Last updated
A Rolleiflex 2.8 F Rolleiflex f2-8-F.jpg
A Rolleiflex 2.8 F
Swiss writer and photographer Annemarie Schwarzenbach holding the Rolleiflex Standard 621 (1938). AnnemarieSchwarzenbach.jpg
Swiss writer and photographer Annemarie Schwarzenbach holding the Rolleiflex Standard 621 (1938).
The camera is held at the waist, with the viewfinder mounted on top (here, a Rolleiflex SLX). Rollei SLX top.jpg
The camera is held at the waist, with the viewfinder mounted on top (here, a Rolleiflex SLX).

Rolleiflex is the name of a long-running and diverse line of high-end cameras originally made by the German company Franke & Heidecke, and later Rollei-Werke.



The "Rolleiflex" name is most commonly used to refer to Rollei's premier line of medium format twin lens reflex (TLR) cameras. (A companion line intended for amateur photographers, Rolleicord, existed for several decades.) However, a variety of TLRs and SLRs in medium format, and zone focus, and SLR 35 mm, as well as digital formats have also been produced under the Rolleiflex label. The 120 roll film Rolleiflex series is marketed primarily to professional photographers. Rolleiflex cameras have used film formats 117 (Original Rolleiflex), 120 (Standard, Automat, Letter Models, Rollei-Magic, and T model), and 127 (Baby Rolleiflex).

The Rolleiflex TLR film cameras were known for their exceptional build quality, compact size, modest weight, superior optics, durability, simplicity, reliable mechanics and bright viewfinders. The high-quality 7.5 cm focal length lenses, manufactured by Zeiss and Schneider, allowed for a smaller, lighter, more compact camera than their imitators.[ citation needed ] The highly regarded Zeiss Planar f2.8 and Schneider Xenotar lenses, both 80mm focal length and fast in comparison, are both state of the art optics. Unique to the Rolleiflex Automat and letter model cameras, the mechanical wind mechanism was robust and clever, making film loading semi-automatic and quick. This mechanism started the exposure counter automatically, auto-spaced the 12 or (on the later model F cameras) 24 exposures, and tensioned the shutter; all with less than one full turn of the film advance crank. This makes the Rolleiflex Automat/Letter model cameras very sought-after for shooting fast-paced action, such as street photography. [1]

A range of accessories made this camera a system: panorama head, sun shade, parallax-corrected close-ups lenses, color correction, contrast enhancing, and special effect filters, all mounted with a quick release bayonet, as well as a quick-change tripod attachment. Some, professional, amateur and fine-art photographers still shoot Rolleiflex TLR film cameras with color transparency, color negative, or black-and-white film. The later f2.8 and f3.5 letter models (Planar or Xenotar lens) are highly sought after in the used market, and command the greatest price. [2] Historically there were five focal length cameras available including 5.5 cm Rollei-Wide, 6.0 cm Baby Rollei, 7.5 cm (f:3.5), 8.0 cm (f2.8), and 13.5 cm (f:4 Zeiss Sonnar) Tele-Rolleiflex. Although all Rolleflex cameras can be fine user cameras, there is also an active market for many Rolleiflex models as collectables, and this adds (greatly in some models) to the end price paid, particularly in Japan.[ citation needed ]

Rolleiflex medium format cameras continued to be produced by DHW Fototechnik up to 2014—a company founded by former Franke & Heidecke employees. [3] DHW Fototechnik announced two new Rolleiflex cameras and a new electronic shutter for photokina 2012. [4] The company filed for insolvency in 2014 and was dissolved in April 2015, ending any further production. The factory production equipment and remaining stocks of parts were auctioned off in late April 2015.

A smaller company was created again with former DHW Fototechnik employees, under the name DW Photo at the same location. [5] DW Photo focuses on producing the Rolleiflex Hy6 mod2 medium format SLR camera (digital & film), servicing existing cameras, including providing firmware and hardware upgrades. [6]

Notable models

Original Rolleiflex

Rolleiflex Original with Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar f/3.8 Rolleiflex Original.jpg
Rolleiflex Original with Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar f/3.8

This first Rolleiflex was introduced in 1929 [7] after three years of development, [8] and was the company's first medium format roll-film camera, which was used with unpopular 117 (B1) film. It was a Twin-Lens Reflex camera.

