My subjective two cents:
You probably don't need to upgrade the screen in any Autocord other than the uncommon very first model which came with a somewhat dim ground glass (the model without depth-of-field markings on the film crank plate). Later Autocords came with fresnel screens, and with silicon dioxide [sic?] first surface mirrors that are robust enough to withstand delicate cleaning, allowing improved screen brightness. I find the screens on later Yashica Mats and Ricohmatics/Diacords bright enough for most work that I'd use a TLR for; the Rolleiflex screens seem to vary with model age, and the Rolleicord screens are reliably dim. If you insist on a new screen, someone else here can advise which $200+ third party screen is the best, since I'm too much of a cheapskate to spend as much for a screen as for the camera itself. When I've replaced screens, I've been happy with the no-name screen from Rick Oleson or with a Mamiya RB screen, purchased used and then cut to size.
With a few caveats as noted by others (e.g., the Autocord focus lever, for which a real metal replacement part can be made by Karl Bryan and others; the plastic gears and rubber band aperture-shutter linkages in the Rolleiflex T; and the coffee-grinder film transport in the crank-wind Yashica Mats), none of the cameras you mention are particularly fragile or failure prone under non-industrial use. But any of them might need a CLA, and typically they will; condition is key. It's possible to over-think the build question, unless you are planning to dedicate the camera to extreme uses such as live combat, weddings and children's birthday parties. In TLRs from the 50s and 60s, camera condition generally trumps any hairsplitting questions about build quality, even if a CLA is factored in; even good stuff can wear out in the course of fifty years hard use.
Anything Rollei may end up costing significantly more to own and operate than the purchase price, because the service is pricier (at least in the U.S.) and the accessories are dear, except for Bay I 3rd-party compatibles.
You can always try one camera and if you don't like it, sell it and try another. Other than Planar and Xenotar equipped Rolleis, they aren't ruinously expensive just to buy, and there seems to be sufficient constant demand for good working TLRs to support the relatively easy resale of discarded former love objects.
Last edited by prumpkah; 02-09-2012 at 04:40 AM. Click to view previous post history.
That's exactly what I did. It's better to buy from here or RFF when you have a good chance of finding a camera that has been cla'd . One more caveat when buying a Rolleicord. Its shutter release button is easily removable. If it's missing you will not find a replacement. Another thing to remember is that Bay-1 (all Tessar variants incl. Xenar) filters and hoods etc. are much easier to find and much less expensive than Bay-2 (Planar, Xenotar).
Originally Posted by prumpkah
On the Autocord: its focus system is bomb-proof, best as I can tell. Except for that little matter of how you actually make it work, of course, the lever! Here's the inside of an Autocord's focus block: http://www.flickr.com/photos/1806725...7626869741228/
Block is the right word: getting the lens out of alignment would involve major damage to the camera body and the cast-metal lens board. This is much stronger than the Rollei or Yashica rail system.
The last four shots in that set show a Yashica-Mat. Rollei is the same idea, slightly stronger parts.
You a can see the Autocotrd shutter release in the fifth from end photo- much nicer than the Yashica. Not as nice as the Rolleiflex. Use matches mechanics here- the Rollei shutter release is the smoothest,Minolta good, Yashica ok until you get used to a better one.
On the wind mechanism, similar story- rollei is simply better finished throughout. Minolta is well-done, Yashica is rougher.
the big unknown in any of these cameras is condition and usage. I've seen Rolleiflexes used and abused to a pile of grinding metal, and
I've seen Yashica that work well. One thing I find interesting is looking at the repair manuals for the three camera lines. Yashica is really just a parts list; I've never seen instructions for adjustment, etc. Minolta has a few adjustments and some recommended maintenance and replacements. Rollei has most systems with tolerances, adjustments, etc. Tells me the company's expectations and market niche. Rollei planned for maintenance for professionals. Minolta figured serious amateurs would need some upkeep. Yashica saw itself as close to a throw-away, use it until it drops dead.
If I was backpacking through Asia, I'd take an Autocord for its solidity. And a small screwdriver so I could remove the focus scale access the lever if it broke.
I really appreciate all your comments and suggestions.
- prumpkah -
Plastic gears and rubber bands in the Rolleiflex T, really?
- mablo -
Buying from a member is always the preferred method. But it is usually easier to sell than to buy. I made some good experience here, oever at RFF and also LFF.
- Dan -
Some interesting views. One question. If one were to change the focusing lever himself - what is the chance of messing up the focus calibration (or something else?) Should it rather be made by a experienced serviceman?
I have also contacted Karl Bryan (and he answered as soon as his day in US started) about the Autocord, Rolleiflex T and Ricohmatic 225. His answer was the following (hope others will find it interesting too):
The Minolta Autocord is a very reliable and easily serviced camera. Most models came with a Fresnel lens under the ground glass that made the viewing very bright, so there is really no need to install a bright-screen in them. Properly maintained they will last for years. The Ricohmatic 225 has one of the brightest viewfinders. The shortcoming with the Ricohmatic is the film crank assembly is not very robust and it is next to impossible to repair when it fails. The Rolliecord Va/b are nice cameras and the interchangeable film format capability is a neat feature, but the late model Rollei cameras went to plastic parts in the shutter and repairing them requires access to new parts which are hard to find. The Rolleiflex C, D and E are the best ones for use, most competent camera techs can easily repair them. The early Rollei F models are a royal pain to repair because of the RubeGoldberg approach to depth of field pointers and aperture settings used in the focus knob (a buddy of mine will no longer repair the F models because of the difficulty in reassembly). I only work on Minolta and Ricoh TLR cameras, I quit working on all others types of TLRs.
