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|Photograph of new Rolleiflex 2,8 E with factory seal. Photo © Karl Keung. Photo used with permission.|
The Rolleiflex and Rolleicord TLRs are very sturdy built cameras meant for professional use. A member of the Photo.net community writes over and over again that one should not buy a forty year old Rolleiflex camera because it will be worn. For heavily used cameras of mediocre built quality, this may be true. For the Rolleiflex that is complete nonsense. Most Rolleiflexes from the Fifties are still sound cameras for daily use. Like all mechanical tools they have to be serviced now and then. When a Rolleiflex is not working properly, all it will need is a service by a competent repair person. Inexperienced “repair” is a rather common fault.
In his book Collecting and using Classic Cameras (London, Thames and Hudson, ISBN 0-500-27656-0), Ivor Matanle gives a few points to watch: the lens panel, the back and the leaf shutter.
“Everything in a TLR depends on the lens panel being parallel to the film plane. Be very cautious about a twin-lens reflex whose focusing is stiff, as this often indicates it has been dropped on its front, and look for other evidence of this mistreatment. Check that the wheel that sets the aperture is not stiff, and that the shutter button pops smartly out after being pressed. Stiffness or sluggishness indicates a need for servicing.”
Sometimes it is suggested that one should check the gap between the moving lens panel and the camera body. Move the lens panel back altogether and then slightly forward. The gap is visible against an Aluminium background. Now check that the gap is even. This test only proves that the lens board cover is shimmed correctly. The inside lens board is shimmed independently of the cover, so an even gap does not guarantee both lenses being parallel to the film plane. After a long discussion, R.U.G. experts agreed on this. (They do not agree on much else!) I would like to add that an uneven gap suggests that someone has done work in there and did not do a good job remounting the cover. You could ask yourself what else was done in there and how good it has been done.
Avoid twin-lens reflex cameras with dents in the back, as the blow may have pushed the pressure-plate, and therefore the film, out of parallel with the lens panel.
The back is made of sheet metal and is a vulnerable part of the camera. The tripod mount is part of the back. When using a tripod with a Rolleiflex always use a Rolleifix between camera and tripod. The Rolleifix has two extra mounting points that connect to the main body. Check the mounting plate carefully for gaps. It could be bent causing light leaks.
Mr Matanle's checks for leaf shutter blades would be: no corrosion, no signs of any free oil, no pin hole when closed. Corrosion is bad because the camera might have been kept under adverse conditions. Any sign of free oil suggests inexpert servicing.
Set a speed of 1 second and trip the shutter. You should hear a nice even buzz of about 1 second, without hesitations. A hesitating buzz would indicate a need for a shutter overhaul. Then check all other shutter speeds. I am of the opinion that quality cameras with sluggish shutters do not need to be avoided. It will effect the price off course. The working of the shutter is dealt with in more detail on the “Repair page”.
|Photograph of new Rolleiflex 2.8 E with factory seal. Photo © Karl Keung. Photo used with permission.|
Then the lenses have to be checked carefully. In an ideal world the lenses should be completely clear. In reality a slight haze is not unusual. Some fine lenses are prone to haze as result of dust etc. They can be cleaned but it will add to the cost.
A more serious fault is lens separation. The Tessars, Xenars, Planars and Xenotars are built from lens elements. Some elements are cemented together into groups. It is not uncommon for classic cement to disintegrate and elements will begin to separate, starting at the edges. Now that Focal Point is closed for good, my advice is to stay clear from cameras with separating lenses.
Another nasty problem is fungus. Cleaning a lens infested with fungi is possible but may be expensive. You want to have your lens rebuilt properly, won't you? The real downside is that the lens coating is effected by fungi. This is irreversible. When buying a camera, it is impossible to determine the stage of this progressive process. Fungus is associated with moisture. In some parts of the world it is not a frequent fault, in other parts it is.
Now please take a moment to admire the images of a 2.8 E on this page. They show the original factory seal and ribbon. Mr. Keung was lucky enough to buy this camera only recently. I have never seen one like this before. If someone offers you a classic Rolleiflex in condition “new” you know what to look for. :-) Any other state is called “used”.
