James's Camera Collection: Ricohflex VIIs

Ricohflex VIIs Japan Twin Lens Reflex cameras
Ricohflex VIIs
Film type: Roll film size 120 (2¼ inches square)
Approx. dates of manufacture: 1955
Approx. original price: unknown
Approx. street value: low-moderate

I bought this thing for something like $5 from the local swap meet. The story was that it was taken out on a boat by its owner and went overboard. The camera was fished out of the water but was never cleaned, so by the time I bought it, it was covered in rust and corrosion. The camera was a goner so my father and I went for broke. We cut off what was left of the leather case and tossed it. We peeled off the leatherette and dissassembled the camera as much as possible. We scrubbed the rust with steel wool, repainted the case with black semi-gloss, rubbed out the leatherette with shoe polish and glued them back into place. We cleaned up the optics and the mechanicals, reassembled it, and were surprised to find we had a very pretty, working camera on our hands.

On first glance this camera looks like a toy. It's very light and simple and looks like it has more in common with Kodak Brownies than a real TLR. But cheap cameras are typically riveted together, and this one had screws, making it easy to disassemble and reassemble. Things were laid out logically. The optics are clean and bright. In the end it's a much nicer camera than the more substantial (i.e. heavier) Argoflex that sits next to it.

The VIIs came out in 1955, and it's what I would call a middle-grade TLR (high-end being a Rolleiflex, the low-end being a Kodak Duoflex). It has a mediocre 3-element lens and a 3-speed shutter, but the fact that the two lenses are geared together so that the viewing image can be focused along with the taking image puts this camera ahead of many, like my Voigtländer Brilliant.

Camera manual: Orphan Cameras.com

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