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Rolleiflex and Rolleicord TLRs Comparison and Review

If you are interested in buying some rolleiflex cameras or accessories,

Visit: http://www.dzp-camera-cafe.com/

Source: https://www.clarenceho.net/gadget/RolleiTLR/index.php

My first medium format camera was a twin lens reflex (TLR) camera. TLR cameras have separate lenses for viewing the scene and taking photo. The image from the viewing lens reflects by mirror onto a ground glass with the image reversed left-right. It takes some time to get used to.While deciding which TLR to buy, I did a little research on the Rolleiflex and Rolleicord. The following is my findings that I hope you will find useful when choosing your Rollei TLR.BTW, I finally picked a Rolleicord V with Xenar 75/3.5 as my first TLR.

  

Rolleiflex and Rolleicord
Rolleiflex was first introduced around 1928. The original Rolleiflex had either a 75/4.5 or a 75/3.8 taking lens. Subsequent Automat and E/T/F models had 75/3.5 lenses. In 1949, another series, the Rolleiflex 2.8, was introduced with 80/2.8 lenses.Besides the Rolleiflex lineups, there is also a low cost camera series – Rolleicord – introduced in 1933. These cameras were targeted toward the budgeted users. Cranks were replaced with winding knobs for film advance. Also the shutter need to be cocked separately.
Lenses
Different models of Rolleiflex and Rolleicord TLRs are fitted with different taking lenses:

Zeiss Triotar
Triotar is a 3 elements lens. It is usually found on pre-war models and usually not coated. Soft at the corners, even when stopped down. Maybe not suitable for landscapes, but many photographers love to use it for portraits.

Zeiss Tessar
The famous Zeiss design. 4 elements in 3 groups. The post-war version is usually coated. Image quality is acceptable even when wide-open. Becomes very good after f8 or f11.

Schneider Xenar
Schneider’s copy of Tessar. Both Tessar and Xenar share the same design.

Zeiss Planar
Available in 75/3.5 and 80/2.8 versions. The 75/3.5 version is either 5 or 6 elements in 4 groups. The 80/2.8 version is 5 elements in 4 groups.

Schneider Xenotar
Both the 75/3.5 and the 80/2.8 versions are of 5 elements, 4 groups design.

Which One to Buy?
First, ignore all the confusing models. Simply pick the lens your want. But which lens is better? It is commonly agreed that, at least when judged by sharpness, Planar/Xenator is better than Tessar/Xenar which in turn better than Tritor. But there are endless debates between Planar vs Xenator and Tessar vs Xenar.My advice is: unless you are a collector, need to shoot in low light, or very into TLR, otherwise choose either the Tessar or Xenar 3.5 versions. They are priced more reasonable and good enough for most users. But if you can afford it, of course you won’t go wrong with Planar/Xenotar 3.5 or even the 2.8. Choose Triotar if you are on a tight budget.

Once you figured out which class of lens to go with, I suggest you to forget Planar vs Xenator, or Tessar vs Xenar. I don’t think you will find any different in daily use, unless you like to shoot newspaper to look for sharpness.

Next is to choose whether you want a Rolleiflex or a Rolleicord. Rolleiflex models are priced higher. Some people think the winding crank on Rolleiflex is easier to work with than the knob on Rolleicord. But I actually find the knob to be more user friendly for handheld. I also prefer the Rolleicord that requires separate action for cocking the shutter. I found it more logical to cock the shutter just before taking a picture. Anyway, you mileage may vary.

The best place to find a used TLR is on Internet auction sites. There are usually plenty of them to choose from. And they are usaully reasonably priced, except those collectable models.

Look for cameras with clean glass, working shutter, smooth film transport, and most importantly — the one that is priced reasonably. Don’t get too excited on a particular item and place bid that is higher than the set price in your mind. Remember, there are plenty of TLRs out there.

Personally, I would suggest to go with at least a Rolleicord V. Cameras older that this model are usually beaten to death. Note that in Rolleicord, only the Vb model has a user changable viewfinder and screen, if that is important to you. Also, when you are buying a 30+ years old camera, forget about the built-in lightmeter, if there is one. It is usually not in working order or inaccurate. You are better off with a handheld meter.

And finally, if you can’t find a Rolleflex or Rolleicord suitable for you, there are still many choices out there. Some of my suggestions are Minolta Autocord, Zeiss Ikon, Yashica etc. Stay tune for more of my reviews on these TLRs.

