Weapon of Choice: 1971 Sears T.L.S (Ricoh Singlex TLS) (M42 mount) #265613
The Sears T.L.S was a camera I had read about before finding one at the local Deseret thrift store for the standard $10 that they were charging for SLRs back a few years ago. Very well spoken of for the rock-solid metal Copal shutter and the included 55mm F:1.4 Rikenon kit lens, I was shocked and pleased find one just a few weeks after learning about it. A sweet pickup for sure! This is a solid metal all-manual brick of a film camera – hefty and reliable as all heck. Simple match needle light meter and shutter speed dial on the front next to the lens (very ergonomic!) rather than on the top like most other SLRs. I quickly became one of my very favorite shooters.
You’ll note the stylized “SR” Atomic Butterfly logo on the front of the prism, a logo common on many earlier Tower branded products from Sears and found on Tower typewriters from the late 1950’s and early 60’s. This logo survived on Sears branded cameras long after it was discontinued on typewriters, still appearing on cameras into the 1970’s. That was certainly a selling point for me, but the clincher was the fact that this T.L.S was one of the rarer all-black models rather than the earlier common silver/black models.
Thanks to the nice people at Muse Technical who have posted a large collection of complete Sears (and other retailer) catalogs, it is possible to create a good timeline of the history of the Sears T.L.S and figure out what year mine was made:
Sears TLS timeline:
1966 – Silver T.L.S first offered in Christmas 1966 Wishbook @$197.50
Camera Type: 35mm Single-Lens Reflex with Through The Lens Exposure System and M42 (Praktika/Pentax) Screw Mount Interchangable Lens. Split-Prism Focus. Film Range: ASA 10-800. Leather Form-Fitting case included.
Shutter: Copal Square metal focal plane with 10 speeds; 1 sec. to 1/1000 sec. plus Bulb.
Automation: “0” Counter Reset, 10 sec. Self Timer.
Flash Sync: M, X to 1/125 second.
Lens: 50mm F:1.4 with Automatic Diaphram, Depth of Field Preview, scales, 8 locking stops f:1.4-16, 6 Elements in 3 groups, 8 Coated Surfaces. Focus from 1.5ft.
1967 – Silver T.L.S offered @$197.00
[Lens now 55mm, 7 Elements, in 6 groups, 12 coated surfaces. Focus to 1.3ft.]
1968 – Silver T.L.S offered @$197.00
1969 – Silver T.L.S offered @$197.00
1969 – Silver T.L.S offered @$189.50
1970 – Silver T.L.S offered @$179.50
1971 – Silver T.L.S offered @$179.50
1971 – Upgraded Black model introduced 1971 @$179.50 [ASA 25-1600] (my camera) – Old Silver Model discounted to $149.50 with 50mm f:1.7 6-Element lens
1972 – Black T.L.S offered @$197.00 – Old Silver model offered @$167.00 with 50mm f:1.7 6-Element lens
* https://christmas.musetechnical.com/ShowCatalogPage/1972-Sears-Spring-Summer-Catalog/1208Muse Technical
1972 – Black T.L.S offered @$189.50 – Old Silver model offered @$159.50 with 50mm f:1.7 6-Element lens
1973 – New Black Auto/TLS introduced @$246.00 – Old Black T.L.S @$187.50 – Old Silver T.L.S @$149.50 with 50mm f:1.7 6-Element lens
1973 – New Black Auto/TLS @$279.00 – Old Black T.L.S @$199.00 – Old Silver T.L.S @$169.00 with 50mm f:1.7 6-Element lens
1974 – Black Auto/TLS @$269.00
1974 – Old Black T.L.S @$199.00 – Old Silver T.L.S @$159.00 (f:2.0 6-Element lens)
1974 – Black Auto/TLS @$279.00 – Black T.L.S @$269.00 (with ex lens & flash) – Old Silver T.L.S @$169.00 (f:2.0 6-Element lens)
1975 – Black Auto/TLS @$249.00 – Black T.L.S @$269.00 (with ex lens & flash) – Old Silver T.L.S @$159.00 (f:2.0 6-Element lens) or $189.00 (f:1.4 lens)
1975 – Auto/TLS discontinued – Black T.L.S @$217.00 – Old Silver T.L.S @$177.00 (f:1.7 6-Element lens)
1976 – Black T.L.S @$217.00 – Old Silver T.L.S @$177.00 (f:1.7 6-Element lens)
Fall 1976 – all TLS models discontinued in favor of new electronic shutter models.
Other links to Sears T.L.S Information & History:
User Manual Download: