Ricoh Five One Nine

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by davecaz, Aug 4, 2017.

  1. Today's mail included a lovely little package for me. It's a Ricoh Five One Nine, a rangefinder camera I had never heard of until I saw it for sale online. I was intrigued by the fact that it seemed to have some unique features, and I'd never owned a Ricoh, so I bought it.

    As you can see from the photos, it's in excellent cosmetic condition. Apparently, a former owner intended to continue using it, but never got around to doing so, because there is a full roll of film in it. Oops! Well, I wouldn't expect the first few frames to be anything worth keeping, anyway, but I really should get in the habit of trying the film advance before opening the back. But, that expectant owner naturally kept the camera in its delapidated, but protective leather case. So, it still looks beautiful.

    You're probably wondering about that "fang" hanging down from the bottom of the camera. Yes, that is the film advance lever. The fang swivels, so you can tuck it out of the way or lower it for action. I actually kind of like it. It works well.

    It has quite an interesting opening mechanism, too. On the bottom plate, there are two multi-functional knobs. One houses the film indicator wheel, the other surrounds the tripod/carrying case socket. To open the case, you twist both of the outer knobs roughly 45 degrees, from C to O, and the back is then free to slide off. Pretty slick.

    Unfortunately, not everything else works as well. As usual with these rangefinders, looking through the ... well, I hesitate to call it a viewfinder, because it's more of a view blocker. The framing line is still very clearly visible, the yellow focusing patch not so much. And it's dark and dingy, and I doubt it was ever much better, to be honest.

    That's not critical, though, since the camera won't focus. As far as I can tell, the horns sticking out from the sides of the lens are intended to help the user shift the focus. But, nothing short of a 3 foot pipe wrench is going to move that ring. It's frozen solidly in place, at 6 feet. Great for portraits, I guess, but not useful for the kinds of things I shoot.

    I don't think the shutter is all that great, either. The slow speeds I tried... well, I'm really not sure what happened. There was a sound, but it didn't sound like any healthy camera I've ever tried. The faster speed that I tried, 1/50th, sounded pretty good. Not surprising, given the state of the lens. It's sad, though, because it clearly was a well made camera. You can feel the quality in the parts that still move, and I would have loved to try it out, but being limited to 6 feet ... it's just sad.
  2. Well, at least it's beautiful to look at, Davecaz. The Five One Nine seems to be relatively uncommon, but it has an excellent lens and handles well, as you've noted. Thanks for displaying it so nicely. If you want to see a little more of the camera, I put some stuff together in a thread about six years ago.

    A Ricoh Superb
  3. Had a similar Ricoh with the Leicavit type advance -- quick & handy. The finder on mine was clean and it took excellent photos. A well made camera and a good experience. Actually led to purchase of the GXR system many years later.
  4. I have the Ricoh 500, which has the 45mm f 2.8 lens. Mine worked fine until the back wouldn't open. I'm guessing some latch is stuck. However, shutter and aperture still work fine, I hope you can get it up and running.
  5. Thanks, Rick. The fact that I could only find one available on eBay (US) at the time was an added attraction, for me. I like rarity, when I can afford it. Having now seen what you did with your Superb (Wow!!), I'm really disappointed that this camera is basically out of commission. The lens seems to deserve the name Superb.
    I had to go look up what a Leicavit type advance was. That was really unusual! And possibly usable for self-defence, from the look of it.
    That's a shame about your 500. I don't have much hope of getting my 519 working. I'm no camera repairman, and there don't seem to be any left in the Phoenix area. But, if anyone knows of a good resource on rehabbing these lenses, please let me know. I could at least take a look.
  6. SCL