Tips on Using a TLR
  • Stop down. Nearly all TLR cameras produce reasonably sharp images when stopped down.
  • Use a cable release, even when handheld. For TLR, it is hard to fire shutter while trying to keep the camera steady. Use a cable release to avoid shaking.
  • Use a shade, if you can find one. These old lenses are prone to flare.
  • For Rolleicord, when the shutter is cocked, don’t move the lever to or away from 1/500. The 1/500 second speed requires a separate high-power string to fire the shutter. When cocked, the shutter may be damaged if switching to or from 1/500. If you really need to change the speed and the shutter is already cocked, cover the lens and fire the shutter. Then enable the double exposure function, select your intended speed, cock the shutter, and take your photo.
Model References
Rolleiflex
Model Year Serial Number Lens Others
Original 1928 1 – 199.999 Zeiss Tessar 75/4.5 or 75/3.8
Standard 1932 200.000 – 567.000 Zeiss Tessar 75/3.5
Automat 1 1937 568.516 – 805.000 Zeiss Tessar 75/3.5
Automat 2 1939 805.000 – 1.050.000
New Standard 1939 805.000 – 927.999
Automat 3 1945 1.050.000 – 1.099.999
Automat X 1949 1.000.000 – 1.168.000
Automat 4 1951 1.200.000 – 1.427.999 Zeiss Opton Tessar 75/3.5
3.5 MX-EVS 1954 1.428.001- 1.479.999
1.479.000 – 1.739.999
Zeiss Opton Tessar 75/3.5, Zeiss Jena Tessar 75/3.5 or Schneider Xenar 75/3.5
3.5E 1956 1.740.000 – 1.787.849 with lightmeter
3.5E 1956 1.850.000 – 1.868.442 without lightmeter
3.5E2 1959 1.870.000 – 1.872.010
2.480.000 – 2.482.999
3.5E3 1961 2.380.000 – 2.385.034
T1 1958 2.100.000 – 2.199.999
T2 (version 1) 1966 2.220.000 – 2.228.999
T2 (version 2) 1968 2.242.000 – 2.249.999
2.310.000 – 2.314.999
T3 1971 2.315.000 – 2.319.999
2.320.000 – 2.320.300
3.5F1 1958 2.200.000 – 2.219.999
3.5F2 1960 2.230.000 – 2.241.500
3.5F3 1960 2.250.000 – 2.299.999
(2.299.546 ?)
3.5F4 1965 2.800.000 – 2.844.999
3.5F5 1979 2.845.000 – 2.870.149
3.555.000 – 3.559.999
Rolleicord
Model Year Serial Number Lens Others
I (art deco) 1933 1.460.000 – 1.759.000
I 1934 1.590.000 – 1.759.999
Ia 1936 1.760.000 – 1.947.000 Zeiss Triotar 4.5
Ia2 1937 1.966.000 – 2.124.000
Ia3 1939 611.000 – 1.042.999
II 1936 1.758.000 – 1.973.999
IIa 1937 1.260.000 – 1.457.405
IIb 1938 612.000 – 858.999
IIc 1939 859.000 – 1.006.999
IId 1949 1.007.000 – 1.134.999
IIe 1949 1.135.000 – 1.135.999
III 1952 1.137.000 – 1.344.050 Schneider Xenar 75/3.5
IV 1952 1.344.051 – 1.390.999
V 1954 1.500.000 – 1.583.999 Schneider Xenar 75/3.5
Va 1957 1.584.000 – 1.599.999
Va2 1958 1.900.000 – 1.943.999
Vb 1962 2.600.000 – 2.649.999 Schneider Xenar 75/3.5 user
changable
viewfinder
Vb2 1970 2.650.000 – 2.665.999 Schneider Xenar 75/3.5
Rolleiflex 2.8
Model Year Serial Number Lens Others
2.8A Type 1 1949 1.101.000 – 1.114.999 Zeiss Jena Tessar shutter 1/500
2.8A Type 1 1949 1.115.000 – 1.139.999 Zeiss Opton Tessar shutter 1/500
2.8A Type 2 1951 1.154.000 – 1.163.999 Zeiss Opton Tessar 80/2.8 shutter 1/400
2.8A Type 2 1951 1.201.000 – 1.201.999 Zeiss Opton Tessar 80/2.8 shutter 1/500
2.8B 1952 1.204.000 – 1.259.999
2.8C 1952 1.260.000 – 1.457.405
2.8D 1955 1.600.000 – 1.620.100
2.8E 1956 1.621.000 – 1.664.999
2.8E2 1959 2.350.000 – 2.356.999 Zeiss Planar 80/2.8 or Schneider Xenotar 80/2.8
2.8E3 1962 2.360.000 – 2.362.024
2.8F 1960 2.400.000 – 2.451.850 Zeiss Planar 80/2.8 or Schneider Xenotar 80/2.8
2.8F2 1966 2.451.851 – 2.479.999 Zeiss Planar 80/2.8 or Schneider Xenotar 80/2.8
2.8F3 1969 2.600.000 – 2.799.999 Zeiss Planar 80/2.8 or Schneider Xenotar 80/2.8
2.8F4 1976 2.900.000 – 2.959.999
Aurum 1982 2.570.001 – 7.571.249
Aurum 1983 8.300.000 – 8.301.499
Platin 1984 2.985.000 – 2.985.499
Platin A 1989 2.986.500 – 2.986.599
2.8GX 1987 2.985.500 – Rollei Planar HFT 80/2.8
2.8GX 1993 8.810.000 – Rollei Planar HFT 80/2.8
2.8GX Edition 1989 5.010.000 – 5.017.999
2.8GX
Helmut Newton
Edition
1992 6.030.000 – 8.036.999
2.8 Royal
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2 responses

  1. Good advice and useful model information!

  2. The advice I have been given by a long-term user of Rolleis is that buying used nowadays, it makes far more sense to buy a Rolleicord. This is because firstly, the Rolleiflex was bought by a professional, who put more films through it in a week than most amateurs did in a year. Thus the Rolleiflex will be heavily used. Second: the Rolleiflex has a mechanism that allows the wind-on to cock the shutter. Over time, this wears and causes the camera to ‘jam’. Now on the Rolleicord, this is missing. You wind on with the knob and cock the shutter seperately by the small lever under the taking lens. Same lever is pushed the other way to fire shutter. So, what ain’t there cannot go wrong. In addition to this, the amateur had to save for a long time to get his Rolleicord. He bought a case to protect it. He looked after it and treated it very well. Thus, a Rolleicord is generally in very good condition. I have a Rolleicord IV in beautiful condition with its leather case showing a few scuffs. I bought it last year from a dealer for £79. I got busy on the case with tan shoe polish and it shines. The two rolls of FP4 I’ve so far put through it shows first class results. A lens hood and leather case for it came too and I make sure I use it.

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