Our neighborhood sprouts signs like weeds every spring and fall; usually they are centered around telephone poles by busy intersections, and usually they are hand-lettered announcements of tag, rummage, and estate sales in our immediate vicinity. I dragged Jen to a couple this past Saturday morning, after a particular sign caught my eye: CAMERAS DOWN HERE. We found a salty-haired old gent standing in front of a card table with ten or so different cameras, and one caught my eye: a tall black square with two lenses stacked atop each other, looking like a NASA-certified cousin to my Kodak Duoflex. This was something more, though: Large teutonic lettering above the lenses identified it as a Rolleicord, the inexpensive brother to the famous Rolleiflex medium-format twin-lens reflex camera.
I talked to the guy a bit, and he claimed it had been serviced last year (about $100, if one can find a technician who still knows how to service these cameras), and a test of the shutter proved he was right. I paid him for the camera—probably a little more than it’s worth, to be honest—and brought it home to add to the collection. Some research indicates it’s a Rolleicord III, made sometime between 1950-1953 (s/n 1169169) and it takes regular 120 film, still available at better photographic shops worldwide. The negative is a 6x6cm image, much larger than standard 35-mm film, and with a good lens the image is sharper and lends to larger, clearer blowups.
We took the Duoflex with us on our trip to Ireland last year, filled with black and white TMAX, and shot some pretty amazing stuff.
I’m pretty excited by this find, and it’s something I’ve been interested in for a long time. Thanks to my father, I have an excellent 35-mm Minolta on my shelf, and I’ll never sell it. I spent many expensive months attempting to learn how to use it properly in college, and many more expensive months learning how to develop the film. I have a gaggle of antique 620 cameras, each in perfect condition and ready for a new adventure. They will accompany us on our next trip to parts unknown, and bring back imperfect, atmospheric snapshots that mean more to me than a crisp digital file.
This camera, though, is a step above the average, and it demands I take the time to learn how to use it, which is fine by me.