|Franke & Heidecke, Rolleiflex "Old Standard", TLR roll film camera c1935|
The Rolleiflex camera was responsible for creating the popularity of the twin lens reflex. Based in Brunswick, Germany, Franke & Heidecke had originally started out making quality stereoscopic cameras from 1920, the TLR was a natural progression - opening their products to a wider audience rather than the rather niche stereoscopic market. Their first TLR of 1929, bore the Rolleiflex name using 6 x 6cm format, but using 117 roll film at this stage. The camera that defined the Rolleiflex range arrived in 1932, introducing all the features that made it a classic. Rapid lever advance with no need to check a red window, left hand focussing and the ability to set shutter speed and aperture just by glancing over the top but at this time the shutter still needed to be manually cocked for each exposure. Born out of this was the classic fashion photographer's posture, looking over the camera, to direct the model - occasionally glancing down to check focus and settings. The Rolleiflex was continuously developed into the 1980s, a major update being in 1939 when the arrangement of the lens board, or standard was changed. This retrospectively lead to the adoption of the term "Old Standard" for the earlier model, the one you see here.
Aimed at professional photographers the design sought to keep the photographer concentrating of the image, this meant all settings should read correctly from the photographer's viewpoint with as little need to move the camera as possible. The best available shutters of the time were front reading rim set Compurs, so Franke & Hedecke used that, controlling it with remote levers and independent read outs for the settings, easily viewed from above. They also arranged to advance the film quickly without the need to reference a red window. As with the 1929 Rolleiflex this 1935 example was built around a die cast zinc shell. The process of die casting with zinc was a relatively novel technology but gaining popularity as it made for dimensionally stable and stiff structures with unmatched repeatability. In the early days complex castings such as this could have voids and this example is riddled but passed quality control. This casting was then machined with the various holes and threads needed to attach other components. Paint was applied in three finishes, matt black to the light tight areas, gloss crackle to the front and polished gloss to the nameplate, with white paint infill for the Rolleiflex logo. The casting was then machined off to reveal the raised metal decoration. The lens board was also a die cast zinc component, gloss black painted. Focus was achieved by driving the lens board in and out on four screw jacks, themselves driven by a large central pinion in turn controlled via bevel drive to the focus knob. The shutter was a standard 44mm Compur Rapid, buried within the cast lens board. The aperture and speed controls were moved by levers and gears that transmitted the settings to a read out at the top of the assembly. Sitting atop the camera was a viewing hood made from a mixture of aluminium pressed panels front and back, brass surround, zinc tray and tin sides. All of which pop up enthusiastically in the blink of an eye, powered by springs. The film is advanced by a lever wind system fitted in the right hand side of the main shell - a linkage to the film counter moves the lever stop progressively as the film is used up, this compensates for the increasing diameter of the take up spool as film is wound onto it. For this reason you would notice that the advance lever travels a little less for each exposure. The bright parts are nickel plated and the covering is natural leather.
This particular example was acquired in October 2020. Like many of its brethren it was clearly heavily used as a professional camera, keeping some photographer in food and lodgings for some time. During that time it was modified to have a flash fitted, from the style of fitting, this was probably in the 1950s. Eventually it simply wore out and was disposed of. From there it became increasingly bodged and then neglected. Being a historically relevant camera, we rescued it and gave it a fairly extensive restoration. Normally we like to retain evidence of use, but the poor old thing was so abused latterly that in undoing that, the earlier evidence would look very out of place, consequently it was cosmetically restored, you can see the process in project 11.
Body No. 402556 (casting No. 096433)
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