points of view

A Rolleicord TLR

Toronto. Cameras of the last century tended to make a particular point of view easier. Cameras with rangefinders usually took an eye level view. Those with vertical viewfinders like some Kodaks and the famous TLRs took waist level shots – the belly button school of photography as Don Douglas used to call it. Massive ground glass backed cameras took either depending on their size and height – of course the image was upside down and reversed sideways on the ground glass (no big deal for a professional).

Some of the most popular Twin Lens Reflex cameras (TLRs) were made by a German firm mid last century. Their high end model was the expensive Rolleiflex with Zeiss lenses and Compur leaf shutters. The viewing lens was slightly faster to guarantee correct focus. A less expensive version (shown left) was a Rolleicord. Both were made by Franke & Heidecke of Braunschweig, Germany. Most TLRs took 6×6 cm photos on 120 roll film.

Some TLRs had Schneider lenses. Later versions used different shutters. Most had fixed 60 to 75 mm lenses or slightly wide angle normal lenses. Later models used bayonet mounts at the front of the lenses to add close up lenses and filters. Smaller models using 127 film took 4×4 cm images, ideal for super slides fitting a 2 inch square mount.

Some larger profession SLR cameras used 120 roll film and waist level viewers such as the Hasselblads. In time, Japanese TLRs took over the market. They too disappeared as digital cameras and smartphones evolved and crushed film down to a niche of enthusiasts.

Thanks to long time friend, Rollei collector, and master camera repairman, Ulrich Bartel, whose recent email on another matter prompted me to recall the heady days of Rollei and belly button photography.


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