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The Rolleiflex Effect

How A Camera Revolutionised the World of Photography


Throughout the history of photography, there have been many innovations and inventions that have changed the way we see and photograph the world. One of the most influential and iconic of these innovations is the Rolleiflex line of cameras, produced by the Rollei company.


The Rolleiflex is a twin-lens reflex (TLR) camera, which use two lenses of the same focal length: one for viewing and focusing, and one for taking the picture. The lenses are connected by a system of gears and mirrors, which allow the photographer to see exactly what the camera sees through a waist-level viewfinder. Alongside the famous TLR cameras, Rollei also latterly produced single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras under the Rolleiflex brand. The Rolleiflex cameras use medium format film, which produces larger and sharper images than 35mm film.


The Rolleiflex was first introduced in 1929 by Paul Franke and Reinhold Heidecke, the founders of the Rollei company. They wanted to create a high-quality, compact, and user-friendly camera that would appeal to both professionals and amateurs. They succeeded in creating a camera that revolutionised photography and influenced generations of photographers, from photojournalists and street photographers to portraitists and artists.


In this article, we will explore the history and evolution of the Rollei company and the Rolleiflex cameras, and how they shaped and reflected the culture and history of photography. We will also look at some of the famous and influential photographers who used Rolleiflexes, and how they showcased the artistic and technical potential of these cameras. Finally, we will discuss how they can be adapted and customised to suit the needs and preferences of modern photographers, and how they can be integrated with digital technology and equipment.


If you are interested in learning more about the Rollei company and their cameras, and how they revolutionised photography and influenced generations of photographers, then read on. You will discover the fascinating story of the Rolleiflex, and why they are still relevant and desirable in the contemporary photography scene.


A man holding a Rolleiflex 3.5 twin lens reflex camera

The Founders: Paul Franke and Reinhold Heidecke

The Rollei company was the brainchild of two German engineers: Paul Franke and Reinhold Heidecke. They were both passionate about photography and technology, and they shared a common vision of creating the best cameras in the world.


Paul Franke was born in 1882 in Berlin, and he studied electrical engineering at the Technical University of Berlin. He worked as a sales manager for a camera company called Voigtländer, where he gained valuable experience and knowledge in the camera industry. He was also an avid photographer, and he experimented with different types of cameras and lenses.


Reinhold Heidecke was born in 1881 in Wolfenbüttel, and he studied mechanical engineering at the Technical University of Braunschweig. He worked as a designer and constructor for a camera company called ICA, where he developed and patented several innovative camera mechanisms and systems. He was also a skilled photographer, and he specialised in architectural and landscape photography.


A picture of Paul Franke and Reinhold Heidecke

Franke and Heidecke met in 1915, when they were both serving in the German army during World War I. They were assigned to the same aerial reconnaissance unit, where they used cameras to take photos of enemy positions and movements. They became friends and colleagues, and they discovered their mutual interest and expertise in photography and technology.


After the war, they decided to start their own camera company, and they founded the Franke & Heidecke company in 1920 in Braunschweig. They initially produced and repaired cameras and accessories for other companies, such as Zeiss Ikon and Kodak. They also designed and manufactured their own cameras, such as the Heidoscop, a stereo camera, and the Rolleidoscop, a TLR camera.


However, their breakthrough came in 1929, when they launched the first Rolleiflex camera, a TLR camera that used 120 film and had a Compur leaf shutter. The Rolleiflex camera was a sensation, and it quickly became popular among professional and amateur photographers alike. It was praised for its high-quality, compactness, and ease of use, and it set a new standard for TLR cameras.


Franke and Heidecke continued to improve and expand their Rolleiflex line of cameras, and they introduced new models and features, such as the Rolleicord, a cheaper and simpler version of the Rolleiflex, the Rolleiflex Automat, which had an automatic film counter and loading system, and the Rolleiflex 2.8, which had a larger and brighter lens.


Franke and Heidecke also faced many challenges and difficulties, such as surviving the World War II, rebuilding their factory and business after the war, and competing with other camera manufacturers, such as Leica, Hasselblad, and Nikon. They also had to adapt to the changing trends and demands of the photography market, such as the rise of 35mm film, colour film, and digital photography.


Despite these challenges, Franke and Heidecke never compromised on their vision and philosophy of creating high-quality, innovative, and user-friendly cameras that would appeal to both professionals and amateurs. They remained faithful to their Rolleiflex brand, and they maintained their reputation and loyal customer base. They also inspired and influenced many other camera makers and photographers, who followed their example and learned from their experience.


Franke and Heidecke were not only business partners, but also lifelong friends. They worked together until their retirement in the 1960s, and they passed away within a year of each other, in 1964 and 1965, respectively. They left behind a legacy and a heritage that is still alive and cherished today, in the Rollei company and the Rolleiflex cameras.


