Rolleiflex Twin Lens Reflex

The twin lens reflex camera was a mainstay of Mid-20th Century photography and the Rolleiflex was generally at the top of the pile.

Twin lens reflexes removed one of the big problems with earlier cameras – the ability to quickly see what you are going to get. In older cameras, a sheet of ground glass was located where the film would be and that was used for composing and focusing the image. Of course while you were putting the film in front of that, the scene may have changed so both subject and photographer needed to remain rather still.

By having a second lens (nearly identical to the first) the photographer could view through one lens and photograph through the other at the same time. Older camera types had view finders or wire frames to do similar things, but the aspect of what you see is what you get (albeit with parallax and a backward image to boot) was enticing. It wasn’t until the mechanics of a movable mirror were perfected to the point that a single lens could be used that the TLR started to die out.

The Rolleiflex also had a novel method of winding the film. The camera uses the movement of a roller which senses the start of the film as the backing paper and film move pass it. This is used to start the frame counter. Without that invention, camera makers had to put in a red window in the back to read the frame numbers printed on the back of the paper.

There were a number of other interesting technological advances, but even as long as 30 years ago, the TLR was second fiddle to the 35mm SLR. They continued to be manufactured but newer models faced competition in the marketplace from used models which continue to function.

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