While I am not in the trade, I would like to refer you to D. Colluci's web-page. It is regularly updated and can be found at my Rolleiflex Links page:
Rolleiflex TLR Camera Price Guide
Consider joining a Rolleiflex Mailing List. The Rollei List - also known as Rollei Users Group or RUG - is owned by Marc James Small. I have been a member since May 1997. To join click on the following link and subscribe. Members are mainly TLR users.
Subscribe Rollei List
A second Rollei mailing list (Rolleiusers) is led by Daniel Ridings. It is hosted with Yahoo Groups. To join visit
Users of the (Baby) Rolleiflex 4 x 4 may be interested in the ‘127 Format’ group at Flickr.
After the List moved to Freelists the old archives were inaccessible for a number of years. Thanks to Brian Reid and Emmanuel Bigler the archive was rescued and is now restored:
Rollei List Archives
A Rollei List FAQ sheet is edited by Emmanuel Bigler. In the beginning this file offered answers to some basic questions on the Rolleis. It has evolved into a real Rollei knowledge base. The FAQ sheet is hosted on the Rollei List Archives site.
Photograph of Wide-Angle Rolleiflex. Note the Newton finder with flap.
Photo © Ferdi Stutterheim.
For classic Rolleiflex TLR manuals check the following links to private sites:
Orphan Cameras by Michael Butkus.
Commercial sources of copied manuals include:
Craig Camera John Craig died in 2011 and his widow Joyce sells from existing stock only.
H.Lindemanns Buchhandlung, P.O.Box 103051, D 70026 Stuttgart, Germany.
Fax: +49 711 236 9672.
There are lots of books on Rollei and Rolleiflexes. Definitively the best are by Claus Prochnow. Sadly, he passed away on 31st July 2008, at the age of 78. Mr. Prochnow worked with ‘Franke & Heidecke’ in camera development for 36 years and was extremely well informed. He was part of Richard Weiss’ team responsible for the SL66 camera. Later he worked on the SLX camera. The film inserts still used in the 6000 series of cameras were his design.
The books are in German language, except for the Technical Report that is bilingual. In German and English. The author was working on the English translations of his books. The books are out of print but can be found used.
Rollei Report 1 - Franke & Heidecke. De ersten 25 Jahre.
1920 - 1945. ISBN 3-89506-105-0
Rollei Report 2 - Rollei - Werke. Rollfimkameras. 1946 - 1981. ISBN 3-89506-118-2
Rollei Report 3 - Rollei - Werke, Rollei Fototechnic. 1960 - 1995. ISBN 3-89506-141-7
Rollei Report 4 - Rollei - Werke, Rollei Fototechnic. 1958 - 1998. ISBN 3-89506-170-0
Rollei Report 5 - Rolleiflex SLX, System 6000, X-Act. ISBN 3-89506-183-2
Rollei Technical Report. ISBN 3-89506-156-5
Rollei 35 - Eine Kamera-Geschichte. ISBN 3-930292-10-6
You will have to search for used copies. Some volumes are still being sold by the following booksellers.
H. Lindemanns Booksellers
P.O. Box 103051
D 70026 Stuttgart
Fax +49 711 2369672
Petra Kellers Photo/CameraBooks.com
12034 SW Horny Hollow Trail
Crooked River Ranch, OR 97760
Toll-free (US and Canada) 1-888-338-1350
|Bayonet III filter on Planar 1:2.8. Note the "Whiteface" name plate and the outer bayonet to take the lens hood. The filter shows its inner bayonet. Photo © 2014 Ferdi Stutterheim.|
Selected new bayonet I, II, III filters are available from Heliopan. Schneider has stopped making B+W filters in bayonet mounts.
These glass filters are of excellent quality however the modern mounts are not as good as the classic chrome Rollei filters. Classic Rollei Bay I and III filters are readily available used but Bay II filters are hard to get. The new filters have better and scratch resistant multi-coating. The warming-up filters (KR.. or 81.. series) are being phased out. Production at Heliopan has already stopped.
I understand bayonet mount filters can be made to order by SRB Photographic in the U.K. For contact details see below in the adaptor ring listings.
Some people prefer to use their thread mount filters. Adaptor rings for using threaded filters on a Rolleiflex are available from
Harrison and Harrison
1835 Thunderbolt Drive, Unit E
Porterville, CA 93257
I have described the Rolleinars on separate pages. The following links will take you there.
