The Wonderful World of Rolleiflex TLR Photography: Buying a Used Rolleiflex TLR

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What makes a Rolleiflex TLR so special? Many things. To start, TLR stands for twin lens reflex. “Twin” because there are two lenses. And reflex means that the photographer looks through the lens to view the reflected image of an object or scene on the focusing screen. Photographers also look through SLRs, or single lens reflex cameras. One of the differences between the two is that the SLR is held at eye level, and the TLR is held at chest level while the photographer looks through a “waist-level” finder. Another difference is that most SLRs are oriented a horizontal format and must be rotated to shoot vertically. TLRs, however, are 6 x 6 cm square format cameras, so if a photographer wants a horizontal or vertical photo, they will shoot square and crop later. Since a 6 x 6 cm square is roughly three times larger than a 35mm film image, little is lost in terms of detail from cropping. That withstanding, most people are drawn to TLRs because they love shooting with a square format camera, and find it fun.

Photos by Dan Wagner

Rolleiflex TLRs Are Fun and Peculiar

The advantages of shooting from the waist, or more accurately, the solar plexus, is that people will look more “heroic” as the horizon line and related background areas behind a subject will be shifted higher. And for seasoned photographers, shooting from a new perspective can be liberating and inspiring.

Besides being fun to use, watching someone shoot with a Rolleiflex TLR for the first time is comical, as the mirror reverses the viewfinder image from left to right, frequently causing the photographer to point the camera the wrong way. This is because when one moves the camera to the right or left, the subject seems to move in the opposite direction. It’s also difficult, at first, to hold the camera level. Fortunately, with a little practice, both of these issues are easily overcome.

In the case of a Rolleiflex TLR, you look through the upper or “viewing” lens. The lower lens, which is referred to as the “taking” lens, is situated in front of the film plane, and is the lens that captures the image. Inside this lens are the shutter and aperture blades. Unlike an SLR camera, the TLR has a stationary mirror, not a moving one. The absence of a moving mirror has the advantage of lower vibration for slower handheld shooting and a viewfinder that doesn’t go dark during the moment of exposure. By allowing the photographer to view a subject the instant the image is recorded, the photographer will know if the desired image has been captured. It’s also quieter than the sound of an SLR firing.

Rolleiflex TLR Cameras are Built Solidly

A major appeal of Rolleiflex TLR cameras is that they are so well made. Constructed primarily of metal and glass and covered with a luxurious leather skin, Rolleiflex cameras are solid, and feel good in the hands. The precise manner in which parts fit together speaks to exacting craftsmanship. And it’s this manufacturing skill that makes a 50-year-old Rolleiflex feel relevant and demand to be picked up, appreciated, and used. The worst fate for any camera, let alone a Rolleiflex, is to become a dusty shelf queen. One example of how well-designed these cameras are would be the fit of the removable film door. On vintage cameras manufactured to less demanding tolerances, black foam inserts were used to keep film doors light-tight. But on Rolleiflexes, the film door fits so precisely that there is no need for foam liners—the metal-on-metal fabrication alone assures that the door remains light-tight.



 


 


 

Purchasing a Used Rolleiflex TLR

There are numerous concerns and things to look for when buying a used Rolleiflex TLR. Because the first Rolleiflex was introduced in 1929, and the popular 2.8f and 3.5f models were made more than 50 years ago, finding one in pristine condition can be difficult. The most important consideration is the condition of the lenses, especially the lower taking lens. Scratches, which some sellers will describe as cleaning marks, fungus, excessive interior dust particles sometimes described as haze, and balsam separation of lens elements from aging cement, are the main problems to look for.

Other factors, while not necessarily deal breakers, are also important. These factors include the presence of oil on the aperture blades, transport mechanism gearing problems, alignment of metal bellows, shutter speed accuracy, and more. Odds are that the camera you purchase will need a cleaning, lubrication, and adjustment (CLA). The main reason for this is that most cameras, especially vintage cameras such as the Rolleiflex TLR, were engineered with the expectation that they would be serviced at regular intervals. In addition, lubricating oils were never meant to last a lifetime, and over time will become sticky and impede camera functions. Simply leaving a camera in a hot car for too long can break down the lubricants and cause problems. Therefore, buyers should be prepared to spend an additional $300 or more to have their newly purchased camera serviced. Photography-related sites with for sale/wanted forums, eBay, and camera shops with used departments, such as the Used Department at B&H, are good places to find your Rolleiflex.

