The Rittreck is a 6×9cm SLR with a "landscape" (horizontal) non revolving back, made from 1955 by Musashino Kōki. The most common versions are the Rittreck IIA and Rittreck SP. The Optika IIA was a name variant of the Rittreck IIA, sold by Seymour's, a distributor based in New York.
It is one of the few 6x9cm reflex cameras ever built.
The normal lens was a Luminant 105mm 3.5 and the "wide" lens was only sligthly wider with 92mm since the so called RetroFocus lenses allowing wide angle lenses in mirrored reflex cameras were only built up to 6x7cm cameras and some years later (Mamiya RB).
The normal and light-wide angle lenses have a very rudimentary preset device (a ring) to speed a little the need to change from open diaphragm to the one previously selected before taking the picture. It is by far not so quick and efficient as the later auto diaphragm settings found in almost all 135mm and many medium format single lens reflex cameras. Even the Graflex large format SLR cameras made in the USA at about the same period had in their later models a much more convenient inner operated auto diaphragm setting placed on the back of those lens boards. (Those cameras can be recognized by a sign indicating the automatic diaphragm operation).
There were longer lenses available up to 400mm. Each lens was mounted on interchangeable lens boards. The "wide" lens had a slightly recessed lens board.
I have not made comparative tests but the lenses seem simple constructions with few elements.
To replace one of them by a good quality german or japanese lens with enough coverage might be worth trying and see if the photographies reach in this way a better quality.
Besides backs for cut film and film packs there were 3 types of rollfilm holders.
Type II was the most advanced one with a removable inner holder and place for 2 spare film rolls. It gave 8 pictures 6x9cm in a rollfilm type 120 (rollfilm 220 was not yet available) and had auto stop after each frame with a lever to be pushed to allow transport to the next frame.
Type I rollfilm holder had no removable insert and no automatic stop after each frame since it allowed 3 formats: 10 pictures 6x7cm or with masks replacing the dark slide either 12 pictures 6x6cm or 15 pictures 4.5x6cm per rollfilm 120. However instead of the red window showing the printed numbers on the back paper of rollfilm spools 120 found in other multiformat rollfilm holders like those of Rada or the one made by Mamiya for their Mamiya Press cameras, the Rittreck holder type I had on the top 3 film counters, one for each format. Transport was achieved by simply turning a knob and checking with the corresponding window the exact moment when to stop and take a shot.
The rollfilm holder type III existed in 3 versions, a separate one for each format: 6x7cm, 6x6cm and 4.5x6cm. Those 3 holders had an automatic stop after each frame. Like the type II, there was a small lever to be pushed to allow to transport the film to the next shot.
Users of the Rittreck/Optika cameras had to get used to the unique discomfort that the exposed 120 film was wound opposite to the usual way, the final paper was with its inner side outside the rollfilm which is highly inconvenient not showing to the developer the kind of film inside (colour negative, slide, black and white) and the corresponding chemicals needed to process the film. The safe way was therefore (in the dark) to respool the exposed film in the normal way with the outside side outside and the final paper back showing printed the kind of film to be processed, before sending it to the film laboratory in charge of processing it.
Other accessories available at the time for the Rittreck/Optika cameras were intermediate tubes for close ups and a finder with inside a 45 degree mirror replacing the standard folding hood finder.
Most cameras had a single speed setting dial with either 1/400s or 1/500s as the top speed but some (mainly the SP) featured a separate dial for the slow speeds.
Another special feature of some models was a unique system to absorb the mirror shock which had to be set separately for normal "landscape" horizontal pictures or for "portrait" vertical shots, (those only possible by turning the camera body 90 degrees since the back did not allow to turn it).
The focal plane shutter, with its known speed limitations as compared to a leaf shutter, allowed to use other shutterless lenses besides those supplied by M.K.K. for instance a camera with a german 105mm 3.5 lens is presently offered on the web by a japanese seller but unfortunately the shutter is not working. My own experience with the focal plane shutter of my Rittreck IIa was however until now a good one. The usually missing 6x6cm and 4.5x6cm sliding masks of a rollfilm holder type I were replaced by myself using the thin black inner plates of used, empty Polaroid peel apart cartridges and a sharp japanese type cutter. The shutter of my camera still seems to work as it should although without measuring the exact speed with special instruments I do not have. There is a PC type of flash socket but I have not tested flash photography to know if it is suitable for electronic flash units.
