Classic Camera Collectors Club
Informatif website of Frank Lakiere


1. Franke and Heidecke's Rolleiflex mid-format cameras

1.1. The first Rolleiflex (1928)

In 1928 the first Rolleiflex for 6x6 negatives was designed by Reinhold Heidecke (1881-1960), co-owner of the firm Franke and Heidecke in Brunswick (Germany).
His partnner was Paul Franke (1888-1950), owner of a photo-shop in Berlin.
Franke and Heidecke were already famous for their stereo-cameras : the Heidoscop and the Rolleidoscop.

The name ROLLEI comes from 'roll film' en 'Heidecke'
. The Rolleiflex camera was very successful from the start : within a few weeks they sold more cameras than a year's production and they had to restrict the promotion.

Heidecke is not the inventor of the twin-lens-reflex camera, usually called TLR. This concept had already been used in large format cameras, but the design that Heidecke patented was much more compact than any of the existing models.

Heidecke made an optimal use of the space : he placed the filmrolls in what was 'lost' space in other designs and he placed the reflecting mirror as low as possible and doing this the 2 lenses could be placed nearer to each other. So the parrallax between the lenses was minimal.

During the following years the design was of course made better in many ways : For example a solution was found to compensate for the remaining parrallax.
In 1937 the rolleiflex Automat made his appearance on the World Exhibition in Paris. This camera had a mechanism for automatic filmtransport.

Rolleiflexes were expensive cameras for proffessional use.
A less expensive version, with a less expensive lens and less technical features, was made for the amateur photographer : the ROLLEICORD.

After the second world war the rolleiflex 2,8A was marketed. This type had a f/2.8 lens (instead of the usual f/3,5) and was primarily sold in the United States and not in Europe because of the high price.
Later the E-model with the uncoupled light metering and in the end the F-model with coupled selenium lightmeter were made. The F-type was made until the 1980's when the Rollei-Werke Franke and Heidecke went bankrupt.

But the firm rose from his ashes as 'Rollei Fototechnic' and it had several owners until the firm was sold to the staff members via a management buy-out.

The Rolleiflex TLR is still made, the latest model being the 2,8GX that features a modern TTL light metering system.
In the latest models the Synchro Compur shutter is replaced by a Japanese shutter mechanism.

My Rolleiflex MX-EVS (1954) with the mechanism made visible
This was the first model with the EVS system : the shutter- and the diaphragmwheels can be coupled and so the exposure stays correct. After the coupling you can still change the speed and/or the diaphragm but then the diaphragm/speed cahnges accordingly.
For example : if the setting is f/11 and 1/60 sec and these settings are coupled, then by canging the speed to 1/30 the diaphragm will automatically be changed to 1/16.

1.2. Other Rollei TLR cameras.

1.2.1. De Rollei 4x4

The Rollei 4x4 camera is similar to a normal Rolleiflex but it is for negatives 4x4 cm on 127 film.
This camera is also called Baby Rolleiflex.

Three types were made :
The first model dates before WWII (1931-1938) and these have a fabrication number between #135.000 and #523.000 and the les only takes push-on accessories.
From 1938 to 1941 the Sports Rolleiflex was made (#622.000-733.000). The Sports camera has a lens bayonet mount for filters.
The most common model is the grey Baby Rolleiflex . This one was made from 1957 to 1959 and has fabrication numbers #2.000.000 and on.
The black Baby Rolleiflex made from 1963 to 1966 is much less common than the grey Baby.

The most important reason for making a 4x4 TLR was that one could make 4x4 slides. These 4x4 slides can be placed in standard slide frames and can be used in normal slide projectors. For 6x6 slides one has to use a special and very expensive 6x6 projector.

1.2.2. The Rollei Wide and the Tele-Rolleiflex

During the 1950's lots of 135 cameras had the possibility to change the lenses. It was considered to make a changeable lenssystem for the Rolleiflex but such a system was never made. Instead Franke and heidecke made two special versions of the E-type : the wide-angle rolleoflex with a 55 mm Distagon lens en de Tele-Rolleiflew with a 135 mm Sonnar. Of the Rollei Wide around 4000 cameras were produced and of the Tele-Rollei around 8000 cameras.
In the end the production of these special models was stopped and one decided to design a whole new model : the Rolleiflex SLR (SLR = Single Lens Reflex)

2. The Rolleiflex Single Lens Reflex : the SL66

In 1966 Rollei introduced the SL66 to enter the concurrence with Hasselblad.
Like the Hasselblad 500C the SL66 is a fully mechanical camera but the SL66 has more features : longer bellows for close-up photography and Scheimpflug correction. But Hasselblad was far ahead and the SL66 was never a success.

