OK, so this is me doing 2 reviews on the trot of Ricoh cameras. This is not because I am a Ricoh fan – I have a deep dislike of most of their recent digital offerings, but I have been surprised by the quality of their older kit. The Auto Half is brilliant fun and made me prick up my ears to old school Ricoh. Hence the purchase of this: the Singlex TLS. This is a lot of 35mm camera for your (not much) money: a rather stylish brick of M42, nod to Pentax, angular, muscular coolness. My example is very clean, positive and belies it’s age. Unless you check the foam. I was going to replace it, but didn’t ‘cos I am lazy. Here are a bunch of specs courtesy of Camerapedia:
Ricoh Singlex TLS Major Specifications:
- Film Format and Frame Size: 35mm film, 24x36mm.
- Lens Mount: M42 screw-mount
- Exposure meter: CdS with match needle, stop-down metering, on-off switch
- ASA settings 25-1600
- Shutter: Copal Square metal blade shutter. 1sec – 1/1000sec +B.
- PC X and M Sync terminals, optional accessory shoe
- Battery: Originaly 625 1.35v mercury
- Dimensions: 147 x 95 x 50mm
- Weight: 720gr body only
The shutter speed dial is rather unconventionally placed on the front and needs you to take your eye from the camera to change it. The viewfinder has a centre-needle meter affair that seemed to almost work – but very slowly, activated via a switch similar to a Spotmatic. Actually, the self-timer looked Spotmatic-y and the removable hotshoe too. I wasn’t convinced by the slo-mo reaction of the meter, so I used a handheld meter for these shots.
This M42 lump was partly an excuse to use another recent purchase – the awesome Auto Yashinon Zoom 75-230mm f4.5. Auto/manual version, two-touch, clean as a whistle, tasty. The trouble with big fat zooms is that you need a big fat space to use them. My back garden simply wasn’t doing it as the minimum focus distance is 2.5 meters. So I loaded up with HP5 and set off to Hollow Ponds again, armed with a monopod just to make me extra-conspicuous. I was a tad self-conscious wielding the monster and there was a certain amount of staring and indeed, hiding from some of the good people of Leytonstone. Except for a bunch of Poles, who happily stood in front of me and laughed to each other while pointing at the Singlex, possibly in admiration but probably not. Paranoid? Yup.
The pics that I ended up with were reassuringly sharp, and the Singlex appeared to be exposing correctly. I had been a bit concerned as the viewfinder was slightly dim at the top of the frame. I have seen this sort of thing before on a Yashica that had lost the mirror stop bumper, so the mirror was sitting too low in the mirror box leading to a dark top of the frame. And mis-focussing as the mirror-screen distance was wrong. But that wasn’t happening here, sigh of relief.
Compared to say, a modern Nikon tele-zoom, the Yashinon was very unsophisticated. And big. Not amazingly sharp, but very usable. If you have muscles and a monopod.
The Singlex itself is rather endearing and I prefer it to my Spotmatic, probably because it is in very good condition. Reassuringly crisp and positive, aside from the meter. So what happened to Ricoh? They were clearly on the ball at some point. Answers on a postcard to…