Good luck in finding your TLR.
I have to admit that I indeed feel attracted by the Autocord. Learning about plastic gears and rubber bands in the Rolleiflex T makes me fell ... not good I actually really liked the camera ...
I would still like to hear about the Rolleiflex Automat EVS-MX - what are the differences to later Rolleiflex model (apart from the lens and bayonet size)?
The Automat MX-EVS is just a beautiful camera, and maybe the best choice of all among the Tessar and Tessar-clone cameras since it's a "real Rolleiflex." From the golden age of Rollei, and built really well. Its only downside is that it doesn't have a particularly bright screen, even though it has an f2.8 viewing lens, but that is easily enough swapped out for something brighter. The "EVS" refers to the system of interlocking shutter speed and aperture so you keep the same "exposure value" when you change shutter speed or aperture. However, this is easily disabled anytime you want.
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I'll second Nick on the MX-EVS being a gem. Rollei had worked out all the kinks in the design and was on a smooth roll. I have a 2.8C from around this time, and it shares the solidity and simplicity (although some plastic external pieces were quickly abandoned in later models). I am not enamored of the EVS system myself, and it could be one more thing to go wrong. I had it locked up at one EV value on a beater parts camera, but that camera had so many other problems who knows what caused that one?
The earlier rolleiflex, often called an 'MX,' with smaller focus knob and separate lever for changing flash sync setting, is also very solid. Interesting hear Karl Bryan's comments on later Rolleis. I've been a bit wary of the later Es and Fs, wondering if they had gone too far.
Some day I will get burned at the stake by Rollei nuts when I get a 75mm Planar f3.5 from an E or F 'Flex and install it on an Autocord body. I will have the Autocord's focus solidity and the Planar's extra bite, and my interest in any other TLR will end!
Adjusting an Autocord back to infinity focus won't be much more difficult than collimating any other TLR. How's that for an answer? Reassembling is easy since the factory installation leaves divots for the set screws; I don't know if other levers will index to the same place. One thing with a TLR is that even if the taking lens infinity point is off, you have a bit of a safety in that the viewing lens can be made to match the taking lens and life goes on.
Still, condition is critical with any of these. All of the models I discuss are 50-60 year old mechanical devices. This includes the lenses, where alignment is key.
By the way, although people can talk about this or that camera having plastic or being poorly made or whatever, all of the cameras under discussion will do you well. If you were shooting rolls each day and making your living from a camera, these issues meant something. These days, condition and maintenance will have more effect on how well ANY of these cameras hold up in most typical usage.
Last edited by Dan Daniel; 02-09-2012 at 08:41 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Just for the fun of it, get a copy of Don Normark's book Chavez Ravine, A Los Angeles Story, IMESHO one of the best photography tomes ever. He was a starving college kid and did those pictures (1949) with a Ciro-Flex, a little TLR that goes begging on Ebay for $30 even now.
That and my Autocord are my 2 remaining medium format cameras. The little Ciro has so little value, it lives in a zip lock baggie under the seat of my Model A Roadster. I still have 2 bricks of Panatomic X to use up
I too am somewhat surprised at the post about "rubber bands" and plastic forming part of the innards of the Rolleiflex. As I've already mentioned my Rollei T goes back to 1978 and is still going strong, I would happily buy another in good condition at a reasonable price. I believe Rollei switched production of some of the later f2.8 models to Singapore at one stage, and it's here that the rumours of plastic being used for some functions (as happened, I believe with Leica in Canada on the M4-2) came about.
However, one of the reasons for the excellent reliability record of TLR's is they are basically very simple cameras mechanically, compared to their 35mm counterparts......no motordrive to shorten the life of shutters....no flapping mirrors......they tend to be used by photographers who take great care with every shot, working slowly and methodically, so they tend not to get "hammered" like other types do, particularly as this type of camera went out of fashion with professionals decades ago.
I honestly think that whatever model you choose, providing it's in very good condition, you're not going to have too many worries over reliability.
Here's some interior shots of Rolleiflex T. the shot I (hope) shows on the left side shows the ribbons for the aperture and shutter indicators, and the large plastic shield around the viewing lens-
Another gear on the wind side, between the film roller gear and the counter mechanism, might be a black plastic. The ratchet mechanism on the wind lever itself is very different than other Rolleiflexes, much more primitive. The overall mechanism for shutter cocking and winding looks different, and I know how to accommodate for the lack of the Automat mechanism.
I don't say this to disparage the T. It *is* built to a lower level than the Automats and letter models, it's just a fact. The real issue is what this means in day to day use: pretty well nothing. Again, condition, condition, condition.