Refraktor’s Missing Instructions

When Hasbro announced Refraktor, the modern version of Reflector, fans were thrilled to finally have a cartoon accurate toy after 35 years of waiting. Unfortunately Hasbro forgot to include the instructions to transform it. Don’t worry; The Sci-Fi Guys got your back.

In case you need a refresher, Reflector was the Decepticon camera that split into three robots: Spectro, Spyglass, and Viewfinder. Here in the States you had to mail Hasbro $10 and 2 Robot Points, and eventually Reflector showed up at your house ready to help you spy on and blackmail your whole family. Unlike most Transformers that featured amazing box art, Reflector came in a plain white box simply labeled “12505 Transformers Camera.” But inside was a very cool, very colorful toy.

Hasbro and Sunbow seemed to think it was pretty cool, too. Reflector, in his bizarrely altered appearance, was present from the very first episode of The Transformers, and would make sporadic appearances for the next two years. The dialogue simply referred to the trio of bots as Reflector, so, to the best of my increasingly unreliable memory, we never knew these guys had individual names. The toy instructions could have told us, but there was no toy to be had. And when we finally did get one in ’86, he was only available as a mail-in offer, and the toy, while very well made, looked almost nothing like the camera/robots we had come to know. For us Transformers fans in the ’80’s, a screen accurate Reflector was a myth.

Skip ahead thirty-five years, and Hasbro dropped the trademarkably renamed Refraktor on us. Designed to emulate the cartoon version of Reflector’s robot mode, the instructions show us how to transform him into some sort of ill conceived spaceship nonsense that nobody ever wanted. I’m not even going to show it here. No one is buying this toy to turn it into an ugly, unconvincing afterthought of a vehicle mode. We bought this thing because it’s ⅓ of a camera we’ve been waiting for since 1984.

To that end, if you buy three Refraktors you can combine them into the weirdly shaped digital camera you see in my pic above. And while Hasbro nailed the robot mode, even down to making Viewfinder’s lens removeable to turn him into Spectro and Spyglass, they neglected to include the instructions to transform them into a camera. You’d think it would be easy to figure out from looking at the pictures, but two things stumped me: the tripod and the arms.

Fortunately someone was kind enough to scan and post the Japanese camera instructions; just click the pink and blue pic above to enlarge it. Refraktor’s arms must be placed in very specific positions in order to fit inside his legs, but that’s something you’ll see in the instructions. No need to go into it here. The trickier part is his tripod.

As you can see in the stolen stock photo above, Refraktor comes with three accessories: a “telefocal shield,” a “bioscale compression rotor” (a standard camera lens), and a distortion blaster. You combine the three blasters to form the bulk of the tripod. What is not apparent from the pictures on the box is that you need one of the lenses to attach to the three curved tabs on the blasters. The lens holds the blasters together and provides a post onto which Refraktor can be attached. This makes for a sturdy but unfortunately limited accessory.

I didn’t intend for this article to become a full review, but since we’re here, we may as well dive in. As you can see from the pics in this article, Refraktor is covered with 5mm posts and ports, allowing any number of interchangeable Transformers accessories to be attached to him. But for some reason they chose to give his lens a 4mm post. And that 4mm post sticking up from the tripod makes it impossible to attach almost ANY other current Transformer or weapon to that tripod. What the hell, Hasbro? With so many other 5mm compatible hardpoints on this toy, it is hard to imagine a scenario in which this 4mm post wasn’t a purposeful choice by the designers. One of the hallmarks of the current Transformers lines are their interchangeability. Hasbro has made a point of marketing this as a feature. So why the hell they would choose to render such an obviously useful accessory incompatible with with the majority of current Transformers toys is beyond me. What a waste of a great opportunity.

If you’ve looked at our main menu you’ve doubtless noticed a category called The 5mm Post. I intend for those articles to catalogue toys (as well as some non-toy items) which feature 5mm posts and/or ports compatible with Transformers toys. My idea was to create a comprehensive living document of toys that will work with my favorite robots in disguise. I also intend to use those articles to highlight toys which ought to be compatible but are not. When I started writing this article I had no idea it would turn into our first 5mm Post entry, but what can I tell you? Life is weird. I gotta roll with it. So I pulled out the digital calipers to illustrate my findings. Those of you who have worked with digital calipers know that when it comes to something as small as hundredths of millimeters, calipers almost always give slightly varying subsequent readings. You need to measure the same item more than once. And I think these measurements are as dead on 4mm as we’re likely to get. Why hast thou forsaken us, Hasbro? Why?

It’s too bad that Refraktor’s lens holds the dubious distinction of being our first incompatible entry on The 5mm Post, because this is an otherwise excellent toy. If you’re a casual fan you may not be interested in dropping $60+ on three of these, but old school TransFans like myself will absolutely want them. A single one would almost certainly have been underwhelming, but when you buy a trio they’re a solid purchase.

There is another version of Refraktor with each robot colored to match the original toy colors. They only come as a set, which includes a shutter button, a viewfinder, and a flash cube, just like the original Reflector. It’s a good looking set, and goddamn I want those flash cube and viewfinder accessories, but at the end of the day I was looking for a cartoon accurate Reflector clone. I opted for the standard release Refraktors, and I am not disappointed. There’s also a newer, recolored version of the toy called Scrapface, which turns into a sparkless, battle ravaged robot zombie. Not joking. And before you decry the new generation of animators, writers, and fans as problematic for selling and buying that kind of weird ass story, don’t forget that they did it first in the original series. Twice. Mellow out, brother. The kids are alright.

Final verdict: don’t buy just one Refraktor. Buy three. And be sure to click the link above and save the camera mode instructions. You’ll thank me.

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