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Wednesday, 04 March 2009


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On the day of my 12th birthday, my father, a Leica shooter, presented me (surprise!) a Baby Rolleiflex. That was in 1965. I later moved out of the area and the Baby went into a drawer of the rolltop desk an attorney I worked for gave me for referring a legal case to him. Fast forward to last week: I decided to take the Baby out and attempt to use it, so I bought a roll of 127 Efke film from Freestyle Camera and loaded it into the Baby. Unfortunately, two things were immediately discovered: One, the shutter release was disconnected inside the camera, and two, the plastic reel the Efke film was loaded onto is slightly wider than the old film reels; thus, advancing the film was a pain in the ass. So, rather than get the Baby repaired and rather than have to bother with the film advance problem, I've decided to turn the Baby into a paper weight on my desk.

I know it's silly becoming too attached to mechanical devices - they're just a means to an end, but I hope that the Rollei name continues to appear on a quality camera.

I'm going to miss Rollei, if the company does disappear. Even though my Rolleis date from the '40s and '60s, it was nice to know that similar models were still being made. I still use them in a sort of hybrid mode--shoot, develop, scan, and inkjet print. The TLR form factor can't be beat, if you know what to do with it, as all of the photographers featured in Mike's post clearly do. I like Bishof's especially. Brilliant composition within the square; maximum exploitation of the ease with which you can shoot from a low viewpoint with a TLR.

I never really got into medium format, but I have a Rollei 35, it was a wicked little camera.

Probably the market for medium format digital needs to contract, so that the remaining players can actually make a go of it. As with the auto industry and banks, keeping failed companies on life-support just makes it harder for the rest of that industry to survive. Still, everybody I can think of still making MF has considerable historical significance, and would be missed.

For nice books about Rollei look at http://www.rollei-report.com/html/body_english.html. Not too bad for all of us: most of the books are in german language.

Personally, I'd like to see Cosina buy the name and revive the line like they did with Voigtlander. A boy can dream can't he?

I have always wished for a digital TLR. The small body size the fast normal lens. ˇhe ability to shoot B&W and color and the ability to shoot RAW files. A camera like that for $1500 would be awesome.

Since we are dreaming.....

I have owned a Rolleiflex T which has the 75mm F3.5 Tessar lens for about twenty years. I don't use it a lot but I do use it and if there was a law made that said a person could only own one camera for the rest of their life, the Rollei would be the camera I would keep. I think that it is the most camera in a compact package and perhaps the most versatile camera a person can own. Also it is the one camera I own that I believe will continue to work another twenty years.

When I first got this camera, an older pro who had worked in New York in the fifties and sixties told me that Irving Penn used a Rolleiflex a lot and Penn preferred the ones with the F3.5 Tessar. That was good enough information for me to keep myself from lusting over the more expensive F2.8 Planar. To my eyes the Tessar is a great lens.

I am sad to see Rollei go away.

Rob Griffin

For years I wanted to get my hands on a Rolleiflex. Finally last year I found a mint-condition Rolleiflex T1, circa 1959-1960, in Miami. (http://www.pbase.com/tanakak/image/107101132.jpg) What a fascinating treat this camera has been. After replacing the scraped, aging focusing screen with a new Beattie screen the camera is as good as new! I love that 6x6 format.


Of course the TLR has been antiquated for a long time. But the demise of F&H will probably kill their new Hy6. While, as Mike notes, this new line is an asset it's hard to imagine it being picked-up by someone else in this economy and with a general contraction of the medium-format digital market.

I have a 3.5F Planar that's just a fun camera to own & use because of its precise mechanical construction. Unfortunately, I rounded out the camera with a few nice accessories (bayonet mount polarizer, lens shade) around the same time I bought a DSLR and I can't seem to make myself deal with film any more. Seeing those sample pictures reminds me of how much I liked using it and the square format.

I'd read a bit about the little Rollei mini-digi or whatever it's called - the tiny TLR-styled digicam and so was excited to see it in person at Photoplus Expo last year. I knew it was overpriced, but found the concept intriguing nonetheless. Until I actually picked it up. There is no concept - it's a little toy that looks like a Rollei TLR. OK - you have to crank the film advance lever to take the next shot. beyond that, it's way too tiny and way too cheap to cost more than $20. Michael Reichman wrote an article about the fun of "toy" digicams with plastic lenses and poor IQ and while this camera might hold up better than those, you'd buy one for essentially the same purpose. Only you'd pay 10X too much for it. It was really sad to see the Rollei name abused like that.

I bought a Canon flatbed scanner that can scan medium format film ... maybe that (and this article) will prod me into picking up a roll or two of 120 and visiting my lab for the first time in a couple years. But then again, digital capture is just so easy ...

To add insult to injury, Rollei has become one of those zombie brands like RCA
which means that the possibility of a revival is less likely.

The SL66 was a pretty amazing camera. I bought a Hasselblad because it was cheaper , had a leaf shutter, and I could rent the 40mm lens when I needed to, but the SL66 seemed to be a much better made camera. Table top photographers loved that thing with the lens movements and close focusing.

