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Ricohflex B

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Japanese 6×6 TLR
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The Ricohflex B (理光フレックスB型) is a Japanese 6×6 TLR made and sold by Riken Kōgaku Kōgyō in 1941 and 1942.[1] The body of the Ricohflex B was reused after the war for the Luminaflex (ルミナフレックス), perhaps assembled by a different company.

Description Edit

The Ricohflex B is a 6×6 TLR made of pressed steel.[2] It is a close copy of the export versions of the Richter Reflecta with three red windows, like the Trumpfreflex or the Wirgin Reflex.[3] The focusing is done by a lever at the bottom of the taking lens, driving a helicoid supporting the lens and shutter assembly. The viewing lens is attached to the helical too, and moves together with the taking lens. The closest focusing distance is 3.5 feet (the distance scale is exactly the same as on the export versions of the Reflecta).

The exposure chamber and film spool holders are grouped in a removable frame. The film advance knob is on the photographer's right. The back is hinged to the top and contains three red windows on the left, protected by a vertically sliding cover. Indications are embossed in the back leather next to the red windows: 1357, 2468 and 1357, meant to use the 1 to 12 series of numbers for the 6×9 format. This advance system was necessary for 6×6 cameras in the early 1930s, when the rollfilm paper backing was not yet marked for the 6×6 frame size, but it was antiquated at the time the model was sold.

There is a depth-of-field plate on the back of the viewing hood, written in English; it is again exactly the same as on the export versions of the Reflecta, even including a column for f/3.5 aperture whereas the camera only has an f/4.5 lens. Unlike most other TLR cameras, the Ricohflex B has no magnifying lens in the viewing hood. Strap attachments are mounted on both sides of the body. The nameplate is inscribed Ricohflex and MOD.B.

Advertisements and other documents Edit

A user guide for the postwar geared lens Ricohflex published in 1951 reportedly says that the first Ricohflex, called Ricohflex A, was developed and tested in 1936.[4] It is described as a pseudo TLR with a fixed-focus viewing lens and a front-cell focusing f/4.5 taking lens. The camera is clearly not the same as the original Ricohflex, called "Ricohflex A" in some recent sources. It might be an experimental predecessor of the Ricohflex B or an altogether different camera, if not a plain mistake.

A Ricohflex B already appears in the official price list compiled in October 1940 and published in January 1941.[5] The document strangely quotes the same price of ¥252 for all listed TLR models, including the Ricohflex B despite its lesser features. This might be a mistake, or might indicate that the camera was only planned and officially registered as a TLR with no further detail, but not yet ready to sell.

The Ricohflex B is listed for ¥140 in advertisements dated October and December 1941, and for ¥166 in an advertisement dated March 1942.[6] In the documents, the lens is described as an RKK Koa Anastigmat 75/4.5, and the shutter is said to have a setting lever. The pictured camera is the same in all three advertisements. It has a rectangular nameplate, with MOD.B in small capital letters, and has no marking on the shutter plate.

The Luminaflex is featured in the June 1949 issue of Kohga Gekkan.[7] It was apparently made from Ricohflex B spare bodies and reportedly sold quickly at a comparatively cheap price.[8]

Variations Edit

All the actual examples observed so far have an incurved nameplate, different from that pictured in the original advertisements. The marking MOD.B is written in larger letters.

Various lens and shutter versions are known. Some shutters are everset and have a round AKK logo, indicating that they were made by Asahi Kōgaku Kōgyō, a dependent company of Riken. One of these has a HEIL nameplate attached to the top, and gives 5–200, B, T speeds. It sometimes comes with a pair of Ukas Anastigmat 75mm f/4.5 lenses, of the type found on various other Riken cameras.[9] A similar shutter, with missing front plate, has also been observed with a pair of Wester Anastigmat 75mm f/4.5 lenses made by Nishida.[10] The example pictured in this page of the Ricoh official website might have a different everset shutter.