When buying a Rolleiflex TLR:

  • Always weigh seller representations such as “the shutter sounds good at all speeds,” “the lenses have a few minor cleaning marks, dust, haze, separation—but they have no effect on image quality,” “my friend’s a photographer and says the camera works great,” and “I don’t know anything about cameras, but this one is nice,” with trepidation.
  • Seller representations that inspire confidence are, “I will supply paperwork for CLA performed on specific date,” “please e-mail for larger photos with additional details,” and “returns may be made within 14 days.”
  • If possible, run a test roll of Tri-X or other 120 film through the camera to check the transport mechanism.
  • All else being equal, a camera that comes with a neck strap, case, hood, and other accessories is preferable to one that doesn’t. A neck strap, case, hood and a few filters can easily add up to an additional expenditure of $300 or more.
  • Exercising a shutter at different speeds can, in some cases, help distribute lubrication where it’s needed and result in more accurate shutter speeds. And exercising the shutter from time to time between rolls, while a good practice, is only a temporary fix for a camera in need of a CLA.

Properly functioning Rolleiflex 2.8f cameras generally sell for between $900 and $1,500, with finer examples commanding a premium. 3.5f models can run about $200 less. Both lenses come in single-coated Planar and Xenotar versions and produce sharp photos with beautiful rendering. Models referred to as “white face” have serial numbers printed on the silver metal bordering the lenses to the right of the taking lens. Because white face cameras represent the final f-model run, and are 10 years or so newer, they go for the highest prices, which often exceed $2,500. When deciding between a 2.8f versus 3.5f and white face versus non-white face camera, always let the camera’s condition be the deciding factor. Telltales to how a camera was treated may be revealed by wear to the leather panels on the camera, wear to the leather case, missing paint, dents, and worst of all, damage to the optics.

Servicing a Rolleiflex TLR

When considering where to have your Rolleiflex serviced, be sure to examine the repairman’s reputation. Fortunately, there are superb Rolleiflex repairmen, such as Harry Fleenor, in California, and Krikor Maralian, whose service is called  Krimar, in New Jersey, both of whom have websites describing their services. Best of all, Fleenor and Krimar were factory trained by Rolleiflex, have a half-century of experience, use specially machined repair tools and maintain an inventory of original replacement parts.


When having a CLA performed on a Rolleiflex, it’s a good time to install a brighter focusing screen. Harry Fleenor offers this service, and while it’s easy to install a focus screen, Fleenor will check and adjust the focus to accommodate any variances introduced by the new screen and align focusing mechanisms to factory tolerances. This is important for wide-open shooting, where depth of focus is at a minimum and fractions of an inch can make or break critical focus. Another optional service is camera leather replacement. Companies such as Aki-Asahi.com and cameraleather.com sell easy-to-install leather for Rolleiflex TLRs and other cameras. And the new leather will improve both the grip and cosmetics. Finally, if a seller claims that their Rolleiflex TLR had a CLA, there should always be a sticker with the repairman’s name in one of the film spool chambers.

Viewfinder Choices

The Rolleiflex 2.8f, 3.5f, and some later 2.8e and 3.5e models have removable viewfinders. This offers the option of shooting with a chimney finder, which is hard to come by unless one is using a Baier adapter with a Hasselblad or other third-party chimney. If opting for a Baier finder, one will probably need a diopter for the finder they select. Baier’s website offers info on this. Best of all, the Baier adapter cosmetically matches the Rolleiflex aesthetic. By the way, some Hasselblad or Kiev finders have cold shoes for mounting a small flash, or even an exposure meter or other shoe-mounted accessory.

Other finders are available, such as 90-degree or 45-degree eye-level pentaprism, which are heavy but allow photographers to view subjects without the image appearing reversed horizontally. However, make sure that any vintage finder with a prism is free of balsam separation. And if there’s an eyecup, most likely the rubber will be deteriorating.

