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Love at first sight and the following life of an addict...

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Love at first sight and the following life of an addict...

Postby Anton Orlov » Tue Mar 25, 2008 1:25 pm

I was working at a small camera shop in La Jolla California (Bob Davis Cameras, remember it? It's not out of business thanks to the advent of digital like so many good shops in San Diego). I was used to shooting Zeiss optics as my current 35 outfit was a Contax system so I knew the quality of that glass.

One day in the spring of 2000 a lovely older lady walked into the store with a leather bad in her hands and proceeded to ask for the manager. I called over the boss, but hung around within viewing distance. Out of the bag comes a Rolleiflex 3.5F Planar with a prism on it, then another few leather holders, filters and cables... My heart started pumping... I look at my boss and she senses my anxiety. Usually the shop did take cameras on commission, but that time she did not want to deal with it (or maybe she heard the thumping of my heart) so she tells the lady to put it on Ebay and "maybe start the bidding at $300". I see by the look on the seller's face that the last thing she wanted to do is to start an Ebay account and have to deal with that, so on her way out I intercepted her and started a friendly conversation. Apparently the camera belonged to her aunt who passed away a few years prior to that and the bag was sitting in the closet for some time. The Rollei was well-traveled as well, I guess the owner took it to India and China in her younger days. And even though the paint had a few marks and the prism finder was slightly dented the lens was absolutely mint. I decided to make an offer and told her that I would love to give her some money and then do a Bromoil portrait of her to make up the difference. (mind you at that point I knew nothing of the Rolleiflex system and did not even look at any of the accessories) To my glee the lady's eyes light up and she offers me the whole bag for the portrait plus $150! Needless to say I was stunned. But the biggest surprise came after we went to the ATM, set up the portrait session and said our goodbyes - upon opening the bag for closer inspection I found the other little bags to contain a set of the wide angle and a telephoto Mutars!!! As well as Rolleinar 1 and 2 sets, the original waist-level finder and a medium yellow filter. When I came home and started digging around with more time and attention, tucked away in the back pocket of the bag, I was delighted to find the original customs declaration for all the items from the time when the original owner brought the camera and the Mutars from Germany. What a find! I took amy pictures with the Mutars and without them...

I completed the Bromoil for the lovely lady, who was really happy to see that I was immediately using the camera. Since then I was hooked on Rolleis. I researched a bit and found out that there is such a thing as a 2.8 model and started yearning for that. How amazed was I when a nice old man walked in the doors once and after a brief conversation brought up that he has a Rollei that he was the original owner of that has been sitting unused for a long long time now. I told him that I would quite likely be interested in it and the next day he brought it in - it was a MINTY 2.8 E3 with a Planar taking lens!!! It did not have a meter, but it looked sooooo nice. The lens again had not a mark on it and all the shutter speeds were dead-on. And he wanted what he said was the ORIGINAL price that he paid for it back in the 60s - $350. I was not about to bargain with him as I just got paid :)

That was my second Rollei - but it only fueled my appetite... Soon after that I saw a stereo project that some photographer had in a gallery and thought to myself: I could do that! But I needed another Rollei with either a 75 or an 80mm lens to match the perspective. So the next one came from Ebay - I hunted for quite some time and one day saw one that was described as having coating marks but no scratches. I decided to go for it and wad delighted to win it for an astonishing price of $320!!! And it was a metered 2.8F with a Planar AND the 12/24 switch - wow! The coating does have an area where it seems someone with greasy fingers has touched the lens and did not wipe it away promptly, but I took that one to Guatemala, sot 60 rolls with it and then made some 30x30 BW inch prints with it that are tack sharp. The meter is completely accurate also.

Then, after moving to the San Francisco Bay area I was lucky enough to see a show of Dian Arbus' work which included her Omega 2D enlarger and her two cameras - Nikkromat and a a Rolleiwide. After seeing her work I knew that the next logical step for me was to buy one of those. After eating noodles for a few years I scraped up enough to buy a beat up version of one of those without the original finder or the lens cap. I found a seller who seemed to somehow come up with them rather often, but they always went for over $300. However, after a year and a half of talking to heim the nice gentlemen from Netherlands was kind enough to put one up for me with a $2200 buy-it-now price and alerted me prior to doing to so I was able to be the first one in line. The lens is not without flaws, but so far all my prints show no sign of those little nicks. I am looking forward to making some more 30x30in prints when I get back to the states...

After a short while my addiction needed to be fed one more time - I figured I needed the Telerollei to complete the line. At that point I was broke, so the only ones I was looking for were the ones with major flaws :( I found one at a shop in Kansas and bought it for $900 - it has a bit of separation on the edges of the taking lens, but I can't seem to see any effect from that on my prints so far (I just try not to shoot ti wide-open, but I have to do that sometimes in low light and even those prints look good to me...). It had the original finder on it too :)

Well that's my story! Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that during my San Diego days I kept talking to everyone that came in the store about my vintage camera obsession and one day a grandma-looking gal responded by coming back and handing me a plastic bag with a pre-war Rolleiflex that had no leather left, had scratches ALL OVER the lens but the shutter was firing perfectly and I used it to take "soft-focus" pictures that looked very dreamy. In that bag was also a Minox model A and.... A Chrislin - a rare instant-picture camera that was competing with the Polaroid for the two years right when the instant picture idea came out. The Chrisiln never made it due to financing problems and now it's listed as a rare and unusual camera in collector's books. AND THE LADY DID NOT WANT ANY MONEY EITHER!

Rolleiflex FOR LIFE!
Anton Orlov
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Posts: 8
Joined: Mon Mar 24, 2008 11:25 pm
Location: USA, CA, San Diego

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