The Ricoh KR-5 Super is the successor of the original KR-5 that was introduced in 1978. The original KR-5 is a very basic 35mm mechanical SLR which was sold only at a fraction of its competitors’ price tags. It has a limited range of shutter speed ranging from 1/500 to 1/8 seconds and the 55mm standard lens that comes with it has a maximum aperture of only f/2.2 which is a bit slow compared to its competitors (usually a 50mm f/1.8 or f/2). The KR-5 Super, while being one of the lowest priced 35mm SLR at its time like its brother, has some significant improvements. First, the top shutter speed is raised from 1/500 seconds to 1/1000 seconds. Also, maximum flash sync speed is now 1/125 seconds instead of 1/60, making daytime fill-flash a bit easier (see photo below).
Beside the improvements on shutter speeds, there is also an additional contact on the hotshoe for dedicated flash and a small LED right below the eyepeice (not inside the viewfinder, possibly for keeping production cost low by reusing old viewfinder parts from KR-5) as a flash-ready indicator (see photo above). There is also an additional LED above the self-timer which lights up during timer count-down and while the shutter is being released (see photo below). However, I really do not see the point of having such feature because it does not help in telling whether the count-down is getting closer to zero or not. The standard lens (XR Rikenon 50mm f/2L) that comes with the camera is also a nice upgrade, it is slightly faster (f/2 instead of f/2.2) and also performs better optically. Indeed, some people even consider it one of the sharpest 50mm f/2 ever produced and this lens will be covered in another post in the near future. (Note: the lens shown in the photos on this post is a Pentax SMC-M 50mm f/2, the non-A version of the SMC-A 50mm f/2 which has the same optical formula)
So, what do I like about this camera? Beside being fully mechanical, it is the mirror lockup during the self-timer count-down. It is a great feature to have for shooting landscape on tripod and it also saves you from using a cable-release for slow shutter speeds. When I first discovered that my Nikon EM has the same feature, I thought it must have inherited it from its semi-pro brother FE. However, the very same functionality is also provided on this entry-level budget mechanical SLR. It really makes me wonder why manufacturers did not incorperate this feature into their camera designs more often because the reason behind does not seem to be cost related. Finally, the best feature about this camera is probably its Pentax K mount (see photo below). This means you can use many high quality optics from Pentax on this economical budget priced body (this does not mean Ricoh lenses are bad though). It can also serve as a mechanical backup to an electronic Pentax body given that all lenses in the current arsenal have aperture rings.
One thing worth mentioning is while basically all K mount lenses (with the exception of those without an aperture ring and the DA digital only lenses) will fit and function on the KR-5 Super, not all Ricoh K mount lenses are compatible with a Pentax body. These lenses were designed to work with Ricoh bodies with shutter priority auto and/or programmed auto exposure modes. They have a “P” setting on their aperture rings and should be named “Rikenon P” (non-third party lenses, of course). They are different from the Pentax SMC-A lenses and mounting one on some Pentax bodies will leave the lens jammed on.
The thing I don’t like about this camera? Well, it is not about missing the low shutter speeds: 1/4, 1/2 and 1 seconds but its on/off switch. Basically, the camera will lock the shutter and turn off the meter until the winding lever is pulled out at a ready angle of approximately 45 degrees. This is not a bad feature as this is something that the Pentax K1000 should have. However, this “must-have” ready angle does intervene my way in holding the camera vertically. It is hard to explain but if you have a copy yourself, you will probably know what I mean. Anyway, time for some sample photos, both were shot with the Pentax SMC-M 50mm f2 in the photos above using Lomography ASA400 color negative.