Old Standard

Rolleiflex Automat

Rolleiflex 2.8A

Incorporated the first 8 cm f2.8 taking lens (either an 80 mm Carl Zeiss Tessar or Opton Tessar) into the Rolleiflex line. It also added an X flash synch contact. Built from 1949 to 1951. [12]

Rolleiflex 2.8E

Released in October 1956, this was the first model with a built in, uncoupled light meter as an option. [12] [13]

Tele Rolleiflex

This camera used a 135 mm/f4.0 Carl Zeiss Sonnar taking lens. The introduction to a 1990 sale catalogue by Sotheby's auction house in London estimated that approximately 1200 cameras existed at that date.

The new Tele Rolleiflex uses 135mm/f4 Schneider Tele-Xenar taking lens

Rolleiflex T

Released in 1959, this camera came in a new color of gray. The camera was most successful for it was more affordable to the public. The camera had a 75mm Tessar lens made of lanthanum glass, giving higher resolution and color correction.

Wide Rolleiflex

This camera had a 55 mm/f4.0 Carl Zeiss Distagon taking lens. The introduction to a 1990 sale catalogue by Sotheby's auction house in London estimated that fewer than 700 such cameras existed at that date. Only 3600 models were originally produced.

The new Wide Rolleiflex uses a 50mm/f4 Schneider Super-Angulon taking lens.

Rolleiflex SL66

Rollei's first medium-format SLR, introduced in 1966.

Rolleiflex SL35

A 35 mm SLR introduced in 1970.

Rolleiflex miniature Reproductions

Rolleiflex minidigi digital camera Rolleiflex minidigi.jpg
Rolleiflex minidigi digital camera

There are two models of miniature Rolleiflex cameras. These are not true Rolleiflex cameras but are miniature reproductions of the Rolleiflex TLR design produced under licence by the German camera manufacturer Minox. The cameras are manufactured by the Japanese company Sharan Megahouse. One model is a miniature digital camera, the other is a miniature Rolleiflex TLR film camera.

The original model, now discontinued, was the Rolleiflex MiniDigi, a miniature reproduction of the TLR Rolleiflex. In many details the camera retained the look of the original, including a waist-level viewfinder and a crank to prepare the camera for the next shot. As the name implies, the camera was a digital reproduction, with the "viewing" lens being a dummy. The camera had a 2 megapixel CMOS sensor in the square format of the traditional TLR. The lens was a 9 mm f/2.8 with 5 elements, focusing down to 10 cm. The shutter speeds were automatically controlled between 1/15 to 1/400 second, exposure time was automatic. The camera was operated by a single CR2 battery. The storage media were either SD or MMC cards.

This was superseded by the MINOX DCC (Digital Classic Camera) Rolleiflex AF 5.0. The name change brings the current model more firmly in line with the rest of Minox's Classic Camera miniature reproduction range. It is visually identical to the original model, but available in both black and red leather finishes. The CMOS sensor has been upgraded to 3 megapixels, with 5.0 megapixels available by interpolation. The taking lens is a 4.9 mm f/2.8; the camera has digital autofocus. The electronic shutter has also been upgraded to a maximum speed of 1/2500 of a second. The camera operates on a single CR2 battery and uses miniSD memory cards.

There was also a 1/3 scale miniature Rolleiflex TLR, using Minox film, producing 36 exposures of 8x11mm format negative.