The Rolleiflex Line: A Chronology of Camera Manufacture

The Rolleiflex line of cameras is one of the most successful and enduring camera lines in the history of photography. It spans over eight decades, from 1929 to 2015, and it includes more than 30 models and variations. Each model of the Rolleiflex TLR line has its own features and specifications, but they all share the same basic design and concept: a twin-lens reflex camera that uses medium format film and has a leaf shutter. In this section, we will trace the history and evolution of the Rolleiflex line of cameras through the TLR era and out into the SLR era, and we will describe the main features and specifications of each model.


The Original Rolleiflex (1929-1932)

The first model of the Rolleiflex line was introduced in 1929, and it was the result of years of research and development by Paul Franke and Reinhold Heidecke. They wanted to create a camera that would combine the advantages of the TLR design, such as accurate framing and focusing, with the advantages of the 120 film format, such as larger and sharper images. They also wanted to make the camera compact, lightweight, and easy to use, so that it would appeal to both professionals and amateurs.


The original Rolleiflex

The original Rolleiflex had a metal body and a leather covering, and it measured 14 x 9 x 9 cm and weighed 1 kg. It had two lenses of the same focal length: a Zeiss Tessar 75mm f/3.8 lens for taking the picture, and a Heidosmat 75mm f/2.8 lens for viewing and focusing. The lenses were connected by a system of gears and mirrors, which allowed the photographer to see exactly what the camera saw through a waist-level viewfinder. The camera had a Compur leaf shutter, which could be set from 1/300 to 1 second - with T and B modes, and a film advance knob, which also cocked the shutter. The camera used 120 film, which produced 12 square images of 6 x 6 cm each.


The original Rolleiflex was a sensation, and it quickly became popular among professional and amateur photographers alike. It was praised for its high-quality, compactness, and ease of use, and it set a new standard for TLR cameras.


The Rolleiflex Old Standard (1932-1938)

The second model of the Rolleiflex line was the Old Standard, and it was an improvement over the original model. It had a larger and more ergonomic body, and it measured 14.5 x 9.5 x 9.5 cm and weighed 1.1 kg. It had two lenses of the same focal length: a Zeiss Tessar 75mm f/3.5 lens for taking the picture, and a Heidosmat 75mm f/2.8 lens for viewing and focusing.


Rolleflex Old Standard
Credit: Wapster, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

The Old Standard was a popular and reliable camera, and it was widely used by professional and amateur photographers. It was praised for its quality, simplicity, and durability, and it was a versatile camera that could be used in various situations and conditions.


Rolleiflex New Standard (1938-1941)

The Rolleiflex New Standard was introduced in 1938 as an improved version of the original Rolleiflex. The New Standard notably had a larger focusing screen and a hinged back cover for easier film loading.


The New Standard came with a choice of two lenses: the Zeiss Tessar f/3.8, 75 mm or the Schneider Xenar f/3.5, 75 mm. Both lenses had a Compur shutter with speeds from 1 to 1/300 second, plus bulb and time modes.


The New Standard was a popular and reliable camera that offered high image quality and ease of use. It was suitable for a variety of subjects, from portraits to landscapes, and could be fitted with various accessories, such as filters, close-up lenses, and flash units.


Rolleicord (1933-1976)

The Rolleicord was a cheaper and simpler version of the Rolleiflex, intended for amateur photographers. It was introduced in 1933, and had a steel back-plate, a knob for winding the film, and a simpler Zeiss Triotar lens.


Rolleicord
Credit: Sven Storbeck, CC BY-SA 3.0 <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/>, via Wikimedia Commons

The Rolleicord I cost 105 ℛ︁ℳ︁, and produced 12 square images of 6x6 cm on 120 roll film. The Rolleicord series was updated several times, with improvements such as a hinged back, a crank lever film advance, a frame counter, and a self-timer. The later models (III - VB) used Schneider Xenar lenses that had better optics. The Rolleicord was discontinued in 1976, after a total production of 2,699,505 units.


Rolleicord Typ 4

The Rolleicord was a popular camera for street photography, as it was light, quiet, and easy to use. It also produced sharp and contrasty images, thanks to the quality of the lenses and the large negative size. 


Rolleiflex Automat (1937-1956)

The Rolleiflex Automat was introduced in 1937, and was the first camera to have an automatic film counter system for TLR cameras. This system sensed the thickness of the film backing and set the frame number accordingly, eliminating the need for a red window on the back of the camera.


