So about a year and a half ago I had been collecting some antique 35mm cameras. I had been fully entrenched into the digital revolution and all it had to offer. Staring at those cameras got me wondering and questioning, what would it be like to put a roll of film through them?
I came up with a personal project. I would shoot a roll of film through each camera that I had just to see the results and get a chance to play with these old machines. One of the cameras I tried was an old Argus TLR. I got one roll of film through it before it broke. But oh what a roll of film it was. It also showed me that I really enjoyed working with a twin lens camera.
I did what everyone does these days and hit the internet to do some research. Everyone said if you want a quality TLR camera you need to buy a Rolleiflex. Have you seen the prices of a Rolleiflex? Even a banged up one on Ebay goes for a premium price.
Enter the Rolleicord. A company out of Germany called Franke and Heidecke were the manufacturers of the Rolleiflex. The Rolleiflex was their professional twin lens reflex camera that was introduced in 1929. They made them for many, many years. It was the best of the best with premium lenses and construction however not everyone could afford these marvels of photography. So in 1933 they came out with a high quality but simpler camera called the Rolleicord.
Back to the internet and more specifically, Ebay, I went. One Rolleicord Va was purchased, which is a later model, but still over fifty years old. Reality check time! When you buy a camera that is over fifty years old you will probably need to get what is called a CLA, which stands for clean, lube and adjustment. This is because all of the oils and grease have gotten thick and sticky over the years and it keeps your camera from working properly. There goes another $150.00 out the window. In the long run it is more than worth it though.
Let me state up front that I love these cameras. If I could only keep one camera, this would be it. I have two of them now, one Rolleicord Va and one Rolleicord Vb. Using a twin lens camera suits me but it is not for everyone. When you look down through the ground glass, the image is flipped horizontally. That takes some getting used to but I don’t even think about it anymore. There isn’t any built in meter either. You have to use a hand held light meter to figure out your exposures.
You have to learn to work within the camera’s limitations. It’s certainly not digital where you can fire off fifty shots to get that one good photograph. It takes a roll of 120 film that gives you twelve, 6×6 square photographs. There isn’t a rapid fire shutter either. You have to cock the shutter each time before taking a photograph and then you have to wind the film to the next frame. You are stuck with one 75mm, 3.5 lens. There are some close-up attachments called Rollinars but that is about it.
So why do I like the camera so much then? Well because of everything stated above. Digital has made photography easy and that is both a good and bad thing. It’s like when word processing software came out in the design industry. Everyone thought they were a designer. There was a lot of crappy design that followed. Digital cameras have done the same thing to photography. Everyone thinks they are a photographer and there is a lot of crappy photography out there now. Digital has made it easy and easy is what everyone wants. They don’t want to learn the techniques and theories behind photography and they certainly don’t want to have to work to get a good photograph. Auto everything is required.
With an old camera like a Rolleicord, auto everything goes out the window. You have to work at it to get that great image. It brings the craft of photography back into the game and that is why I love them.