From the Rolleiflex 6x6, which from the beginning set the pattern for the development of the twin-lens reflex camera, the Rolleiflex 4x4 has taken the basic principles of its construction.On top of being given old cameras, with something of a reputation for them, occasionally I am lent them: one such borrowed camera I have been testing recently is the Rolleiflex 4x4, a 127 rollfilm format twin-lens reflex camera from the 1950s. The camera still has its original dual-lens cap and strap, missing its clam-shell ever-ready case, and has clearly been well used, the grey leather panels wearing down to its natural colour. Inside the camera back is a dealer decal reading 'Foto-Krischker Tirschenreuth', Tirschenreuth being a small town in Bavaria close to the Czech border.
Rolleiflex 4x4 manual
The Rollei Club website has a detailed page on the evolution of the Rolleiflex 4x4. The initial version of the camera was introduced in 1931, combining the innovations of the larger original Rolleiflex with the increasing popularity of smaller format cameras such as the Leica, amongst others, and developed through the 1930s to the early 1940s - and then brought back in 1957 with the distinctive grey leather inset panels and painted metal trim. The 'Grey Baby' or 'Baby Grey' Rolleiflex inspired a number of Japanese-made 127-format twin-lens cameras such as the Yashica 44, Primo Jr, and the Waltz Automat 44, often in grey. The grey version of the Rolleiflex 4x4 had a much larger production run than any previous model, over 60,000; it was superseded by a final black version with the same specifications from 1963, in much smaller numbers - less than 5,000, and finally discontinued in 1968. All versions of the camera were simply called Rolleiflex 4x4 by Franke & Heidecke/Rollei, but with codes for internal use: the final camera, whether grey or black, is the K5 model. However, the Rolleiflex 4x4 is colloquially and commonly known as the 'Baby' Rolleiflex, although never officially named as such; by contrast Zeiss Ikon adopted the 'Baby' prefix for their 127 cameras based on larger original versions, such as the Baby Box Tengor. Perhaps, unlike Zeiss Ikon - catering for all pockets - aiming at a wealthier customer Rollei disdained the colloquialism of the word 'Baby'.
One feature of the Grey Baby Rolleflex 4x4 which firmly locates it as a 1950s-designed camera is its coupled LV (Light Value) system. Aperture and shutter speeds are linked together, so a number of combinations of the two can be selected which will give the same effective exposure. Many cameras during the 1950s and 60s used such systems before this fell out of favour; most contemporary commentators online seem to conceive of the LV shutter-aperture linkage as a solution to a problem that barely exists. On one side of the taking lens the LV numbers run from 2 to 18 with a dot to indicate the selected number; the other side of the shutter has the aperture and shutter speed settings.
|Rolleiflex 4x4 aperture and shutter speed selectors|
The back of the camera has a detailed exposure guide, essentially a sophisticated version of the 'sunny 16' rule, with subjects and lighting conditions, which, when correlated with film speed and adjusted for time of day, produce a number to set on the LV scale of the shutter.
|Rolleiflex 4x4 exposure guide|
|Rolleiflex 4x4 viewfinder|
Opening the camera, the base around the tripod mount has a rotating lever, turning anti-clockwise, to push forward the hinged latch which, when flipped, allows the whole bottom and back to be lifted upwards opening the camera to load the film. Film travels from bottom to top in the camera, both spool holders flip out in different ways to enable loading and unloading. The frame counter is entirely automatic, without a red window. Once loaded and closed, the film is advanced until the numeral 1 appears in the counter window and the advance knob stops until the shutter is released; the shutter release is locked when the viewfinder hood is down. Without a film in the camera, the counter shows '0' and the shutter can be cocked by turning the advance knob and released as normal. The pre-war Rolleiflex 4x4 cameras had an advance lever, but the post-war version has a knob instead (many of the Japanese 4x4 TLR cameras did have advance levers however), more like the contemporary Rolleicord cameras, yet the 4x4 retains the Rolleiflex name.
|Rolleiflex 4x4 - back open|
|Rolleiflex 4x4 with Ilford HP5 Plus|
|Rolleiflex 4x4 with 35mm Ilford Pan 100|
The Rolleiflex 4x4 is clearly one of the most sophisticated 127 format cameras ever made; some of the Japanese 4x4 TLR cameras do have light meters, the only feature that could be thought of as lacking from the Rolleiflex. This last iteration of the Rolleiflex 4x4, coming at the time that cameras began to feature built-in light meters, was perhaps popular enough at the height of the late 1950s 4x4 twin-lens reflex craze for there to be little impetus to develop the camera any further. As with other Rollei cameras, there is an attention to detail in the construction and manufacture that occasionally feels like over-engineering, but solid enough to inspire confidence and small enough for portability, perhaps able, briefly, to compete with the sophisticated 35mm cameras of their time. As a result, the Rolleiflex 4x4 is still an eminently usable 127 camera, continued access to 127 film notwithstanding.
|Rolleiflex 4x4 with Kodak High Resolution Aerial Duplicating Film|
|Rolleiflex 4x4 with Ilford FP4 Plus|
|Rolleiflex 4x4 with Ilford HP5 Plus|
The Rollei Club on all Rolleiflex 4x4 models
Rolleiflex 4x4 manual (PDF file)
Baby Rolleiflex on onetwoseven.org
The Baby Rolleiflex on Camera-Wiki
Rolleiflex 4x4 on Mike Elek's Classic Cameras
127 film and the Rolleiflex 4x4 Rollei Users' Club
Anthony J. Oresteen - Using the 1957 Rolleiflex 4x4 "Baby" Models