Rolleiflex Automat
Credit: Foto Wolfgang Pehlemann, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en>, via Wikimedia Commons

The Automat also had a single-stroke film advance crank that cocked the shutter, advanced the film, and reset the frame counter. The camera had a waist-level viewfinder with automatic parallax correction, a sports finder and a focusing mirror built into the hood, and a left-hand focusing knob with a depth of field scale. The camera was equipped with a Compur-Rapid leaf shutter with speeds from 1 to 1/500 second, and a 75mm f/3.5 Carl Zeiss Tessar lens. The Automat was a landmark model that set the standard for all subsequent Rolleiflex TLR cameras, and was widely copied by other manufacturers. The Automat was produced until 1956, with several variations and improvements.


Rolleiflex 2.8 (1950-2015)

The Rolleiflex 2.8 series was introduced in 1950 as the successor to the original Rolleiflex Automat. The 2.8 series featured a faster f/2.8 lens, either a Zeiss Planar or a Schneider Xenotar (from B onwards, the A being a Zeiss Tessar or Schneider Xenar), with a focal length of 80 mm.


The 2.8 series also had a larger viewfinder, a film counter, and a self-timer. The 2.8 series was produced in several versions, from the 2.8A to the 2.8GX, with minor variations in design and functionality. The 2.8 series was the most popular and widely used Rolleiflex model, favoured by many famous photographers such as Richard Avedon, Diane Arbus, Robert Doisneau, and Vivian Maier. The 2.8 series produced sharp and contrasty images with a smooth bokeh, thanks to the high-quality lenses and the large aperture.


Rolleiflex 2.8F
Credit: Sputniktilt, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

The 2.8 series also allowed for more creative control over the depth of field and the exposure, as well as the ability to use filters and close-up lenses. The 2.8 series was discontinued in 1981 with the 2.8F, after more than 300,000 units were sold, but revived in 1989 with the GX, FX and FX-N models.


Rolleiflex 3.5 (1956-65)

The Rolleiflex 3.5 series was introduced in 1956 as a cheaper alternative to the 2.8 series. The 3.5 series featured a slower f/3.5 lens, either a Zeiss Planar or a Schneider Xenotar, with a focal length of 75 mm. The 3.5 series was produced in several versions, from the 3.5C to the 3.5F, with minor variations in design and functionality. The 3.5 series was the first Rolleiflex model to have a built-in light meter, starting from the 3.5E version. The 3.5 series was also the first Rolleiflex model to have interchangeable focusing screens, starting from the 3.5F version.


Rolleiflex 3.5
Credit: Cquoi, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

The 3.5 series was a reliable and durable camera, suitable for a variety of photographic situations. The 3.5 series produced crisp and detailed images with a natural colour rendition, thanks to the excellent lenses and the medium format film. The 3.5 series also offered a good balance between portability and image quality, as well as the possibility to use accessories such as flash units and lens hoods. The 3.5 series was discontinued in 1966, after more than 200,000 units were sold.


Rolleiflex T (1958-1975)

The Rolleiflex T was introduced in 1958, as a mid-range model between the budget Rolleicord and the high-end Rolleiflex. It was designed to fill the gap in the market for a more affordable but still sophisticated TLR camera. The T stands for Théodore Uhl, the engineer who created it.


Rolleiflex T
Credit: George Rex from London, England, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

The Rolleiflex T had a Carl Zeiss Tessar 3.5/75mm taking lens and a Heidosmat 2.8/75mm viewing lens, both with bayonet 1 filter mount. It had a Synchro-Compur leaf shutter, with speeds from 1 to 1/500 second and B, and M and X flash sync. It had a waist-level viewfinder, which was interchangeable with other accessories. It had a film transport lever, a film start marker, and an exposure counter for 12 exposures of 6x6 cm on 120 roll film. It also had an optional dual-range selenium light meter, which was coupled to the aperture and shutter speed settings. The camera had a grey or black leatherette covering, and weighed about 1 kg.


The Rolleiflex T was a simplified version of the Rolleiflex, with some features omitted or modified to reduce the cost. For example, it did not have the automatic film start sense mechanism, which was replaced by a manual start marker. The front mechanisms were also less complex than the main model. However, the Rolleiflex T still had some advantages over the Rolleicord, such as the interchangeable viewfinder, the faster lens, and the coupled light meter. The Rolleiflex T underwent three revisions during its production, which lasted until 1975. The first model (T1) was produced from 1958 to 1961, and had a gray leatherette. The second model (T2) was produced from 1961 to 1966, and had a black leatherette and a Rolleikin adapter for 35mm film. The third model (T3) was produced from 1966 to 1976, and had a new front plate design, a Synchro-Compur VX shutter, and a Schneider Xenar lens option for some units.


