Back in May I acquired my Ricohflex Dia (or Diacord) twin-lens reflex (TLR) 120 camera. I had a few medium format cameras before this, but none of them were particularly great. I really wanted a half-way decent 120 option, so I set my sights on the Diacord series from Ricoh. The offerings from Rollei, Yashica, and Minolta seem to garner the most attention in the TLR world, and with that, they garner high prices. I wanted something of quality, but under the radar. The Diacords seem to fit the bill, so I plunked down $130 (the most I’ve spent on a camera so far, not counting repairs) for a serviced specimen from Japan.
My initial impressions of the Diacord were favorable. It was a quality camera that had a great lens and also offered a full range of shutter speeds, from 1 second to 1/400 of a second. This meant I could use 400 speed film in bright daylight if I wanted to, and also do low-light easily.
Three months later I’m still smitten with the Ricohflex. I’ve used it a bunch, both in color and in black and white. The camera is easy to use, once you get the hang of it. There’s no meter, so I’ve been mostly doing “Sunny 16” and using my phone’s light meter for trickier lighting situations. Using the Ricohflex is a slower process than any of my other cameras: Besides figuring out exposure, setting exposure is via an aperture (f-stop) slider on the right of the taking lens, and shutter speed via a dial around the lens. I have to look at the front of the camera to do that. (Later models of the Diacord supposedly had knobs for that with a readout at the top of the viewing lens.)
Oh yeah, the shutter is a lever at the bottom of the taking lens. It’s okay, but accessing this lever meant I got my finger in a few shots. And because this is a sideways-moving lever, there was risk of motion blur once I went under 1/50. To remedy this I decided to get a shutter release cable. But modern releases didn’t work: The shutter release socket is on the left side of the taking lens, and there’s a lip at the edge of the lens board. Modern releases have a pretty long metal bit at the end and wouldn’t clear that lip appropriately. I got a vintage release that has a short metal bit and fits in just fine.1
Most of the black-and-white shots I’ve done with Ilford XP2+, a chromatic/C-41 film. I use this because my go-to lab (Shutterbug) can turn it around in a day; if I use regular black and white stock it could take a week. While I’ve been developing my own 35mm black and white film, I don’t have the setup yet for 120, as my dinky Kodak Scanza scanner can only do 35mm or smaller. I hope to get a better scanner at some point. In the meantime, I’ll be taking that darkroom class soon, so I hope to be able to process some 120 film of my own.
I feel like I made a good choice with my Ricohflex Dia. It’s not the best medium format twin-lens reflex camera out there, but it’s good enough for me. Will I get another 120 camera? Probably not any time soon. I don’t feel like plunking down the big bucks for an SLR or a rangefinder, especially when I have other cameras that need repair and a scanner that should be replaced.
1 Well, at least the second one. The first one didn’t screw in all the way, and would loosen very easily. I lost that one. The second one sits more securely in the socket, but can still loosen and come out.