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Friday, 13 March 2015


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It is quite obvious that digital is here to stay. There is a lot of talk about the revival of film in net forums. What does that mean? A few noisy photographers buying a second hand Leica or Hasselblad, or indeed Rolleiflex, to try out a few rolls of film? Noisy because they are then writing about it and saying how they use film. All that does not help the manufacturers because they don't buy new cameras and the amount of film they use is still minimal compared to the overall market which is 99.8% digital, if not more. Leica is still 'making' or at least selling new film cameras. But they can do so because their main business is digital and the film cameras are there on the side, just another SKU.

Was anybody buying these at $9,000 a pop? Hard to imagine. Were DHW Fototechnik doing other things as well?

Here's a look inside the factory:

PS: Thanks much for the Kertesz picture of HCB/Martine Franck. It's wonderful.

And maybe not quite, though perhaps worse, as in Germany I see cheap Rollei branded digital compact cameras and flimsy tripods. Literally, the cheapest available.

I have my Rolleicord III sitting next to me. It has a roll of 100ISO in it, a yellow filter fixed. I will shoot it as long as I can.

Nothing is really gone so long as it's remembered and things mechanical are best remembered with our hands.

It is a shame about Rollei, one of the great camera makers of the mid 20th century.
At least in North America, Rollei lost its way in the 70's never advancing, never producing popular products worthy of the name.
Some truly low quality 35 mm SLR cameras, never really catching on in the 120 SLR market, less popular slide projectors, the list could go on.
But in the end, Rollei died of lack of innovation, died of producing a quality product for an ever shrinking market, died of an unwillingness to make the big jump into new technologies and ideas.

[Well, I don't know. I have a 6008AF that was pretty cutting-edge for its day and is still pretty magnificent, in a panzer tank kind of way. I think it's more that the pro market which Rollei and Hasselblad depended on, in Europe and the USA respectively, just had to switch early and hard to digital. --Mike]

There was a tme twenty five years or so ago, that if I didn't have a Rollie on my neck, I didn't,t have a camera. They will be missed and never replaced.

@ Damien: That's actually a commemorative sculpture of Rollei's final CFO.

For those who still have and use a Rollei TLR there is (or was) a fellow in California who specialized in repairing them. He used to work for Rollei and "retired" to create his own Rolleiflex/Rolleicord repair shop. I sent him my circa 1960's Rolleiflex for an overhaul several years ago and if came back good as new.

A search should turn-up his name, if he's still active.

Sorry to see this, I always wanted to end up buying a brand new Rollei twin lens and one time, even just a few years ago, they were 5K, and then just recently, I heard they went to 9K (!)...not at that price! I had a 80's one with a 3.5 Planar, it was sharp, but traded it in on another lens for the Hasselblad, and regret doing it too...

Anybody who really used the Rollei 6000 stuff knows that it was terribly bad, I knew a photo department that had 4 bodies and couldn't keep one working, they were always in for repair. That's the stuff that really killed the brand; it was as pricey or pricier than a 'blad and couldn't cut it dependability-wise! Too bad, as a lot of people liked the 120 Schneider lenses, would have liked to see them make lenses for "V" series 'blad...

When I first saw the work of Vivian Maier, two things occurred to me simultaneously: that women make the best street photographers, and that the Rolleiflex was the greatest camera of the 20th century. The pictures I saw were total mid-century Tri-X eye-candy. I bought myself a beater of a Rollei at a camera show in Atlanta in about 1995. It looked like a family of mice had been living in it. It had been DIY'd for a gun grip - the dealer told me it had been used by a nightclub photographer in Mexico. It's on my bookshelf and I'm looking at it right now; god knows what those twin lenses have seen.

The most-loved camera I ever owned was my Rollei E3 3.5 Xenotar. Always said that if I was ever marooned on a desert island with no hope of film -- ever -- that this was the camera I'd want to have there, just for the sheer pleasure of looking through it.

I photographed a friend many years ago, in dim light, with the last frame of film on the roll. I cautioned her that it would be a full second exposure, and she'd have to be really Zen about holding her breath. In the silence there, the Synchro Compur whirred off that second (more or less), and when she realized that the exposure had already been made, she said, "You took it? That was it?.....What an elegant little sound."