    If you can find a repair person and the cost is reasonable, get it CLA'd, it is a terrific camera, very easy to use and with a good lens. I've owned about 8-9 500 models (same camera but with a 2.8 rather than a 1.7 lens). Some I've refurbished, some just were permanently dead and are parts donors. I've got 3 sitting in my closet right now as winter projects (or projects in frustration). Still have a 519 in good working condition though (bulb seems erratic though). Loaned it to a friend along with a roll of film and explained sunny 16...came back with a roll of excellent shots, well exposed and in perfect focus. So with seems you have dried lubricants among other issues. A cheap fix might be to run a hair dryer on low over the shutter and focusing mechanism (don't try to fry it), gradually exercising things if they loosen. At worst it is a great shelf queen.
  7. I have the 45/2.8 (second version) which I brought several years ago in mint condition. After awhile the shutter started sticking - but the shutter is easy to get too and a little isopropyl alcohol on cotton swabs did the trick. Love this camera...though wish it had a 35mm instead of the 45).
  8. Thanks! Yeah, it really is one of the prettiest cameras I've seen in person. I don't own a hair dryer. I have no need for one and my wife doesn't use one. But I do see them quite often in thrift shops, so I'll pick one up next time, and see if I can accomplish anything with it.

    I imagine it takes a long time heatin up grease that solid. Do I need to be concerned about the different coefficients of expansion between the glass and metal components? I don't even know what metal it is, although I'm thinking it's probably steel.

    Assuming anything happens, do I need to worry about the grease drpiping on the shutter, or is it more likely to crumble into little bits?
  9. Nice! That's a good hint, too. Thanks. I agree on the focal length. I'd prefer a 35mm, too. I find it far more suitable for the way I see shots. It's a shame they're so rare compared to the 50s.
  10. For a brief, perhaps shining moment, I accumulated some Ricoh small 35mms (eg, link). I was astounded at how good they were.

  11. SCL


    What you want to do with the heat is not fry anything, merely soften it, so use low heat and distribute it, sort of waving the dryer back and forth, periodically stopping and exercising the focus mechanism, winder and shutter if you can.. DON'T heat the lens itself or its immediate surroundings. Some folks flood the mechanics in lighter fluid, but I've found that rarely may remove gunk, but you still may need to relube it. A couple of years ago I lent mine to a young man from the UK who was visiting, and had never used a film camera, only his Iphone. Put in some color film and explained sunny 16 to him and out we went on a nature walk for a couple of hours. Much to my surprise, when we got the film developed, his exposures were spot on, as was his focus, and the lens really did a great job. So treasure that baby and once it is working properly, you may be really surprised at what it can do. BTW there is a free manual on
  12. Sure, rub salt in the wound! :) It's funny. I remember a friend telling me, back in the early 80's (if memory serves), that Ricoh made some of the best cameras available, and I had never heard of them, before that. And, now look! I guess she was right.

    I will keep your advice in mind. I haven't been to a thrift shop, yet, to purchase a dryer. My RB67 project was a higher priority. Maybe I'll get there, this week. But, I could easily see the 519 becoming my favorite 35mm. It does seem odd that glass and steel would be susceptible to such low heat levels as a hair dryer can produce. Is it that the lens elements could delaminate?
  13. SCL


    Different expansion coefficients of the glass and metal, depending on how tightly the lens is screwed in place, could cause stress on the glass. Hair dryers can get pretty hot, I've occasionally melted plastic with the one in my household, when it is on high and a concentrated, long duration blow in one spot, The camera lens has 6 elements in 4 groups, so you could possibly cause delamination by melting the balsam (or whatever cement is used - remember these were produced in the 1950s).
    davecaz likes this.
  14. Wow! That's some hair dryer! Sounds like it could set your hair on fire :D
  15. Nice example that is worth bringing up to scratch. The lens is EXCELLENT! Like Rick, I made a post about mine with some pics HERE
  16. Awesome! Outstanding photos, Lou! And, thanks to you, I found that Clarence Gass still has a website operating, so I emailed him to see if he could work on my 519.
  17. Clarence is the man
  18. Success! At least, for now. My third attempt at heating things up with my newly acquired hair dryer worked, just as SCL suggested. It's still very stiff, turning the focus ring. If it didn't have those wings, I doubt I'd have been able to budge it, the first time. It's gotten better with more exercise, but better is a relative term. And it's considerably stiffer going from infinity to closest focus than it is going the other way.

    My biggest concern, though, is, won't it just seize up again, when I stop exercising it?

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