Every year I give myself a photo challenge. I have been collecting vintage cameras for years. If you want to read about my photographic roots you can check out this post. This year I decided to shoot some of these old cameras. Every month I will shoot at least one roll of film. The idea is that if I can go completely manual and get the most out of one of my vintage cameras, I should get better at getting more out of all the digital bells and whistles on my Olympus OMD.
In January I shot this 1936 Rolleiflex Standard. It’s the first model of Rollei’s beloved TLRs. This one has no light meter, no flash attachment, and it’s missing some screws that hold on the frame around the prism.
Even though it looks like it has done a lot of living, the shutter snaps cleanly and I hoped that it would still be functional. I should have looked for a YouTube video about loading the film, but decided that since it had only been 30 years since I had seen one that I could do it just fine. I loaded it correctly, but didn’t advance it far enough so I had some shots that were misaligned. So instead of 12 shots I got 5. The good news is – now I know how to load this baby.
To shoot a Rollei you look down through a prism. This camera is pretty neat because it has a level, and a small glass that flips out to assist in focusing. You hold the camera at waist level and look down into the hood – here’s an image of what you see…
You are looking through the top lens of the face of the camera – it is matched to the lower lens, the “taking” lens. This is the lens with the shutter.
One of the things I missed most was Live View. On a digital camera I get to see what the effect of changing the aperture or shutter speed will be. On the Rollei you just have to make your best guess. I quit shooting film in the mid 90’s so this is a challenge.
Here are the shots from the first roll of the year. I shot black & white film – 400 speed (remember having to choose the speed of your film before you knew what you would be shooting?). I shot these mostly with the aperture wide open to see what kind of DOF I could get out of the taking lens. The taking lens is a Tessar 3.5 75mm.
Overall, I’m pretty happy. Knowing I only had 12 exposures made me take my best shot and move on. I only took 2 shots of the same spot. I had hoped to catch a bird in frame when I shot the feeders – It could take several rolls to make a capture like that on the Rollei. Focusing was tough with the prism so far from your eye – I am used to using the viewfinder so this took some getting used to.
Still, I LOVED shooting it. Even though it was a bit larger than the size of a pint of half and, it felt “right” in my hands. I like that you could get the sense of it being a sunny day, even with black & white film. I would like to find a Rollei from the 50s with a few more features, but considering that I was sold this one as a “display” camera, I am very happy with it – happy enough that I bought 4 rolls of color film.
Next month – Olympus OM 35mm.