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Rollei Rolleimatic, a German Masterpiece

The Rollei Rolleimatic is a very unique camera conceived by Heinz Waaske who already created the legendary Rollei 35. Let's have a look at the seducing design and functions of this unique camera that we easily can call a masterpiece.

source: wikimedia

While looking for any information about the Rollei 35 camera, I noticed the name of Heinz Waaske who is the creator of this camera. I searched a bit more about him and found out that he also had created the Rolleimatic camera. Even if I never heard anything before about this Rolleimatic, I was immediately seduced by it’s very unique look and design.

Heinz Waaske’s career began with Wirgin in 1948 where he designed some famous Edixa cameras. As he worked on a miniature camera model using 16mm film (the Edixa 16 subminiature) he thought about a compact camera using 135 film. He worked then on a 35mm compact prototype and presented it to Wirgin, but they didn’t want it! The boss Heinrich Wirgin said to him “Therefore you have spent your time for your constructions in my design workshop?!”. And anyway, H. Wirgin had already decided to quit the photo business and stop the whole Wirgin camera production at that time… Heinz Waaske was unemployed, and presented his prototype to Leitz and Kodak factories, but they were not interested. Finally, 1965 he had an agreement with Rollei and the protoype became the legendary Rollei 35 camera!

That’s only to tell you how inventive Heinz Waaske was as a camera creator and leads us to the Rolleimatic. During his career with Rollei, until 1978, he was always involved in a lot of technical innovations, specially regarding compact cameras. He worked on the Rolleiflex SL26, the Rollei A110/E110 compact cameras and the A26 Instamatic camera. He seemed to have been obsessed by the “compactness” of a camera, so that you can have it always in your pocket and be ready to shoot at any time.

And here we come to the Rolleimatic: it’s his last creation for Rollei before he left the company 1978. It’s a kind of ultimate camera as he put in it all the solutions he invented before to have the perfect compact camera model. The camera itself is really small (as small as the LC-A body but without the lens part…) and the secret about it is the retractable lens system and flap aperture. The retractable lens comes from the Rollei 35 system and the flap cover is inspired by the compact 110 and the A26 instamatic camera. And due to this, you really have a very simple, compact and well designed camera body.


Using the flap (source: wikimedia)

Let’s be a bit more precise about the front panel and the functions of the camera.
The front panel makes almost all: putting out the lens, advancing the film by a double flap, and finally putting the lens in by pushing the nice orange button on the front. The system seems so simple and is very intuitive when you have the camera in your hands, and it’s truly a fantastic system! Thus, there’s no film advancing lever, allowing a very pure design of the camera body. On the front, there’s also a 10 second electronic self-timer lever.

You can’t miss the shutter as it is a nice orange dot on the top of the camera (as some of Waaske’s previous cameras and like some Agfa cameras of the time). You have also a hotshoe and the rewind lever on the top of the camera.

On the back of the camera, you have the iso setting (from 25 to 400 iso) and the aperture setting (from 2,8 to 16 and the “A” for automatic mode written in red). There’s a window to see what film you put inside the camera and a simple (but clear) viewfinder. Inside the viewfinder, no parallax correction, but 2 LED’s, one green, one red, to indicate enough light for shooting and enough power for the battery (a PX28 – 6V battery, easy to find, still today). The lightmeter is next to the viewfinder, above the lens which is a silicon cell.
And finally, on the bottom of the cam, you’ll find the exposure counter (like the Rollei 35), a tripod mount as well as the rewind (orange) button. And that’s all for this very well designed camera body!

But the Rolleimatic is not just a beautiful design camera, it’s also worth shooting with it! First of all, the lens (of course!): it’s a Rolleinar HFT 2,8/38mm (Tessar-type) and uses some well known pictograms on the top for the focusing. This shows that this camera was clearly intended for a large audience, but with no compromise on the quality! If you really need the meter/foot distances, they’re on the bottom of the lens, but who cares about that when you’re used to shoot with the icons of Lomographic cameras….? The focusing is very smooth and you only need to move the black outside ring of the lens.

When shooting in automatic mode, you just need to focus, the camera sets the aperture (from f/2,8 to f/16) and chooses the exposure time from 1/500s to 4s (!). If you’re in manual mode by choosing one aperture, the camera will shoot with a 1/30s exposure. That reminds some well known Russian compact camera, and if you’re used to the Lomo LC-A, you’ll have no problem to feel comfortable with the Rolleimatic in a few seconds!

Well, this camera, is a beautiful designed camera, well thought to be really compact and easy to use, and last but not least, produces great sharp pictures. I tested this camera during a sunset, and didn’t hesitate to shoot directly towards the sun with a 400 iso film, to see how the camera could handle such extreme light situation (sunsets and sunrises are really great testing situations, if the camera can handle these without problem, you can be sure about it’s quality!). And the results were great, didn’t expect such a quality!

Look by yourself and enjoy the galleries! :)

Some links I used to write this review:
- Mike Elek’s Rolleimatic review
- 35mm Compact review of the Rolleimatic (in french)
- Some infos about Heinz Waaske

written by vicuna

13 comments

  1. kdstevens

    kdstevens

    Wow! Great camera! I have to get one. Great photos and article, too.

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  2. stouf

    stouf

    Yeah ! I was about to write the same, you made me want to get one !!! Fantastic review my friend !

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  3. vicuna

    vicuna

    thanks guys! :)

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  4. cubilas

    cubilas

    been on the look-out for one of these, very nice design, and appears to produce nice results, great!

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  5. dogma

    dogma

    Hay mate! amazing review and great camera! Already fell in love with it :)

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  6. vicuna

    vicuna

    Hey guys, if you're interested, I've got a 2nd Rolleimatic camera to sell.... :)

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  7. cinzinc

    cinzinc

    awesome! i love the pictures it can take! =)

    @vicuna u wanna just ship that over to me?haha

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  8. lawypop

    lawypop

    awesome camera!

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  9. freezedudul

    freezedudul

    wow awesome camera! :D

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  10. paramir

    paramir

    what happened to the photos??

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  11. vicuna

    vicuna

    to see the pictures, have a look at my album: http://www.lomograph(…)rolleimatic

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  12. pushkar

    pushkar

    gr8 camera... gr8 review

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  13. maelstrom

    maelstrom

    .Awesome camera

    over 3 years ago · report as spam

Read this article in another language

This is the original article written in: English. It is also available in: Nederlands.