After discovering the magic of my Olympus Pen EES-2, I did a deep dive into the world of half frames, searching for others which might be of interest. Olympus is by far the king of half frames with a wide range of fixed lens and even the interchangeable lens Pen F camera. Canon also produced some fine half frames, namely the Demi, though I have not tried them myself. Fuji was another company that dabbled in half frames. And then there was Ricoh and the Autohalf series. The Autohalfs are cool looking cameras and at least on the outside, a totally unique design compared to the other half frames on the market. The other selling point was the wind up motor drive, a featured I’d been interested in trying and one that would lend itself well to the half frame shooting style.
Aesthetics and feel. When the camera arrived it was a bit bigger than I was expecting. It’s roughly the same size as my Pen EES-2, and even weighs about 20 grams less than the Pen, but feels much bigger because it’s not ergonomic at all.
The box shape appears to be a design choice but also a cost saving measure. The Autohalf is basically a metal box cut in half, and there was no additional effort was made to improve ergonomics. The surface of the camera is glossy smooth, so there isn’t much for your hands to grip. You need to be careful not to accidentally cover the lens or selenium light meter with your fingers, especially if you have larger hands. I think Ricoh could have put a slightly raised lip around the lens to help prevent accidental finger shots.
Another thing that makes the Autohalf awkward to hold is the protruding film rewind lever and motor drive wheel on the bottom of the camera. Because they’re so large, it’s difficult to rest your fingers comfortably on the bottom. It would have looked and felt a lot better if Ricoh had made them smaller, or if they were recessed into the camera. This also makes the camera less stable when you put it down, since it’s balancing on those two points.
Despite all this, it is a cool looking camera, and I give Ricoh credit for thinking outside the box. It looks more like a fashion accessory than serious photo taking tool, and maybe that was the intent.
Reliability. The Autohalf functioned without any issues. For the most part my pictures came out properly exposed, which is always a relief with 50+ year old selenium light meters.I did have a few underexposed and overexposed frames though. The motor drive, while emitting an unpleasant sound when advancing, works exactly how I imagined. I had read that some motor drives had broken due to being over wound, but mine works fine. To be safe I only wind it enough to get through 15-20 frames.
Picture Quality. Ok, but nothing spectacular. Admittedly the Pen EES-2 sets the bar pretty high, and the Autohalf is a no-focus camera, so to compare the two may be unfair. A better comparison may be the Pen EF, which is another no-focus half frame. I’d say the results between those two cameras are roughly equal. The Autohalf’s focus seems to be best at 5 feet and beyond. Closeups are blurry. But even at its sharpest, there is much to be desired.
Conclusion. The Autohalf is a fun camera with a few quirks, but with so many other better cameras on the market for the same price, it’s not really worth it in my opinion. I was able to get my Autohalf for $36 on eBay and sold it for a bit more. I wouldn’t pay more for it than I did.