Another Rollei Tessar shooter here. I only use it once or twice a year but always happy with the results.
There's some recent shots in here if anyone is interested:
Also, the Rollei brand is still on production cameras. In Canada you can buy what looks to be a re-branded Olympus waterproof digicam called the Rollei X-8 Sports. It uses SD cards instead of XD (yay!) and sells for under 300 bucks.

All those folks who talk about the quietness of a Leica shutter need to hear the barely audible "snik" of a well-maintained Rollei. They are machines made in a time when cameras were meant to last -- they can be adjusted and repaired so long as there are skilled technicians to work on them. I have two and one poster above is right, they are a compact picture taking machine.

Odd: I know the kid with the grenade. We went to college together and he now lives in/near LA. Neither Arbus nor her estate would ever take his calls, or even acknowledge that he was the kid in the picture. If you'd met him, though, you'd see it in a second.

How's that for six degrees?

Ben Marks

If you are feeling really nostalgic, here's a Rolleiflex Tessar f/3.5 75mm for $150:


Diane Arbus used a Mamiya.


Sorry, forgot the link.


I think the Tessar 75mm is the best lens for a Rolleiflex Twin Reflex Camera. Sure better than the Planar 2.8. And yes, even better than the Planar 3.5!

Pieter Krigee.

She used 35mm Nikon at first, then a Rollei Wide for a number of years and later switched to a Mamiya C33 with 55mm, 80mm and 135mm lenses, and at the end of her life was using a borrowed Pentax 67. This according to her notes published at the big Arbus show at the Met a while back.


My Rollei 35S was out and about with me today; a truly wondrous little camera.
I also have a 1930 Rolleiflex TLR, c/w Tessar, that still works faultlessly - there's longevity for you!

(Good to see a Meatyard picture heading up your excellent tribute set - so rarely does his work appear these days)

Thanks for the article, Mike. In an act of probable insanity, I placed an order for the 6008AF body. I wonder how many units of this camera sold per year? One?

Rollei's engineering and manufacting excellence are legendary. However, their marketing skills were minimal, to say the least. Always late to market - usually with the wrong product.
I have 3: an SL66, and SL66E and a CV-made Rollei 35RF.
Sorry to see them fade to black.
Morry Katz

Following up on Mike's answer re Diane Arbus, the grenade picture was taken in 1962, the year that she began using a Rolleiflex. The contact sheets which include that picture are on page 164 of "Revelations," the book that was produced to accompany the Met show. So the Mamiyaflex came later.


Rollei's are the bset. They invested $10.5 million in the R&D for the SL-66 (1966). SL-66 is my favorite. Love the TLR's too. Have a great 2.8C.

That Arbus shot was done with a Rollei Wide TLR?

Wish I could afford a Hy6. Maybe by 2039. Oh wait- I might be dead then!

My link is to my Rolleiflex images. RIP.

Just a brief comment...I was in NYC last Friday having a drink at Fanelli's with my wife. We were caught admiring a Rollei 35 that another patron had set down on the bar. We exchanged a few words with the camera's owner and discussed film and digital. His comment: Hmmm, digital..nah, that's for other people."

If you can read German, Claus Prochnow wrote the definitive history of Rollei cameras...in 5 volumes. Claus was one of Rollei's designers, responsible in a great measure for the Rollei Magic and the SLX.


So the definitive books exist, unfortunately not in English

Alan Cortie

None of this is surprising. Rollei's big problem was that they never had good distribution in the U.S.

Hasselblad cleverly opened a company in the U.S., and made sure that it had enough stock to actually get cameras and lenses into the hands of photographers who wanted to buy them.

Rollei used a seemingly endless, constantly turning-over train of jobbers and independent reps, and Rollei never had a sense of urgency about making sure that there was enough product to satisfy demand. You, quite literally, could never walk into a store, and buy two cameras, three backs, two finders, and three lenses,, no matter HOW much money you wanted to spend.

When I sold cameras for a living, in the Greater Boston area, during The Boom Days of the 70's and early 80's... dozens of Big Namers *tried* to buy Rollei stuff... worked hard, at it, for a while... and ended up buying H'blad, because you could actually GET H'blad stuff.

You can't make pictures with promises...


Another user here of a 3.5 Tessar Rolleiflex. Yep, very nice. According to its serial number it was born the same year i was. If betting, i would bet on it out living me.

A little more on what is currently going on has come from Leaf. For the record, F&H are insolvent, not bankrupt or closed. Production will continue during the period of insolvency, as solutions are searched for. Apparently sales of the Hy6 have been promising enough that the various players involved (Leaf, Sinar, i.e. Jenoptik, Franke & Heidecke themselves) are optimistic about finding solutions to the problems.

Even if Franke & Heidecke themselves aren't salvageable, Jenoptik owns all the rights and the spaces and equipment are leased, so the door is open for production to continue.

I hope that we will hear something positive about this soon. This is not the first time that F&H has been standing on the brink, and it hopefully won't be the last ;)

Sad. I still have my Rolleiflex. Got in in '89.
Maybe I should dig it out and shoot something on it. I'll never sell it.

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