Super Ricohflex Review

To see images shot with this camera, click the category link at right.

Super Ricohflex

Super Richoflex

I enjoy shooting this very simple, lightweight twin-lens reflex. For a quite inexpensive camera, it takes great pictures. The lens quality seems good, images are sharp with only a little softness and vignetting at the corners. The focusing screen is fairly bright and the flip-up magnifier makes focusing easy. Some people don’t like using the gear focusing on the front element of the lenses, and maybe it’s not as convenient as a focus knob on the side of the camera, but I don’t mind it – and it makes for a lighter and simpler camera.

And I love the name Super Ricohflex!  How can you go wrong with a name like that?

Some stats:

  • Introduced in 1956, produced sometime into the 60’s (I think I determined that mine was made in the ’50’s, but I don’t remember how I figured that out).
  • Made in Japan by Riken Optical Industries (Ricoh)
  • 120 film (yes! readily available, no need to respool onto old 620 spools)
  • 6cm x 6cm image
  • Front element gear focus lenses
  • 1:3.5/8cm Ricoh Anastigmat lens
  • 1/10 to 1/200 sec (plus B) Riken shutter
  • No light meter
  • Manual film wind knob, no autostop
  • Single lever under bottom lens cocks and fires shutter

Several versions were sold, most with 1/10 to 1/200 sec shutter (as mine does), but one model had a 1 sec to 1/500 shutter, which would be nice. Some also came with an autostop film advance knob, or one could be added later, which also would be nice. On mine you have to watch for the numbers on the film backing through the red window on the back of the camera.  You can tell if it has the auto-stop because the winding knob will stick out farther with an oblong unit under it.

The Super Ricohflex has an interesting drop-in film holder like an old box camera. I don’t know if any other TLR cameras have this. It doesn’t really make any difference – it’s not any easier or more difficult to load film – but it can be replaced with a special insert to hold 35mm film. I can’t for the life of me figure out why someone would want to shoot 35mm film in a TLR camera, but the ones with these inserts seem to sell for a lot more money on ebay.  The insert design allows the camera to just open on the back, unlike most TLRs where the back and bottom open, so this may have allowed them to make the camera a little bit smaller and lighter.

I bought mine on ebay for $36. The camera was in need of some repair, but it was a fun project to take it apart and learn exactly how this extremely simple camera operates. It’s a very easy camera to take apart and fix. The front panel comes off of the camera giving you easy access to dismantle the lenses and the shutter mechanism. The lower ‘taking’ lens was completely frozen on mine and wouldn’t turn to focus (which is very common on these), so I had to rig up some clamps and apply heat to soften the old hardened grease and get it moving. And a two-part gear was loose in the slow-speed shutter mechanism which prevented the slower shutter speeds from working. I won’t detail that repair because I think it’s unlikely any else will find the same problem to fix.

One thing that’s taken a little practice is adjusting focus without accidentally changing the shutter speed or aperture setting. Because both of those settings are right on the outside edge of the lower lens, and you focus by turning the front gear element on the lens, it’s easy to move those settings when focusing with the lower lens, especially shooting in winter with gloves on. I found that using the top lens gear for focusing solved this problem.

Note if you’re buying on ebay:

Be sure to ask the seller if the lenses turn smoothly to focus.  On many of them the grease has dried up and made it impossible to turn the lenses to focus.  As I mentioned above, mine was this way and required some effort to get it working.  Just be aware of whether it’s working, or whether you’ll need to try to repair it.  Ask the seller if the two lenses turn together when you turn one of them, and if they move forward and backward from the camera body as they’re turned (if the lenses don’t move in and out when turned, then the outer gear around the lens might be turning, but the lens itself not turning).  And hopefully the seller shows a photo taken from the side so you can see if the two lens gears are aligned and mesh properly with each other.

