Someone once asked me what my favorite camera was. That’s easy. The Rolleiflex medium format TLR. In fact I would call it the most beautiful camera I’ve ever seen. It was relatively easy to use, light weight, extraordinarily well-constructed, simple and had the best lenses in the business. Everything worked again and again and again. Constant reliability, performance and excellence in a camera. I suppose the only objection some might have to it would be looking down into finder lens. But that never bothered me. As a medium format twin lens reflex with 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 (in) format, there are two lenses — the taking lens and the finder lens. You look down into the finder which is giving you a reverse image mirrored from the taking lens. You do see what you get with the exception of very close range photographs. Visually the square format is elegant and symmetrical, but also offers the option to crop either vertically or horizontally. And, the 2 1/4 film means generally better quality large prints than you can get with 35mm.
The Rollei was the very first camera I ever used. Initially I borrowed it from our upstairs neighbor in Bensonhurst, who later made me rent it for $5 a day — an extraordinary amount of money for a 15 year old in 1946. But, I did get hooked on it and later was able to save my pennies and purchase my own.
I had the Rolleiflex Automat Model 3 which was produced between 1945-1949 and also known as the K4B2. It was available in two lens. I couldn’t afford the more expensive Zeiss Jena Tessar lens and instead used the Schneider Xenar lens, which I found just as good.
I recently found Jacob Deschin’s book: Rollei Photography: Handbook of the Rolleiflex and Rolleicord Cameras (Camera Craft, 1952) in a box, which prompted these musings. I contributed two essays and a number of photos to it. Here are a few for you.