Rolleiflex compendium (draft writing)





2.8D_02 800px.jpg

Rolleiflex 2.8D, Type 2

– Only D and E model have EVS. This one does not have selenium cell array on name plate, thus identified as ‘D model’.

The detent of EVS has extra slot which enable selection to coupled or uncoupled, so it is type 2.

Identity exact Model and Type of Rolleiflex is somewhat complicated but it’s a part of fun.

Origin of medium format TLR


The concept of TLR(Twin Lens Reflex) and actual camera built around the concept existed well before Rolleiflex. Difference is they are all

large format 4X5 or bigger and for studio shooting, in other words, bulky and stationary tool. Rolleiflex opened the new world in photography

by light weight and compact, yet big enough negatives to blow up extreme size with high definition and clarity. The world of photography

changed by this portable + high performance camera forever.


Franke und Heidecke


I guess the name is not familiar to new generations in the world now, but I remember the name stood high as symbol of German

camera in percision & high performance, Rolleiflex. It dominated professional camera market for a long time.

Paul Franke and Reinhold Heidecke established camera works in 1921, when German society had suffered with fear and unrest after world war 1.

Such unrests continue during post-war regime (Weimar), inflaction unheard in history waved the society until finally fall down 

to move power to Nazi. Franke und Heideke went through those turmoils and brought Rolleiflex to the world becoming the 1st choice of


After WW II, Franke und Heidecke took a role from Zeiss Ikon, big brother of German camera industry, which fall down in fierce competition

with Japanese camera, and continue fighting in almost all battle field in the industry to recover their lands.

From 120 TLR, F&H set fires to 120 SLR, 35mm SLR, Rangefinder camera, Automatic camera, world smallest 35mm camera, 110 format camera….etc

Certainly, in photography guiness world, no one surpass Kodak’s record, ‘how many different models’ out of product line. From highest quality

professional tool, middle range, low range, poor range, or piece of plastic junk… Kodak explored every possible areas where any slight

business chances existed. Franke und Heideke, as all round player tried every possible areas too where they think they can do,

but there is one big difference with. F&H tried so hard to maintain their quality all the way through. As a result, many Rollei camera was (& is)

the finest available camera in those areas. That’s the reason, Rolleiflex still beloved by photographers as top notch performer

even in new century rolled over.

In 1950, one of founder Paul Franke passed, and the other, Reinhold Heideke followed 10 years later. In 1962 the company name changed

to ‘Rollei-Werke Franke & Heodecke’ and gradually ‘Rollei’ represent not only the product but the company itself (Rollei-Werke)




Identify Rolleiflexes


Franke und Heidecke released multiple products in the same name, simply ‘Rolleiflex’. No more….

There is a model which expose 127 type file (also called ‘4X4′) with 60mm f3.5 Tessar lens called as Rolleiflex, and another one which expose

120 film with 80mm f2.8 Planar also called as Rolleiflex. If any name mean something, it could be used to identify one to another.

So over time, users build up their favored ‘nickname’ or Factory itself use ‘code name’ to identify what they are making in their production line.

‘Baby Rolleiflex’ is the example of nickname of 127 film model and Rolleiflex 2.8C is the additional code named to ‘Rolleiflex’ by factory. 

Finally in 1960, F&H start to inscribe model name in front of serial number thus hassle of users wondering what model they have in their hands is diminished.






F&H started business with stereo camera which was fashion in those days. Their product was at first Heidoscop & later Rolleidoscop,

which might be interesting to someone devoted stereo camera collecting. But for others jump to next product.






First Rolleiflex, called ‘Original Rolleiflex’ was released. As explained, it is not F&H’s official name. There are 2 types in here,

f4.5 lens version and f3.8 lens version. They have film winding knob (famous Rolleiflex crank winding come later), no film counter

thus the user watch red window while winding to align number on the back of film paper. Not very advanced than box camera…



127 film Rolleiflex (a.k.a. ‘Baby Rolleiflex’) was released and continued under production line until 1968. Singificance of this model is

‘crank winding’ equiped with this model and followed by all subsequent Rolleiflexes. Camera itself is smaller and easier to handle

than 120 film type but unfortunately 127 film is obsolete in these days if not distinguished.  If search hard, you may find them

still somewhere in Ebay, but developing, scanning or enlarging…you have to customize your tool or accept challenges all the way through.