Another advantage of Rolleiflexes with removable finders is the ability to clean the mirror behind the viewing lens easily and quickly replace the focusing screen with a brighter one for improved focusing, especially under low-light conditions. Also indispensible for critical focusing is the flip-up magnifier located on the underside of a waist-level finder’s lid. Other options include:

  • Magnifiers with diopter correction for photographers who wear glasses.
  • Many chimney finders have adjustable eyepieces for easier focusing, as well.
  • Brighter focusing screens, which generally cost more than two hundred dollars, are easily scratched, and should be handled only by the edges.
  • Focusing screens are available with or without grid lines, with a horizontal or diagonal split-image center rangefinder, or plain.
  • Because one of the beauties of focusing with a Fresnel lens is watching the image “pop” into focus, and because a central rangefinder can be distracting, many photographers opt for a plain focusing screen, or one with a grid. The grid is, of course, helpful for keeping horizontal lines level.

Using a Smartphone Exposure App

If you buy a Rolleiflex with a non-functioning exposure meter, the options are to use your knowledge to set exposures manually, work with a small digital camera set on manual to take readings—or even better—simply install a light meter App on your smart phone. The App will enable you to select your film sensitivity and an f/stop or shutter speed accurately. This App can function as a spot meter by dragging the cursor over different parts of the scene. As the cursor is moved, you will see the image get lighter or darker, because the meter is calculating the exposure for the area under the cursor. When the best compromise between light and dark areas is reached, the displayed settings are the ones to go with. What’s nice about this method of exposure selection is that it gives a visual representation that makes adjusting for backlit, low lit, and other tricky situations fast, reliable, and easy to visualize and understand. So, even if you’re lucky enough to score a Rolleiflex with a perfect meter, you may still prefer to work with the App.  

Leather Neck Straps

As with any handheld camera, there are numerous ways to set up and shoot with a Rolleiflex TLR. The first step is to adjust the neck strap to an ideal length that keeps the camera at a comfortable height where it may be quickly raised to take a photo. Sadly, due to age, the leather on most original Rolleiflex neck straps will be brittle, cracked, and in need of replacement. When replacing the leather, reuse the alligator clips that attach to strap lugs on either side of the camera. These clips are spring loaded, and offer a connection that is secure, yet easy to quickly disconnect.

Because the clips bend outward and away from the camera, when a photographer lifts the camera, the neck strap will fall to the sides instead of getting in the way. Thanks to details like this, Rolleiflex TLRs earned their reputation for being superbly engineered. To replace the leather on the neck strap, drill out the rivets on the alligator clips, insert a fresh piece of leather of the same width, and install new rivets. For a professional result, one can bring the alligator clips to a leather repair or saddle shop, such as Schatzlein in Minneapolis, Minnesota—ask for Gary. Leather strap options include:

  • Adjustable or non-adjustable straps.
  • The benefit of a non-adjustable strap is that there is no excess material. However, the downside will be that it will most likely only fit the intended wearer.
  • By including the buckle hardware, straps with the same adjustability as the original can be ordered.
  • For a nominal amount of money, a matching neck pad can be made, as well.
  • Another option is to attach connectors to the alligator clips for use with other straps.

Pros and Cons of Rolleiflex TLR Cases

One commonly sought Rolleiflex TLR accessory is the ubiquitous Ever-Ready case. These attractive cases were made with brown leather, burgundy felt interiors, and were stitched together with thread. Like the neck straps, they are often in need of repair. However, with the cases, it is the thread that often needs replacing, not the leather. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to find a shop willing to spend hours re-stitching a case.

This is a simple do-it-yourself task. The reason it’s simple is that the holes are already there. Just buy a roll of suitable thread, some sturdy needles, and replace the old thread with new. To make the job easier, keep the leather pieces properly aligned by only removing a small amount of the worn thread at a time.

Ironically, while Rolleiflex Ever-Ready cases are nice to look at, they’re not very practical for shooting. The problem is that with only 12 exposures per roll, too much time will be wasted removing and reinstalling the camera in the case. Therefore, for the sake of practicality, most shooters will either leave the case at home or use a small camera bag. Case options include:

  • Rolleiflex manufactured an all-metal, copper colored case for use in humid, wet tropical climates, called the Tropical. This case came with a desiccant cartridge to absorb moisture and a leather strap that attached with a hole-and-slit method instead of alligator clips.
  • One of the best cases for shooting in rainy weather is a locking, clear plastic bag. Simply make two slits for the neck strap and a hole for the taking lens. Attaching the bayonet lens hood after making this hole ensures a tight connection. While not waterproof, the bag takes up almost no space and can make it possible to shoot in light rain. If you go this route, be sure to bring lens-cleaning supplies and a few paper towels to wipe off your camera.