Rolleinar close-up lenses
Depth of field table Rolleiflex TLR 3.5/75 mm
Depth of field table Rolleiflex TLR 2.8/80 mm
Depth of field table Tele-Rolleiflex
Depth of field table Wide-angleRolleiflex
Depth of field table “Baby” Rolleiflex TLR 4x4
The factory has used the name ‘Rolleinar’ not only for close-up lenses but also for other camera lenses obtained from third parties. When searching the web for Rolleinars you will find those lenses too.
Photograph of Tele-Rolleiflex in Ever Ready Case. Notice narrower gap in Sports Finder.
Photo © Ferdi Stutterheim.
Most Rolleiflex TLRs do not require batteries. Many have no electrical components at all. Most cameras with lightmeters have Selenium cells. Selenium cells do not need a battery to function. When exposed to light Selenium generates a very small current that is measured by a very sensitive Galvanometer.
The Rolleiflex GX cameras and all later ones like the FX, FW and FT do require batteries for the lightmeter. It is a PX28 (4SR44). Originally a Silver Oxide cell later also available as a Lithium battery. The thing is not all PX28's are created equal and we all know that size matters. Even for batteries. It appears that the tolerance for the height of the PX28 is quite generous: 25.2 (+0.0 -1.3) mm. Some brands are simply a tiny bit too short for making reliable electrical contact in a Rolleiflex GX, etc. The problem, LED's going on and off, is most obvious when the focusing knob is moved around the 1 meter distance mark. This is exactly the point where the screw-in battery cover is right over the battery itself. This is also the point you have find when replacing the battery. It is possible to feel the spot when turning the focusing knob. When encountering lightmeter problems with these cameras it is worthwhile to find a taller battery before sending the camera in for service. A battery cover that is not fully screwed in causes the same fault.
The last known factory advise was to use a Duracell PX28L or a Varta V28PXL both of the Lithium variety. The Lithium ones have a slightly higher capacity than the Silver Oxide batteries. Others with the same specs may do. I would like to add that according to the Varta website the Varta V28PXL is 25.1 mm tall and the V28PX Silver Oxide battery counts 25.2 mm. That makes the later a safer choice in my opinion. I have used the Varta Silver Oxide batteries for decades without any trouble. The Duracel website describes their PX28L battery as simply being 25 x 13 mm in size. The technical spec-sheet only refers to the ANSI Standard of 23.9 - 25.2 mm without stating the actual size of the product. We must asume it will be somewhere within spec.
Selenium lightmeters are not of the well-known TTL (through the lens) type. Their metering angle howerever is about as wide as the taking angle of the 75 mm lens. When holding the camera horizontal the lightmeter will catch a lot of sky that may lead to over-exposure. It is good practise to point the camera a bit down when metering. There is no switch; the meter is always “ON”.
After so many decades the Selenium lightmeter of the classic Rolleiflex is a vulnerable part. If it is not working at all, leads may have become unconnected or corroded or the very delicate needle of the Galvanometer cannot move freely. This should be repairable. A common problem is the meter becoming non-lineair after so many years. Over part of the range it shows “under”, at one point exposure will be correctly indicated and the rest of the metering range it is “over”. This can only be mended by replacing the Selenium cell. Gossen stopped producing the cells decades ago so new original ones are not available. Now and then a new old cell surfaces. There is a good chance it is just as old as your faulty one. A solution would be to cut a new cell from the basic Selenium material. Until February 2013 your best chance for reviving a Selenium meter was QLM in Los Angeles. They restored Weston Selenium lightmeters. The cells came from Megatron in England. That firm made the Weston Euro-master lightmeter untill they closed in 2010. By February 2013 the last Megatron cells were used by QLM. As far as I know this marks the end of the line for replacing Selenium cells.
Photograph of Rolleiflex 2.8 F.
Photo © Emmanuel Bigler. Photo used with permission.
Quality Light Metric Co.
7095 Hollywood Blvd Ste 550
Los Angeles, CA 90028
Phone: (323) 467-2265
The Rolleiflex GX was equiped with a lightmeter based on the modern Silicon cell. Unlike its predecessor it has a rather narrow metering angle. Looking down on the focusing screen the metering area is slightly larger than the central circle. That makes it a sort of semi-spotmeter. It is very accurate but you have to be careful where to point it to when metering. All later models have this lightmeter. This lightmeter runs on a battery and it has a switch for the meter. The switch is operated by the shutter release button. It makes the release less smooth.