The Rolleiflex T was a popular and versatile camera, suitable for various genres and styles of photography. It offered a good balance between quality and affordability, and was praised for its sharp and contrasty images, its bright and clear viewfinder, and its smooth and quiet operation. Some of the famous photographers who used the Rolleiflex T include Robert Capa, Vivian Maier, and Elliott Erwitt.


Rolleiflex SL66 (1966-1982)

The Rolleiflex SL66 was introduced in 1966, and was the first medium format single lens reflex (SLR) camera made by Rollei. It was a departure from the TLR design, and aimed to compete with the Hasselblad SLR cameras that were popular at the time. The SL66 had several features that were unique or noteworthy in an SLR camera, such as:

  • Reverse-mounting lenses. Most SL66 lenses could be reversed and mounted to the camera without adapters, for use in close-up macro photography.

  • Lens bellows. The camera had a built-in bellows system that allowed for focusing when the lenses were reversed, and also for extending the focal length of the lenses.

  • Lens tilt movement. The lenses could be tilted up to 8 degrees either up or down, to take advantage of the Scheimpflug principle, enabling greater depth of field, especially in close-up photographs.


Rolleiflex SL66
Credit: BastienM, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

The SL66 used 120 or 220 film to produce 6x6 cm frames, and had a focal-plane shutter with speeds from 1 to 1/1000 second. The camera had a pentaprism viewfinder with a metering prism, and a waist-level viewfinder as an option. The camera could mount a variety of lenses, from 40mm to 500mm, and some of them had leaf shutters for higher flash synchronisation speeds. The SL66 was a versatile and innovative camera that offered more creative possibilities than the Hasselblad SLR cameras, but it was also more complex and expensive to produce and maintain. The SL66 was produced until 1982, and was followed by several later models, such as the SL66E, SL66X, and SL66SE.


Rolleiflex SLX (1976-1986)

The Rolleiflex SLX was introduced in 1976 as the first SLR camera for 120 or 220 film made by Rollei. It was intended for 6x6 cm exposures, and could also make 4.5x6 ones with the correct film holder. The body of the camera was an unusual upright shape, to incorporate a built-in power winder. Unlike Rollei’s first SLR, the Rolleiflex SL66, the SLX used lenses with leaf shutters; there was no focal-plane shutter in the camera. The shutter speed control was on the camera body, not on the lens. Shutter speeds from 30 seconds to 1/500 second, plus ‘B’ were available. The camera had a folding waist-level viewfinder as standard, with a built-in loupe, and with the usual frame-finder feature. There was also a prism finder, usable at 45 or 90 degrees, and a rigid magnifying finder.


Rolleiflex SLX
Credit: Eric Gaba (Sting - fr:Sting), CC BY-SA 3.0 <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/>, via Wikimedia Commons

A number of interchangeable focusing screens were available. The standard lens was an 80 mm f/2.8 Planar, and there was a reasonable range of interchangeable lenses for the camera. The camera had through-the-lens center-weighted metering, and could be used in shutter priority AE or with manual exposure. The film speed was set on a dial in the face of the shutter-speed knob. The Rolleiflex SLX won the Grand Prix award at the Paris World’s Fair in 1977, which generated a lot of interest. The SLX was the predecessor of the 6000 series of Rollei medium format SLRs, which continued to improve and expand the system.


Rolleiflex 6006 (1984-1993)

The Rolleiflex 6006 was launched in 1984 as a further development of the SLX. One of the biggest changes was the addition of a (daylight) detachable film magazine, a feature not available on the SLX. There were two models of the 6006. The second model added a built-in multiple exposure feature. The 6006 had a more ergonomic design, with a handgrip and a shutter release button on the right side of the body. The shutter speed dial was moved to the top of the body, and the film speed dial was integrated with the exposure compensation dial.


Rolleiflex 6008, an advancement on the 6006.
Credit: Marcela, GFDL 1.2 <http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html>, via Wikimedia Commons

The camera also had a LCD display on the top plate, showing the shutter speed, aperture, exposure mode, battery level, and other information. The camera had a new bayonet mount, the QBM II, which was compatible with the previous QBM lenses, but also allowed the use of new PQ lenses with improved performance and communication with the camera. The 6006 also had a new TTL flash metering system, which worked with dedicated Rollei flash units. The camera had a new electronic release system, which allowed pre-release of the mirror, to reduce camera shake when the shutter was released. The camera also had a new film transport system, which advanced the film more smoothly and quietly. The 6006 was a sophisticated and versatile medium format SLR, which offered a high level of automation and control.


