The founding years
A fortunate coincidence brought together the brilliant
technician Reinhold Heidecke and the experienced
businessman Paul Franke. Their different talents
complemented each other perfectly, and Rollei’s success story
began in 1920 with the foundation of the “Werkstatt für
Feinmechanik und Optik – Franke and Heidecke” in
Braunschweig, Germany. Production began under cramped
conditions, in what had once been a small dance hall, with a
few high-precision machines and a handful of people. A mere
16 months after the company’s foundation, Franke & Heidecke
presented the “Heidoscop”. This initial technical innovation in
the field of stereo cameras laid the corner stone for their
future international success.
The stereo photo received new impetus with the use of roll
film, which had already been developed at the end of the 19th
century. In contrast to the plate technique, it was now possible
to capture multiple images in succession. Taking photos and
the basic handling of cameras thus became more simple and
grew in popularity from the turn of the century.
With the introduction of the “Rolleidoscop” (1923), the first
camera for roll film, F & H then succeeded in making a
decisive breakthrough in 1926, catapulting them into the
vanguard of camera manufacturers. The product name
“Rolleidoscop” simultaneously gave rise to what would later
become the company name “Rollei”, even at this early stage.
The beginning of a camera legend: the Rolleiflex
1928 saw the production of the first ten prototypes of the
legendary twin-lens Rolleiflex. Up until the start of series
production in 1929, it underwent a number of technical
modifications. The patented twin-lens Rolleiflex was notable
for its quality features, which had never been seen before in
this category of camera: an all-metal design with precision film
guide and one of the best lenses of the day, namely the Tessar.
For professional photographers, the first compact reflex
camera with six pictures 6×6 on B1-6 roll film became the
measure of all things. The global demand exceeded all
expectations, and Franke & Heidecke began to expand. The
production facilities, which had already been extended
substantially in 1923, were now no longer sufficient. Shortly
after the company’s 10th anniversary, production was able to
be transferred to a new factory building with 1,400 m.
Work continued without interruption on further development
of the Rolleiflex. In 1931, F & H presented a version for the 4×4
In 1933, the Rolleicord, a scaled-down, cheaper version of the
Rolleiflex, was introduced. In contrast to the expensive 6×6
Rolleiflex costing 178 Reichmark, with a price tag of only RM88, it was also affordable for amateur photographers.
As the enthusiasm for Rollei cameras continued to grow around
the world, the company’s workforce and sales figures also
continually increased. Up to 1935, the company managed to
sell a total of 180,000 cameras. At this point in time, the
factory employed a workforce of around 238.
The crowning moment of this success came when the company
was awarded the “Grand Prix” at the International World Fair
in Paris in 1937. Franke und Heidecke received this prestigious
award for the outstanding design of their Rolleiflex camera.
The same year saw the launch of the 3rd Rolleiflex generation.
Whilst the technical development of photography continued to
advance rapidly in the twenties and thirties, hardly anyone in
Germany dared to accept photography as an art form. Many
photographers did not regard themselves as artists, but simply
as good craftsmen. An initial milestone on the road towards
photography becoming recognised as an art form in Germany
was the Werkbund photo exhibition “Film und Foto” in
Stuttgart. In 1929, international photographers such as Edward
Weston, Immogen Cunningham and Man Ray presented exhibits
there for the first time ever
Profound crisis: the Second World War
The start of the Second World War reduced camera sales and
ushered in a critical time for the now globally operating
company. Rollei fans abroad became enemies and outstanding
accounts in the “enemy nations” led to lost assets. Some 60%
of the factory and company premises were destroyed during
the war, although production was able to be resumed swiftly
once the war was over. Right on time for the currency reform
of 1948, the reconstruction work had already been completed
and all necessary conditions created for the fifties and sixties.
The golden fifties and sixties
The golden age began. Even by 1950, Rollei already employed
more staff than before the war. Optimised models of the twinlens Rolleicord and Rolleiflex were introduced and, in spite of
the numerous copies, global demand was undiminished. On 28
September 1956, the millionth 6×6 Rolleiflex left the factory.
