The Ricoh TLS 126 C-Flex - One of the Few 126 SLR's

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by John Seaman, Jul 28, 2021.

  1. Not many SLR's were made for the 126 "Instamatic" format. I think Rollei made one. I recently acquired this leaf shutter Ricoh TLS 126 C-Flex in non working condition. It's a quirky camera in a number of ways. The lenses are interchangeable, but with a one-off lens mount with a small screw thread. Presumably different lenses were available. Aperture is set on a wheel on the front of the body, whilst shutter speed is set via a ring on the lens throat – the reverse of the usual arrangement. There is an A setting on the aperture dial, apparently giving shutter priority auto exposure.

    Opening the back reveals the compartment for the 15V battery which powers the flashcube, and for a single cell feeding the exposure metering. The 126 cartridge (if I had one) would be upside down because of the direction of travel. The square focusing screen is a little odd. The focusing surface is a ring near the centre, whilst the areas inside and outside the ring are not ground, so the image in these areas always appears sharp - easy to forger to focus,

    Mine does not seem to want to work, all the speeds sound the same, and there's no 126 film anymore so I'm afraid it will remain a shelf queen.

    Thank you for looking (3 pictures follow).



    LMar, John Farrell and James Bryant like this.
  2. I forgot to mention that the whole internal chassis is not metal, but a plastic injection moulding.
  3. Nice find, even if just for display. In addition to the Rollei, Kodak offered the Instamatic Reflex, which took the same lenses as the Retina Reflex. Like the Ricoh, the Rollei and Kodak were also leaf shutter SLR's, which often developed problems that were difficult to repair. I think the fastest lens ever offered was the Xenon f 1.9 for the Instamatic Reflex. Supposedly the 126 cartridge was thought to not keep the film flat enough for really fast lenses. I don't know if that's true since I've never tested it or read any tests on film flatness. I remember during my senior year of high school a retired Linotype operator offered to sell me has Instamatic Reflex (so he could buy more HAM radio gear) but the price he wanted was more than the price of a new Konica Auto S2 which I bought instead. I do have a couple of working 126 cameras: A Kodak Instamatic 124 and an Olympus Quickmatic. Just no film.
    ] likes this.
  4. Nice find - it may be useable if you can retrofit a spent 126 cartridge. I have done with instamatic 500 with no issue. The lens looks like a 3 element optic.
  5. I think Film Photography Project sold a kit for reloading 35mm film into a 126 cartridge. The last few times I looked they were out of stock. The cartridge included comes apart for loading IIRC. The extra sprockets for 35mm film are a problem for some cameras and work fine on others. I believe you would have to advance the film about 3 times without exposing a frame to get the equivalent of one 126 frame. I came up with a single frame solution for when I want to use one of my 126 cameras: I cut the take up chamber off a 126 cartridge so that the film rails are exposed. In total darkness I place a short length of 35mm film and load the camera (shutter already wound). Over the film window I have a piece of black tape. It's a slow and tedious process that I do intend to try some time soon. If one is reasonably careful, a 126 cartridge can be pried open in a way that it can be glued back together. Save the paper backing and load with your choice of 35mm film. I've never tried it this way. With ortho film available from Ilford it would be easier to reload under a red safelight.
  6. Very nice. Verichrome pan in 126 introduced me to photography and I have about five Instamatic Kodak’s on a shelf and they all work. A couple even came with flash cubes and original boxes!

    Rick H.
    ] likes this.
  7. Nice find, John! I think the camera also appeared as the Sears 126 TLS Reflex. Probably the best of them was the Zeiss Ikon Contaflex 126; a friend had one of these beautiful little cameras but had trouble producing consistently sharp images, probably due to the film flatness issues mentioned above by Mike. Thanks for posting.
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  8. Thanks to all for the comments. I appreciate the suggestions about film but I'm not going to try and use it. I've got a queue of much better cameras clamouring for action. As I said, all the speeds sound the same, and the aperture, which is in the camera body, is not closing. I did try a battery and the exposure meter, with a scale just behind the shutter button, does kind of work. That's about all I can do with it.

    Thanks again.
    chuck_foreman|1 likes this.

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