There is not much information on the internet regarding this twin lens reflex. In fact the story behind the company that produced it is much more interesting than the camera itself. The German company Richter, originally Merkel in 1900, was renamed Kamera-Werk Tharandt in 1945 while under Russian occupation, then was absorbed by Welta and subsequent TLR models were produced under the Welta moniker. At one point Richter produced a variant of the Reflecta for Sears & Roebuck here in the USA known as the Trumpfreflex, which featured a ‘Trioplan’ triplet and more advanced Compur shutter with a top speed of 1/300.
The camera itself is pretty basic, sturdy, well constructed, but don’t expect any frills. The Reflecta had many variations and aliases over the years as Richter, the company that produced it changed hands. First produced back in 1933, this model, the more basic of two, features a simple STELO leaf shutter with only three speeds plus B and T for long exposures. A later version of the Reflecta featured a Prontor II shutter with speeds from 1 to 1/125. The aperture range is quite acceptable from f4.5 to f32. The f32 setting was a surprise, as you don’t see this small of an aperture very often on this type of camera. There is a connector for a shutter release cord, but no self-timer or flash sync. The matching taking and viewing lens is a 75mm Anastigmat Triolar that is uncoated, like most pre-war lenses. This triplet does pretty well for itself. Both viewing and taking lenses are coupled to the focus lever underneath the taking lens. The viewfinder is a simple mirror/ground glass configuration with no fresnel. It’s not the brightest TLR viewfinder but it was better than I had expected. Generally the surface of the mirrors on these types of cameras, much like its brethren the Vitaflex, Reflekta, Flektar, etc, tend to disintegrate and fade over the years making it necessary to either resurface or replace the mirror. Luckily the mirror on this specific example is still in very good shape. It’s much easier to focus than a Lubitel. Speaking of the Lubitel, the Reflecta is an adorable little thing that is slightly dwarfed by my Lubitel 166U, an inexpensive Russian-made TLR that also features a triplet lens. However the Reflecta’s metal construction is much more impressive than the plastic body of the Lubitel.
Other interesting features of the Reflecta are its film carrier and frame counter. This is the first TLR that I have come across that has a removable film carrier, similar to the Kodak and Agfa/Ansco box cameras of that era. This is one reason for its petite size since the film spools are tucked up underneath the carrier which must be removed to load the film; reminds me of the Kodak Brownie Hawkeye. The metal carrier itself has a semi-gloss, outer finish, but the interior is covered with a flat black flocking material. I’m not sure if this is the original design of the camera, or if a previous owner added the material to reduce flare. Unlike most twin lens reflex cameras, which have a single red window for viewing the frame numbers (some have two for half frame), the Reflecta and many of its alter-egos have three, count ‘em, three red windows along the back edge. There is also a single lever that controls a sliding cover for each window. Each window has a list of corresponding numbers next to them. The top and bottom windows are assigned “22.214.171.124” while the middle window is assigned “126.96.36.199.” Apparently, back in the 30’s and 40’s many 120 roll film manufacturers only included frame numbers for 6×9 negatives. I guess until the 6×6 and 6×4.5cm sizes became more common, this three window configuration was prevalent with regards to these German-made cameras. It makes framing twelve 6x6cm negatives a bit more challenging but I need an excuse to use my brain from time to time anyway. Below is the sequence for correct film advance, the film frame number to the left corresponds with the frame number printed on the paper backing of the film, which is designated in the right column.
Frame 1 #1 in the bottom window
Frame 2 #1 in the top window
Frame 3 #2 in the middle window
Frame 4 #3 in the bottom window
Frame 5 #3 in the top window
Frame 6 #4 in the middle window
Frame 7 #5 in the bottom window
Frame 8 #5 in the top window
Frame 9 #6 in the middle window
Frame 10 #7 in the bottom window
Frame 11 #7 in the top window
Frame 12 #8 in the middle window
After running a roll of film through the Reflecta I did notice that the spacing between frames utilizing 1, 3, 5 and 7 is very tight, while generous between 2, 4, 6, and 8. Not sure if this is camera specific, but next time I’ll start the first frame in the bottom window, then advance the #1 on the film backing to the top window for the second frame, but advance the #1 just above the top red window to add a little more space between the frames; repeating this for 3, 5 and 7 as well. Finally there is a depth of field table printed on the back of the camera’s viewfinder to assist with focusing. The back is held closed by a small latch on the bottom of the camera. I discovered right away that this can come unlatched fairly easily ruining the first two frames of film. The “Richter/Welta TLR History” link below gives a more in depth account of Richter/Welta history and the cameras produced. Be sure to visit the ‘German Strut-Folders’ page to see examples of an innovative take on the standard twin lens reflex design, and the main page to see quite an extensive list of TLRs in general.
CLEANING AND REPAIR
The Richter Reflecta is very easy to clean and service. This example was in better condition that I had expected when it arrived from the ‘Bay.’ But at only five bucks plus shipping I was willing to take the chance. The lens did need to be cleaned which is common for cameras purchased through auctions, and the metal body has some brassing around the corners and edges. But the black leatherette is still in tact, the aperture blades move smoothly and the shutter fires. Hey after 70 years let’s see if that brand new digital camera you just purchased is still working! Since the matching lenses are not coated, Windex or any other glass cleaner will clean up the glass just fine. The front/middle lens elements can easily be removed by unscrewing the housing from the front. The rear element unscrews from the inside using a rubber stopper or spanner wrench, but the film carrier must be removed first. Upon first inspection the shutter fired smoothly, but it seems to be about the same speed (1/100) regardless of setting. This is common of these old spring shutters. This was confirmed with the first roll of film, not much difference between the three speeds, so if I get the inclination I’ll attempt to correct this. A couple of drops of Rosonal light fluid in the shutter mechanism didn’t make a difference so the mail spring has probably lost some tension over the years. The Bulb and Time settings function normally. The simple STELO shutter can be accessed by removing four small screws on the face plate. If you have experience repairing shutters this one should be a cake walk. There is a link below to a site that gives excellent insight on these Reflecta shutters. The leatherette cleans up with common leather cleaner and a soft toothbrush with metal polish will bring the few chrome areas back to life including the name plate.
This original version of the Reflecta does not seem to be that common and past auctions on the ‘Bay’ have ranged from five dollars to thirty dollars. There are at least two different versions of the Reflecta so bid accordingly. The non-STELO shutter version has a few additional speeds between one second and 1/125 of a second. There are also later models called Reflekta and the Reflekta II, which indicate that they were produced when Richter became Kamera-Werk Tharandt and then Welta. These tend to command slightly higher prices, but in general all of these Richter/Welta TLRs can be found around the twenty to thirty dollar range depending on features and condition. I highly suggest visiting this site to get a complete rundown on the various models produced by Richter/Welta. These are solid cameras, but smaller than most TLR’s so they aren’t that heavy. I’ve seen some past auctions charge up to fourteen dollars for shipping, which is ridiculous. Six to ten dollars for USPS priority shipping would be acceptable depending on shipping location, any higher and I’d suspect the seller of padding the shipping charges. But we all know that never happens on EBay, nudge, nudge, wink, wink…