Vintage Rolliflex Cameras
Vintage Rolleiflex cameras are some of the most expensive vintage cameras on the market. The high-end cameras were first made by Franke & Heidecke, a German company that later changed their name to Rollei-Werk. “Rolleiflex’ was a name commonly used to refer to the company’s twin lens reflex (TLR) line of cameras. This mechanism means that the camera user aims the shoot by looking down through the top of the camera.
Reinhold Heidecke and Paul Franke designed the Rolleiflex camera, which was first sold in 1929. The camera proved very popular and the company went on to produce over 2 million Rolleiflex cameras. The Rolleiflex became known for its reliability, durability, compact size and manageable weight, excellent optics, and all-round high quality. Only in the 1960s was the market dominance of the Rolleiflex challenged by designs by Nikon and Hasselblad.
Guide for collectors
There is an active market for vintage Rolleiflex cameras as collectors’ items, adding to the end price of some of these cameras. The prices of Rolleiflex cameras depend on a number of factors including regional availability and whether you buy the camera from a dealer or private seller.
Regionally, Rolleiflexes are relatively easy to find in the United States as many old models were brought back by U.S soldiers serving in the Second World War. In the U.S, prices can range from $50 for poorer condition cameras, to over $2000 for cameras in mint condition. In Europe, on the other hand, vintage Rolleiflex availability is varied due to old country import laws – inexpensive cameras can be found in Germany (similar to U.S prices), but are hard to come by in Finland, where people may have to pay as much as $3000 for a mint condition vintage camera.
When buying a vintage Rolleiflex, remember that you may need to factor in basic cleaning and repairs, particularly if you plan on using the camera so a “cheaper” camera may actually cost you more in the long run. Before you buy, compare prices of the model you want with others for sale on eBay or through other online dealers, such as Bizrate or Outdoor Photo.
There is an organisation dedicated to Rollei cameras – the International Rollei Club. For a number of years, this internet-based club has provided information about vintage Rolleiflex cameras. The site can be accessed on www.rolleiclub.com. Another website where one can find vintage Rolleiflex cameras is: www.vintageclassiccamera.com
- Bunte Auction Services sold a Rolleiflex 2.8 GX Royal Urushi camera for $3750 on April 23, 2011.
- Also on 23 April, 2011, Bunte Auction Services sold two Rolleiflex 2.8 GX Expression cameras, both going for $3000 each. Another 2.8 GX Expression camera was sold for $2900 by Bunte Auction Services on the same day.
- A Rolleiflex 2.8 GX 75th Anniversary Edition sold for $1800 through Tamarkin Photographica on 22 June 2008.
- On the same day, Tamarkin Photographica also sold a Tele-Rolleiflex Nr. S2305898 for $1800, and a Rolleiflex Pressmaster 12/24 for $1800.
Even though vintage Rolleiflex cameras are antique collectors’ items, many of them still function well as TLR cameras, making them both collectable and useful.
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