Ricoh Caddy

My Little Half-Frame

5 min read by
Ricoh Caddy.
My husband and I purchased the Caddy as a set along with a Canon Demi. After some online research, I was initially set on keeping the Demi. It was a cuter and lighter camera… I chose the Ricoh Caddy because it gave me more artistic control.

Ricoh Caddy is a half-frame Japanese viewfinder camera with a tack-sharp 𝑓2.8 25mm lens (35mm full-frame equiv.) and an uncoupled selenium exposure meter. The mechanical shutter can take exposures ranging from Bulb, 1/4th of a second to 1/250th of a second. It was launched in 1961 in Japan.

The viewfinder is acceptably large. It comes with frame bright lines and parallax markings. The lens can focus anywhere between one meter and infinity via the zone-focusing method. The selenium meter is not very reliable, though at its peak it could provide correct exposure values for film ISO between 12 and 400.

The camera weighs 390 grams: a little less than a pound. It fits comfortably on the palm of one hand. It has a solidly built metal chassis with a vinyl grip.

The design is functionalist. The rewind knob stays flush with the top plate when not in use. It has an unobtrusive frame counter and a light meter gauge. The compact lens barrel leaves enough space for both hands to have a comfortable grip. The camera feels sturdy and utilitarian. Playfully toy-sized but carefully built.

A frequent complaint about this camera is that the aperture, focus, and shutter speed dials are stacked together too closely. Thus, hard to manipulate. That’s never been a problem for me when I was using this camera in eternally warm Thailand. However, in cold weather, the dials stiffen under my frigid fingers. Even the film advance mechanism is not as responsive when it’s chilly.

Lomochrome Purple.

My husband and I purchased the Caddy as a set along with a Canon Demi. After some online research, I was initially set on keeping the Demi. It was a cuter and lighter camera with the shortest minimum focusing distance (0.8 meters) of all the popular half-frames.

One of the first shots I took with my Ricoh Caddy. Fuji Color Industrial 400.

The Caddy, while unphotogenic, looked more appealing in real life. It’s fully manual, meaning that aperture and shutter speeds can be manipulated independently. Its zone focusing dial, which you use to guess the distance, has accurate markings, with clicks, in meters.

The Demi has a coupled aperture and shutter speed ring that makes setting the exposure feel crude.

When it comes to film, I enjoy spending the time to compose my photos, measure light, and adjust the settings before taking the shot. I chose the Ricoh Caddy because it gave me more artistic control. Demi was just too difficult to control with an external light meter.

Being a half-frame, I usually get 75 shots out of a single roll of film. When I pick up the Caddy, there’s always more frames left than I thought. The half-frame makes pairing images intuitive, whether to expose the same subject or to create contrast. It also makes for delightful stitch panoramas. The wider lens, 25mm, as compared to Demi’s 28mm, also made the Caddy more suited for landscapes.

The Caddy has been a faithful companion. It has a lot of functions loaded into a compact body. It’s utilitarian and low-maintenance. Best of all, it slips easily into my purse.

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