I’ve bought and used several half-frame cameras over the past couple of years, with varying success. The first item I ever sold on e-Bay, back in 2000, was an Olympus EE, which at the time, I just didn’t see much value in keeping. So, since returning to film back in 2011, I’ve been looking for new ways of shooting film, and half-frame fits the bill. My Konica Auto-Reflex, which is an SLR, allows switching between half and full-frame at any point, which is cool, but not only is it a huge heavy beast, but it also suffers from occasional frame spacing/advance issues. The Canon Demi EE17 I bought from ShopGoodwill.com doesn’t work, and my Samurai Z3 as well as Pen EES-2 are both fully automatic, which can be a drag when trying to shoot contiguous frames.
Which brings me to this. I had read about the Ricoh Caddy on a few half-frame websites, but had never seen one for sale before. It was Ricoh’s answer to the wildly popular Olympus Pen series, Ricoh’s first half-frame offering, released in 1961. I got this one on eBay for $40 shipped, and apart from missing a flash shoe, it’s in remarkable condition. Someone had replaced the seals with yarn, so I spent about 4 hours removing said yarn and glue, then replaced them with thin adhesive felt strips.
It features a 25mm f2.8 lens (35mm perspective on full frame), which is a bit wider than most competitors. A forward facing selenium cell gathers light, which using the set film speed, determines proper exposure, indicated on the top mounted meter needle. The indicated EV number is then set on the top of the lens, by adjusting the tiny aperture and shutter speed rings. A nice feature, although rather delicate, is that one can turn both rings at once, maintaining the EV, but varying the aperture/shutter combo, to a point. Apertures available are f2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, and 16. Shutter speeds of B, 1/4, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, and 1/250. Viewfinder is for framing only, as focusing must be done using scale on lens.
I even took the time to make a video about it, as there is very little info about this fine camera on the web.
Apart from revisiting several previous locations, I really didn’t find much inspiration last week. I was interested in bringing a new perspective to a few scenes I’ve shot before, and for the most part, I’m fairly happy with the results. I had several rolls of film in the fridge and I had a very hard time deciding what to use. Against my better judgement, I grabbed a 36exp roll of Rollei (Agfa) CR200 Pro, loaded it in subdued light (very important), and advanced the camera to 1.
After testing the accuracy of the meter (it is) I decided to over-expose the film by one stop, which probably wasn’t necessary. Most of the frames look a bit over, so maybe box speed would have been better. I always forgot how narrow the latitude of E-6 film can be. Also, I found four blank frames (lens cap?) as well as two totally blown out (slow shutter?), but the others looked quite uniform, which is something I never could get constantly with the Pen.
Now, the frame spacing. Hmm, not sure what to think about this. The spacing is rather erratic on the first third of the roll, but with the exception of one occurrence, it seemed to be ok near the end. Not sure if the camera just needs some exercise, maybe opened up and lubed, or it had something to do with the film cartridge. Not sure, but it kinda FUBARed a few of my sequences. Oh well, maybe it will be better next time, whenever that will be.
Overall impression after using the camera? I like it, for the most part. The meter seems good, within reason, it feels nice in the hands, the viewfinder is bright (although a bit small), and the controls are solid. The only problem I had was seeing the info on the lens, which is very small and partially obscured by the case. As always, I love a camera that operates without batteries!