Year of Rolleicord. It is marketed to amatuer photographers who concerned budget. Simpler mechanical construction than Rolleiflex

means cheaper retail price. Performance of Rolleicord, especailly Xenar lens, is at least the same with Tessar lens (not matter it found on

more expensive Rolleiflex) hence it is very reasonable choice of film body in these days.

Compare to Rolleiflex, Cord is not only cheaper (even latest Va, Vb model), less likely employeed to professionals (remember it was

marketed to amatuers as main target) so much less labored throughout its lifetime. In short, you have much higher chance

to get healthy mechanical camera with reasonable price.

Rolleicord introduced the most widely used film loading in medium format  as well. Just align red dot along film train with arrow on

the film paper, then close the door and wind until knob stopped. That’s it. You are ready to shoot 1st frame. Remaining 11 frames

followed by gearing, so no need to watch red window to align film frame.


Early Rolleiflex

–  If you already have them, do not hesitate to use unless you need keep them as collection.

If you want to buy a classic camera to shoot film, you have better options. Recommend ‘Automat’ or later










Rolleiflex Automat finally came to photographers. Automat is the base frame of all following Rolleiflexes in mechanical completeness,

so even latest model not really differs from 1937 Automat in essence. Crank advances film to next frame, cock the shutter, and film feeler

automates 1st frame alignment. You need to load film paper in between 2 rollers, then film feeler detect minute thickness difference 

where film base located and stop 1st film frame on right in place in addition to set film counter accordingly.

It is very convenient mechanical design which requires precision mechanical components and adjustment. No other company or product

offers similar kind of film loading than this.



At the end of war, English army marched to Braunschweig, home of Rolleiflex. About 60% of factory damaged and only 72 employee

remained when English army take over the place.






Rolleiflex Automat II (or called Rolleiflex X) released as truely post war product. All lenses now coated from factory, and X sync (strobe)

installed before leaving factory. In fact, X sync could be retrofitted later during repair or recall, thus exact modeling need to be rely on

serial number examination.

Rolleiflex A f2.8 came to market in this year too. It has bigger Tessar, f2.8. From this product, Rolleiflex continue to evolve

f3.5 and f2.8 series.



Suddenly and abruptly, rock solid foundation of Rollei, the leader of professional camera, started shaken. Swedish Hasselblad

poured into home grounds of Rollei, not exception to Germany. Many amatuers facinated and moved to Nikon, Canon’s 35mm camera

from Japan. At the top of TLR flourish, Rollei realized the world is not the same as before and next battle will determine their fate.

As we all know now, their reaction was too slow and too little. They wasted valuable time to do market research, brainstorm, design work,

proto type, engineering change, meetings…. then finally SL66 debut in the market to find it is too late…




Masterpiece of Rolleflex, or any kind of TLRs, 2.8F, 3.5F started production. It continued until 1981, 22 years span, without any big changes.

‘F’ is the last of mass prodcution in TLR started from 1929 and closure of the era firmly. After F, from time to time small lot produced

mainly for memorial or luxury item, like 2.8F Aurum, 2.8F Plantin Edition

For classic camera, I would like wrap up the chronicle to 2.8F as of now, Some may consider 2.8GX, 2.8FX…or anything else.

I have no objection but, to be honest, not really consider them as classice camera. They are more like ‘replica of the classic’.

Rollei-Werke developled new ways to drill down, from TLR, to SLR Rolleiflex SL66, all electronics controlled SLX, smallest 35mm Rollei-35, SL 2000F etc.

They fight in almost all areas of photography equipment. But their story, to make Rollei history complete, will be researched in different articles

since this one is dedicated to TLR.



In 1959, we had many interesting items other than Rolleiflex. Some of them surely are collectable and usable in these days.

But how many among them can deliver the performance and satisfaction like Rolleiflex 2.8F?

Rolleiflex TLR is not nostalgic something to make us remind old good days. It is the camera delivering the best quality photograph now.



Below tables separated based on lens, f3.5 version, f2.8 version & Tele, Wide Angle version






f3.5 version

Tessar, Xenar (4 element, 3 group), 

Planar (6 element, 4 group), 

Xenotar (5 element, 4 group)










f2.8 version










Tele & Wide Angle

135mm f4.0 Sonnar, 

55mm f4.0 Distagon





















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