gizmos and gadgets

Ricoh Auto Shot ad in LIFE c 1964

Toronto, In the 1960s, camera makers fought to gain market share. A fresh idea might be swept up by the competition – or left to linger and die an orphan. Ricoh cameras were made by Riken Optical in Japan.

According to McKeown’s Price Guide to Antique and Classic Cameras (11th edition), Riken is the anglicized Japanese abbreviation for the “Institute for Physical and Chemical Research” founded in 1917. The company exists today as Ricoh. In 1937  Riken bought out Olympic Camera Works to make its own cameras. In 1963, the company became Ricoh Company Ltd and continued to manufacture many business products like copiers as well as cameras.  Seeing the way the film camera was going, Ricoh ceased camera manufacturing to put its resources elsewhere.

This advertisement from the May 15, 1964 issue of LIFE magazine (page R6 – about p 102) shows how Ricoh camera attempted to carve out its niche in photography. The idea of using the camera’s conical lens cap as a flash gun was clever, but no one else seems to have copied the idea. The spring wound shutter and film wind mechanism is reminiscent of the German Robot cameras. Ricoh does say the light meter surrounding the lens is CdS although it looks like a selenium cell as described by McKeown’s book.

Thanks again to my good friend George Dunbar who discovered this bit of history and sent it along to me. By the way, LIFE magazine ads can also show other consumer product histories in North America as well as the various ad campaigns of the last century.

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