Rolleicord III Review (My first TLR camera!)
Here is a short Rolleicord III review after recently buying my first TLR camera. I love it, especially the TLR experience it gives. Write up and YouTube video together with some sample photos.
My first Twin Reflex Camera! (“TLR”)
If you have visited this blog before you will probably be aware that I don’t need any more film cameras. I have resisted the urge to try a TLR camera for years even though I was aware of their existence. I thought if I don’t look at them then I can’t be tempted to buy one. “Sadly” one of my YouTube followers suggested I try a twin reflex camera. He even went out his way to send me direct links to actual TLR cameras listed on eBay ha. That was just mean! He owns many Rollei cameras (Rolleiflex and Rolleicord) so was able to suggest the best models to look for. (At least I was well informed!).
Rolleicord III TLR camera
After being tempted by the Rollei TLRs I searched on eBay myself and got lucky to find a Rolleicord III TLR camera bundle. It was priced more than the Rolleicord camera alone (based on average price) but came with the Rolleinar close focus lenses which I was really interested in. (See more on the Rolleinar lenses below).
My Rolleicord (What is a Rolleicord?)
The Rolleicord III is a 1950’s twin reflex camera, produced from 1950 to 1953. It is a medium format film camera that takes 120 film and gives 12 6×6 images per roll. The lens that captures the images (the “taking lens”) is a Schneider-Kreuznach Xenar 75mm f3.5. The camera comes with a Compur-Rapid shutter that offers shutter speeds of 1 second to 1/500 second (+ bulb mode). It is a leaf shutter lens meaning you can sync flash at up to 1/500 when connecting via the PC sync port.
If you have used large format cameras such as the Intrepid 4×5 Camera you will recognise the lens is similar in design. Leaf shutter lenses are quiet and can be used at slower shutter speeds handheld due to no mirror slap vibration. To take a photo you use the waist level finder and look down into the top of camera to focus and compose. This is different to SLR and rangefinder cameras which are used at eye level.
What did surprise me is that some Rollei TLR cameras can be quite affordable. I have only really looked at the popular Rolleiflex f2.8 cameras in the past which can come with a price tag similar to a Hasselblad camera. The more basic Rolleicord model is priced much lower and similar to a Leica iiia camera cost. (To put that in context Leica iiia cameras are excellent value for money compared to a Leica M Film Camera). Therefore the Rolleicord also offer great value as an introduction to Rollei TLR cameras.
TLR camera vs Folding camera
Vintage folding cameras
In recent months I’ve really started to appreciate vintage folding cameras. These little cameras offer excellent value for money and in a very compact setup. A great example is the vintage Voigtlander Perkeo camera. A tiny 6×6 medium format folding camera that is similar size to a Leica camera body. Small enough to carry when out running or cycling. (See the YouTube video on my favourite small cameras if interested – https://youtu.be/J6ChIM_pFx8).
Rolleicord TLR camera
TLR cameras such as the Rolleicord are compact when compared to say a Hasselblad 501C or the Rolleiflex SL66E. All these cameras are 6×6 film format. To have the excuse to buy a Rolleicord TLR camera it needed to offer me something different (or extra). Folding cameras are rangefinder cameras so are great to photograph distance subjects. Objects at 1 meter or further distances are fine but usually no closer. For that 1 meter or closer the Rolleicord can help if fitted with a Rolleinar close focus lens kit.
Rolleicord Rolleinar close focus lenses
The Rolleicord III camera bundle I bought interested me mostly because of the Rolleinar close focus lenses it came with. These are called Rolleicord bay 1 mount and also fit other TLR cameras with the same bay 1 mount.
The Rolleinar 1 close focus lens lets the Rolleicord focus at less than one meter and should be perfect for my portraits. The Rolleinar 2 lens set is more magnified and lets you photograph closer. I might try for headshots but have also used it for less macro flower photos. Call it an environmental portrait of a flower (with it’s surroundings!). There is also a Rolleinar 3 close up lens for extreme close up photos but I don’t have this one.
Rolleinar 1, 2, 3 difference
Each of these Rolleinar close focus kits are a set of two lenses. For each set the deeper lens fits onto the viewing lens of the Rolleicord (top lens). The more shallow Rolleinar lens of each set fits onto the taking lens (lower lens). Here is the Rolleinar 1, 2, 3 difference if looking to buy one.
Rolleinar 1, 2, 3 focus distances
When the Rolleinar is attached to the camera lens this is the useable focus distance (no infinity focus*) –
- Rolleinar 1: 45cm – 1m (Half body portraits to headshots)
- Rolleinar 2: 31cm – 50cm (Tight headshot/ creative portrait crop)
- Rolleinar 3: 24cm – 32cm (Small detail photos such as a little flower)
I’ve not yet had the oppotunity to photograph any models due to the virus lockdown. The best I could do was some Rolleicord selfies! Once life is back to normal I will link some Rolleicord portraits here.
More Rolleicord test photos!
Sorry subjects were limited during lockdown so I had to use what I had around the house (and the best light I could find!).
YouTube: Rolleicord III Review – First Thoughts
Rolleicord III Review – Summary
The Rolleicord III camera was the perfect introduction to TLR cameras for me. I really appreciated the TLR camera view of the world. Yes I know you can say it is the same as using a Hasselblad, Mamiya RZ67 or Mamiya 645 camera with their WLF (waist level finders). In theory it is but I can’t use these cameras when trying to photograph with the camera at waist height. I can with the Rolleicord as I can see to compose clearly.
The Rolleinar close focus lenses make this camera work for me and I think they will be on the Rolleicord most of the time. The Rolleicord III is the perfect partner to one of my portable vintage 6×6 folding cameras. Together they offer an excellent medium format camera setup which is compact enough to travel with.