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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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