Live long and prosper: Rolleicord

Few cameras have undergone hardly any external changes in their existence as the Rollei’s. Everyone recognizes the Rolleiflex or Rolleicord by its striking appearance. The square box with two lenses. Here we are looking at a Rolleicord Twin Lens Reflex from 1955, the last model V of which the last Vb was made by Franke & Heidecke in 1966.

Rolleicord V
The Rolleicord V (K3C) from 1955 with Schneider Xenar 3,5/75mm

Buying an old Rolleicord is not a perilous adventure. It’s amazing how well the mechanisms of this classic medium format camera continue to work over the years. The Rolleicord V works with a Synchro Compur MX, times 1s – 1/500 sec., Bulb-mode and even a flash X-syn. A characteristic of the Rolleicord is that the shutter is cocked and released with the same lever at the bottom of the bottom taking lens. The shutter speeds are set with al lever on the right of the lens and the aperture on the left. It is nice that you can set combinations of times and aperture. If you change the shutter speed, the lever for the aperture automatically turns, so you can increase or decrease a preset value in corresponding steps.

Rolleicord V
A small ‘red’ lever prevents double exposures or enables the feature.

The shutter also has a connection for an external release cable and there are also optional ‘shutter buttons’ that can be screwed on. Otherwise, release by gently pushing the shutter lever to the left. The Rolleicord V works with 120 mm film and makes 6×6 pictures. Later plate adapters and masks for 6×4.5 can only be attached on models Va and Vb. However, it is possible to use 35 mm films with the Rolleikin 2 adapter. Loading the film on the back is opposite to the ‘normal’ horizontal way, the film runs vertical. The film is easy to wind and the (12) recording numbers are automatically indicated on the right.

Rolleicord V
Film loading by opening the back. No need to ‘watch’ a red window for exposure numbers.

The Rolleicord has a large waist viewfinder that can be opened on top of the camera. The upright sides prevent incoming light and therefore provide a clear image. In the mat plate there is a large cross for orientation. The mirror reflection is not corrected for left and right, these are reversed en take some practice for composing the image. On the right side of the Rolleicord are the large rotary knobs for film forwarding and focusing. The latter is very precise because the entire camera body extends outwards.

Rolleicord V
Clear composing and focussing with a huge waistfinder.

The top lens is the view/focusing lens and the bottom the ‘taking’ lens that makes the actual photo. The focus lens is also more sensitive to light, creating a bright viewfinder image. Both lenses are ingeniously coupled for attaining the right, sharp focus. Both lenses have the same focal distance. The camera also has a 10s. self-timer, linked to the flash syn button. It can be set for manual or automatic flash.

Rolleicord V
ASA or DIN can be ‘set’ as a reminder on the focussing knob.

A Rolleicord or Rolleiflex TLR is a must have for every collector. It is the most famous and used medium format camera from the last century. The difference between cord and flex is not the quality, both cameras produce fantastic pictures. The flex is more luxurious and some features are just further automated. Working with a Rollei takes a bit more time, all settings are done manually, but if you finally operate the shutter and hear that wonderfully soft sound from the compur shutter, it will always pay off. The large 6×6 format provides a lot of detail and is ideal for magnifications that are difficult, and certainly not in terms of the typical atmosphere, matched by today’s digital cameras.

A very comprehensive website about the Rolleiflex and -cord can be found here.

Rotate the picture for 360 angle:

4 Replies to “Live long and prosper: Rolleicord”

  1. Any Rolleicord is an amazing precision camera, but to me the Vb (1960s model) is by far the best. You can use it to take 12, 16 or 24 exposures on a 120 roll – the latter two formats require kits which are available online at quite reasonable cost. I have both, also a circa 1950 35mm back which converts my Vb into a nice portrait and/or a copy camera.

    The odd shutter lever system drove me quite bonkers until I lucked into a shutter button (an original item) for A$7 in an antique center remainders bin. A lucky find for me as Ebay sellers from China want $50 for this item now…

    Need I say, the best part about my Vb is the price I paid for it – A$95 at a deceased estate house sale, two years ago.

    The ‘cord (whichever model you get, even the iconic Art Deco one from the late 1930s) is the hidden gem of the Rollei system and if you get a good one, will be as durable as any of their range of TLRs.

    In all, a most excellent review. Many thanks for posting!!

    1. Thanks Dann for your precious reaction(s) and contribution(s). It is really nice to see and know there a are a lot of fans out there using and loving these vintage camera’s and grant them a new future!

    2. I have long felt that the Rolleicord is a better buy today than the Rolleiflex. The latter was bought and used, prett extensively by professional photographers over many decades. Now the Rolleicord was bought by discerning amateurs. They saved long and hard for it, these were the days before instant credit. They saved more for the English made leather case to protect it, together with the lens hood itself supplied in a leather case. And they looked after it. Decades later a ‘cord will come in the case, a’flex without. Perhaps the amateurs would put a dozen rolls of film through their ‘cords a year, the pros a dozen a week through their ‘flexes. So the ‘cord is not knackered and worn out, it’s in lovely condition and it’s been protected since new in the English hide case. I bought a ‘cord IV 1953 a year younger than me for £175 from a dealer in Scotland five years ago. The case a little shabby but 20 mins with rags and boot polish and it came up a treat. The results equal those from a Hasselblad 500CM and Planar. I’ve sold the ‘ lad as I’m frightened it would break and cost over £1000 to repair. I had a Contax 111a and sold that for the same reason. My Rolleicord IV soldiers on, just like me. I like Ilford FP4 125 iso and use it for 6 X 6 and 6 X 9 in a Zeiss folder from 1931. I also use FP4 in my pair of Leica M3 bodies (1955 & 1960). German stuff cannot be beaten, Mercedes Benz, Mont Blanc, Hugo Boss, Leicaflex etc.

  2. I snagged a Rolleicord V a few days ago on evilbay knowing that even with a poor description it was not going to let me down. Well it didn’t. The shutter still has that authoritative zip and only the slower speeds seem to cling a bit. But that is expected from a 68 year old camera from an estate. German engineering at its best in the 1950’s. My only complaint is the focusing screen runs dim but that is a common Rollei fault. This is the best camera to provide many years of film shooting pleasure.

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