While in Japan in late September 2012, I combed Tokyo for those small shops carrying the good old stuff.
There are still a good number of smaller shops in Tokyo, selling stuff like Leicas, Hasselblads, Mamiyas, Rolleiflexes and a number of other analog quality photograhy-brands, from 35mm to large format.
They can be a bit hard to find though, so extensive use of the Internet, as well as google-earth was needed, as Tokyo can be a very confusing place to navigate.
I actually missed one of the shops (Alps), because it was "camouflaged" in Japanese letters, no western signs what-so-ever and no store front, I know I passed it twice without seeing it.
- and when I finally figured it out, it was closed for the day =)
This is what it looks like in the jungle:
|Alps-Do main entrance in Shinjuku|
Here is a nice three-part guide to the photo-stores in Tokyo, I was in all of the shops in Ginza and found a couple in the mayhem of Shinjuku, I didn't have time left to check out the stores in the Northern part of Tokyo, unfortunately.Shinjuku camera-shop guideGinza camera-shop guideNorthern Tokyo camera-shop guide
I was actually looking for a Voigtländer Bessa II
at the time, but didn't pull the plug on any, because I could not find a reasonably priced dual 6*4.5 / 6*9 version and I didn't know how to check it properly.
In Sankyo camera, while browsing, I saw two TLR cameras that I found interesting, a Yaschicaflex C and a Rolleiflex 3.5, both were old and pretty beaten up, but the pricetag was interesting.
- I'd noticed that (nice 2.8F) Rolleiflexes were very expensive in Japan, so I decided against buying anything while I was there and rather look on eBay for a sweet deal.
A TLR (Twin reflex camera) has two lenses stacked ontop each other, one is used for viewing and focusing (viewing lens) , while the other exposes the film. (taking lens)
Anyway, at Sankyo, I got a pretty good deal on the two cameras; I got the Rolleiflex Automat for $25, pretty beaten up and fungus infected, although the taking lens is pretty clean. (later I've found it to be a Rolleiflex MX-EVS)
I got the Yaschicaflex for about $50, it was actually pretty clean and nice cosmetically and I've tested it and it works nicely (a bit off on the slower speeds, but that is normal for old cameras).
Both cameras are from the 50's or so.
|My Yashicaflex C and my Rolleiflex Automat 3.5|
Shot with my Hasselblad 503CW.
Tri-X in HC-110 B
After testing both cameras, and adjusting the focus on the Rolleiflex myself (wasn't worth sending it away for a CLA anyway), I was extremely impressed by the performance of the Rolleiflex.
The photos were crisp and the taking lens was very VERY sharp, wow!
- I wonder how a Rolleiflex 2.8F is like, when this "consumer" version is THIS GOOD?
So I scouted out eBay for a few weeks and read some forums, so see what was what. (there are many models and versions and quite difficult to get a grip).
I landed on the decision to go for a well taken cared of Rolleiflex 2.8F, which came in 4 distinct versions, but seems to be the most "normal best" version out there.
So, long story short, I bought one from eBay from a reputable seller, who had lots of information on the camera, lots of photos and a serial number to check.
The camera also came with the ever-ready case (never ready case actually), a lens-shade and a yellow filter. (the diffuser for the light-meter was placed inside the holding compartment of the ever-ready case).
So it was complete, very few marks, no known errors and the glass had no known issues or marks on them either.
The serial-number, place the production-year for the camera around the mid 60's. I wasn't looking for a collectors item, but a camera I could use (the cameras from Japan will be display-items though, even though they both actually work).