“The Wonderful World of Rolleiflex TLR Photography” is a three-part series. Please click​ for Part 2,Loading Film​,” and Part 3, “Street Photography.”

Dan Wagner has been making images with Rolleiflex TLR cameras for years. His latest book is Never Seeing Nothing.

Photo by Dan Wagner

98 Comments

Hi Pamela,

For starters, you could buy a copy of The Classic Rollei: A Definitive Guide.

Dan

Where do I find out more about a Rolleiflex i recently was gifted ? 

The review was very helpful. Thank you. This was what I've been wanting but didn't know the name, until I had a discussion with a sales representative at a local camera shop. Before I had kiddos, I enjoyed using a Canon AE-1 my father gave me. With four little ones in my care, I've been too busy to keep developing and processing my own film. But, a few interests of mine - including snapping candid shots of people and photographing for fiction-writing purposes - have lead me back to film cameras, specifically, the Rolleiflex. Any wisdom on how to get one on a tight budget? Thank you ahead of time for your time and assistance.

Hi Lily--thank you for the feedback. I too, am a fiction writer (Schmendrick on Amazon :) ) - so funny you should mention using photography to inspire fiction writing. It was the photos in my mind and on film from visits to LA that helped me writer my novel. Regarding getting a Rolleiflex on a tight budget--you may be able to get a 2.8c model for around $650 - but you will have to hope lenses are good, and then you will most likely need a servicing--so you end up in the $950 range. Or a 3.5f may come for sale - and if you're luck you can get one for $900 -- sometimes people sell a Rolleiflex that's been recently serviced for $850 or so - that's a good choice. There's also the Rolleiflex T model - however, I seldom see those with lenses that don't have issues. Of course there are other TLR model cameras -- for me, they don't feel as good or invite my wanting to shoot with them as much. There are usually a few Rolleiflex cameras for sale at B&H -- along with other 120 film cameras -- If you're in the B&H neighborhood, you should come by and play with them. See what feels good and inspiring. One good thing about Rolleiflexes, you can generally use them for a few years, and sell them for what you paid -- they hold their value very well. I mention this because it means you can experiment with a Rollei, see if it's for you -- and if you want to move to a different model or a different way of shooting you can do so easily without much if any financial hit. Good luck!

Hi, I recently came across the great photos of 1940s photographer Vivian Maier, who used a Rolleiflex. I'm now searching for a Rolleiflex for myself probably the cheaper 3.5f model. Does anyone have one in good condition?

I have a ROLLEIFLEX with a grey body and lighter grey inserts (leather?) and a grey hardshell case and neckstrap.  It's view lens is a 2.8 and the capture lens is a 3.5 (serial number 5585417).  I'm researching the camera to determine what value it has.  It was my dad's camera.  I used it in 1963-64 and it took great photos of a ski trip to Aspen.  It has kept in storage since then.

It sounds like a Rolleiflex T from the color.  That would have a Tessar lens.

My Dad parst away larst year , and it is now time to look at he's camera's but the one thing he always talk about was the Rolleiflex , He said if i only had one camera this would be the one .

Note that there is also the Shutter-Speed-Tester app for Apple IOS and Android that measures the accuracy of the shutter based on the sounds. There is also an optional adapter called the PhotoPlug that you can buy on ebay which actually measures timing of the light through the shutter to an optical sensor that transfers timing via the microphone jack.

Hi Brian,

Thanks for the info. Calumet made a popular shutter tester that appears from time to time on eBay. I checked out the Apple IOS app -- that looks great - except a reveiwer mentions a compatibility issue with iPhone 6 -- however I don't know if this applies to the latest software update. For only $2.99, I think I'll give it a try. Fortunately, when I was in LA in September I had Harry Fleenor check out my Rolleiflex speeds and meter for accuracy -- so I'm good for the time being. But, I do have an old Nikon F and some other gear that I'd like to get some shutter speed info for.

Cheers, Dan

 Great article, I was just looking on the web for a replacement WLF for my Rollei Magic and found this, the link to Harry Fleenor should help me get at least two of my Rolleis tuned up, my old Rolleicord III is not on the list of cameras he works on. I also have a MX-EVS and a couple of Yashichas, a 124G and a 44. 

