Super Ricohflex Review
To see images shot with this camera, click the category link at right.
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?
- 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:
Mark Hansen – he’s fixed lots of Ricohflexes and loves them