This twin-lens Rolleiflex became the symbol for medium format
photography. It became an icon of its day and was used by
countless travel, fashion and studio photographers. These
defined the unique Rolleiflex photo style.
Work continued on optimisation and further development of
the Rolleiflex product family. An outstanding example was the
Rolleimarin, an underwater housing that had been developed
for series production in collaboration with the diving pioneer
Dr. Hans Hass. The heavy housing, weighing 5.3 kg, satisfied
the increased requirements of underwater photography and
allowed pictures to be taken with the Rolleiflex Automat 3.5
camera at depths of up to 100 m under water.
The death of the two founders of the company, Paul Franke
(1950) and Reinhold Heidecke (1960), cast a shadow over these
successful years. They left a vacuum that posed immense
challenges to the company. The firm was also had to rise to
the demands of devising new innovations to counter the
gradual market saturation in the sector of the twin—lens
medium format camera and the ever-growing significance of
the 35 mm camera.
In spite of the difficult situation, the company Franke &
Heidecke succeeded, under its new management, in presenting
two promising new products in 1966 – the first single-lens roll
film reflex camera SL 66 and the Rollei 35, the most compact
35 mm viewfinder camera of its day. Being the first 35 mm
camera from a German manufacturer, it constantly ensured
high turnover figures, with sales already increasing from 1966
to 1967 from DM 30 to 45 million. In the three decades that
followed, some 3 million Rollei 35 cameras were sold
worldwide. It offered many amateurs the perfect entry-level
camera for 35 mm photography.
During this period, amateur photography became the driving
force of the photo industry. At the same time, photography as
an art form became increasingly accepted. The MoMA photo
exhibitions by Edward Steichen (“The Family of man”, 1955)
and John Szarkowski (1960s) were decisive in ensuring widely
acceptance of photography as an art form. This also coincided
with the trend towards commercial art.
Years of transformation
In 1966, the Franke family acquired all of the Heidecke
family’s company shares. In the wake of growing pressure due
to competition from Japanese camera manufacturers, the
company decided to launch a counteroffensive and moved its
own production to Asia. In 1968, it managed to win
Norddeutsche Landesbank as the majority shareholder (97%) in
an effort to secure the high level of funding required for the
expansion. die hohen Kredite für die Expansion abzusichern.
From the launch of Rollei Singapore (P.T.E.) Ltd. in 1971,
cameras were produced in the Far East, whilst research and
development activities remained in Braunschweig, Germany.
Given the excessively high costs, low production numbers and
obligations towards the Singapore government that could not
be met, this project was ultimately doomed to failure.
One outstanding product to emerge from this period was the
Rolleiflex SLX in 1974. The electronics, automatic functions
and integrated motorised film advance feature were unique for
a medium format camera at this point in time. Fully electronic
cameras, which enabled the aperture, shutter speeds and focus
to be automatically adjusted, made taking photographs
increasingly more user-friendly. A further milestone in photo
From 1974, a period followed for the company that was
characterized by what was in some cases confused model
policy, bad investments and changes of management. In 1981,
the company Rollei-Werke returned to “private ownership”,
with Norddeutsche Landesbank selling its shares to a number of
shareholders — amongst these Hansheinz Porst. From this point
on, the bank that had once been associated with the company
ceased to provide any funding. Only three months later, the
company became insolvent, resulting in the subsequent
liquidation of the business by its creditors.
New company concept – Rollei Fototechnic
In that very same year, a “small contingency solution” was
worked out. The new company “Rollei Fototechnic” was to
take up the old Rollei concept again and use the production
facilities in Braunschweig for producing high-quality, unrivalled
professional products in small quantities.
In January 1982, United Scientific Holdings of London took over
“Rollei Fototechnic”. The new product range included the
proven Rollei cameras Rolleiflex SLX, SL 66 and the SL 2000F,
Rollei’s first 35 mm reflex camera with an interchangeable
magazine. In addition, high-precision opto-electronic
equipment for civil and military use was produced.