The Cultural Significance of the Rolleiflex

A Rolleiflex is more than just a tool for taking pictures. It’s also a cultural icon that has influenced and shaped the history and culture of photography, as well as the society and the world at large. These cameras have been used by some of the most renowned and influential photographers of the 20th and 21st centuries, who have created some of the most memorable and iconic images of their times. They have also enabled new forms of expression and creativity, and challenged the conventions and norms of photography. Rolleiflexes have also reflected and responded to the social and historical changes of their eras, and captured the spirit and mood of different periods and places. Being not only remarkable for their technical and aesthetic qualities, but also for their cultural and historical impact, Rolleflexes have enabled new forms of expression and creativity, and challenged the conventions and norms of photography. They have also reflected and responded to the social and historical changes of the 20th and 21st centuries, and captured the spirit and mood of different eras. 


Photojournalism

One of the most important and influential genres of photography that they have contributed to is photojournalism. Photojournalism is the use of photography to tell stories and document events, issues, and people in the news. Photojournalism requires speed, accuracy, and reliability, as well as artistic and ethical standards. The Rolleiflex has been ideal for photojournalism, as it is compact, light, and easy to use, and offers high image quality and low-light performance. They are also discreet and unobtrusive, allowing photographers to capture candid and authentic moments, without attracting too much attention or disturbing the subjects.



These cameras have been used by some of the most famous and respected photojournalists of the 20th century, such as Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Margaret Bourke-White, and W. Eugene Smith. These photographers have used a Rolleiflex camera to cover some of the most significant and dramatic events and issues of their times, such as the Spanish Civil War, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, and the environmental crisis. Their photos have not only informed and educated the public, but also moved and inspired them, and influenced the course of history.




Street Photography

Another genre of photography that Rolleiflexes have contributed to is street photography. Street photography is the use of photography to capture the candid and spontaneous moments of everyday life in public places, such as streets, parks, markets, and subways. Street photography requires mobility, agility, and creativity, as well as a keen eye and a sense of timing. Rolleiflex is a perfect partner for street photography, as it is small, fast, quiet and offers a bright and clear viewfinder.



They are also inconspicuous and unassuming, allowing you to blend in with the crowd and the environment, and to observe and capture what’s going on around you, without being noticed or interfering. Rolleiflexes have been used by some of the most acclaimed and influential street photographers of the 20th century, such as Vivian Maier, Robert Doisneau, Elliott Erwitt, and Garry Winogrand. These photographers have used the Rolleiflex cameras to capture the beauty, humor, irony, and diversity of urban life, and to reveal the human condition and the social context of their times.


Expression and Creativity

The Rolleiflex enabled new forms of expression and creativity by offering a unique and distinctive perspective. As twin lens reflex (TLR) cameras (which have two lenses of the same focal length, one for taking the picture and one for viewing and focusing), your point of view is through the upper lens connected to a waist-level viewfinder, allowing you to compose the image from a lower angle, and to see the scene in a square format. The taking lens is connected to a leaf shutter, which allows for faster and quieter operation, and higher flash synchronisation speeds. The entire line of Rolleiflexes have high-quality lenses - Zeiss Tessar or Planar, or Schneider Xenar or Xenotar - all of which produce sharp and contrasty images with a smooth bokeh.


The twin lens reflex camera, of which Rollei has the most distinctive and distinguished line, has given photographers a new way of seeing and capturing the world, and a new way of expressing their vision and creativity. The waist-level viewfinder has enabled the photographer to be more discreet and unobtrusive, and to capture candid and spontaneous moments, without disturbing or intimidating the subjects. It has also enabled the photographers to be more playful and experimental, and to explore different angles and compositions, such as tilting, framing, and cropping. The square format challenges you to be more balanced and symmetrical, and to emphasise the geometry and patterns of the scene. Using a leaf shutter affords more flexibility and versatility to the photographer, and to use flash and long exposures in various lighting conditions.


A look into a waist level finder

The Rolleiflex also challenged the conventions and norms of photography, and opened up new possibilities and opportunities for the photographers. They have challenged the dominance and popularity of the 35mm format, which was considered the standard and the norm for professional and amateur photography. And, they have shown that the medium format, and especially the 6x6 cm square format, can offer a higher image quality and a more creative potential than the 35mm format. It has disputed the assumption and expectation that the SLR cameras are superior and more advanced than the TLR cameras. They have shown that the TLR cameras can offer a simpler and more reliable mechanics, and a brighter and clearer viewfinder than the SLR cameras. They have also challenged the stereotype and perception that the TLR cameras are outdated and obsolete, and only suitable for nostalgic and retro photography. TLR cameras can still be relevant and innovative, and adaptable to the modern era.