Here's some Rolleiflex-porn for you to look at:
|Rolleiflex 2.8F inside the ever ready case with the pouches for the lens-shade and the yellow filter.|
|Left side of the case, with the various control-knobs available|
|Right side of the case with the crank and the frame number available for use.|
Notice the lock-lever on the top, this locks the case
to the camera, so that it doesn't fall out of the casing when the lid is off.
|Removal of the case-lid completely, enables you to use the camera more freely during shooting.|
|My Rolleiflex 2.8F sitting ready in the case.|
|Viewfinder open for shooting|
|Bare-bone camera without the lid, huge lens elements compared to my Automat 3.5|
|Notice how the viewing lens gets bright when you pop the viewfinder open|
|Half profile shot, showing the film-roller knobs, |
the light-meter, focusing knob and the exposure-compensation knob.
|The Rolleiflex 2.8F (and others) do have|
a "sports finder" (lower hole in the viewfinder).
This enables the photographer to hold the camera
up against the eye like a normal camera.
|I wonder if my cameras will look this good in 50 years....|
|Crank-winder and the frame-counter.|
|The light-meter sensor, located just below "ROLLEIFLEX", is normally way off after this much time.|
I think mine is about 1 stop off, but can be used as a incident meter with the diffuser in a pinch.
|Shutter and aperture settings (controlled by the two front-wheels between the lenses)|
|Left side is the shutter (with lock-switch)|
Rigth side is flash-sync port (lock is not active only X-sync, my Automat 3.5 can be set at X or M)
|The knob to the left of the lens is the self-timer switch.|
Self-timer is loaded every time you crank the winder.
|This is the yellow-filter that came with the camera, I need to check eBay and find myself a blue, red and orange one as well|
Maybe a green, maybe not (I rarely use the one I have for my Canon-lenses)
|Focusing knob and the light meter.|
The meter has a little edge scuff mark, but I don't care, it's not that bad really.
|The lens-shade for the taking lens.|
|Camera mounted in the case with the lens-shade attached.|
(Coincidently, all of the above photos, were shot with my new Canon 5D Mark III, my replacement for my excellent 1ds mark II, more on that in a later blog-entry.)
The camera was really in ship-shape, but the controllers were a bit tough (crank, adjustment for the aperture and shutter). The film-feeler mechanism, meant to trigger automatically when you load 120 film in the camera, didn't trigger properly with Acros or Tri-X, only Foma (which has quite thick backing paper). I knew (and more or less expected) that I had to send the camera off to a CLA (Cleaning, Lubrication and Adjustment).
Luckily, the Rolleiflex-community have nice lists of reputable service-men around the world, so finding one wasn't too hard.
The east and west coast US-based service-guru's (Harry Fleenor and Krikor Maralian ) comes up a lot in forums and they are probably the best of the bunch, but Fleenor had a 11 week(!) turn-around.
Mr. Maralian could take the camera with a shorter turn-around, but I was hesitant shipping the camera that far.
I ended up sending my Rolleiflex to Mr. Brian Mickleboro in London.
He was very fast, did a bang-up job and was reasonably priced as well.
We encountered a few snags concerning shipping the camera to the UK, but after a few angry phone calls from me to the Norwegian postal-office, UPS-Norway and UPS-UK, Mr. Mickelboro was finally able to perform a CLA on my camera.
If you need your Rolleiflex checked, I recommend him warmly.
If you live somewhere else, then here's a typical list of people that still do service on these cameras. don't send them to "anyone", use the immense experience these guys possess (many of them have decades experience working for and with Rolleiflex).http://www.rolleigraphy.org/rolleiflex_service.htm
I have yet to shoot properly with my camera (only test shots so far), but I promise to come back with some shots (color, B&W) from this camera, as the winter and sub-zero temperatures go away. =)
The camera I got, was in generally a REALLY NICE condition, almost as though I am a bit afraid using it (hell it cost me a total of £1500 with CLA), so I will do my best to take care of it, while still use it as it was made for.
The engineering behind these machines is incredible, a real pre-computer, non-electrical item and the last in it's long line, a pedigree lasting for over 40 years. (not counting the current analog, but electronic GX and FX models).
My camera is 50 years old, but with the great CLA-job from Mr. Mickelboro, and sensible use from me, the camera should have decades of extended life and joy. ^^