The years up to 1986 were also characterised by the return to
the Rollei classics. Special limited editions such as the twinlens Rolleiflex 2,8 F Aurum and the Rollei 35 in gold and
platinum were greeted with enthusiasm the world over.
On 10 July 1987, the German company Optische Werke
Schneider of Bad Kreuznach took over “Rollei Fototechnic”.
The focus was on know-how transfer and the joint utilisation of
the research capacities, taking the latest technologies into
account. In the same year, the modified classics Rolleiflex 2,8
GX with TTL exposure metering and flash control and the Rollei
35 classic caused a sensation. At the photokina exhibition in
1988, the Rolleiflex 6008 was presented as the most cuttingedge medium format camera featuring a new lens.
Digitalisation has had a major impact on the history of
photography. The first commercially available digital cameras,
which were still referred to as still video cameras, began to
appear on the market from the mid-eighties on. After 1991,
digital photography became increasingly more popular, with
the launch of the first professional cameras.
Rollei Fototechnic entered the world of digital photography in
1991 with the Rollei Digital ScanPack – an add-on for the
Rolleiflex 6008. The images were scanned by means of a highresolution CCD line sensor, saved on the computer and edited
on the monitor. In 1994, the digital imaging system was
extended with the high-speed Rollei ChipPack camera back,
which was followed 4 years later by the DSP-104 digital camera
Parallel to this, analogue photo technology was further
advanced during the nineties. In launching the Prego AF in
1991, Rollei presented its first modern compact camera with
autofocus. In 1995, the Rolleiflex 6008 integral, with a
completely redesigned electronic concept, became the most
state-of-the-art professional camera for the medium format.
With this camera, Rollei succeeded once again in setting new
In September 1995, “Rollei Fototechnic” was sold to the
Korean conglomerate Samsung. Through integration into this
globally-active corporation, Rollei hoped for a significantly
enhanced competitive position in the high-tech future. The
company was proud of the Rollei / Samsung research and
development centre that was inaugurated in April 1996.
Because of the Asian economic crisis, however, Samsung also
soon found itself obliged to sell off its shares in the company.
The new buyers in 1999 were Paul Dume and six other
managers. In November 2002, the Danish investment company
Capitellum, headquartered in Copenhagen, subsequently took
over Rollei Fototechnic.
The new millennium brought a host of new product releases. In
the spring of 2001, Rollei presented five new compact
cameras, followed by the AFM 35 along with two new digital
cameras in autumn. 2002 saw the market launch of six new
compact cameras, the Rollei d530 flex (a digital reflex
camera), the Rolleiflex 6008 AF (first medium format camera
in 6×6 format with autofocus) and the digital 35 mm camera
Rollei d330 motion. The Rollei 35 RF and the Rolleiflex 4,0 FW
wide-angle camera were also introduced at photokina. The
years that followed also saw the consistent development of the
digital camera lines.
The new Rollei
In 2004, the company Rollei Fototechnic GmbH moved its
production to the newly-founded Rollei Produktion GmbH.
Digital cameras and MP3 players were presented at photokina
under the slogan “The new Rollei”.
In 2005, the company Rollei Produktion GmbH changed its
name again to Franke & Heidecke GmbH. Amongst the
shareholders were two grandsons of the company’s founders:
Kai Franke and Rainer Heidecke. The focus returned to the
production of professional medium format cameras, projectors,
technical photo accessories and lenses at the old company site.
In the same year, the company Rollei Fototechnic GmbH
changed its name to Rollei GmbH and moved its company
headquarters to Berlin. From 2006, it fully gave up the
operative side of the business and concentrated on licensing of
the Rollei trademark rights from then on.