Most classic TLRs have rather dim focusing screens. Modern screens by Maxwell Precision Optics or Beattie Intenscreen are much brighter than the original ones. As the screen size is different, present original Rollei screens don't fit in the classic TLRs. Mr Bill Maxwell and Beattie Intenscreen produce(d?) wonderful screens for all classic Rollei TLRs. Choosing a screen is rather personal. A brighter screen is not necessarily easier to focus. In general terms they lack snapping into focus. On the other hand you can see whatever you are focusing on. Beattie Intenscreen do have a website but nobody seems to sell the screens anymore. They may be out of business. Maxwell never had a proper website. He can stll be found at social media but information looks very dated.
A cheaper alternative to the rather expensive screens mentioned above are the focusing screens offered by Mr Rick Oleson. He offers SplitScreens for Rolleiflexes with fixed finder hoods and BrightScreens for the ones with detachable hoods and screens. The fixed screen was not meant to be exchanged by the user. It takes skills to properly shim the new screen.
Most Rolleiflex and Rolleicord TLR's use 120 size (and 220 size for some models) roll film. Many photo stores do not sell films anymore. Ordering on-line from a web-shop is the most practical solution for obtaining film.
|Photograph of Rolleiflex 2.8 F in case. Photo © Emmanuel Bigler. Photo used with permission.|
The Rolleiflex 4 × 4 takes 127 size film. Since the maker of EFKE films closed shop, choice is very limited.
Glass plates for the Rolleiflex Plate Adator are available from MacoDirect. A box with 10 plates AGFA APX 100 MHD 09/17, size 65 × 90 × 1.5 mm, for only € 119.
List of suppliers of roll-film 127 and Photographic Glass Plates.
Pictures on these pages show the original brown Rolleiflex TLR cases, affectionally called ‘never-ready cases’. I feel readyness is not the real problem. Changing film is quite a hassle especially when using a 2,8 GX. Before being able to remove the case, you will have to take the strap off. I have been using a Lowepro Nova Micro bag for quite some time. Its shape is fit for a TLR. It will take a TLR, some film, a few filters and a lens shade. You will find instructions for re-stitching an original brown case here.
For professional services select “Repair shops” from the navigation bar at the top of this page. Although linking to highly professional firms, the rest of this chapter deals mostly with products for DIY and accessories.
Loose leather(ette) can be fixed with Pattex Classic. It is an original Rolleiflex factory adhesive. A similar product by Uhu is the Uhu Kraft Power-block. It is a stick rather than a liquid or gel and therefore less messy to use. I have given up supplying URL's for the products. The availability, product names and websites change faster than I can cope with. Best use a search engine or try hardware stores or shops that sell kits for building model aeroplanes and cars.
A supplier of ready-to-use camera leather(ette) replacement kits is Aki Asahi.
|Photograph of new Rolleiflex 2.8 E with factory seal. Photo © Karl Keung. Photo used with permission.|
A standard PC (Prontor, Compur) sync cord will connect a flash unit to your Rolleiflex TLR, however, if you prefer the “Rollei locking tip” at the camera end, look for a Paramount cord. As the name suggests it has a locking device to prevent the cord from falling out. They were designed to be used with long cables and studio flash equipment at a time when radio-triggering was unheard of. Even with shorter cables the locking tips do make sense. The electrical contacts of the PC tip are quite delicate and often contacts are bent when the cord moves all the time. When you have to buy a new one anyway or use flash often consider the locking tip. Look for Tip #3 at: Paramount Cords
Cable releases can be obtained from a great number of suppliers. Most of them are trading firms like Hama or Gepe. There is nothing wrong with purchasing their products. They do maintain dealer networks. A longtime manufacturer of top quality mechanical cable releases is Schreck Bros. (Gebr. Schreck) in Germany. Established 1922. They offer a wide range of cable releases including the traditional cloth releases and modern Nirosta ones that have excellent flexibility. The cloth covered releases do have a nice classic pre-WWII appearance but they are to be used in dry weather only. The plastic covered and Nirosta releases are made for use in adverse weather conditions. The plastic covered releases are stiffer and lighter than the Nirosta ones. The Nirosta releases are of the highest German quality but that is reflected in the price. Gebr. Schreck have a web-site in English that gives an excellent view on the technology of mechanical cable releases. They also have a web-shop. I am a patron.