History of Rolleiflex

  • 1920 Paul Franke and Reinhold Heidecke set up a little firm in Braunschweig, Germany. They start developing camera protoypes with Goerz lenses.
  • 1921 Their first camera is launched, a stereo camera called the Stereo Heidoscop with Carl Zeiss lenses.
  • 1923 The Heidoscop is re-designed into a rollfilm reflex camera for 117 roll film.
  • 1926 The new camera is marketed as the Rolleidoscop.
  • 1927 The first prototype for the twin lens reflex camera.
  • 1928 Ten more prototypes are manufactured, nine of which have a Carl Zeiss Tessar F4.5 taking lens and the tenth a F3.8 Tessar. Decision is made to market both models simultaneously.
  • 1929 The twin lens reflex camera, the Original Rolleiflex, is launched and an instant hit. The number of orders from all over the world is far above expectations.
  • 1930 The great order stock and problems with sub-contractors force Franke & Heidecke to acquire a larger factory. This enables them to build 20,000 cameras annually. The Baby Rolleiflex prototype is finalized.
  • 1931 The Baby Rolleiflex is manufactured. It has improvements that are later incorporated in the “full-grown” 6×6 Rolleiflex, such as a lever wind.
  • 1932 The improved Rolleiflex model 620 is launched. It accepts 120 film and has a lever wind.
  • 1933 The first Rolleicord – a less costly model, sold at less than half the price of the Rolleiflex.
  • 1936 The Rolleicord production line has been improved and the Rolleicord 1a is launched. Work is started on a new Rolleiflex production line.
  • 1937 The new Rolleiflex Automat wins a Grand Prix at the Paris World Fair.
  • 1938 The Rolleicord II is re-designed with a Triotar finder lens and a double bayonet mount on the taking lens. The Sports Rolleiflex is launched.
  • 1939 All Rolleis are now fitted with the bayonet mount on both the finder and the taking lenses.
  • 1939-45 During the war no new cameras are designed. The factory is damaged during bombings in 1944.
  • 1946 The factory is rebuilt, but with difficulties since material is in short supply.
  • 1949 New Rolleiflex and ‘Cord production lines prepared.
  • 1950 Rolleicord III is on sale with the Compur-rapid shutter, X synchronization, Schneider Xenar or Zeiss Triotar F3.5 coated lenses. The Rolleiflex Automat II is launched. Paul Franke dies on 18th March and is succeeded by his son, Horst Franke.
  • 1951 The Synchro-Compur shutter replaces the Compur-Rapid on Rolleiflex. The Rolleiflex 2.8A is released. It has a Tessar F2.8 80 mm lens.
  • 1952 Rolleiflex 2.8B is launched with a F2.8 Carl Zeiss Jena Biometar lens.
  • 1953 Rolleiflex 2.8C is launched with a West German Schneider Xenotar lens. A range of accessories for the bayonet III is presented.
  • 1954 The Rolleimarine under-water housing for the Rolleiflexes is designed. Rolleicord V and Rolleiflex MX-EVS are launched. For the first time a Zeiss Planar 2.8 is available for the Rolleiflex 2.8C.
  • 1955 The Rolleiflex 2.8D with Planar or Xenotar and EVS system is launched.
  • 1956 The Rolleiflex 3.5E and the 2.8E are available with built-in exposure meters.
  • 1957 The Baby Rolleiflex is re-introduced. Rolleicord Va.
  • 1958 Rolleiflex 3.5F with coupled exposure meter. Rolleiflex T.
  • 1959 Tele Rolleiflex with Zeiss Sonnar F4 135 mm. Rolleiflex E2 (both 3.5 and 2.8) with removable hood.
  • 1960 Reinhold Heidecke dies. Rollei Magic with automatic exposure.
  • 1961 The Wide-Angle Rolleiflex with Zess Distagon F4 55mm.
  • 1962 Company name changed to Rollei-Werke Franke & Heidecke. Rollei Magic II. Rolleicord Vb.