In 2007, the Rollei trademark rights were assigned to three
product categories, thus re-allocating usage: Franke &
Heidecke GmbH received the trademark rights for the
professional medium format products, whilst Rollei Metric
GmbH took over the rights for the cameras in the aerial
photography and surveying technology segment and RCPTechnik GmbH & Co KG the pan-European distribution for
consumer electronic products (digital cameras and
Rollei…made by RCP
Since 2007, new Rollei products have been characterised by
their user-friendliness, high quality, modern design and the
excellent value for money they offer. The diverse product
range includes compact digital cameras in the model lines
Compactline, Flexline, Sportsline and the camcorder line
Movieline. Since 2009, digital picture frames and photo/slide
film scanners have also been included in the range.
The ongoing development and high quality of the products is
assured thanks to the company’s own firmware and team of
engineers. The Rollei Service and Call Centre guarantee a high
level of service quality and customer support throughout
At the end of 2009, RCP-Technik GmbH can look back over
three successful business years. It has succeeded in increasing
the market share in the compact camera sector within
Germany to 9%. With its digital picture frames, the company
rapidly acquired a 10% market share.
Due to the succesful development of the company, RCPTechnik GmbH has acquired the Rollei brand to 1 January 2010,
and thus coinciding with the start of Rollei’s 90th anniversary
year. The acquisition of the Rollei brand includes the global
licensing rights and points the way towards future
On 1 march 2010 the first subsidiary in Hungary was founded.
Distribution to the Balkan region will be continually
developed from the Budapest location. RCP-Technik GmbH’s
Turkish subsidiary will begin operations from Istanbul on 1
Rollei products are currently internationally available in
Austria, Switzerland, France, Italy, Portugal, the UK,
Greece, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands. The goal is
to double the number of countries by the end of 2010.
Marking the start of the anniversary year with the presentation
of its Flexline 100 inTOUCH, Rollei has launched a compact
digital camera, which convincingly meets the current needs of
amateur photographers, thanks to its amazing design and
exceptionally user-friendly touch screen. Compact digital
cameras are now increasingly-fashionable accessories, which
we carry around with us wherever we go so that we can send
our snapshots quickly and easily to all our friends via the
Internet and social media.
For this target group, the Rollei compact cameras constitute
the perfect digital companions. In the future as well, Rollei
will be using its products to pick up on the latest trends of the
digital age and making these available to a broad priceconscious clientele seeking value for money
I absolutely love my Mamiya C220 medium format film camera. This camera was made between 1968 and 1982 and still takes professional quality images almost a half century later. Now that is amazing! The fact that the camera is still relevant is a testament to the survivability and pervasiveness of medium format film and film cameras in general. The Mamiya C220 is a twin lens reflex (TLR) type of camera that takes interchangeable lenses. The C220f is the next generation of this camera and was manufactured from 1982 to 1995. I bought my C220 with a 55mm lens because of quality of the optics and it is suited for my type of wide angle photography. I also love this lens because I can focus as close as 9″ which affords me some incredible angles and perspectives not normally possible. If you want to try medium format film then this is an inexpensive way to explore this medium. On a side note the black lenses are newer than the chrome ones in case you are interested.
Top 3 Reasons Why I Love the Mamiya C220 TLR
- The C220 may be from the 1960′s, but it still produces professional quality prints nearly 50 years later making it timeless and a great investment.
- The C220 is fully mechanical and does not require a battery.
- The C220 is a medium format camera that produces those big 6×6 negatives.
There is something magical and beautiful about the 6×6 format to me. I just love that square look. A standard roll of medium format 120 allows 12 exposures. My RZ67 Pro II and Mamiya 7 Rangefinder are both 6×7 formats so I get 10 exposures per roll.
