1970s Ricoh Compacts, part 5 – the Ricoh 500 GX

The Ricoh 500 GX was the last of the Ricoh 500 series to be made in Japan. It’s pretty much a 500 G, with the addition of a multiple exposure switch, battery check button, shutter lock, and little flags that indicate when loaded film and a cocked shutter. In theory, it’s the best of the whole line, and I had high hopes for it.

How did this spur-of-the-moment acquisition work out for me? Read on…

The eBay seller I bought this one from reported he was “not sure if the meter works,” but that everything else was functional, and indeed it was, though in his (or some other previous owner’s) attempts to repair the meter, all the screws in the lens assembly had been tightened down so tight that the aperture, shutter, and focus rings were incredibly difficult to turn, and he didn’t mention that it would immediately require new seals… But for $25, what did I expect?*

I made a valiant attempt to repair the meter myself, and in the process loosened everything up so it works much easier now. No dice on the meter. I’m pretty sure something got fried in the capacitor or whatever that sits under the top cover next to the rangefinder window. The ground wire coming from the meter in the lens has been patched, but appears whole, and occasionally, the needle wiggles a tiny bit with bright flashes of light, but it’s dead, as far as I can tell.

 

I could probably cannibalize the Sears 35|rf and get everything I needed to make a working GX. After all, it’s missing a tiny little ball bearing that makes the shutter ring click, and I hosed something when I put it back together so the auto mode on it doesn’t work, but the meter is functional and accurate. But I don’t know.

Anyway, leaving aside the non-functional meter, the 500 GX is (almost) everything I hoped for. It has all the bells and whistles on the 500 ME with the superior shutter release of the 500 G and 35 ZF.

My only complaint is the silly multiple exposure lock, which requires you to turn a little dial to unlock it. The 500 ME also has a lock, but its integrated into the slider thing, and requires much less fiddling around.

Oh well. There is no perfect camera, really, and while a 500 GX is probably the high point of the 1970s Ricoh Compacts line, it’s functionally no different from any of them (except, perhaps, the 35 ZF, and there only because the ZF doesn’t have a rangefinder), and if I’m complaining about the lock on a feature that I never use, it must be a fine camera.

Purpose
Price
Craftsmanship
Ease of Use

Overall, I’d give the 500 GX 4 stars, and it only looses points, really, because everyone I’ve seen for sale in the last month has a dead meter, and so I think there may have been some corners cut somewhere. The meters in all other variants I’ve tried all work flawlessly.

I’ll share pictures from the first roll of Fomapan soon, so stay tuned. And if you find a fully functional 500 GX for less than $100, go for it. It’s really the best of the bunch, though, really, they’re all more or less the same.

*The last time I saw a Ricoh 500 GX for sale, it was in the $150 range, so 1/6th is probably a good price for one with a non-functional meter.

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