List of models

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Single-lens reflex camera</span> Camera that typically uses a mirror and prism system

A single-lens reflex camera (SLR) is a camera that typically uses a mirror and prism system that permits the photographer to view through the lens and see exactly what will be captured. With twin lens reflex and rangefinder cameras, the viewed image could be significantly different from the final image. When the shutter button is pressed on most SLRs, the mirror flips out of the light path, allowing light to pass through to the light receptor and the image to be captured.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Twin-lens reflex camera</span> Type of camera

A twin-lens reflex camera (TLR) is a type of camera with two objective lenses of the same focal length. One of the lenses is the photographic objective or "taking lens", while the other is used for the viewfinder system, which is usually viewed from above at waist level.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">127 film</span> Still photography film format

127 is a roll film format for still photography introduced by Kodak in 1912.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Minox</span> German camera manufacturer

Minox is a manufacturer of cameras, known especially for its subminiature camera.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Medium format</span> Photographic cameras with an aspect ratio in the range of about four to ten centimeters edge length

Medium format has traditionally referred to a film format in photography and the related cameras and equipment that use film. Nowadays, the term applies to film and digital cameras that record images on media larger than the 24 mm × 36 mm used in 35 mm photography, but smaller than 4 in × 5 in.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tessar</span>

The Tessar is a photographic lens design conceived by the German physicist Paul Rudolph in 1902 while he worked at the Zeiss optical company and patented by Zeiss in Germany; the lens type is usually known as the Zeiss Tessar.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Slide projector</span> Opto-mechanical device for showing photographic slides

A slide projector is an opto-mechanical device for showing photographic slides.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mamiya</span>

Mamiya Digital Imaging Co., Ltd. is a Japanese company that manufactures high-end cameras and other related photographic and optical equipment. With headquarters in Tokyo, it has two manufacturing plants and a workforce of over 200 people. The company was founded in May 1940 by camera designer Seiichi Mamiya and financial backer Tsunejiro Sugawara.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rollei</span> German optical equipment manufacturer

Rollei was a German manufacturer of optical instruments founded in 1920 by Paul Franke and Reinhold Heidecke in Braunschweig, Lower Saxony, and maker of the Rolleiflex and Rolleicord series of cameras. Later products included specialty and nostalgic type films for the photo hobbyist market.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sinar</span> Swiss camera manufacturer

Sinar Photography AG is a Swiss company based in Zurich manufacturing specialized high-resolution view cameras for studio, reproduction, landscape and architecture photography.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Contax</span> Japanese camera brand

Contax began as a camera model in the Zeiss Ikon line in 1932, and later became a brand name. The early cameras were among the finest in the world, typically featuring high quality Zeiss interchangeable lenses. The final products under the Contax name were a line of 35 mm, medium format, and digital cameras engineered and manufactured by Japanese multinational Kyocera, and featuring modern Zeiss optics. In 2005, Kyocera announced that it would no longer produce Contax cameras. The rights to the brand are currently part of Carl Zeiss AG, but no Contax cameras are currently in production, and the brand is considered dormant.

Rolleiflex SL35 SLR cameras from Rolleiflex

The Rolleiflex SL35 is a range of SLR cameras from the German camera maker, Rollei. This range of camera uses 35mm film. The camera bodies were initially made in Germany, and later, Singapore. Rolleiflex SL35 uses QBM mount, with a focal flange distance of 44.5 mm.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rolleicord</span>

The Rolleicord is a medium-format twin lens reflex camera made by Franke & Heidecke (Rollei) between 1933 and 1976. It was a simpler, less expensive version of the high-end Rolleiflex TLR, aimed at amateur photographers who wanted a high-quality camera but could not afford the expensive Rolleiflex. Several models of Rolleicord were made; the later models generally had more advanced features and tend to be valued higher in today's market.

Kodak Retina Series of 35mm cameras

Retina was the brand-name of a long-running series of German-built Kodak 35mm cameras, produced from 1934 until 1969. Kodak Retina cameras were manufactured in Stuttgart-Wangen by the Kodak AG Dr. Nagel Werk which Kodak had acquired in December 1931.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rollei 35</span>

The Rollei 35 is a 35mm miniature viewfinder camera built by Rollei. The original Rollei 35, when introduced at photokina in 1966, was the smallest existing 135 film camera. The Rollei 35 series remains one of the smallest 35 mm cameras after the Minolta TC-1 and Minox 35. In 30 years, about 2 million Rollei 35 series cameras were manufactured. The Rollei 35 was manufactured by DHW Fototechnik up to 2015, the successor of Franke & Heidecke as small-batch production. The last version is the Rollei 35 Classic, an updated Rollei 35 SE.

