FS: The Imperfect Screwmount Camera?
Ricoh appeared to be going through a period of supreme corporate indecision when they built this camera. Take a look at the front side...shaved (beveled) corners. Take a look at the back side...corners at right angles. I don't mind telling you that is one of the things that aliens are really going to find perplexing when they get here. The viewfinder. Top? Bottom? Well, doggone it, we just couldn't decide so we built it with both. Aliens are REALLY going to be struggle with this concept (especially since they'll already know we had 2 eyes). The meter...well, they included spot and averaging, and that's a good thing. The meter switch is a little wonky, though. You first must turn it on using a fairly recalcitrant switch on the left side of the lens mount hub...but then it won't meter until you cock the camera. ??? Why didn't they just automatically turn on the meter when you cock the camera or push slightly on the shutter button? Well, once again, they probably just couldn't decide. And then you have under the rewind knob what I'll call the "ring of confusion"...which for you students of lens design is a completely different thing than the "circle of confusion." Here's how the "ring of confusion" (or r.o.c. as I'm going to refer to it from now on) works: You load the camera with film. Then you move the r.o.c to your choice of the following settings: B&W, T-Color-D, or Empty. Does the ring do anything? Nope, it has no connection to the workings of the camera at all. And what if you or someone else turns it absent-mindedly (or as a prank) to a different setting after you've set it? Well, I suspect Ricoh took this into consideration. They didn't want to be the only ones in a quandary, so they made sure to include you. Once that ring is turned, you'll have no idea at all what is in the camera (if anything). Did I load it? Should I open it and risk ruining the film? Or should I just merrily act like I'm taking pictures and see what happens later? Then there is a red or green dot on the top of the camera. Let's say you pick the camera up and can't remember if you've cocked it. What does green mean? Ok to cock it? Ok to take a picture? What does red mean? Danger...don't press the shutter button because the camera is cocked? Or hey, dummy, the camera isn't cocked yet? And how about that lens on top of the prism? Does that let light run into there and affect the meter reading when it is open? What do you think?
Gee, I've done a bang-up job of selling this one, haven't I? Well, all in all it is an interesting camera and this one could be used as a camera if it were not for the mirror...it is broken and this does seem to affect the ability to focus. And while we're talking about that mirror, you need to know the meter sensor is right behind it, so when you get ready to replace it, you'll need to use semi-silvered glass. More indecision...mirror or half-mirror? I get the mental image of a group of engineers scurrying around like ants who can't find their home wearing bracelets egraved WWND (What Would Nikon Do?).
The body is not in bad condition...couple of bumps and dings, but maybe you could fix them, and they might not matter much anyhow. Lens? Couldn't say for sure. A Vivitar 50mm 1.9 which could be ok or not. Focus is smooth, but the rubber ring looks like it was made out of mousepad material which was measured by a caveman whose complete vocabulary consisted of "ugh" and whose toolkit consisted of one stick and one rock. But the shutter works fine at all speeds, and the action is smooth (a little loud, though). When I fired the shutter, birds in the next block left the telephone wires and two policeman drew their weapons.
The meter does work, but I couldn't say how accurate it is.
$5 plus the cost of postage for this parts camera.
Please let me know if you have any questions.
I should buy it solely based on the entertainment value of the ad.
But I won't...I have a few boxes of stuff just like this. Maybe we should all get together, hire someone to make a huge sculpture out of all our junk gear that we won't part with...maybe a huge camera nestled between two HUGE(R) breasts. We just need to find a place to place it...
I could add up a bunch of photo accessories to the pile, no sweat...
Originally Posted by ronaldj23
It could be comparable to Watts Towers, structure made out of junks but now considered as a national treasure:
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OOOoooo! A TLS 401. I have one of those, in black.
It's a trip. I love it, for the fact that it is so different compared to what anyone else was making. I remember when it came out. It got decent magazine reviews, and several of its foibles seemed to not be very important to the reviewers. Ricoh must have been buying lots of ad pages back then.
The TLS 401 is approximately the size, weight and shape of a Nikon F2 Photomic. It uses the famous Copal Square shutter- reliable, strong, and subtle as Jim Carrey. The viewfinder image is rather small, dim, with very rounded corners, and has a strong blue-green color cast. It's the same looking through the top or through the back- equally bad. Well, that's not completely true- the back eyepiece has a really strong color cast.
The plastic wind lever tip was deliberately designed to be as uncomfortable as possible, leading to deep, bleeding, eroded places on your right thumb if you didn't wrap it with multiple layers of duct tape ("it" being either your thumb or the wind lever tip, preferably both). I mean it. Take the plastic tip off the wind lever on any other camera which had one, and it will still be better than this one with its tip. Hell, this one's probably better without the tip. The leatherette on the wind cap naturally shows true class and elegance, though cleaning the blood out of it is a constant hassle.