Hi Wayne. Thanks for reading the article. Harry's great. I shot with my 2.8f this morning -- he did the CLA this past October. I can't describe how smooth he made it work. If you have a camera that's not on his list -- he may be able to recommend someone. He did that for me with an Art Deco 1933 Rolleicord model. I think the Rolle Magic models are cool. Haven't had the pleasure of shooting with one. It would be a lot of fun responding to comments from strangers about the word "Magic" on my cameara. :) 

Cheers. Dan

Great article!

I've been a 35mm and now digital person my whole adult life (as a kid I had a Kodak Brownie - 626 film TLR and a couple of Kodak I-forget-the-model size 127 film cameras - remember these with the flashcubes?), but these really don't count. My dad had a Rolleicord that he used quite a bit documenting us kids growing up.

After my dad died I inherited his Rollei which had been hanging in a closet for about 35 years. I carefully placed it in my "museum" (which is really just a bookcase with all my old cameras - with a glass door to keep out the dust). I never tried to use it, but after I got the retro-bug I tried various places to see if I could get it serviced. Nobody would touch it (they do Flexes but not Cords). Not wanting to damage it, I started checking out Rolleiflexes and WOW was I surprised at the price for a good used one. So I started looking for an alternate and found a Yashicamat 124G in almost mint condition. I bought it and had the seals replaced, and have been messing with it ever since. I even use it with my old Vivitar 272 flash - that's right a 272! Which still works fine!!

Two things I find from my retro bug:

1. I have to think a whole lot more than with the digital stuff. I still have to be aware of the settings on digital equipment, but everything was manual on the retro stuff. And if you goofed, you didn't know it till the film was developed!

2. My old eyes don't see as well as they used to, and the film speed and f-stop and shutter speed indicators are pretty small, so it takes longer than you'd think to focus on these things. Speaking of focus, you have to do that too! Auto-focus wasn't even a dream for this old retro stuff! And it's harder to see when your subject is in focus.

I just get the film developed and then scan the negatives and print the pictures. It really is a lot of fun, but ithis part isn't retro.

Even though I'm having a lot of fun, I still yearn for a Rolleiflex!

Hey jebnotbush -- I think you're referring to the Kodak Instamatic 126 cameras with rotating flashcubes. I spent 3 months shooting with an Instamatic to produce a Blurb book titled, If You See Something. It was a fun project. Going from shooting square format with the Rolleiflex to a smaller square with the Instamatic was a fun experience. 

Yashica 124G are very popular. I haven't counted all m cameras, so I don't know how many I have. And while there's always that perfect camera for a given shot -- as long as I have a camera with me and can create something, I'm happy. From time to time I shoot with a Vivitar Flash, too -- a 285HV. The HV model is generally safe to use with digital cameras, which are designed for lower flash trigger voltages -- so always check when mounting to a digital camera. Anyway, the old Vivitars are easy-to-use and get the job done. I even put one in a portable beauty dish connected to a flexible arm -- what a contraption! 

I hear you on aging eyes! That's where practising with setting distances is a big help. The pop up finder magnifier helps as well.

I'm pretty sure Harry Fleenor could fix your Rolleicord. Give him a call so you can extinguish that Rolleiflex yearning. :)

Keep shooting! Dan

I have a vintage Rolleiflex with a 75mm f3.5 Tessar that I bought at a used camera shop in Vermont years before digital took over. Ran one or two rolls of film through it and then it was damaged when the leather neck strap broke and the camera hit the ground hard. After that it wouldn't focus so I put it aside with plans to send it for repairs.  Life intervened and I moved several times for work and the Rollei languished for too many years in a shipping box. Finally, last year I unpacked it and sent it to Mark Hama in Atlanta. I knew he repairs Yashica TLRs primarily but is also capable of repairing Rolleis and other TLRs. It took more than a month for him to complete repairs and return it to me but he fixed the focus problem, cleaned and serviced it and put new leather pieces on the body where the old had fallen off. He did a beautiful job and the Rolleiflex works wonderfully. I've already used it a few times and it has renewed my love for these magnificent cameras and the brilliant images they produce. More important, using the Rollei reminds me of what drew me to photography nearly 50 years ago-- I love the process of setting up the camera, composing the image and capturing it and the peace that it gives me. Thank you Dan Wagner for this great article.

