Notes about the Rolleiflex Old Standard
Like the Ikonta, the Rolleiflex is another mythical camera introduced in 1929. Both were high end cameras for the professional photographer as well as a luxury item available to the wealthiest amateurs only. Both are sturdy, quite heavy, well made and fitted with the best photographic lenses available in the period, but their design is completely different. The Ikonta is a traditional folding camera, a type existing from the 19th Century, but the Rolleiflex is a twin lens reflex producing square format frames. Reflex cameras existed before, but the Rolleiflex is the first wide spread reflex for its smaller size and versatility.
What makes the Rolleiflex different from the Ikonta is its framing-focusing system: The light makes its path through the viewing lens, is reflected on an internal mirror and finally projected on a horizontal focusing screen on the top of the camera. An in-built foldable loupe helps you to fine focus. The camera is designed to be used while laying somewhere between your waist and your chest. This makes it particularly suitable for street photography because it allows you to be more discrete and makes you less intrusive in the scene.
The mirror inverts the image you see on the focusing screen, what makes a but difficult to shoot at moving subjects, but an ingenious sportive view finder overcomes this issue. After setting up the finder you need to place the camera on your face with the centre of the finder at your eye level, then you need to see your iris reflected on a ring-shaped mirror with your pupil falling exactly on the centre viewing hole. Only then you will be seeing the same image that you will get on the film. The sportive view finder allows you to frame, but not to focus and is tricky to use, but if you manage to get used to it, it works pretty well.
Despite being 90 years old, the Rolleiflex 621 is an amazing camera even for today’s standards.