In the 1970's the electronics were intoduced with the Rolleiflex SLX. This system was developed further to the ROLLEI 6000 SYSTEM. All the functions of the camera are now controlled electronically and this makes the Rollei 6008i the most sophisticated mid-format camera on the market.

3. Lenses

Alle Rolleifex cameras have high quality lenses, designed and produced by Carl Zeiss Jena (later: Carl Zeiss Oberkochen) or by Joseph Schneider of Bad Kreuznach.

Scheme of the triotar, tessar/xenar, planar and xenotar lenses.

Since 1971 Rollei has the possibilty to produce Zeiss lenses under licence. That was the result of the take-over by Rollei of the Voigtländer Optical Works, een part of Zeiss-Ikon Voigtländer. The lenses made by Rollei have the same name (for example 'Planar') but instead of 'Zeiss' they have the inscription 'Rollei HFT'. HFT means 'High Fidelity Transfer' and this is because the Rollei multi-caoting, that was developed together with Carl Zeiss, has been used.
Some lenses for the Rollei 6000 are produced by Carl Zeiss Oberkochen. These lenses are marked Carl Zeiss HFT. Besides these Carl Zeiss lenses a series of lenses with larger diaphragms is made by Joseph Schneider Optical Works in Kreuznach.

4. The 135 cameras

4.1. The Rollei 35

In 1966 the Rollei 35 camera was shown at Photokina. At that time this was the most compact 35mm SLR with a full metal frame. The camera was designed by Mr. Waaske, who made this design whne he was working for another firm. But when that firm went bankrupt Waaske went to Rollei with his design and they directly took it into production.
Several models were made with triotar, tessar, xenar en sonnar lenses. The last model made in 1990 was a special series named Rollei 35 Classic (sonnar 40mm f2.8 lens in Rollei Compur shutter). At present this model is very sought after by collectors.

4.2. The Rolleiflex SL35

This Single lens reflex camera was marketed in 1970. Until then the Japanese firms (Canon, Minolta, Nikon, Pentax) dominated the market. The Rollei SL35 was not a big comercial success, partly because the technology was not innovative. But Rollei made the SL35 for a number of years and even had some improved versions. The first series were made in Germany but eventually the production was switched to Singapore.

The housing of the SL35 is a metal alloy. The camera is covered with real leather and the top- and bottomplate are chromed or in black enamel.
The SL35 has a planar 50mm f/1.8 as standard lens and the shutter had speeds of 1 sexc to 1/1000 sec.
The camera has a lightmetering system with a cadmiumsulfide cell and the sensibility range of 12-6400 ASA.

The production was originally in Germany but was later transferred to Singapore.
Later Rollei also introduced the Schneider-Kreuznach lenses in addition to their own Rollei lenses. and so the Rollei Singapore SL35 version has a Schneider SL-Xenon 50mm f/1.8 lens.
Rollei also has its own QBM = Quick Bayonet Mount. This is the same bayonet mount as the Voigtländer VSL cameras.
The shutter has exposure times of 1 sec to 1/1000 sec + B and T.

The Rollei SL35 was not a big selling success. The technology was certainly not up-to-date and the Japanese camera makers were miles ahead.
But even then the SL35 was produced and updated regularly, especially with regards to the metering system.
The SL35 still uses the metering with closed diphragm.
In 1974 the SL350 has metering with open diaphragm. This is a full 6 yeras after the Leicaflex SL!!

In 1976 the SL35M is marketed but this camera does not have many new technical advances.
At the same time the SL35ME is introduced : this is a SL35M with electronically controlled shutter.

And finally in 1978 Rollei comes with the SL35E, which is a downgraded SL35ME.

But for Rollei that was too little too late : already in 1976 Canon had a fully new SLR with automatic light metering with automatic exposure, with very good lenses, a new design and with a very sharp price : the CANON AE-1.

4.3. The SL-2000

So it was not possible for Rollei to sell their old concept camera.
And so Rollei tried to conquer the market with a whole new camera : the SL-2000.
This is a smallfilm camera that has the looks of a small Hasselblad. Rollei showed the SL-2000 prototype at Photokina 1976.
But it took them another 5 years before it was produced in small numbers.
The SL-2000 is a very special camera for it has :
- an interchangeable back
- an interchangeable viewfinder
- an interchangeable viewing glass
- motorised filmtransport
- automatic light metering

Rollei offered Zeiss lenses from 15mm f/3.5 Distagon to the 1000mm f/5.6 Mirotar.
And in addition to these Zeiss lenses you also had a range of cheaper Rolleinar lenses. These lenses were made for Rollei by Mamiya.

In 1985 the SL-3003 was produced. This is a SL-2000 with minor changes.
And then there also was the SL-3003, a lighter version of the SL-3001.

The Rollei 2000/3003 system never became popular, especially because of the high price tag.
For example : in 1985 a filmback for 250 exposures costed the princely sum of 4,000 US dollars!!