In Praise of the Diacord

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by rick_drawbridge, May 9, 2022.

  1. Recently, I picked up a little collection of Medium Format Twin Lens Reflex cameras, and among them was a Ricoh Diacord L, circa 1957. Encased as it was in a very substantial and well-worn leather case, I really didn't know quite what to expect, but I was delighted to find the case had done it's job well and the camera appeared to be in remarkably good condition, considering its age. A quick inspection revealed that the shutter was functioning, the lenses were clean, the focus was smooth and even the uncoupled selenium meter was functioning and reasonably accurate. Obviously, I was very pleased... Here's a pic of the camera, just after unboxing.

    Ricoh Main.jpg

    The Diacord doesn't seem to be particularly well known. The Japanese company Riken Optical produced a line of 6x6cm TLR cameras in the 1950's, an age when Japanese manufacturers were churning out Rolliecord look-alikes in their hundreds, and I suppose the principle competitors in this medium price market would have been the well-known Yashica TLR's, in quality somewhere a little below the very fine Minolta Autocord. I have a couple of Yashica examples and I can state that the build quality of the Diacord probably surpasses that of the Yashica offerings, and the 80mm Riken Optical f/3.5 lens performs as well, if not better, than the equivalent Yashinon lenses. And that's fairly high praise. Here's an original advertisement for the camera.


    The camera has a knob-operated film advance with auto-stop, and the frame spacing on the couple of films I've run has been perfect. The selenium meter reads out in Exposure Values which are then transferred to one of three scales visible in the control window above the lens panel; the other two scales indicate aperture and shutter speed which can be adjusted independently. A flap covering the selenium cell can be raised for readings in low light. The most distinctive feature of the Diacord lies in the focusing system, with a lever either side of the front panel that operate in a "see-saw" fashion, moving the entire panel to and fro to achieve focus. In practice this provides very quick, precise and convenient control. The viewfinder has a unmarked screen and is reasonably bright and includes a central fresnel spot to aid focusing. The shutter is a reliable Seikosha MXL with speeds from 1-1/500th and B, and the taking lens is a Tessar-style 80mm Rikenon f/3.5, with the viewing lens having an aperture of f/2.8

    Ricoh 007.jpg

    Here are a few different views of the camera.

    Ricoh 002.jpg

    Ricoh 004.jpg

    Ricoh 005.jpg

    Ricoh 006.jpg

    The build quality of the camera is very impressive. The interior is one of the most complex I've come across, with a series of cast baffles between lens and film, no doubt adding to the already considerable weight of the camera.

    Ricoh 003.jpg

    Last but not least, here's a pic of the well-worn case, again one of the more complex with domes and flaps giving access to the various controls. I'm treating it with leather conditioner and may even get a couple of areas re-stitched, as it's a lovely example of leather craft.


    Here are a selection of frames from the trial films, either Ilford HP5 Plus or some rather dated Arista EDU Ultra 100, both developed in PMK Pyro and scanned on an Epson Pefection V800 scanner.

    Autumn Morning #3

    Autumn Morning #3 copy.jpg

    Old Man Pine

    Old Man Pine copy.jpg

    The Martinborough

    The Martinborough copy.jpg


    Alley copy.jpg


    Tawaha copy.jpg


    Soeur copy.jpg

    Autumn Morning

    Autumn Morning copy.jpg

    The Crossroads Pine

    The Crossroads Oak copy.jpg

  2. Quite a find. Thanks for sharing.
  3. Looks like you’ve got another keeper Rick. Nice photos and camera.
  4. Great stuff and results from the Diacord, Rick, thanks for posting. Did you ever take a bad picture?

