1953: Rich-Ray Richlet

Many classic cameras are still usable. Others might only

be usable if you work at it. The Richlet is one of the latter.

It takes Bolta film, which is almost impossible to find today.

But if you happen to have some 35mm film, a bit of

backing paper from an old roll of 120, a darkroom or

a changing bag, you can bodge it, because Bolta film

was actually 35mm without the sprocket holes, wound

onto a roll with backing paper.

 

Bolta cameras originated in Germany, where they shot 12

pictures to a roll of film, each one 24x24mm. But when the

Japanese took up the design, they came up with cameras

that used the 24x36mm format. For that, the camera manufacturers introduced

a different version of the film with a staggered numbering system: 1 – 12 in the centre of the backing paper

to be read through a central red window in the camera back, plus 1 – 10 at the top and bottom to be read through a red window positioned at the top or bottom of the back. That’s the way the Richlet works. So despite measuring a mere 9.5x4.5x4.5cm, it shoots the same size images as most standard 35mm cameras.

 

With an attractive art deco design, the camera is made of Bakelite with metal fittings. The lens focuses from 45cm to infinity, while two tiny knobs on the front offer apertures of f/8 or f/5.6 and shutter speeds of 1/25 – 1/100sec plus a ‘B’ setting. The back, with its top-mounted red window, hinges open for loading in the usual roll film way, and there is a small compartment under the viewfinder to house a spare roll of film.

 

If you’re one of those photographers who likes to experiment to get old equipment working again, this is a camera for you. If not, it’s still a lovely little collector’s item even if you do no more than put it on a shelf and admire it.

The Richlet, a Japanese camera made for Bolta film.

View from the top showing the film wind knob, shutter release and a standard size accessory shoe.

From the rear, showing the red window to read the backing paper numbers and film holding compartment with a roll of Bolta film on board.

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