything adds to the beauty of the camera. The look and feel is awesome. But what I love the most about this camera are the sounds it makes. The crisp “zip” of the shutter followed by the “purring” of the crank. I have always had a thing for film advance cranks because it feels so old-fashioned but very professional at the same time. The Ricoh 500 G is probably not very suitable as a point-and-shoot camera but if it’s okay for you to take some time to get the adjustments right you will be able to achieve great results. Give it a try!