Social and Historical Changes

The social and historical changes of the 20th and 21st centuries have been reflected in the Rolleiflex line, capturing the spirit and mood of different eras. These iconic cameras have been used by some of the most renowned and influential photographers of their times, who have documented and witnessed some of the most significant and dramatic events and issues of their eras - from wars and revolutions, to movements and crises. Rolleiflex cameras have also been used by some of the most acclaimed and influential photographers of their times, who have portrayed and celebrated some of the most iconic and memorable people and places, and some of the most universal and timeless themes and emotions of their eras.


These cameras have not only reflected and responded to the social and historical changes of their eras, but also influenced and shaped them. They have been used as tools and weapons - and as art and culture. Rolleiflex cameras have been used to inform and educate, move and inspire, record and preserve, and create and innovate.


Famous Rolleiflex Users

Rolleiflexes have been used by some of the most renowned and influential photographers of the 20th and 21st centuries, who have created a large pantheon of iconic and memorable images of their times with them. They have contributed to the legacy and reputation of the Rolleiflex brand, and have shown the realised artistic and technical potential of the Rolleiflex cameras in various genres and contexts of photography. In this section, we will introduce six of these photographers, and provide some biographical and stylistic information on each of them.


Vivian Maier

Vivian Maier (1926–2009) was an American street photographer whose work - now well known - was discovered and recognised after her death. She took more than 150,000 photographs during her lifetime, primarily of the people and architecture of Chicago, New York City, and Los Angeles, although she also travelled and photographed around the world. During her lifetime, Maier’s photographs were unknown and unpublished; many of her negatives were never developed. A Chicago collector, John Maloof, acquired some of Maier’s photos in 2007, while two other Chicago-based collectors, Ron Slattery and Randy Prow, also found some of Maier’s prints and negatives in her boxes and suitcases around the same time. Maier’s photographs were first published on the Internet in July 2008, by Slattery, but the work received little response, but when Maloof linked his blog to a selection of Maier’s photographs on the image-sharing website Flickr In October 2009, the results went viral, with thousands of people expressing interest. Maier’s work subsequently attracted critical acclaim, and since then, her photographs have been exhibited around the world. Her life and work have been the subject of books and documentary films, including the film Finding Vivian Maier (2013), which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 87th Academy Awards.


Maier used a Rolleiflex 2.8F camera for most of her work, but started off with a more modest 3.5C which she bought in 1952. She preferred the Rolleiflex because of its square format, its waist-level viewfinder, and its high image quality. She also liked the fact that the Rolleiflex was less conspicuous and intrusive than other cameras, allowing her to capture candid and spontaneous moments of everyday life. Maier’s photographs are remarkable for their composition, their contrast, and their humanity. She had a keen eye for the details and the patterns of the urban environment, as well as for the expressions and the emotions of the people she encountered. She photographed a wide range of subjects, from children and families, to celebrities and politicians, to the poor and the marginalised. She also took many self-portraits, often using mirrors, windows, or other reflective surfaces. and historical context.


Robert Capa

Robert Capa (Endre Ernő Friedmann, 1913–1954) was a Hungarian-American war photographer and photojournalist. He is considered by some to be the greatest combat and adventure photographer in history. Capa had fled political repression in Hungary when he was a teenager, moving to Berlin, where he enrolled in college. He witnessed the rise of Hitler, which led him to move to Paris, where he met and began to work with his professional partner Gerda Taro, and they began to publish their work separately. He subsequently covered five wars: the Spanish Civil War, the Second Sino-Japanese War, World War II across Europe, the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, and the First Indochina War, with his photos published in major magazines and newspapers.


A portrait of Robert Capa

During his career he risked his life numerous times, most dramatically as the only civilian photographer landing on Omaha Beach on D-Day. He documented the course of World War II in London, North Africa, Italy, and the liberation of Paris. His friends and colleagues included Ernest Hemingway, Irwin Shaw, John Steinbeck and director John Huston . In 1947, for his work recording World War II in pictures, U.S. general Dwight D. Eisenhower awarded Capa the Medal of Freedom. That same year, Capa co-founded Magnum Photos in Paris. The organisation was the first cooperative agency for worldwide freelance photographers. Hungary has issued a stamp and a gold coin in his honour. He was killed when he stepped on a landmine in Vietnam.


Capa used a both an Old Standard and a New Standard camera for a lot of his WWII work. He liked the Rolleiflex because of its compactness, its speed, and its low-light performance. He also appreciated the fact that the Rolleiflex had a leaf shutter, which allowed for faster and quieter operation. Capa’s photographs are remarkable for their realism, their intensity, and their impact. He had a knack for being in the right place at the right time, and for capturing the decisive moments of war, as well as the human aspects of the conflict. He photographed the soldiers, the civilians, the battles, and the aftermath, with a sense of empathy and courage. He also photographed the celebrities, the artists, the politicians, and the events of his time, with a sense of humour and style.