The 6x9cn focusing screen is a bright, nice one with a fresnel lens for overall brightness and clear lines showing 6x7cm, 6x6cm and 4.5x6cm formats.
It is a pity that the back is not a rotating one like those of some Graflex SLR offering the same film size, allowing vertical 6x9cm pictures without having to turn the whole camera body to the side, but if you accept 4.5x6cm shots you get vertical type pictures.
The Plaubel Makiflex built some 10 years later was a much more improved 6x9cm SLR with focal plane shutter with a rotating back (making it therefore a 9x9cm camera with an accordingly 9x9cm focusing screen). It offered a true line of high quality, very efficient auto diaphragm shutterless lenses but if you find one it will be considerable much more expensive than a Rittreck/Optika SLR.
My advice: if you find one of these cameras in good working conditions (a shutter operating in all settings) you can have a lot of fun with a relative small money investment and the possibility to use already owned, different shutterless lenses as long as they are not wide angles and that they fit the rather small lens boards.
To make by oneself a suitable lens board, by the way, is not very complicated then to find an original one without lens is quite difficult even in Japan.
Those cameras were not built in large quantities and the same of course applies to original lenses and accessories. However roll film holders appear on sale on the web from time to time since they were also sold for large format folding type Rittreck cameras later replaced by those sold up to this day under the WISTA brand, either wood or metal fields. Musashino Koki M.K.K. became in the past the present Wista Co. Ltd, but they have no spare parts for older Rittreck cameras, only in the web you might find some if you are patient and look from time to time in the offers in the large international on line auction site we all know.
If you have further questions you can reach me at email@example.com and I will do my best to try to answer them. EdWaltuch
- Asahi Camera (アサヒカメラ) editorial staff. Shōwa 10–40nen kōkoku ni miru kokusan kamera no rekishi (昭和10–40年広告にみる国産カメラの歴史, Japanese camera history as seen in advertisements, 1935–1965). Tokyo: Asahi Shinbunsha, 1994. ISBN 4-02-330312-7. Items 1017 and 1807–9. (See also the advertisement for item 1810.)
- Kamera no ayumi. Zen nihon shashin renmei sōritsu 50-shūnen kinen (カメラのあゆみ・全日本写真連盟創立五〇周年記念, History of cameras, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the All Japan Association of Photographic Societies). Tokyo: Asahi Shinbunsha, 1976. No ISBN number. P.104.
- Lewis, Gordon, ed. The History of the Japanese Camera. Rochester, N.Y.: George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography & Film, 1991. ISBN 0-935398-17-1 (paper), ISBN 0-935398-16-3 (hard). P.94.
- McKeown, James M. and Joan C. McKeown's Price Guide to Antique and Classic Cameras, 12th Edition, 2005-2006. USA, Centennial Photo Service, 2004. ISBN 0-931838-40-1 (hardcover). ISBN 0-931838-41-X (softcover). P.705.
- Sugiyama, Kōichi (杉山浩一); Naoi, Hiroaki (直井浩明); Bullock, John R. The Collector's Guide to Japanese Cameras. 国産カメラ図鑑 (Kokusan kamera zukan). Tokyo: Asahi Sonorama, 1985. ISBN 4-257-03187-5. Items 2249–50.
- Rittreck IIA and Rittreck SP at Takasaki Motohiro's camera site, with a reproduction of a brochure and user manual for the Optika IIA
- Rittreck IIA at artbig.com by Sébastien Lallement
- Optika Professional variation at [OrphanCameras]
- Revue Rittreck Six manual at OrphanCameras.com
- Rembrandt prototype (Rittreck's predecessor) at Shashinki to Tōgei
- Rittreck IIA repair notes at Takasaki Motohiro's camera site
- Rittreck IIA repair notes at Kan's Room
- Rittreck IIA at Asacame