The example pictured above has yet another everset shutter by Asahi Kōgaku Kōgyō, with lesser specifications. It gives 25–150, B, T speeds, and is marked VEST OLYMPIC at the top; it is certainly the Fiskus shutter normally found on the Vest Olympic. The camera has a pair of Triver Anastigmat 75mm f/4.5 lenses. The camera comes in a brown leather case embossed Luminous at the front — the brand name Luminous was used for filters by Riken Kōki, another company of the Riken group.

The most common version of the Ricohflex B has a no-name shutter, giving T, B, 5–200 speeds, with a single lever on the side used for cocking and release. It normally comes with a pair of R.K.K. Koa Anastigmat lenses, engraved R.K.K. KōA ANASTIGMAT 1:4.5 f=7.5cm, with four-digit serial numbers in the 3xxx or 4xxx range.[11] Some recent sources say that these cameras version came after those with everset shutter, but nothing is confirmed for sure.[12]

Finally, a wrecked camera with missing nameplate has been observed in an online auction with a number of unusual features. It might be one of the postwar Luminaflex, but nothing is confirmed. The body is identical to that of the Ricohflex B but for a few details. The front standard has a chrome trim all around. The back has a single red window in the middle, but the sliding lever controlling the red window cover is the same as on the regular cameras. The viewing lens is a Triver Anastigmat,[13] but its maximal aperture might be higher than 4.5 (maybe f/3.5 or f/3.2). The original shutter and taking lens apparently went missing, and the camera was offered in the auction with a Wester Anastigmat 7.5cm f/3.5 taking lens and an unmarked shutter (T, B, 1–200, self-timer). The lens and shutter assembly was not mounted on the camera, and it was reported not to fit very well on the body. The auction included a Luminous leather case, similar to that pictured above. There might be some relationship between the "Luminous" and "Luminaflex" brand names.

Notes Edit

  1. Dates: advertisements listed in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.343.
  2. Pressed steel: see this page of the Ricoh website.
  3. Tomuro, pp.72–77 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.14, demonstrates that the Ricohflex B is a copy of the Sears Trumpfreflex because it has three red windows, the exact same depth-of-field plate and distance scale. However other name variants of the Reflecta have the same features, like the Wirgin Reflex sold by Wirgin. See McKeown, p.1014.
  4. Rikōfurekkusu no tsukaikata (リコーフレックスの使いかた), written by Yagi Osamu (八木治) and published in July 1951 by Sōgeisha (双芸社). Quoted in Hayashi, p.136 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.4.
  5. "Kokusan shashinki no kōtei kakaku", type 7, section 1.
  6. Advertisement in Shashin Bunka October 1941, reproduced in Tanaka, p.10 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.14; advertisement in Shashin Bunka December 1941, reproduced in Nakamura, p.32 of Camera Collectors' News no.171; advertisement in Hōdō Shashin March 1942, reproduced in Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.102 and at Gochamaze.
  7. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.373.
  8. Kokusan kamera no rekishi, p.373.
  9. Example pictured in Tanaka, p.20 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.14, and in Tomuro, pp.72–3 of the same magazine.
  10. Example observed in an online auction.
  11. Example pictured in Sugiyama, item 2020, example pictured in Watakushi no ni-gan-refu kamera-ten, p.21, and in Lewis, p.57, example pictured in Hayashi, p.136 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.4, and examples observed in online auctions.
  12. Tanaka, p.20 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.14, and Tomuro, p.72 of the same magazine.
  13. Tribar spelling inferred from the katakana トリバー, and from the Triver Anastigmat name found on the camera pictured in this article.

Bibliography Edit

Links Edit

In Japanese:

In french:

Asahi Bussan and Riken prewar and wartime cameras (edit)
rigid or collapsible
Vest Adler | Gokoku | Semi Kinsi | Letix | Olympic | New Olympic | Regal Olympic | Semi Olympic | Super Olympic | Vest Olympic | Riken No.1 | Ricohl | Roico | Seica | Zessan
folders pseudo TLR TLR
Semi Adler | Adler III | Adler A | Adler B | Adler C | Adler Four | Adler Six | Gaica | Heil | Kinsi Chukon Ref Ricohflex | Ricohflex B

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