Richard Avedon

Richard Avedon (1923–2004) was an American photographer known for his fashion and portrait photography. He worked for Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue and Elle specialising in capturing movement in still pictures of fashion, theatre and dance. He also photographed celebrities, artists, politicians, and social issues, with a distinctive style that combined elegance and emotion.


A portrait of Richard Avedon
Credit: blaze6t9, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

He founded his own studio in New York in 1950 and became one of the most influential and successful photographers of his era. His penchant for the Rolleiflex was due to its compactness, its speed, and its image quality. He also liked the fact that the Rolleiflex had a waist-level viewfinder, which allowed him to communicate and interact with his subjects more easily. Avedon’s photographs are remarkable for their composition, their contrast, and their expression. He had a way of capturing the personality and the mood of his subjects, as well as the beauty and the drama of the scene. He photographed a wide range of subjects, from models and actors, to writers and musicians, to civil rights activists and mental patients.


Eve Arnold

Eve Arnold (1912–2012) was an American photojournalist and documentary photographer. She was the first woman to join the Magnum Photos agency in 1951, and became a full member in 1957. She was also the first woman to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society of Magazine Photographers in 1980.



She photographed many of the iconic figures who shaped the second half of the 20th century, such as Marilyn Monroe, Malcolm X, Joan Crawford, and Queen Elizabeth II, as well as the lives of the poor and the marginalised, such as migrant workers, prostitutes, and nomads. She travelled and worked in over 60 countries, covering various topics and issues, such as politics, culture, religion, and human rights. Arnold’s photographs are remarkable for their intimacy, their empathy, and their humanity. She had a keen eye for the details and the stories of the people and places she encountered, and a sense of respect and curiosity for their diversity and complexity. She photographed a wide range of subjects, from celebrities and politicians, to children and families, to the poor and the oppressed.


Diane Arbus

Diane Arbus (1923–1971) was an American photographer best known for her intimate black-and-white portraits. Arbus often photographed people on the fringes of society, such as the mentally ill, transgender people, circus performers, and people with physical anomalies. She also photographed ordinary people, such as children, couples, families, and elderly people, with a keen interest in their individuality and their identity.



She studied photography with Berenice Abbott, Alexey Brodovitch, and Lisette Model, and her photographs were first published in Esquire in 1960. In 1963 and 1966, she received Guggenheim Fellowships for her project "American Rites, Manners and Customs". She was one of the three photographers featured in the influential exhibition New Documents at the Museum of Modern Art in 1967, curated by John Szarkowski. She committed suicide in 1971, at the age of 48. The realism, intensity, and impact of Arbus’s photographs is renowned, and her skill of being in the right place at the right time, and for capturing the decisive moments of her subjects, as well as the human aspects of their lives, is lauded. She photographed her subjects with a sense of empathy and curiosity, and often established a personal relationship with them. She also photographed her subjects with a sense of irony and ambiguity, and often challenged the conventions and norms of photography and society.


Irving Penn

Irving Penn (1917–2009) was an American photographer known for his fashion and still life photography. He worked for Vogue magazine for over six decades, creating iconic images of models, celebrities, and designers. He also photographed portraits, nudes, landscapes, and ethnographic subjects, with a distinctive style that combined elegance and simplicity.


Photograph of Irving Penn with others.
Credit: Jiří Poláček, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

He founded his own studio in New York in 1950 and became one of the most influential and successful photographers of his era. Penn’s photographs are noted for their composition, their contrast, and their expression. He got under the skin of his subjects to fully capture their personality and their mood, as well as the beauty and the drama of the scene. He photographed a wide range of subjects, from celebrities and politicians, to flowers and cigarettes, to tribes and cultures.


The Modern Day Camera - Adaptation and Accessories

Rolleiflex cameras are classic and timeless, but they are also adaptable and customisable. They can be modified and enhanced to suit the needs and preferences of modern photographers, and to integrate with digital technology and equipment. There are many accessories and add-ons available for them, such as lenses, filters, hoods, screens, backs, grips, straps, cases… the list goes on. These accessories can improve the performance, versatility, and comfort of your camera, and can also protect and preserve it. In this section, we will explain how these cameras can be adapted and customised and describe some of the available accessories and add-ons.


Adapting and Customising Rolleiflex Cameras

Rolleiflexes can be adapted and customised in various ways, depending on the model and the purpose. However, not all models are compatible with all options, and some options may be rare, expensive, or complex. Therefore, some people may prefer to use them as they are, or with minimal modifications, while others may prefer to experiment and explore with different possibilities.