The C220 is known as the simplified version of the C330. One is not “better” than the other, just a few minor differences. The C220 requires you to cock the shutter separately. In regards to the shutter cocking, I actually prefer this method. It is probably because of my large format experience. The C220 is solid built and I use it with the traditional waist level viewfinder. As you might of guessed there is no meter in the camera and it is fully manual and no batteries are required! I also love being able to flash sync at all shutter speeds (through 1/500th). I prefer the lighter weight of the C220 over the C330 in most cases because I do a lot of hiking and climbing. I think the difference is a little less than a pound. The C330 (f/s) cocks the shutter when the film is advanced and it has a larger crank for advancing the film. Besides the auto shutter cocking and the parallax/exposure compensation arm in the finder, that is about it for feature differences. They both take the same lenses so you could have one of each if you prefer and share your lenses between them. For more detailed information on all of the various models go here.
If you are not familiar with TLR cameras, they are actually very simple to operate. You look through the waist level viewfinder (in my case) at the ground glass. There is a pop-up magnifier for critical focus. There are other viewfinders available for the C220 and C330, I just prefer the standard waist level viewfinder. You look through the top lens and you are taking your photo with the bottom one. The aperture and shutter are part of the bottom lens too. TLR’s eliminate the need for a big mirror which is a source of vibration and poor image quality in some cases.
You will find the C220 to be extremely quiet to operate and you can hand-hold slow shutter speeds (e.g., 1/8th, 1/15th, etc) otherwise not possible with a SLR type camera. Plus this camera is fully mechanical. Did I mention there are no batteries!
You may have to deal with the parallax issue from time to time, but this is not an issue for me typically. You will notice this in your closeup/macro photos the most. Basically, what you are looking at through your top lens does not exactly match what you are photographing with the bottom lens. To help address this issue you can simply look at the scale on the left side of the camera to determine your degree of error (e.g. 1, 1.5. 2) then refer to the lines in the top of your viewfinder to ensure you have all of the critical information in your scene. It sounds more difficult than it is in reality. There are accessories like the Parallax Paramender that you can find on eBay to address this but I don’t personally use this because I am not always shooting on a tripod with this camera. In regards to exposure compensation you can refer to this same scale for a range of correction from .25 stops to 2 full stops. For more detailed information on exposure compensation, go here.
I love to use this camera for street photography too. Be sure to read the tips I have below for using the C220 for street photography without a light meter. Depending on the exact C220 you have it could be over 40 years old and it is as relevant today as it was in 1968. A great place to view over 20,000 photographs made with the Mamiya TLR cameras is on the Flickr TLR photostream and their is an active discussion group here too. If you want to narrow in on just the C220 then there is a a Flickr photostream for this too.
The square 6×6 format of the Mamiya C220 is part of the reason why I love making prints with this camera. Plus I get a lot of enjoyment using film and developing it myself. Shooting black and white film in this special camera is not only a lot of fun but don’t forget it still produces professional quality prints that will compete with almost any camera made today. For these photos I used Tri-X rated at EI1250 and developed in Diafine. Keep in mind this is a fully manual camera so there is no need to set the ASA (ISO) and you will probably need a light meter for most shots. I used a light meter for all of these photos but you can estimate your exposure on a normal sunny day using the Sunny 16 Rule and F/8 technique discussed below.
Fallen Trees – f/5.6 at 1/30th EI 1250
Woods Ave Trees – f/8 at 1/60th EI 1250
Tree Roots – f/8 at 1/30th EI 1250
Lime Kiln – f/8 at 1/30th EI 1250
Big Trees – f/8 at 1/30th EI 1250
Sunny 16 & F/8 Rules for Street Photography
When using a fully manual camera like the C220 or RZ67 Pro II there might be times when you don’t have the time to use a light meter. Street photography is a good example of a situation when you won’t likely have time to meter your scene because things happen too quickly. You can employ some old school rules to help you get the shot. If you haven’t tried these techniques go out around your city or town and have some fun with it. Leave your light meter at home!
The Sunny 16 Rule is an old fashioned method used to estimate exposures for daylight photography without a light meter. On a sunny day when your subject is in the sunlight you can set your aperture to f/16. Then you would set your shutter to the reciprocal of your film speed. For example if you were using Tri-X 400 your shutter speed would be 1/400 or the closest setting you have for your manual camera.