  • 1963 Launch of the Rollei 16 for 12×17 mm.
  • 1965 Rolleiscop home slide projector.
  • 1966 Rolleiflex SL 66, Rollei’s first single-lens rollfilm reflex camera. The Rollei 35 is presented as the smallest full frame 35mm camera.
  • 1967 Production of computer flash units begins with models E60 and E66.
  • 1969 Four Super-Eight cameras are launched.
  • 1970 Rolleiflex SL35, the first 35mm SLR camera from Rollei. New factories at Uelzen and in Singapore.
  • 1972 Rollei takes over the Voigtländer brand following the collapse of Zeiss Ikon.
  • 1973 The Rollei P 66A, the first automatic 6×6 slide projector, is launched.
  • 1974 Rolleiflex SLX, the first electronic MF camera system is launched. 2½ million Rollei 35 were sold.
  • 1979 Company is renamed Rollei-Werke Franke & Heidecke GmbH & Co KG. Rolleiflex SL35 E is a new popular SLR. Production of TLR stopped; orders are filled by old stock.
  • 1980 Rolleiflex SL 2000F, the first 35mm SLR camera with interchangeable magazine, double viewfinder system and integrated motor drive.
  • 1982 After a bankruptcy petition and following deal, the company is reorganized as Rollei Fototechnic GmbH.
  • 1983 1000 Rolleiflex 2.8F Gold Aurum are made. Rolleiflex 6006 is released as the successor of SLX with interchangeable backs.
  • 1984 Rolleiflex 3003 35mm SLR.
  • 1985 Rolleiflex 3000 P and 6002.
  • 1986 RolleiMetric, a digital 3D industrial measuring system, is launched.
  • 1987 New name again: Rollei Fototechnic GmbH & Co KG. The TLR is back with the Rolleiflex 2.8GX with TTL exposure and flash metering.
  • 1988 Introduction of the Rolleiflex 6008 with a range of new fine lenses.
  • 1991 Rollei enters digital photography with the Rollei Digital Scan Pack for the Rolleiflex 6008. The Prego AF is the first modern Rollei compact 35mm camera.
  • 1993 A new generation of dissolve projectors, Rolleivision twin MSC 300, is introduced.
  • 1994 The Rolleiflex 6003 without interchangeable magazine is an export hit. The digital imaging system is extended with the high-speed Digital ChipPack back.
  • 1995 Launch of the Rolleiflex 6008 integral.
  • 1996 A new digital back, the DSP-104.
  • 1998 Rollei presents the bellows camera system X-Act at Photokina. Rollei introduces APS cameras into its product range.
  • 2000 Rollei celebrates its 80th anniversary.
  • 2001 Launch of five new compact cameras, AFM 35, a new series of dissolve projectors, and two new digital cameras.
  • 2002 Launch of six new compact cameras, the Rollei d530 flex digital SLR camera, the Rolleiflex 6008 AF (the first 6×6 medium format camera with auto focus) and a new digital 35mm camera (Rollei d330 motion). Rollei also presents at Photokina the Rollei 35 RF (range finder-camera) and the Rolleiflex 4.0 FW (new wide-angle TLR camera).
  • 2006 Launch of the Rolleiflex Hy6, a medium-format camera for digital camera backs of Sinar, offered as Sinar Hy6, also produced by Jenoptik and Leaf for Leaf’s digital camera backs as Leaf AFi
  • 2007 Launch of the Rolleiflex 4,0 FT, a re-design of the 1959 Tele Rolleiflex. RCP buys the right to use the brand Rollei for its digital cameras.
  • 2009 (March) Franke&Heidecke announced that it was going into insolvency, saying it couldn’t pay its bills.
  • 2010 DHW Fototechnik managed to relaunch the production of RolleiflexRolleiflex Hy6Rolleivision slide projectors and Rollei 35.
  • 2012 DHW Fototechnik has announced two new Rolleiflex cameras and a new electronic shutter for Photokina.

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