Riken !! Ricoh – some history

The current company that we know of as Ricoh started out as Rikagaku Kogyo, which then spit off to become Riken Kankoshi Co. Ltd. in 1936 under the leadership of Kiyoshi Ichimura. Initial products … paper, sensitized paper. In 1937 they started distribution of Olympic cameras made by Asahi Bussan. In 1938 the company name changed to Riken Kōgaku Kōgyō K.K. and started developing their own cameras and lenses. The company continued to evolve into other types of products, distribution of other cameras through subsidiaries. After WWII was the start of their real push into the camera market … then they all merged to became the Ricoh we know of today in 1963.

Riken No. 1 was sold in 1939 named as Gokoku (not Okoku) it was a 127 format camera, but with the looks of a Barnack camera … even with a collapsable lens, and a fake rewind knob. The Richol models continued this design, and then they start making cameras of all kinds like the Ricohflex TLR (1950), 35mm rangefinders, SLR’s and todays digital cameras (oh, and they are pretty big in the photocopier business) … not to mention their acquisition of Pentax.

My first encounter with Ricoh was when I got a job at Japan Camera. They had Ricoh SLR cameras everywhere, which was different than the other camera stores … I soon found out that Japan Camera was the exclusive Canadian distributor of Ricoh.

When I had a Diacord L for a bit (fixed a sticky shutter) and I found the IQ of the Rikenon lens was really good. I got rid of it as I was not too keen on the knob winding, but I think I would replace my Minolta Autocord for a Ricohmatic 225 if I could ever find one without an over-inflated price.

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