One odd thing, given that it's the TLS 401: the frame counter numbers are large, legible, and the counter window is in a fairly ordinary place.
The shutter speed dial is surprisingly smooth turning, and like other Ricoh's of that era, somebody didn't have the blueprint facing the correct way, so it's on the front instead of on top. It's metal, straight-knurled, with only a slight chamfer on the edge, and will impart to your middle fingertip a respectably bloody counterpart to the raw meat crevasse on your thumb. If you eventually develop a callus on that fingertip, you will be able to flip people off with a digit which will much more closely resemble that which it is meant to represent. I think maybe the designer worked for Nikon and got fired for designing the shutter speed ring and ASA dial on that otherwise marvelous machine, the Nikkormat, and did at least a little better job with the Ricoh. Setting ASA is typical lift-and-turn, but it has the delightful Ricoh touch of having the window turn with the shutter speed dial, and also change position according to ASA setting, and of course with the shutter speed dial on the front of the camera, it is guaranteed to show the numbers upside down at least half the time.
Typical Copal Square, the shutter speeds stay pretty accurate even after decades of neglect (except that whole thing about 1/125 being really 1/100 so it would X-sync.). The sound is crisp, even at slow speeds. That is important. If you're going to get everyone's attention every time you trip the shutter, you want to sound good doing it.
Speaking of sync: the X and M flash connectors on the left end look really cool, and the top of the cold shoe is very nicely polished.
Gotta love that dial around the rewind shaft. It looks so important and all. I like how you can turn it to EMPTY, as if you can't turn the rewind knob to figure that out. And the COLOR setting- it has a green "T" to one side and a red "D" to the other. Took me a while to figure that out- I thought the "T" meant "Transparency" instead of "Tungsten". I tend to subconsciously think I have tungsten film in it anyway, due to the viewfinder's color cast. I know, I know.
An additional feature of the reminder dial- it's sharp-edged and hard enough to turn that you have the opportunity to do damage to your thumb and finger on the left hand, ensuring that the camera is well-balanced ergonomically. The dial's presence means the rewind knob had to be pretty tiny, in contrast to the robust size of the rest of the machine. Sort of like a big guy with a little pecker. Hm. Glad I'm not a big guy.
I can't help but like the 401. It's so friggin' weird, yet shows such ambition and willingness to do something different. As to execution... well, as to execution, if the same gang that ran prewar Japan had been around when the TLS 401 was produced, I think the chief engineer might have gained some sudden experience in execution.
Maybe they should have waited and come up a TLS 402. Or 403. Or 4003.
Still, who else was putting out a camera at that time with both Spot and Averaging metering, quickly changeable by a switch, even if that switch feels like it's always ready to break but doesn't?
And who else put out a camera with a choice of top or eye-level viewing, easily switchable by an impressive knob on the side of the prism? Given that, the fact that the viewfinder image is similar to being inside a dirty aquarium peering out is a little easier to accept.
Call it The Hope of Audacity.
I just can't turn loose of my 401. For all its weirdness, the shutter is accurate, and the lens mount flange is narrow enough that it will take my delightful screw-mount EBC Fujinons without interfering with their open-aperture metering tabs. I've never bothered with a replacement for the mercury battery, so I don't know if the meter even works. I'm fine with that. Most of my mechanical cameras don't have batteries in them.
There's one thing that can always be said about the Ricoh TLS 401. It's no "me-too" camera. Maybe I just like it because like me, it's weird and funky and prefers to stumble to its own drummer.
Last edited by lxdude; 08-08-2012 at 10:43 PM. Click to view previous post history.
I do use a digital device in my photographic pursuits when necessary.
When someone rags on me for using film, I use a middle digit, upraised.
My first "real" camera was a Singlex TLS. Long since sold off, I just bought a (good shape, fully working) one off the 'bay for old times sake. It's more usable though - normal if somewhat dim viewfinder. I have no problems winding the film etc. It's big and heavy, but works pretty well really. My replacement, unlike the one I had in childhood, is lacking the cold shoe. The film type reminder dial seemed to work for me back in the day. That plus the speed setting would remind me, in the days before they invented box top holders. Transparency film was either 25, 64, or "High" Speed Ektachrome at 160. Color neg was Kodacolor at 80 or VPS at 100. Black and white - well I shot Plus-X and Tri-X mostly. 400 could be confusing because it could be Tri-X at box speed or Plus-X I planned to develop in Diafine but either way didn't much matter.
If this one worked I might buy it. It's like the weird uncle of my TLS which is big and clunky but not really very weird. The oddest thing about the TLS is probably just the front facing shutter speed dial, which I actually kind of prefer - it's easier to turn without lowering the camera, but you have to keep up with where you start since there's no viewfinder display.