Medium Format Cameras:
Classic Scale Focus Cameras:
Riken Adler C

by Karen Nakamura


Overview and Personal Comments

When I saw this camera in an antique store in Saint Paul (MN), I immediately knew it was unusual. After World War II, Japanese camera makers were not immediately allowed to make medium format roll-film cameras, only 35mm because of shortages of film stock. When medium-format production finally resumed, they were all TLRs. Thus, any Japanese folding-type medium format camera is unusual because it must be pre-War when export numbers were low.

A quick look in McKeowns confirmed my hunch. The Riken Adler is a camera series made by Riken Kogaku (later Ricoh) in 1938. Riken had started out as a maker of sensitized photopapers, later coming out with their own series of cameras. They only had one line of folders, the Adlers, but quite a few TLRs and 35mm cameras in the post-War period.

The Adler is a copy of the German Baldax camera. Although McKeowns only mentions two body types, there are actually at least four according to Ricoh's home page: A/B, IV, III, and CII. The main changes between the A/B and C appear to be in the folding strut structure; a German-sounding shutter (Heumann-Heilemann Rulex); the shutter changed from an everset to set-and-release type; and a square (non-folding) finder. I'm not sure if my C and the CII on the Ricoh site are actually one and the same. They have same specs.

The Adler C is well made for the period. The body is mostly stamped metal with few castings. The shutter is made by "Peerless" and is a leaf-shutter design from 1/5 to 1/200 sec. Not the equal of the best Compur shutters by far.

I'm not sure what the "Solar 7.5cm f/3.5" lens is composed of. The lenses do not appear coated, but they are remarkably clean and clear given the age of the camera. The design of the camera as a whole is well thought out. The case in particular is very nice.



Interesting quirks

Japan was allies with Germany by the late 1930s and there was pressure on manufacturers to use German-sounding names in their cameras, rather than English sounding ones. Thus, Riken's camera was called the "Adler" which means "eagle."


Technical Details

Camera Name
Adler C  
Riken Kogaku
Place of Manufacture


Date of Manufacture
Focusing System

Scale focusing


Solar 7.5cm f/3.5

3 elements in 3 groups
Close focus: 1.2 m (4')
Filter: xx.xmm screw-in
Cap: xxmm push on


Peerless leaf shutter: 1/5 sec. - 1/200 sec + T + B

Metering System



f/3.5-f/25 (x stop steps)



Film type / speeds

Type 120 (medium format)
57mm x 45mm exposure size

Battery type
Dimensions and weight

102 W x 110 H x 95 D mm
xxx g

Retail price

A: ¥90
B: unknown
CII: ¥58




About Riken Kogaku (Ricoh)

Ricoh is a very interesting company. They first started in 1927 as the Rikagaku Kogyou Kabushigaisha (The Physics and Chemistry Initiative Corporation). They came out with a plastic camera, the Olympic in 1934, which used 127 roll film. In 1936, they established as the Riken Kankoushi Kabushikigaisha (Riken Photopaper Company) and the Ricohflex B. They started using the Ricoh name for cameras in '38, when they came out with the Adler. They continued making a whole variety starting with rollfilm cameras, to a line of rangefinders, TLRs, and then finally SLRs. Their last SLR was the XR-10P in 1995. They continue to produce point-and-shoots, including the very nice GR1V (2001).

On the Net



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