Hi Bob,

Your comment: "I love the process of setting up the camera, composing the image and capturing it and the peace that it gives me. " really resonates with me. I think this is what photography and other artistic endeavors are all about. :)

And yeah, old leather camera straps can be a recipe for disaster. I always do the old twist test -- hold the leather in your hands and twist it back and forth -- when the leather is no longer safe to use it will tear like a piece of cardboard.

Best, Dan

From what you've said about your Rolleiflex in this forum, perhaps this questioin is for you. I'm a visual artist engaged in a project centered on the WWII photographer Lee Miller. I'd like to include a real Rolleiflex in my installation, but a camera from that period is way too expensive for me to afford - - even a broken one. My solution to that dilemma is to create a 3-D "identical" faux-Rolleiflex (like the one that she would have used in the late 1930's, early 1940's), but using artist materials over a cardboard substructure. The trouble is, although I have great photos from the internet, but I'm having difficulty finding any mention of the outside dimensions of that camera. I can guess, but I thought I'd try asking someone who actually has one in hand!

Thanks so much for any inch-dimensions: height, width, and depth of the overall "box." I can guesstimate the diameter of the lenses and the nameplate, but if you wouldn't mind measuring those too, I'd be grateful. The group exhibition that my overall installation will be in is slated for November 2016 at the California Women's Museum in San Diego. I hope you will receive this promptly. Thanks, Jeanne D.

Jeanne,

Did you get a rolleiflex?might be able to help!

contact me

www.ruthcorney.com

Still have my Rolleiflex that I bought new in early 1950s and then while I served in the U S Army and stationed in Germany sent it to the factory to replace the ground glass focusing screen that had cracked for no reason. 

Buck -- glad you've held onto that Rolleiflex. I hope to visit Germany one day and shoot with my Rolleiflexes. It would be cool to visit Hamburg, the town where they were made. Dan

BRAUNSCHWEIG, not Hamburg!!!

Great article and resources! Thank you B&H! Wish I was armed with such good info before buying my Rolleiflex 2.8c Planar. 

Thanks, Rodney! 2.8c -- that's a great model. I haven't shot with one, but I hear the lens renders beautifully and that the 2.8c are a bit lighter than the f models.

Top photographers use the Rolleiflex. Robert Doisneau, Richard Avedon, Vivian Maier, Philippe Alsman, Robert Capa. Including many well known Stars: Elisabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Natalie Portman...

https://www.pinterest.com/franklodder/rolleiflex/

Hi Claude,

Thanks for the link -- some great photos. I also like the Dennis Stock photo of James Dean in NYC with a Rolleiflex. Red Skelton owned and shot with many Rolleiflexes, too.

Best, Dan

My Rolleiflex 2.8E (Xenotar), which I bought used while I was in college,  c. 1963, is my most often used camera. I had a Rolleiclear screen (the first bright screen–found in most later "F" models) and a meter (which still works) installed by the importer in 1965. IIRC I've had the camera CLAed four times over 50+ years, the last two times by Krikor Marelian, who does excellent (and remarkaby rapid) work.

About straps, I had a shoemaker rivet lengths of a plain nylon neckstrap to the pld clips that came on my worn leather strap. Those were easy to buckle to a Dompke "Gripper" strap which IMO, is far better than any leather strap.

"old", not "pld" clips–sorry

Hi Bob,

Great comment! Many people, including Harry Fleenor, prefer nylon over leather. I went with leather because I like the way it looks and feels. These are definitely great times for photography -- vintage cameras, scanners, film is still available and receiving renewed interest and we have fantastic digital cameras in so many flavors -- specialty lenses -- infrared -- good times! Yesterday I went out shooting with my Rolleiflex and brought my Sony a7 and 55mm 1.8 as well -- it wasn't too heavy.

Best, Dan

One of the most valuable accessories that I have found for the rollei is the relleimeter which is a split image rangefinder attachment.  Use it till this day for portraits and wedding photography.  You can focus in almost complete darkness withit.  

Hi Mark,

Thanks for mentioning the Rolleimeter. It's a cool device. I own a Kalart Focuspot, which is somewhat similar and affixes to the bottom of the camera and uses two projected dots of light for focusing. When the dots overlap, the image is in focus. Good for night shooting with flashbulbs. I haven't had the pleasure of shooting with a Rolleimeter -- I might have to get one. :) Thanks!

Best, Dan

Very nice review,  I have never owned a Rolleicord but still own a Minolta Autocord. Tremendous IQ.  Have you ever thought of doing a review of these cameras.