More Super Ricohflex info:

Matt’s Classic Cameras

Dean’s Photographica

User Manual

PDF of User Manual

Camerapedia

Mark Hansen – he’s fixed lots of Ricohflexes and loves them

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27 Comments on “Super Ricohflex Review”

  1. Where did you buy the film for this camera? I bought mine from a Salvation Army for like $20, in the awesome leather case, but I cannot find the film and honestly I am afraid to take it apart and see if it works, cuz I really don’t know if it does… 😦 I haven been wanting to try this camera out since I bought it but I am so confused and have never used a film camera that is this old… It’s pretty though 🙂

    • Rick Schuster says:

      Hi Victoria,
      Thanks for reading my blog. Any size 120 film will do. You could buy it online from Amazon or B&H Photo or many others. If you want to shoot color, I’d maybe try Kodak Portra 160: http://www.adorama.com/KKP160120U.html because if you’re a little off on guessing the exposure, it’ll probably still turn out. Use the lever under the bottom lens to try cocking and firing the shutter to see if it works. Set different shutter speeds and see if it seems to increase and decrease in how long the shutter stays open. Set at 10 should stay open the longest (1/10 second), while at 200 it should go faster (1/200 sec). If that seems to be working, I’d load up a roll of film and try it out. Since there’s no light-meter, you’ll have to guess on proper exposure unless you have a hand-held light-meter, but it’s easier than you might think. Read a little online about the ‘sunny 16 rule’, and it’ll be pretty easy. Or print out a calculator like this: http://squit.co.uk/photo/exposurecalc.html

      Let me know if you have any specific questions about using the Super Ricohflex.

      Rick

  2. Derek says:

    Mine has auto stop 😀

  3. richelle says:

    HI! I just received a Super Ricohflex TLR camera (exactly like yours)… However, the lenses aren’t turning and the cock and fire lever to take a photo doesn’t seem to activate the shutter inside enable to take a photo (???). I’m very new to all of this and I was so excited to start working with the camera and taking photos. Any idea on how I can fix these two problems??? Any help/advice on how to fix and use this camera would be appreciated. Your photos are amazing.
    richellejean@gmail.com

    • Rick Schuster says:

      Hi Richelle,
      Congrats on getting a Super Ricohflex. I think many of these suffer from stuck lenses because the grease used inside them hardens up after years of not being used. The lower lens was stuck solid on mine, and I had to rig up some makeshift clamps and apply heat with a very hot blow-drier to get it to come loose. To work on the lenses, first thing is to remove the whole front panel from the camera, which is pretty simple as I recall. I think there are just two screws at the top of the front plate and two at the bottom (the ones at the bottom are also little feet). Once the front panel is off, then I don’t recall exactly how to remove the lenses and shutter mechanism. The front part of the lens that has the gear around it can come off from the front — you need a tiny screwdriver to unscrew the little screws in the sides of the lens. Be sure to mark which sprockets of the gears around the outside of the lens line up with each other before you remove the lenses — so when you put it back together you can line them back up properly. After that I don’t recall exactly how I separated the lens from the shutter mechanism, but I’m guessing there was either a ring to unscrew on the back side, or some screws on the front that held it to the shutter mechanism. At that point, I had to get the lens loosened, and you can read about my process and see a couple photos here: http://photo.net/classic-cameras-forum/00Y96Q

      I hope this is of some help. As for the shutter, that’s hard to know what the problem might be. If you get it apart, you might be able to figure it out though. I think once the lens is out, it’s pretty simple to remove the front cover of the shutter mechanism and see what’s going on in there. Here’s what the shutter mechanism will look like inside: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/h763y78h9azbrao/_gT2P5iNXL

      Good luck. If you’re up for some tinkering, it could be a fun and rewarding project to try to get it working.

  4. Hezy says:

    Hi Rick,

    I am looking into buying a Super Ricohflex and the seller stated: “The two lens turn together and the view lens moves in and out. The film lens does not move in or out from the face of the camera and I do not see how it could. It does appear to maybe move slightly in and out internally”

    is that the way it should be? is there an obvious problem here?

    many thanks for your help,
    Hezy

    • Rick Schuster says:

      Sounds like it’s probably a problem. The two lenses should move in and out from the front of the camera at the same rate. As you turn one lens, the gears turn the other lens and they both move in or out together, so that the gears are always aligned. They don’t move internally, the front of the lens moves in and out on both lenses. If one lens moved out, but the other didn’t, then the gears wouldn’t always line up with each other. I’m guessing that the internal gears on one lens are stuck, and the outer element of the lens is loose, so it’s spinning, but not moving the gear that moves it in and out.

      • Hezy says:

        Rick, What’s a correct lenses operation mod of the TLRs?
        thanks,
        Hezy

        • Rick Schuster says:

          Sorry, I don’t understand your question.