    I've had three Ricoh TLR's, an Auto 66, a Super Ricoflex with geared focus, and a Ricoflex very similar to Rick's camera. It's labelled Ricohflex, and I think it was made just before they started to use the Diacord name:

    LINK -------- Shots with the Ricohflex
    kklow likes this.
  5. John Seaman said:
    Thanks, John. I recalled you'd posted something on a Ricoh TLR and went searching for your post under "Diacord", but couldn't locate it. Unsurprisingly, they are very similar posts! I think your camera is the original Richoflex Dia, circa 1955, which introduced the Duo Lever focusing system.
  6. That's a lovely camera, Rick, and in remarkable condition. It's a real bonus that the selenium meter still works. My first TLR was a Super Ricohflex. While it took decent photos, I am not a fan of geared lens focusing. The Diacord is a real step up in build quality.

    BTW, your photos are lovely as well but that's true no matter what camera you use. Thanks for sharing.
  7. SCL


    Great find Rick. I've had a Diacord for about 20 years, and chose to keep it it after using both a Yashica 124 and a Rolleicord. IMHO it gave comparable results and I particularly liked the focusing levers rather than a knob. Mine isn't quite as pristine as yours, as the meter is no longer accurate (irrelevant in my case), and the focusing magnifier was missing so I replaced it with a similar sized lens. I also changed the focusing screen to one produced by Rick Oleson. Unfortunately it doesn't get a lot of use these days, but occasionally I take a break from digital and 35mm and haul it out for a stellar performance. Glad to see you are enjoying yours and thanks for highlighting this fine camera..
  8. Great!
  9. Excellent find... I 've admired the Minolta Series and the Meopta.. but what I think really makes this shine is the Tessar-type lebns.. not least your exquisite photo taking panache and finely developed ( pun intended ) Pyro work flow!! Wow ! I have saved a similar photo to this series ( mist ..trees .. bench ) you posted years ago.. that I just loved sooo much ..
  10. Good camera and excellent shots. I had an earlier version of Diacord without the light meter for a short period of time. The Tessar formula Rikenon is a fine performer.
  11. Thank you all for your responses.

    I remember that you liked the old series of photographs taken at this location and I'm flattered that you saved one! As I recall, they were taken with a Braun Paxette and surprised me at the time by being better by far than my expectations. I upgraded my opinion of the Paxette!
  12. Great write-up and pics Rick - your work is always an inspiration.
  13. Quite a find Rick, the Diacord L is a phenomenal camera and value and they are usually in good working condition. The quality IMO, rivals the Rolleicords and the Yashica-12 of the same time period. The 4 element is more than up to the task.

    Your series as usual hit the mark and beyond, really enjoyed the composition of the opposite angled chairs and the shadow detail in the Porch shots at what seems to be some sort of an Art Exhibit?

    The shot of the park bench in mist equally phenomenal and moody worthy of wall display. Thank you for sharing as always.
  14. Thanks, Ralf, we seem to be on the same page regarding the Diacord! The porch photograph was taken on the approach to an arty little boutique. I'm pleased you like the images; I think the pic of the chairs was my favourite. And thanks, kmac, for the kind words.
  15. Great! Ricoh was getting very close to the Minolta Autocord.

    I like that double lever focusing. How does it work? You move either lever?
  16. Another great find but the more impressive are the outstanding photos Rick. I am convinced that any camera in your hands will churn out excellent images. The corollary of the old adage, it's the carpenter and not the tools! A 21st century AA!
  17. Julio Fernandez said :
    It's basically one lever, pivoted in the centre like a see-saw. As one side comes up, the other comes down, so you can use the lever from either side of the camera.

    Thanks for the compliment, kklow! I'll try to remember your words on the days when nothing seems to be going right!
    subbarayan_prasanna likes this.
  18. Hi Rick! Greetings! Camera looks new! Pictures are sharp and well toned; remind me of my Yashica 124G days. Your technique enhances the pictures as usual. Thanks for the lovely scenes.
    ralf_j. and John Seaman like this.
  19. Hi SP! Good to see you on the Forum! Thanks for the comments and I'm pleased you enjoyed the post.

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