I bought a Rolleicord V some years ago and it is only one of two cameras I own where the photos do actually have a particular look about them. They look sharp and detailed yet smooth, if that makes any sense. With digital sharp is easy but the smoothness goes out the window.

You got me going down memory lane on your Rollei announcement.

My Photographic mentor in California tutored me on a Rollei Planar 2.8 in 1966. All I had had before that was an Argus rangefinder. So for two years I shot one camera one lens. That's twice your one camera one lens one year time frame. I learned a lot that way. He had two Rolleiflexes and in 1968 he sold me his extra one for $200 which even for a very used camera was a lot of money in 1968 and accounting for inflation would be $1,385 in 2015.

Fast forward to 2011 and I had a friend who was looking for a 2 1/4 camera and lusted after a Rollei. My Rollie was sitting unused, and wanted to be used again. So a 60 year old Rollei found a new photographer, and remains in use. Yes they are durable.
I sold it for $250. I put the money toward the Leica S2. Let's see what the S2 is worth in 2071.

Re. Kenneth Tanaka's post about the California-based Rolleiflex specialist. He's Harry Fleenor, still active. He's worked on my Rolleiflex 2.8F twice (regular tune-ups, plus a new bright screen), as well as a Rollei 35. I can only speak for the work he's done on my Rolleiflex kit; excellent work. www.rolleirepairs.com.

Thank you Floyd. Henry Fleenor is indeed the fellow I had in mind.

Oh that is sad news indeed. When I arrived at my first job as a (very) junior photographer on a local newspaper in the late 60's they looked askance at my Nikon F (flash youngster they must have thought) and handed me a Rollei 2.8f and a pistol grip together with a Metz hammer head and wet battery pack (they also handed me an MPP 5x4 and a single double dark slide and said my first week would be to come back with a job shot and I was not allowed to use light meter. AND they were glass sheets - never used them before and licked my way through the morning trying to find the coated side; still have the taste in my mouth. However I digress as I went on to using a Rollei T and so many other machines adorned with that wonderful name. Time rolls on alas and I do wish I still had the Nikon F though still happily possess and F100 and an FE2.

Survival: Difficult but not impossible ...

Leica Survives the Digital Shift

Camera maker struggled with the death of film, but now it has a lucrative niche: digital, retro cameras

Here in Vancouver, BC, Canada a former camera repair shop owner still has lots of Rollei parts. He is factory trained and while he will work on other cameras at if he's so inclined, his main love is Rollei cameras and when a Rollei comes in he'll put the other ones aside. Preferably the Stereo Rolleis, but also the twin lens ones. His name is Horst Wenzel, and I can recommend him highly.

Lot 1007 is the answer, and the coming back of Rolleiflex as the ultimate hipster outfit provider. Be scared, Urban Outfitters and American Apparel [and Abercrombie and Filtch].

Rollei is making already a comeback.

Those are some seriously hip shades.

I bought a Rolleicord V some years ago and it is only one of two cameras I own where the photos do actually have a particular look about them. They look sharp and detailed yet smooth, if that makes any sense.

It certainly does. I also have a Rolleicord V and of the 70+ film cameras I have, if I could only keep one, I would choose the Rolleicord - for the same reasons you gave. I would choose it over my Rolleiflex too!

What a pity, but it's been coming a long while now. Rollei never made the transition to high-end digital. [Um, except they did...with the Hy6 and Hy6 Mod. 2 cameras, which were viable medium format digital options for a while. --Mike] When you think of the daring they showed with the Rollei 35 camera, and what a great tool a digital version of that would have been, it is sad to realise what a mess they made of facing up to the digital revolution. (And they were far from alone, of course.)
The Rollei 35s was the 35mm film camera I loved most. It was quirky, often inconvenient, easy to get focus wrong... but it was pocketable, beautifully built, had a big uncluttered finder, and a lovely Sonnar lens with the perfect focal length (40mm). If anyone made a Rollei D-35, identical but for AF and a CCD sensor inside, I'd go for it. Maybe a lot of TOP readers would too. Too late now, and maybe it was never a dream that could be realised.

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