          • Hezy says:

            ooops, I meant to ask how are the lenses work (alone/in relation to each other) when they work as they should.

            many thanks,
            Hezy

          • Rick Schuster says:

            It’s critical that the two lenses move exactly the same as each other. The top lens is what you see through to frame and focus the image, and the bottom lens is the one that exposes the film. If the two lenses don’t move together exactly the same, the image you expose on film might not match the image you see, so the focus may be off. On this camera, when you look at the camera from the side, the exposed gears on the outside of the lenses should line up with each other, and as you turn one lens to move it forward or backward, the other lens should move exactly the same distance toward or away from the camera.

  5. seantubridy says:

    Hey Rick, I just purchased a Super Ricohflex camera and was searching online for some articles about it and stumbled across your site. I noticed after looking through a few of your photos that you also live in Minneapolis. Nice to meet you! Looking forward to trying out this new camera!

    Sean

    • Rick Schuster says:

      Hi Sean,
      We met briefly years ago – at Art-a-Whirl, I think. My wife later bought me a couple of your radio prints, which are hanging on my office wall. I love them.

      Enjoy that Super Ricohflex — it’s still one of my favorites, even though my Rolleicord is really a much better camera. The Ricohflex has just the right mix of good image quality with a little bit of softness, unpredictability and eccentricity. Just put film in mine a couple days ago, as a matter of fact.

      Thanks for commenting!
      Rick

  6. Tim says:

    Hi Rick,
    Great images in the Ricohflex section. I have a question about film speed. I’ve got mine loaded with Portra 160. The light meter is calling for a shutter speed of 500 at f/16. Well the shutter only goes to 200. The sunny 16 rule kinda works here but how did you shoot with 400 speed film? I’m super new to this camera so sorry if this question seems silly. Thanks!

    • Rick Schuster says:

      Hi Tim,
      Thanks!
      The 1/200 sec. maximum shutter speed is a bit of a limitation of the Super Ricohflex, but shouldn’t be a problem when using 160 speed film. Going by the Sunny 16 rule, in bright sunlight you should need an exposure of about 1/160 sec at f/16. So either 1/100 sec or 1/200 sec should be close enough. I wonder if your light meter is not set for the correct film speed of 160? The stuff that I shot on 400 speed film was probably in slightly lower light, and/or I may have overexposed some shots a bit (with most negative film, but especially with Portra, overexposing by a stop or two usually isn’t a huge deal). With 400 film, even in bright sunlight if my meter or sunny 16 calls for 1/400 at f/16, and I instead shoot at 1/200 at f/16, I’ve only overexposed by one stop. Kinda confusing, I know. I hope I didn’t just confuse the issue more.

      • Tim says:

        Hi Rick,
        Awesome advice. This blog is great. ok, I’ll try that. I have noticed that if I go all the way to 200 the shutter just stays open, or won’t fire. Not sure if the camera is broken but it seems like the cocking mechanism sort of bottoms out at 200. Another note is that the camera’s manual suggests shooting at 25 and f/16 on a sunny day. The film they mention is a “medium speed”. I looked it up and that should be 100 speed film. So, I was considering shooting 200 at maybe 50 and 100 to see how that turns out.

        Anyway, thanks again!

  7. M. Lansiquot says:

    Hi I just recently got my super ricohflex fixed by someone reputable. I got it back 2 days ago. I would like to know, when you cock the shutter at the b mode should it just fire by itself? Like it is not sticking/waiting for me to engage the shutter.

    • Rick Schuster says:

      Hi, M. No, it shouldn’t fire right when you cock you shutter. On B mode, it should cock like normal, then the shutter should open when you push it the other way just the same as on any shutter speed. The only difference is that it should stay open as long as you hold the lever over in the firing direction. If the other shutter speeds are working correctly, I suppose you could just live with it like this, since B mode isn’t typically used very often (I’ve never used it on this particular camera, though I have on other cameras). Good luck!

  8. Ron Poirier says:

    I have a Ricoflex for sale if anyone is interested. It worked great the last time I used it.

  9. iceezzyyy says:

    Hi Rick,
    My name is Inaki. So I just recently purchased this camera and boy was it fun to get up and running. Cosmetically, it was beautiful but once you opened it up, it was a nightmare. I got everything to work and every shutter speed and aperture was accurate. However, my one major problem that I can’t seem to get any sort of video explanation of was how to fix the darn focusing knobs! And i’m afraid that if I do end up taking it apart, recalibration would be very difficult since I do not have any of the tools to get it to focus at infinity. Any thoughts?


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