Thursday, January 01, 2009

The Ricoh Six - A Retro Photographic Tool

It's rather fun starting the new year with a blog post. I'm sitting here in my comfy chair, watching the Detroit Red Wings play the Chicago Blackhawks in a great outdoor game at Wrigley Field in Chicago-- on the 46" HD TV. So, since today's hockey game has retro sweaters and is outside, I'll discuss using a retro camera -- the Ricoh Six medium-format folder.

Riken Optical Company (later renamed Ricoh) introduced the camera in 1952, and it seems to share optics and shutter assemblies with the Ricohflex TLRs from the same period. The Ricoh Six comes with a removable mask that allows 6 x 4.5 cm negatives for 16 exposures per roll of 120 film, or 12 exposures without the mask at 6 x 6 cm. The optical viewfinder has a yellow border so that you can see the rectangular format when shooting with the 6 x 4.5 mask. Optically, the Ricoh Six sports an 80 mm "Orinar" lens with a f/3.5 maximum aperture, and a Riken shutter, which has speeds of B, 1/25, 1/50, and 1/100 sec shutter speeds. The back of the camera has shuttered film windows for each negative format.

Using the camera is a breeze. Depressing the front latch release button on the top deck extends the bed and the bellows clicks into place. Focusing is by scale focusing, though with the cold shoe on top, one could add a rangefinder for accuracy. The smallest aperture is f/22, and I find that there is some vignetting at f/16 and f/22 when shooting at 6x6. You cock the shutter on the lens, but fire it with the release button on the top deck of the camera. There is nothing complex or extraordinary about the camera, but it is the only post-war folding camera that Ricoh produced. Like the Ricohflex TLRs, the leatherette stiffens and flakes off with age.

I bought my camera for $40 about 7 years ago at an outdoor camera swap that was at Dave's Photo emporium. I think I have seen one other example of this model since. I find the camera gives reasonably good results for an inexpensive folder. Its bellows is sound, and all the features work as they should, which isn't bad for a 57-year old camera!

The Wings won 6-4, by the way.  Here are ssome recent images in square format, followed by some taken a few years ago in 6x4.5 format.  

New Year's Hangover? Happy New Year

Cobblestone Farmhouse Festive in Dexter

Some shots with the 6 x 4.5 mask:

galaxy quest

Well, best wishes for all of us in 2009. Enjoy your New Year's day!

1 comment:

logjammer58 said...

Thankful for a camera buff to enlighten others on vintage cameras such as this Ricoh Six. I picked up this model, also with a low serial number, 2516, at an estate auction within the past ten years. My example was very well taken care of and appears to be in very good to excellent condition. Even the leather case is in better than average condition.

I had no problem getting the lens to fold out and click into place. The bellows appear to be sound and I've been told that 120 film is still available for this camera. The shutter was silky smooth at all speeds. However, opening the back to inspect the film loading process is presenting a problem. When pulling out the release knob, a faint click can be heard, but the back will not release. Hopefully you can tell me how to open the back without doing any damage. I suspect a weakened spring rather that a damaged part, possibly something that a tad bit of lube might cure.

Since I plan on getting rid of this camera along with several others that I have accumulated over the past 30 years, I would like to know what a good starting price would be on an auction website such as ebay, or a fixed price on a site such as Bonanzle? Also since you paid forty dollars nearly a decade ago, what would be a ballpark figure in today's marketplace?

Thanks again for offering your well written description and history of this camera. Hopefully you will grant me permission to copy in part the description and workings of this camera if I list on the internet...Thank you, Wayne