I loved my Autocord - no longer have it but wish I did.

DickSallee

Hi Nigel,

My junior high school photography teacher was a Minolta Autocord fan. I still remember him suggesting I try to get one. Perhaps B&H will review one in the future. I'd be curious to see the IQ.

Best, Dan

About 25 years ago I was the staff photographer for a Southern university. I found a twin lens Mamiya with a Porro (sp?) finder in the gear locker. At the time most 35mm cameras had a max 125th strobe sync.  I started using it outside for sports posed photos as I could sync at high shutter speeds with tri x and metz strobes.I really came to love that camera and for special uses was unbeatable.

Richard Avedon used a Rollei  for most of his fashion work.  I gave an f 2.8, pistol grip and eye level prism to a friend I was in Vietnam with.  He was photographer on the ship and now works in the movie industry doing stills.  Now you just need an Honeywell 65D w/510V Power Pack and you're good to go!

Thanks for this reference article on my favorite camera. I've owned 4 Rollie's and always looking for quaility repair services, While Harry is very good at what he does, the wait time and cost is sometime more then hard to bare.....and while there are many other Rollie repair services, I discovered Bill at Pro Camera in VA. Extremely knowledgable, always accessible, if he doesn't have the part, he'll machine it, fast turnaround and prices that are not out of this world. He also works on all film camera's.    

Thank you for the repair tips. I just have a nearly complete 2.8E (tele, wide, backs, penta) and 'cord that have been pretty darn faithful, but the days will come when the shutters won't limber up anymore.

Actually, far from complete ... just checked and only 1 or 2 'einars and the 1.5 mutar, also missing the never-ready case cover for the focus side. The mutar and penta on a sturdy tripod made nice posed portraits at eye level, but I prefer the plain setup for children (shooting closer didn't make the nose too big); after so many years, it was like aiming a shotgun, you just kinda knew where you were ... same with exposure most of the time. Carry 2 around your neck with different film and twice as long before reloading. You could do 220, but don't remember that working very well, and worse if you didn't set it right.

Great article! A wonderful resource - hope to see more like this!

Nice article Dan, thank you!

Excellent article. Quite a lot of valuable information, as well as great advice.

Working at Ken Hensen Photographic for a number of years, I saw a lot of high quality used equipment come and go. Besides the Leicas, Zeiss Ikons and other gems, nothing excited me more than a Rollei, especially a Rolleiflex TLR. Ken was a wonderful employer and because of that I was able to purchase my first Rollei, a 3.5E model, with a Zeiss Planar lens, at price too good to be true. This Rollei put a shame to my Mamiya C330 TLR. There was absolutely no comparison; I never picked up my Mamiya again.  

One thing that should be mentioned is most Rolleiflex TLR cameras have automatic parallax correction built in. As you rotate the focus knob from it's minimum focus distance (1 meter)  to infinity, you'll see a frame under the focusing screen or glass moving up and down to compensate for parallax. Of course, special close up lenses, called Rolleinars, are required if you want to use your camera closer than its minimum focus distance. The Rolleinars are also optically corrected for parallax.

I still own and use my 3.5E; it's one of my favorites among the several that I've picked up over the years.

Having used a Mamiya C330 TLR for several years, I was convert once I held a Rolleiflex TLR in my hands.

Hi Walter -- I fondly remember visiting you, Louis Shu and others at Ken Hansens -- both at the 34th St and Broadway, NYC locations. Good times! Good points on parallax. A few years ago Jeff Hirsch of Fotocare told me that leaving the flash synch set to Bulb can shorten shutter life -- it has to do with the delay mechanism that accommodates the bulb's peak intensity.. I still correspond with Ken, Louis and Jeff, and they're all treasure troves of great information. Louis told me that Richard Avedon had a standard order request for nice used 2.8f Rolleiflexes, and that when an assistant left his employ he was given one of these fine cameras. Cheers! Dan

Ken, if you're reading this, please forgive me for the typo error on your last name. Everybody knows Ken Hansen Photographic. My bad; I was writing my comment around 2 in the morning.

Dan, I also remember you from Ken Hansen's. If I'm not mistaken Louis Shu was your "go to" guy.

