1971 Sears T.L.S – My Favorite All-Manual, All-Metal Brick Camera

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:

Hey, you can find your own Sears TLS Camera on Ebay or Etsy

Sears TLS timeline:

1966 – Silver T.L.S first offered in Christmas 1966 Wishbook @$197.50
* https://christmas.musetechnical.com/ShowCatalogPage/1966-Sears-Christmas-Book/0362
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
* https://christmas.musetechnical.com/ShowCatalogPage/1967-Sears-Spring-Summer-Catalog/0775
* https://christmas.musetechnical.com/ShowCatalogPage/1967-Sears-Fall-Winter-Catalog/0871
[Lens now 55mm, 7 Elements, in 6 groups, 12 coated surfaces. Focus to 1.3ft.]
1968 – Silver T.L.S offered @$197.00
* https://christmas.musetechnical.com/ShowCatalogPage/1968-Sears-Spring-Summer-Catalog/0501
* https://christmas.musetechnical.com/ShowCatalogPage/1968-Sears-Fall-Winter-Catalog/0609
1969 – Silver T.L.S offered @$197.00
* https://christmas.musetechnical.com/ShowCatalogPage/1969-Sears-Spring-Summer-Catalog/1211
1969 – Silver T.L.S offered @$189.50
1970 – Silver T.L.S offered @$179.50
* https://christmas.musetechnical.com/ShowCatalogPage/1970-Sears-Spring-Summer-Catalog/0805
* https://christmas.musetechnical.com/ShowCatalogPage/1970-Sears-Fall-Winter-Catalog/1351
1971 – Silver T.L.S offered @$179.50
* https://christmas.musetechnical.com/ShowCatalogPage/1971-Sears-Spring-Summer-Catalog/0593
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
* https://christmas.musetechnical.com/ShowCatalogPage/1971-Sears-Fall-Winter-Catalog/1273
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
* https://christmas.musetechnical.com/ShowCatalogPage/1972-Sears-Fall-Winter-Catalog/1298
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
* https://christmas.musetechnical.com/ShowCatalogPage/1973-Sears-Spring-Summer-Catalog/1133
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
* https://christmas.musetechnical.com/ShowCatalogPage/1973-Sears-Fall-Winter-Catalog/0651
1974 – Black Auto/TLS @$269.00
* https://christmas.musetechnical.com/ShowCatalogPage/1974-Sears-Spring-Summer-Catalog/1040
1974 – Old Black T.L.S @$199.00 – Old Silver T.L.S @$159.00 (f:2.0 6-Element lens)
* https://christmas.musetechnical.com/ShowCatalogPage/1974-Sears-Spring-Summer-Catalog/1041
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)
* https://christmas.musetechnical.com/ShowCatalogPage/1974-Sears-Fall-Winter-Catalog/1232
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)
* https://christmas.musetechnical.com/ShowCatalogPage/1975-Sears-Spring-Summer-Catalog/1110
1975 – Auto/TLS discontinued – Black T.L.S @$217.00 – Old Silver T.L.S @$177.00 (f:1.7 6-Element lens)
* https://christmas.musetechnical.com/ShowCatalogPage/1975-Sears-Fall-Winter-Catalog/1146
1976 – Black T.L.S @$217.00 – Old Silver T.L.S @$177.00 (f:1.7 6-Element lens)
* https://christmas.musetechnical.com/ShowCatalogPage/1976-Sears-Spring-Summer-Catalog/1022

Fall 1976 – all TLS models discontinued in favor of new electronic shutter models.
* https://christmas.musetechnical.com/ShowCatalogPage/1976-Sears-Fall-Winter-Catalog/1059

Other links to Sears T.L.S Information & History:

User Manual Download:

Updated: January 9, 2022 — 1:28 pm


Add a Comment
  1. I really miss the days of $10 SLRs and Rangefinders. Although… It’s probably good that there’s been a film resurgence. Shelf space here at the shack has become rather limited.

    1. Yes I miss $20 cameras and typewriters but agree with Erik that perhaps this is a good thing. Besides shelf space (always at a premium) it’s also difficult to rotate through all the vintage cameras (or typewriters or fountain pens or inks) on the shelf. After a while you develop some favourites and the others get neglected. I favour my Canon AE1 over my Minolta SRT, and my Canon QL17 GIII over the QL19, 28 and Yashica GSN (mostly because it’s so small to carry around). While I love to collect these items, I also want to respect that I am taking the camera (typewriter or fountain pen) out of circulation for others and these tools are made to be used.

      1. I hear ya about the shelf space management and having too many to use. I’m cataloging what I’ve got now so I can decide which to unload (Nikons, Olympus, Canons, Yashicas prolly), and which to keep (M42, Pentaxen, a couple rangefinders & 3D cameras). I’m comfortable thinking in terms of a balance of Preservation and Use. I figure anything I grabbed and haven’t Used much, is Preserved for someone else even later to enjoy. (:

  2. Great webpage! I have a Sears TLS with thee f/1.4 Auto Sears 55MM lens. Ser # #65995. It’s silver and black. Seems to still work but the shutter speed control may be flaky. Will not go lower the 60 unless you lower the ASA.
    Is anyone buying these? I don’t plan on going back to film and would like to get rid of it.

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