This a very common place sentence, I know. We all say that, but rarely change our views on something. Well, this not a mea culpa, just an act of justice towards the Rolleiflex TLR. I never liked the TLR formula. Always thought that they were too big for the 6x6 format and not true reflexes. However, my main problem with the TLR was the Rolleilex name. I hate cameras that have become the playground of the rich and “knowledgeable” elite. I am weird, but I believe that there are no bad cameras, just bad photographers.
Well, I tried the impossible not to have any TLRs cameras in my collection. However, it was an impossible mission, old cameras have their ways to sneak into my house. So, a Meopta Flexaret arrived and stayed in the closet, it really didn’t attract the slightest reaction from me. Then, a Yashica mat arrived, but my heart continued to beat at the same slow rate. TLR’s weren’t just for me.
One day, I passed a store that was hard to define, it had all sorts of new things, like TV sets, radios, work gloves, tools, but everything was almost twenty years old, albeit never used. Out of curiosity I entered the store, had a look around and asked the proverbial question “Do you have old cameras?”. The lady said no and I left. Just when I was turning around the corner, I heard a man’s voice yelling “Sir! Excuse me Sir, can I talk to you for a second?” There was a man at the door of the store waving at me. I returned to the store to speak to the guy. He said that his wife had told him that I was looking for old cameras and he might have one for sale. I asked what camera was and he said that he didn’t know, because it was stored away some place. We agreed that the following week I would come back to see the camera.
The week that followed I was religiously at the store to check the famous camera, but with no luck, the man had forgotten all about it. To make the story shorter, this happened for the next five weeks or so. I was starting to think that this guy had a serious mental issue. Still, while some people visit a church to experience some kind of revelation, I visited the store in hope for a camera to reveal itself. I was about to give up on this heretic practice, when one day the gentleman said “ I brought it today!”
I looked at the guy with a certain indifference, with my luck, I was going to see a Kodak Brownie or something like that. He disappeared behind the counter and came with a brown leather case that read Rolleiflex. Oh dear, I thought to myself, a Rolleiflex, so much trouble for so little. Still, he handed me the camera and I opened the case. At that time I knew nothing about Rolleiflexes, but I knew that the vast majority had Zeiss Tessar lenses, but this one didn’t. Interesting I thought, the model name was engraved at the top, 3.5 F and the lens was a Xenotar. The camera was in mint condition, the selenium meter worked and the waist level finder was a revelation, bright, with split image. What I can´t describe is the feeling of having it in my hands, the finish, the weight, whatever, it took me by storm. The vendor asked for a very reasonable price, so I thought I would make a nice profit on it because I would never buy and keep a Rolleiflex, right?
I left the store and walked a few meters and then sat on the kerb to better examine my purchase. Damn, what a beautiful camera! It felt just so right, every control worked with precision and smoothness. I was falling in love without knowing it. Suddenly I felt that I had to put a roll in it and try it. I normally carry 120 film in my camera bag, so I loaded the Kodak Ektar 100, closed the door and ….the advance lever would not stop! Sensing that something was wrong, I opened the door and saw that half of the roll had already been advanced! Funny thing, with the door open the camera would stop the crazy winding. I was devastated, I was starting to like the damn thing and it was faulty! I was so disappointed, so sad really, I decided to take the Rolleiflex as it was to my trusted mechanic, I gave him a call and off I went.
When I arrived at his house he was expecting me with a wicked smile on his face. I handed the Rolleiflex to him and explained the malfunction. Is it serious, I asked? His answer was quick and stroke me as bullet. “Of all the idiots that I know, I never thought that you would be one of them! “ What did I do? He laughed and sad, you just fell in to the most famous Rolleiflex trick, the loading! These cameras aren’t loaded just like any other camera, moron! Let me show how it is done properly. Ah the feeler roller! I felt so stupid, so insignificant, I think that even my teeth went red with shame. Needless to say, the Rolleiflex was working perfectly.
After this bumpy start, me and the Rolleiflex have become as one. When I think of shooting 120 film it is the first camera that comes to my mind. As much as I hate to say it, there is nothing like it, it might sound snobbish, but this is the real thing, just perfect. Ah, I still don’t like TLR’s, except my Rolleiflex!