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History of the TLR camera - Birth of the RolleiFlex

The large-size TLR camera had been improved time after time, and once on the crest of the wave, but after that, it got disappeared on the scene as the large-size SLR camera took place of it.
Not that the SLR was designed later than the TLR, its appearance was late because it had been difficult to manufacture the adequate shutter mechanism that could couple with the mirror.
Compact, light, no parallax, interchangeable lenses available, and close photography enabled. The SLR cleared away these that the TLR camera couldn't overcome at one night. And then no one would think of using the TLR camera, at least until the birth of the first RolleiFlex.

RolleiFlex Original with f/3.8 lens.
Original model had been improved many times
until RolleiFlex Standard was released.
The first RolleiFlex

Franke and Heidecke had been manufactured three-lens stereoscopic cameras like Heidoscope & Rolleidoscope since around 1921. During those time, they had made dramatic progress in manufacturing a small TLR camera and released RolleiFlex Original in 1928. The model of all the following TLR camera showed on the scene at last.
One of the features of Rollei TLRs are that the view lens is brighter than the taking lens, and which was started on the Original.
It adopted 6x6cm format and the film counting window for the film transportation, but the brownie film then didn't have the mark for 6x6cm format. And so, the user had to find out a substitute of 6 exp. film, which wans't popular.
Because of the problem mentioned, Original was not yet to be the best TLR for practical use, but in any time before RolleiFlex Standard was launched, it was solved.

The popular 120 roll film was
available for RolleiFlex then.
RolleiFlex 4x4

In 1931, 4x4cm format RolleiFlex called BabyRollei was released. It used 127 roll film, and 12 exposures could be taken out of the film.

RolleiFlex Standard

RolleiFlex Standard was released in 1932. This was the model developed based on RolleiFlex 4x4, and cleared the problem of the film. Also, the lens cover was employed for the lenses for the first time.
It is said that this model is the one that pushed up Franke and Heidecke to the top of the TLR world.
The operative devices such as film wind crank, focusing knob and shutter release button were excellent quality and well located on the camera.

There were another versiton of Rolleicord
that had golden plate around it.

The next year (1933), Rolleicord was launched as a popular version of RolleiFlex.
The first RolleiFlex imported into Japan in 1938 was priced at 720 yen wihch could allow you to eat five hundreds of Soba then. And Rolleicord, imported at the same time, was at 380 yen, about the half price of RolleiFlex (still, you could eat two hundreds fifty of Soba with it...).
After that, Franke and Heidecke released new TLR camera one after another - Rolleicord type I in 1934, type Ia in 1936 and RolleiFlex Automat in 1937.

Click here to see more about Rollei TLRs.

Not only Franke and Heidecke, but other manufctures such as Zeiss-Ikon and Voigtlander also developed and manufactured excellent TLR cameras in Germany then, and all of which had a great influence over Japanese camera manufacturer.
But the war occured in Europe later casted a shadow over the boom of the TLR camera.

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