Ricoh Auto Half E

Sometimes things just fall into place.

I wasn’t even aware of the existence of the Ricoh Auto Half until I came across an intriguing entry on the camera blog Circle Rectangle. The post described these gorgeous digital-analog cameras coming out of the workshop of Japanese photographer Ryu Itsuki. He would take a modern digital camera and shoehorn it painstakingly (and no doubt lovingly) into the shell of a stylish half frame camera from the 1960’s called the Ricoh Auto Half. Forget the digital conversion – I was immediately drawn to the original camera. What it lacked in size – it was really tiny – it made up for with a minimalist design so spartan and simple as to be described as iconic.

I just had to have one. But how?

The blog post provided a link to Ryu Itsuki’s website, where several Auto Half models were available for sale. Though each model on the shelf was gorgeous, most were priced above my monthly budget for hobbies and, ahem, non-essentials. I tried Ebay, which reflected similar prices. I even emailed Ricoh’s Southeast Asian marketing manager on the off-chance he’d have dead stock in a warehouse somewhere. No luck.

Ed, my longtime fellow gadget geek and colleague said he’d spotted one on a local classified ad website, so I checked it out. It was disappointing – the photos were bad and the camera looked ratty, with a crack on the bright frame window. The ad also said: Defective. I don’t think so, I decided.  But, over the weekend the thought nagged me, what if it worked? I called up the seller and made an appointment.

And I bought it. Here’s what I got:

Update: I’ve run my first test roll through it and it seems to work. Waiting for the scans to come back. Will post results asap.