With Ricoh’s acquisition of Pentax hitting the international head-lines, it is an appropriate time to take a second look at this low profile Japanese company.
The history of Ricoh as an optical company dates back to 1936 when the Riken Optical Company or Riken Kogaku Kogyo started operations as a manufacturer of photo sensitive paper. In 1937, Riken or Ricoh launched its first camera which was a Leica copy. A variety of other small cameras followed.
Ricoh’s first SLR appeared in 1964 and was called the Ricoh 35 FLEX. It was marketed in the US under the Sears brand name. It was soon followed by the Ricoh Singlex which was the result of a collaboration between Mamiya and Ricoh. It is well known that Mamiya’s 1964 SLR, the Mamiya Sekor served as the inspiration for the Nikkorex F. In fact, the Nikkorex F was made by Mamiya for Nikon. Ricoh then bought the Nikkorex F production tools from Mamiya and produced the Ricoh Singlex. It was therefore no surprise that the Singlex featured Nikon’s bayonet mount!Soon after, Ricoh moved to the Pentax/Praktica thread mount and the Ricoh Singlex TLS launched in 1967 was the first to feature this mount. A battery of SLRs followed, the most successful ones being those from the KR and XR series. The Ricoh XR-S and KR-5 are still remembered by Ricoh enthusiasts. Also notable was the XR-P, which for the first time featured three varieties of program auto exposure modes.
Ricoh stopped production of SLRs in 1990. In any case, the last few SLRs were produced for Ricoh by Cosina. The absence of an SLR line up must have taken its toll leading to the Pentax acquisition.
We at SP are very optimistic that Ricoh will launch the Pentax brand in India. But, be patient! The deal goes through only in October 2011. H. S. Billimoria