Rolleiflex SL66 SLR cameras from Rolleiflex

The Rolleiflex SL66 is a medium format single lens reflex camera made by Rollei, in regular production from 1966–82. Although Rollei never officially discontinued the Rollei SL66, it was removed from their promotional support and dealer catalogs in the UK from 1976 and for all intents and purposes was replaced by the Rolleiflex SLX. The UK importer was Rollei themselves. The Rolleiflex SL66 did not feature in Rollei's worldwide product catalog in 1980, and the US importer's July 1979 dealer price list has no SL66 cameras nor 40mm, 250mm, or 500mm lenses. This strongly suggests that the camera was effectively discontinued from 1976 until the launch of the SL66E in October 1982 after the restart of camera production following the first bankruptcy.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Contaflex SLR</span> Family of 35mm SLR cameras

The Contaflex series is a family of 35mm leaf-shuttered SLR cameras, produced by Zeiss Ikon in the 1950s and 1960s. The name was first used in 1935 on a 35mm Twin-lens reflex camera, the Contaflex TLR also by Zeiss Ikon, the -flex part in the name referring to integral mirror for the viewfinder. The first models, the Contaflex I and II have fixed lenses, while the later models have interchangeable lenses, and eventually the Contaflexes became a camera system with a wide variety of accessories.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Heinz Waaske</span> German camera designer

Heinz Waaske was a German camera designer, notably father of the Rollei 35.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Praktiflex</span> 35mm SLR camera

Kamera-Werkstätten Guthe & Thorsch (K.W.) was established 1919 in Dresden by Paul Guthe and Benno Thorsch, starting out manufacturing the Patent Etui plate camera. Ten years later came the roll film TLR Pilot Reflex and in 1936, the 6×6 SLR Pilot range. By that time, Benno Thorsch, the surviving partner from 1919, decided to immigrate to the United States and arranged with the US citizen Charles Noble to swap enterprises. Noble came to Germany and moved the factory to Niedersedlitz on the outskirts of Dresden, while Benno Thorsch in Detroit ran the acquired photo finishing business that was one of the largest in the USA. The new Kamera-Werkstätten AG, Niedersedlitz prospered, and in 1939 launched the 35mm SLR Praktiflex camera. The concept proved successful, and through continuous development, the Praktica name became one of the most popular 35mm SLR brands for several decades, beginning in the 1950s.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mamiya RB67</span>

The Mamiya RB67 is a professional medium format single-lens reflex system camera manufactured by Mamiya. There are three successive models: the RB67 Professional, RB67 Pro-S and RB67 Pro-SD. It is primarily designed for studio use, but can also be used in the field.


  1. Bill Brandt: A Life, p. 50. Written by Paul Delany, published by Stanford University Press 2004.
  2. "Classic Rolleiflex TLR camera on DHW Fototechnik website".
  3. "Out of Franke & Heidecke's ashes, rises DHW Fototechnik". Archived from the original on 2010-12-18.
  4. "Rolleiflex Unveils New FX-N TLR Film, Hy6 Mod2 Medium Format Cameras". 12 September 2012.
  5. "Rolleiflex-Kameras: Es geht weiter – wieder einmal und irgendwie". 30 November 2001.
  6. "Service page at".
  7. Rollei Japan - dead link
  8. "Rolleiflex TLR".
  9. Consumers Union of the United States, Inc., 1939 p. 22
  10. Popular Photography, June 1949, p. 144
  11. "[rollei_list] Robert Capa's Rolleiflex - rollei_list - FreeLists".
  12. 1 2 "Rolleiflex A - F series. Photos and Specifications.".
  13. "Rolleiflex 2.8E Review". Ray Larose.