One Rollei TLR camera worth mentioning is the Rolleiflex T. Unlike a Rolleicord TLR camera (film advance using a knob), the T will have a a winding crank similar to what's on past Rolleiflex's. It'll also have a user removable waist level finder (just like an "F" and some "E" model Rollei's). A Rollei TLR with a removable waist level finder allows you to easily change focusing screens as well as finders such as a chimney hood, prism etc.The Rollei T will have either a Schneider Xenar 75mm f3.5 or Zeiss Tessar 75mm f3.5 taking lens. Both the Xenar and Zeiss optics are a 4-element design offering excellent images especially when stopped down a couple of stops. If you're considering a Rolleiflex TLR, and find that a "F" or "E" model is beyond your budget, you might want to consider a Rolleiflex T. Be aware though; mint Rollei T's can be almost as much as a "F" or "E" model in fair to good condition.

Happy hunting!

It figures :-) I sold my Rollieflex to buy my first digital camera back in 2004. I only got $300.00 for it and all the rest of my film equipment...

Great article, look forward to the follow ups. As a user for many years I was surprised to learn a bit more from this regarding the viewfinder, well done.

Dan,

Have you ever used the Mutars? I've read somewhere that they were made to work optimally with the f/3.5 lens and did not perform as well with the f/2.8 lens.

Thanks Dan

Hi Dean,

Yes, I've owned a 1.5 Mutar that was really nice for shooting portraits. Admittedly, I'm drawn to some of this gear for the way it looks and feels -- I like gear and frequently suffer from GAS -- gear acquisition syndrome. If you buy a Mutar, try to find one with a nice leather case and clip-on hood. I don't know if a Mutar would perform better on a 3.5f than a 2.8f. My guess is that it would if you were shooting wide open. Sometimes lens attachments work better at smaller f/stops -- fisheyes are a good example of this. However, I've read that the Mutars were optimized for the 3.5f because the combo sold well -- but I never compared them. You can use the same Mutar on either camera if you find a second bayonet 2 or 3 adapter kit. (3.5f is bay 2, and the 2.8f is bay 3). As photographers, we always want our gear to have the best performance specs. But with Rolleiflexes and film photography, I think we're drawn to the imperfections, too. Therefore, I wouldn't be concerned about Mutar differences between the two cameras. I'd be intererested to hear what others have to say on this.

The reason I sold mine was that it was extra weight in my camera bag, made the camera feel front-heavy, required buying and carrying a 72mm (I think) yellow filter (my filter of choice), and I figured that if Avedon used Rolleinars I could, too. Some people go with a Tele Rolleiflex -- or with a Rolleiwide. As Rolleiwides can cost 2x the price of a 2.8f, the Mutar 0.7 can be a good option for wide shots. Although the sweet spot for Rolleiflex shooting for me is with the 75mm or 80mm lens. You can see my own Rolleiwide at the top of this article. It belonged to a retired Time-Life photographer. My 2.8f belonged to someone's Uncle Wally. I like cameras with history. When out shooting I often say to myself, "I bet Uncle Wally would like this shot." or "What would Time-Life think of this photo?"  By the way, I often carry a 2.8f and a Fuji GW690iii for wide shots. Fuji 690 cameras can be had for under $500 and make a great companion for a Rollei (most likely you'll need new foam seals for a 690). On a recent trip to LA it allowed me to shoot wide landscape shots as well squares on the same Tri-X 120 size film. 

Dan

Thank you Dan for the thorough discussion on the Mutars. Also, thanks for the tip on the Fuji GW690iii. I appreciated your reminiscing about cameras with a history. Now I have to stop coveting the “Rolleiflex 2.8 FX w/S-Apogon 80mm f/2.8 HFT” currently on eBay. It’s in an unopened box. Since I’m not rich, I’ll let it pass this time. Happy shooting.

Excellent article, I'm looking forward to the next two installments.  The Rollei is on my bucket list to acquire.

Thanks everyone. Clem -- I hope you find a great Rollei. The nice thing about buying certain vintage cameras, such as Rolleiflexes is that they seem to hold their value quite well. In my case, I've been able to buy various models, shoot with them for a year or more and then sell some of them for what I paid or slightly more. This dynamic has provided me with the opportunity to shoot with the cameras I craved in my youth and early career. Happy New Year!

Hey Clem, not to tempt you, but there's a nice Rolleiflex 2.8f whiteface with a 12/24 (for 120 and 220 film) and a 2.8e camera on rangefinderforum.

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