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Ricoh Singlex TLS 35mm slr camera

The Ricoh Singlex TLS is a 35mm single lens reflex camera made by Ricoh in about 1967 and also re-badged for a number of other manufacturers.

Ricoh Singlex TLS Images

My Ricoh Singlex TLS Camera

I was lucky enough to be given this camera by David, a reader of my blog to see if I could get it working and to add it to my collection. Initially there was a problem with the shutter and  I’ve already posted about the repairs I carried out and how I’d traced the problem down to the shutter assembly itself. Since it didn’t look like I was going to be able to repair the shutter, I put the camera to one side until I could find another unit with a working shutter I could use as a donor.

Well, a couple of weeks ago I managed to find another black Singlex TLS which was really battered about but with a working shutter, and I so I bought it to use the shutter to repair my camera. As it happened, when the donor camera turned up, it was in reasonable condition apart from the top plate, so in the end I swapped the top plate over rather than strip both cameras down. It’s possible I may still need to strip it down and replace the light seals if I put a film through it however.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a working Ricoh M42 mount lens so for the purposes of the pictures above, I’ve coupled it with a Chinon 55mm f/1.7 lens which, although a bit younger than the body, is a good match in terms of form and fit.

The exposure metering system is designed to work with a 1.35v mercury cell, which is no longer available or legal, so I’ve tried it with a 1.5v modern SR44 cell. This can be made to fit in the battery compartment by placing a piece of insulation round the battery to center it, but means the ASA dial needs to be changed to compensate for the slightly higher voltage. Although the meter on my camera works, it’s intermittent and jumps around a bit. This may just be because it hasn’t been used for years, or it may be due to some dry wiring joints. That will be another thing I’ll need to look at if I put a film through the camera, or I may just use a separate light meter.

Now it’s fully working (except the meter), it’s a nice example of one of Ricoh’s popular SLR cameras and makes a good addition to my collection.

Ricoh Singlex TLS Description

The Singlex is a solid, heavy camera which seems to have been made for heavy use. Having stripped one down to the chassis I can vouch for the solid construction, and I’m pretty sure that the camera would stand up to almost anything thrown at it. In fact, the donor camera I bought was very well battered, and it was still working, so I think that confirms it.

If you do a google image search for the Singlex TLS, it seems there were a couple of different styles of the camera made. The version I have has the word ‘SINGLEX’ across the front of the prism housing and TLS on the side of the top plate above the shutter speed dial. There is also a version with ‘Ricoh’ on the  prism housing and ‘Singlex TLS’ above the shutter speed dial. I assume these were changes introduced during the life of the camera or different ident makings for different markets.

As well as the differences above, the camera was also made in a different guise for a variety of other camera makers including the Sears TLS in the US and the Interflex 7L5 in France. As well as the black version I have, a silver model was also made.

The TLS is a 35mm, manual focus, slr with a vertical travel focal plane shutter, a match needle TTL exposure system and an auto diaphragm aperture on the lens. This makes it in many ways a standard spec camera for the period it was made – very similar to the Pentax Spotmatic for example – but it is a bit different in design.

Most cameras at the time had the shutter speed dial on the top plate of the camera, but the TLS features this control on the front of the camera. That does make it easier to adjust with the camera to the eye, but since there is no indication in the viewfinder what speed has been set, you still need to drop the camera to look at it. The film speed setting for the exposure system is coupled to the shutter speed in the same way it is on most cameras of this vintage.

The use of a vertical travel focal plane shutter, although very common later in the history of 35mm slr’s was also a relatively new venture, with most camera manufacturers of the time using horizontal travel, cloth shutters. The shutter in this camera is a Copal ‘square’ shutter which makes the camera much easier to work on than the traditional design since it is a modular component which can be easily changed (as I found out myself – see earlier articles).

The viewfinder is equipped with a standard micro prism central fine focusing aid, with an outer ground glass circle and then a Fresnel screen. The only other information displayed in the viewfinder is the match needle exposure measuring system which is visible on the lower half of the right hand side of the screen. The exposure on/off switch, which is in the same position as the switch with the same function on the spotmatic, also doubles as a depth of field preview button because the camera utilizes stop down metering.

Ricoh Singlex TLS specification

  • Ricoh Singlex TLS 35mm manual focus slr
  • Solid, heavy construction
  • TTL match needle, stop down metering with display in viewfinder
  • Front mounted shutter speed selector / ASA speed setting
  • Copal ‘Square’ shutter with speeds from 1sec to 1/1000sec + B
  • ASA 10 to 800
  • Single 625 mercury cell powers just the meter (camera is fully mechanical)
  • M42 lens mount
  • Self timer
  • Micro prism, ground glass and Fresnel focusing screen
  • Auto aperture
  • Film type reminder fitted round rewind crank
  • Frame counter integrated into film advance
  • Shutter release threaded for cable release
  • Ser No: 62680
  • Manual available on-line here

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I’m a software developer by profession but I’ve been taking pictures since I was about 8 years old. In that time I’ve owned cameras of all types and sizes from 120 roll film thro’ 35mm to my current Pentax K-5, Ricoh GXR + P10/S10/A12 28mm/A12 50mm, Canon S95 and recently acquired Sony NEX 6.

  1. Rhal Zahi says:

    The 55mm lens of this camera creates a Pincushion distortion. It can be corrected in photoshop. Do you know the parameters of this lense to make this correction on Photoshop? Or are you able to take a photo of a squared pattern in order to find the correction parameters? I mean. having a big white piece of paper, drawing a black grid of 4 inches by 4 inches squares, Take a photo of it (front view) and in Photoshop adjust the Pincushion distorsion until we see the pattern in the correct proportions.

    1. Hi – sorry I don’t have the correction parameters for this lens in Photoshop.

  2. Rod Robinson says:

    1.5v SR44 replacement battery still relevant, or have you discovered another solution?

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