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08-16-2021, 04:45 PM - 8 Likes   #1
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Auto-focus | A Historical Surprise

Well, at least it was a surprise to me. In addition to the huge collection of camera manuals on the "Butkus Site", Mike Butkus also provides a fair amount of photographic ephemera in the form of old catalogs, brochures, and other promotional materials. It was while looking for something entirely different that I noticed a link to something simply labeled "Ricoh Cameras". I have had owned a fair amount of Ricoh product over the years and figured little look might flesh out my knowledge of the marque, but was unprepared for what I found...

Ricoh film Camera Public Relations Booklet

I bought an XR7 new in 1982 and had the option of the XR-S at the time, but what was this other camera prominently featured in the brochure?

From Ricoh Cameras Public Relations Booklet

From Ricoh Cameras Public Relations Booklet

Near as I can tell, the brochure dates to 1982-1983 (the 1984 XR-P is not present in the lineup while the XR7 is there) and front and center appears to be an AF-confirm SLR camera. Butkus has the manual (LINK) and from that resource, the feature set appears to be about the same as the Pentax ME (aperture priority auto with X and B) but with the addition of some sort of focus automation. Time to turn to the Web for more info on this XR-F mystery camera.

Sleuthing on the Web turned out to be less than fruitful than I had hoped. Apparently the XR-F had stealth technology too. Eventually, I did turn up more information and even found a few for sale (LINK), but hard information regarding the technology was hard to come by until I started sifting through an image search and came up with a Japanese language blog post with a ton of useful information.

RICOH XR-F EFA SYSTEM

The author has a very stern copyright notice, otherwise, I would provide the translation as well some JPEGS. It is enough to say that the post provided a few key bits of information:
  • Based on XR6
  • Semi-transparent main mirror
  • Fold-up auxiliary mirror directing to a sensor on floor of mirror box
  • Photos documenting the above
  • Focus confirmation worked well
Yes...it appears that Ricoh had phase-detect capabilities similar to those held by Pentax as early as 1983. From what I can tell, the XR-F was not widely marketed in Europe or N. America though it could have been and perhaps not at all in Asia. I don't know how long it was made.

I think it is a nice looking camera, particularly with the green trim.


Ricoh XR-F
RRT877, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons


Steve


Last edited by stevebrot; 08-16-2021 at 05:15 PM.
08-16-2021, 06:01 PM   #2
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Thanks for sharing that Steve, really interesting.
08-16-2021, 06:47 PM   #3
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As it has the same green hexagon and red arrow focus aids as the Pentax ME-F, which came out in 1981, I'd say it is very likely Ricoh had a licence agreement with Pentax.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentax_ME_F
08-17-2021, 01:10 AM   #4
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An interesting report of the first Canon AF zoom lens, after the ME-F system, with the technology used : fdlenses resources.

08-17-2021, 02:19 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Spock Quote
I'd say it is very likely Ricoh had a licence agreement with Pentax.
The lens release lever is in a similar place to Pentax bodies so is the lens mounting index. That can't be an accident.
08-17-2021, 03:57 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Digitalis Quote
The lens release lever is in a similar place to Pentax bodies so is the lens mounting index. That can't be an accident.
Ricoh also used the K mount.
08-17-2021, 05:58 AM   #7
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Interesting that it appears to be aperture priority only with no manual shutter speed selection - I'd forgotten that was ever a thing!

08-17-2021, 11:59 AM - 1 Like   #8
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Original Poster
QuoteOriginally posted by Spock Quote
As it has the same green hexagon and red arrow focus aids as the Pentax ME-F, which came out in 1981, I'd say it is very likely Ricoh had a licence agreement with Pentax.

Pentax ME F - Wikipedia
I wondered about that possibility. There are significant differences in mirror box between the two makes, possibly due to use of Copal (Ricoh) vs. Seiko (Pentax) shutters, but reverse engineering under license is a distinct possibility.

Note: There are a few hints in the XR-F manual (minimum f/4 effective aperture, no linear PL filters) that the Ricoh may be using phase dectect rather that contrast detect as on the ME-F.


Steve

Last edited by stevebrot; 08-17-2021 at 12:24 PM.
08-17-2021, 12:11 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by speagles2 Quote
Interesting that it appears to be aperture priority only with no manual shutter speed selection - I'd forgotten that was ever a thing!
Yes, sort of like the Pentax ME, MG, and MV models.


Steve
08-17-2021, 12:20 PM   #10
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So it's still got the XR6 diagonal-split focusing screen but with focus confirmation light shown in the viewfinder display? Seems like a best of both worlds situation that would be welcome to some DSLR shooters (cough).

Too bad it doesn't have the normal manual speed controls like an XR7. Really no reason why they couldn't have combined all of that in one body aside from probably thinking that the person that needed focus confirmation would also not want to deal with picking shutter speeds (at all, ever?).
08-17-2021, 12:54 PM   #11
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I see the power source is also similar between the Pentax ME-F and Ricoh XR-F. (The Pentax uses 4 x 1.5 volt batteries and the Ricoh 1 x 6 volt.)

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08-17-2021, 01:41 PM   #12
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You can buy one of these right now for 150 EUR:
Ricoh Japan XR-F Gehäuse mit Scharfstellhilfe von 1982 - EFA System (gebraucht) | eBay
08-17-2021, 02:18 PM   #13
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Think I spent 1/3rd that for my XR7 which came with a couple of lenses and a flash. These are interesting but not having direct control of the shutter speed is a huge turn-off for me.
08-17-2021, 05:48 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by pres589 Quote
Think I spent 1/3rd that for my XR7 which came with a couple of lenses and a flash. These are interesting but not having direct control of the shutter speed is a huge turn-off for me.
I saw a couple for quite a bit less money, but for me it would totally be a novelty purchase similar to the Zenit Automat (ЗЕНИТ-автомат) that I bought solely for the Helios 44K-4 that was attached. Sadly, the physically pristine Automat, another Av, X, and B camera, needs a CLA to resolve shutter cock issues along with some attention to the electronics so it sits in its perfect stiff leather case waiting for the service that will never come.


Steve

Last edited by stevebrot; 08-17-2021 at 06:14 PM.
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