A few months ago I decided to buy a Rolleiflex, a film medium-format camera that was produced between the 30’s and the 70’s. I found one who looked in a very good shape on Ebay and I went for it for some EUR 500. It’s a Rolleiflex 3.5C dated 1956. When I unpacked it, its smell overwhelmed me entirely, as I felt I was touching an historical piece of art. Because, besides being an extraordinary camera (as I’ll explain later), it is a very beautiful object that is searched by a lot of collectors around the world.

Prior to buy it, I looked for information about it on the Internet and I found some very interesting sites dedicated to Rolleiflex. This one is really excellent, but is in French only. Thus, as I fully share the writer’s point of view about the 7 reasons to use a Rolleiflex in the 21rst century, I will translate the main points.

Before that, I have tested my Rolleiflex with only a couple of rolls (both of them B&W Kodak TMax 400). I have to admit that the first roll was completely underexposed – first I was not able to make the cell work properly, second all images were taken during winter, at home and after work, so poor lighting conditions. With this first roll experience, I clearly put a lot of attention to the lighting and I made the cell work well. Despite this, the second roll produced mitigated results : static subjects generated great results (above my hopes), but images of my very actives kids were still blurred. I guess that the third roll will be fully perfect (i’ll wait for better days with better light conditions to shoot it 😉 ). Below is one of the portrait I like.

Let’s talk about the reasons to have and use a Rolleiflex nowadays.

1. First, the Rolleiflex is a square 6*6 medium-format camera using very large film of 56*56mm. This provides excellent quality results with great details and an excellent dynamic (high lighting differences), far better than many digital cameras. Moreover, depth of field and bokeh are incredibly better than 24*36 and digital cameras.

2. The large 56*56mm film also enables the user to scan the film and work on it digitally.

3. 6*6 is a square format, THE famous square format ! Framing, composing with a square format is a very different experience which opens a lot of new possibilities and values a lot the subject itself.  This format fits very well to portrait and landscape.

4. Rolleiflex have excellent lenses: Tessar, Xenar, Planar, Xenotar, those optics  are performing very well, with a limited number of lenses (4 or5 compared to more than 10 for current ones). They provide regular and constant results.

5. The viewfinder is a large square at the top of the camera. This enables the user to really work on composition and framing i.e. a real photographer’s work.

6. Rolleiflex have a unique lens (75 or 80mm, equiv. 50mm in 24*36). No need to think about which lens could be used: there is a subject, a lens and very few automatisms – with these parameters, taking a picture is a slow process and the photographer has to find the best angle and the best framing to compose his image, which is the essence of photography.

7. A Rolleiflex is almost an investment ! Today one can buy a digital Dslr for EUR 1,000; 6 months after it worths EUR 700; 2 years after one can still resell it for EUR 400; and after 5 years, if not broken, it would be difficult to get EUR 100 out of it. A Rolleiflex, if well maintained, has a very long life scale, and can easily be resold at the same price as one bought it several years ago.

Finally, there is an eighth reason to buy a Rolleiflex: the pleasure of using a beautiful object, created for photographers and to last a very long time.

I hope I have convinced you, at least to try it 🙂