One way to adapt certain Rolleiflex models and truly bring it into the 21st century is to use a digital back, which replaces the film back and allows the camera to capture digital images. These are, alas, only available for the Rolleiflex 6000 series (the Rolleiflex Hy6 being digital from the start), which have interchangeable backs. There are several backs compatible with these models, and they offer high resolution, high dynamic range, and high colour fidelity, as well as the convenience and flexibility of digital workflow. However, they are expensive and complex, and they can alter the balance and the feel of the camera.


Different lenses are also available for the 6000 and Hy6 series cameras, which have bayonet mounts that allow the lenses to be easily attached and detached, and also to be reversed for close-up photography. The Rolleiflex 6000 series and the Rolleiflex Hy6 use the PQ or PQS mount. 


Both TLR and SLR type Rolleiflexes (where the TLR type Rolleiflex has an interchangeable finder) can take different viewfinders, and this changes the way you see the world and compose the image. The Rolleiflex TLR series has a waist-level viewfinder, which consists of a hood with a magnifying glass and a sports finder, as well as other types of viewfinders, such as the eye-level viewfinder, which allows the camera to be held at eye level, and the chimney finder, which allows the camera to be held closer to the face. The Rolleiflex 6000 series and the Rolleiflex Hy6 have a prism finder, which allows the camera to be held at eye level, as well as other types of viewfinders, such as the waist-level finder, which allows the camera to be held at waist level, and the right-angle finder, which allows the camera to be held at a 90-degree angle. These viewfinders can offer a more comfortable and convenient way of viewing and focusing, but they can also be bulky, heavy, and expensive, and they can reduce the brightness and the clarity of the view.


Accessories and Add-ons for the Rolleiflex Cameras

There are many accessories and add-ons available for the Rolleiflex cameras. These improve on the base functionality, creating a more versatile system, and can improve the ergonomics of the camera. They can also help protect and preserve the camera. These days, some of these accessories and add-ons may be hard to find, and because of the variety of models and connectors/bayonets, you have to make sure you buy the right item. So, you may prefer to stick with minimal or essential accessories and add-ons, but others might choose more or optional accessories and add-ons.


Some of the most common and useful accessories and add-ons are:

  • Filters: are attached to your Rolleiflex using the bayonet mount, which can accept different sizes and types of filters, such as the Rollei Bay I, II, or III; or for the SLR lenses, Bay VI-VIII or standard 67mm, 77mm, 86mm, 95mm screw thread, depending on the type of lens. Some of the most popular filters are UV filters, blocking ultraviolet rays and reducing haze; polarising filters, which reduce reflections and increase contrast, and colour filters, adding or subtracting colours from the scene.

  • Hoods: cylindrical or conical devices that can be attached to the front of the lens, and can block unwanted light from entering the camera. They can prevent lens flare, which is a phenomenon where bright light sources create streaks or spots on the image, and do also thus improve the contrast and the saturation of the image. Hoods are useful for shooting in bright or backlit situations, and provide protection to the lens from accidental bumps or knocks. They can be attached to Rolleiflexes using the TLR bayonet mounts (Bay I, II, or III), SLR bayonet mounts (Bay VI-VIII) or the standard 67/77/86/95mm screw-on types.

  • Screens: are thin pieces of glass or plastic that can be inserted into the waist-level viewfinder, and can change the way the image is displayed on the viewfinder. They have various features, such as grid lines, split images, microprisms, or magnifiers, helping you compose, focus, or alighn the image. They are useful for improving the accuracy and precision of composition, and ease of viewing and focusing; they can also suit different preferences and styles of photography. They’re inserted into your Rolleiflex by removing the hood and lifting the original screen, which can then be replaced by the new screen. 

  • Backs: are devices that can be attached to the back of the camera, and can change the type or the format of the film that the camera can use. They can allow the camera to use different sizes or types of film, such as 35mm, 220, or instant film, which can offer different image qualities, resolutions, or effects. They also allow some variants to use digital sensors, giving you more convenience and flexibility. Both Rolleiflex TLR and SLR cameras can use backs, though the TLR cameras are limited to just the Rolleikin backs allowing 35mm photography. They can be attached to the SLR variants by removing the original film back, and replacing with the new back. This option is only available for the Rolleiflex 6000 series and the Rolleiflex Hy6, which have interchangeable film backs.


 

We’ve now seen the significance and history of Franke and Heidecke’s Rollei company, Rolleiflex cameras, and how they changed the world of photography. The Rollei company, founded by Paul Franke and Reinhold Heidecke in 1920, pioneered the twin-lens reflex design, and introduced innovative features and improvements that made Rolleiflex cameras far superior to their competitors. The Rollei company faced many challenges and had many achievements during and after the World War II - as well as managing to restore and expand their production and reputation in the global market in the aftermath of war. And we’ve looked at the legacy and influence of R