Cameras and bicycles, part 3 ”Rolleicord”

Welcome to part 3 of my series of camera tests.

This time we dive into the 1950’s. The German made Rolleicord camera. Really well made with good optics and very reliable. The Rolleicord is a bit less advanced and valuable version than the more advanced and expensive Rolleiflex. One of the main differences between the two is that the Rolleicord got a winding knob instead of a winding arm, less advanced lenses. But it is still very good quality camera.

This camera was made by Franke & Heidecke in Braunschweig south of Germany back in 1952 and was most likely to be exported to Sweden at that time. Round about 1967 my father bought it because at that time he was going to work as a photographer, so he thought. The idea never came true, but he used the camera on vacations and other occations. In fact he used the camera right up to early 80’s. So all early photos of me is taken with that camera. Then in the 80’s when he bought an East German Practica SLR camera of some sort. By then the old Rollei was put in a cupboard and was soon forgotten.
Many years later on when I started to take photos I asked if I could borrow the old camera. That was no problem. Sadly after all years in the drawer the had been a coating of “fog” between the lenses. But since I was repairing cameras for fun at that time I thought it was a fun project to get his old camera working again.

The camera got two lenses, one that takes the photo and one that you compose the image with. You fold the top up of the camera and looks down on a piece of glass (the view finder) where you see the motive that is in front of you like in a mirror. With the focus knob you adjust the image until what you see in the view finder is sharp. Then you simply take the photo, but first you need to cock the camera before you take the photo. That is done simply by sliding a small lever underneath the bottom lens to the right. Then you hear the shutter mechanics and springs work. To take a photo you press the lever to the left. There is also an mount for a cable release. Back then there was an accessory to the Rolleicord cameras, it was an small trigger that you could mount in the cable release mount so you could use an proper release button instead of sliding the lever back and forth (I had one of these buttons laying around so I mounted that on my fathers camera). Sadly the mirror inside the cameras view finder, the one that projects the view on the glass piece, is so bad that it requires a very bright sunshine to be able to see what you are looking at. Below is an example. I am taking a photo with my iPhone in the view finder. That is what you see on a bright sunny day.

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After fixing the camera up I took many great photos with that old camera, it was with that camera I discovered the fun in taking photos in a medium format. Since I developed and made prints myself it was also cheep and fun. I think I took over 50 rolls of the classic “120” film with my fathers old Rolleicord.  I always used the classic Kodak TRI-X film. In the previous post I mentioned that the standard film in the 30’s was at most ASA 100. The TRI-X was introduced in 1954 (60 years ago this year) and was a mind blowing ASA 400! It became reporters favourite film, it did not need bright sunlight or flashes to produce great images, it was easier to work with. Photos could be taken in low light settings, corspondents found the film very useful and forgiving in harsh enviroemnts. Then the artists discovered the wonderful feeling of the film, the slightly grainy look, the contrast and so on. It became one of the most used black and white films ever used. Sadly it was replaced by other brands and then Kodak changed the formula of the film. But I used TRI-X for a long time. Both in  the”medium” 120 format and the “small frame” 135 format.
Walking around in the city with some cans of TRI-X in my pocket and with my old Leica M2. Just take photos of everyday life. It was fun! But for portraits and more serious photos I used my fathers old Rolleicord until I one day placed the camera back in the cupboard.

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Here you can see the two lenses, the top one are for viewing, the bottom one is taking photos. The knob on the side towards the back of the camera is the film advancing knob. The knob in front of that one is the focus knob. Beside the bottom lens is a small lever, that one sets the shutter speed on the opposite side of the lens is the f stop lever. Just underneath the bottom lens is the cocking lever of the shutter and beside that one is the shutter release button. The round hole on the side of the front is an jack for the flash. The entire top of the camera flips forward and reveals the view finder. To change film you simply unhinge a locking device underneath the camera and flips the entire back of the camera open. Then you can load the 120 film and wind the film until the markings on the film displays the stop markings, you line up the films markings with the markings on the camera. Close the lid, secure the locking device. The advance the film until there is a small “1” turns up and it stops to wind. Set the shutter sped, f-stop. Cock the shutter, open the view finder and there you go. The Rolleicord is reddy for action.

After using the camera this time, about 15 years since last time. I find it a bit difficult to work with. Not that is is an old analogue camera. But I remembered why I stopped using it back then. The film advancing know is an menace. I have big fingers so every time I advance the film I scrape my index finger against the mount for the strap. One can get rather irritated after doing it 20 times in one photo session. Also the cocking of the shutter. After advancing to the next frame you need to also cock the shutter. When having a model in front of you that makes a move or an pose. You need to get a new frame reddy quick.
So to make a long story short. I bought a Rolleiflex. That was the best medium format camera I ever had, and I have used many different brands. All with their advantages and disadvantages. But the Rolleiflex was the best. Small, compact, accurate, quick to reload. Sadly I sold that camera to a friend. But that is a different story. But I still have my fathers old Rolleicord, but just like my father. It stands in a cupboard, in the case. I even got a set of filters and a lens hood in a case.

On the bicycle photo session I found the Rolleicord to be a good camera. Easy to operate and worked really well. Unforutunate I did not have the old TRI-X film. But as I mentioned earlier I had to get hold of some ASA 100 film with short notice from a friend.
The photos are good, but again like the photos that was taken with the Kodak box camera, the negative is scanned in and digitally printed. This time I only got the less quality JPG format on the images. I ordered an CD record as an backup on both occasion. On the Kodak box CD I got two sets of images. One set in JPG format and one set in TIFF format. But this time I got only the JPG format. That is a strange service attitude in my opinion. But I guess that is what happens when there is no services for development or printing of old photos for the everyday amateur.

On the day of the girl with bicycle photo session. I took the camera from the cupboard, took it out of the case, loaded it up. Went to the photo session. Brought out the camera out of the bag that I had all four cameras in, glanced at the light and then adjusted the shutter speed and f-stop as i estimated the light to require. I adjusted the f-stop after the ASA 100 film (I know the ASA 400 settings better). Opened the view finder, adjusted the focus…

“click”

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2 Comments

  1. Cameras and bicycles, part 4 ”iPhone 5s” | schneebremse
  2. Cameras and bicycles. Part 1, prologue | schneebremse

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