If you don’t want f/16 as your aperture for creative reasons then you can simply use the basic relationship rule between ISO, aperture and shutter speed to make changes. In general if you use a larger aperture (smaller number) you would increase your shutter speed. This is known an inverse relationship between the aperture and shutter. If you want to step down your aperture by two stops from f/16 to f/8 then you would increase your shutter speed by two stops in order to keep the exposure the same. If you think about it, it is logical. If you make the aperture opening smaller (bigger f/stop number) you have more depth of field and require more light for your exposure. On the other hand if you make your aperture open bigger (smaller f/stop) then you need less light for your exposure.
Photojournalists “back in the day” used a neat little trick that you can still use today. By setting your aperture to f/8 and pre-focusing they would typically get the shot. Use the Sunny 16 rule that I described above and you should be able to get a high percentage of keepers that should grab everything from about 6 feet to infinity.
Resources for TLR
Graham Patterson has compiled a lot of very useful information on the C220 that you may want to check out if you are interested.
Mike Rosenlof posted a review on Mamiya TLR on photo.net that is worth reviewing if you are interested in getting one of these cameras. You’ll learn more from the readers comments than you will via the article, but I would suggest reading both.
The TLR forum at photo.net is a good place to ask questions and learn.
Be sure to leave your comments or suggestions at the bottom of this article. If you like my articles be sure to use the “Like” or “Share” buttons located at the bottom of each article so we can get more feedback from other photographers.
You can view more of my large and medium format images on my Flickr stream.
About Minolta Autocord
Twin-lens reflexes bearing the Minolta name had been offered as early as 1937, starting with the Minoltaflex (I). However, by the mid-1950s, the Japanese TLR market had become quite crowded. The Minolta Autocord series was an effort by Chiyoda Kogaku Seiko, K.K. to compete in the premium-quality segment of the TLR market.
The Autocord series went through a large number of minor variations during its lifespan between 1955 and 1966—at least 17, by one count.
All shared a number of desirable features: crank film advance with automatic shutter cocking and frame counting; a highly regarded Tessar-type 4-element Rokkor f/3.5 lens; self-timer; slow shutter speeds, down to 1 second; and an override button, allowing the advance crank to rotate backwards and cock the shutter without advancing the film, permitting double exposures. Early Optiper shutters only had speeds to 1/400 sec., but this was increased to 1/500 in later versions.
These features compared well with a Tessar-equipped Rolleiflexof the day, yet Autocords sold at a subtantially lower price. Both meterless models and ones including a light meter (originally selenium; later, CdS) were offered in parallel throughout the series.
Many versions of the Autocord feature some form of EV number scale around the taking lens to assist with exposure settings. Some metered models use a quirky system where the shutter and aperture indicators each point to a different row of integers; the photographer was intended to mentally add these two numbers until they equaled the EV indicated on the light meter. A 1957 magazine ad proclaimed, “Your wife or child could have done it—even without looking at the f/stop or shutter speed numbers.” Despite this appeal to the male ego, the system was never adopted by any other camera maker, and no doubt perplexes Autocord purchasers today who are missing the original manual.
Autocords use a focus lever that protrudes from below the lensboard. Some photographers have noted the ergonomic advantage of this design compared to knob-focusing TLRs such as the Rolleiflex, as it is not necessary to shift the camera between hands for focusing versus winding. But the metal of the Autocord lever is brittle and vulnerable to breakage—the one notable weak link in these otherwise excellent cameras. This focusing mechanism is also found on all postwar Flexarets, beginning in 1945, according to McKeown.
This Minolta Autocord I is a late model among the popular Autocord series of TLR (Twin Lens Reflex) medium-format cameras. It was first introduced in 1965. This meterless camera is equipped with a Citizen-MVL shutter and a Minolta Rokkor 1:3.5 f=75mm taking lens.
thanks for viewing
let me know if you are interested in getting this camera
tlrgraphy AT gmail DOT com
Price: SGD 375.00