The Rolleiflex camera is a wonderful introduction to medium format photography that even today can be bought inexpensively. Prices to obtain one will vary depending on whether you buy the camera from a private market source or a dealer. However, this particular camera's price is also influenced by regional availability as well. Depending on where you are, you can find them as cheaply as £32 to as much as £975. However, there are cleaning and refurbishing costs to consider as well.
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The Rolleiflex camera design originated with Paul Franke and Reinhold Heidecke, who produced the first Rollei cameras in 1921. The camera itself uses a twin-lens reflex construction in which the user holds the camera in position and aims by looking down through the top of the camera. The Rolleiflex was first sold in 1929 and went on to an overall production exceeding 2 million.
The Rolleiflex was the dominant force among European camera consumers for a good quarter of a century, only to be bumped by the introduction of camera designs by Hasselblad and Nikon during the early 1960s.
The Rolleiflexes have had an interesting travel life. Many old models were brought back to the U.S. by servicemen returning home from World War II. So one can still find a model easily in the States. Prices run the range of £32 for beat-up, used models, to mid £650 to £1,300 for cleaned up, mint units.
However, in Europe the availability varies; In Finland people have a hard time finding inexpensive units, yet they are plentiful in Germany. This is because of country import controls in the past. Much of the regulation has gone away because of European Union rules, but the scarcity remains in some regions. Finns may find prices as much as £1,950 for a mint model whereas Germany may pay only comparable prices to the U.S.
Current Price Ranges for the U.S. by Model
The Rolleiflex connoisseur is fortunate since so many units were produced and are still available. Many of the cameras are less expensive than vintage Hasselblads or Leica cameras. With a recent interest in medium format photography, there is increasing demand and as a result, rising prices for Rolleiflexes.
For instance the Original and Standard Rolleiflex models in good, usable condition cost from £65 to £162. The models are not very rare; more than 130.000 were made.
The Automat models I through V are surprisingly inexpensive. If found in good working order the cost ranges from £48 to £178, depending on model and condition.
The most valuable for the user would be the Model F, and so it is the highest priced: a good specimen with f:2.8 lens and exposure meter can cost you £195 to £975, depending on model and wear.
Tips for Buying
The prices vary, as does the condition of the cameras sold. "Inexpensive" does not necessarily mean a good deal based on price alone. For a good working camera, the basic overhaul and cleaning could add another £195 to £260 to your overall expense.
Before buying, also watch eBay for a few weeks and see what the Rollieflex model you are interested in is selling for between private parties. Check with online dealers as well. They tend to list a large amount of used equipment with current pricing. These two sources will give you a real-time perspective of the used Rollieflex market when you're ready to buy.
Many used models of Rolleiflexes are available today and function quite well, considering the age since their first production. The camera affords a convenient experience with the old-style larger size film frame and gives an interesting departure from the generally available digital and 35mm formats used in most modern photography.
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