Rolleiflex is renowned for its cameras, notably the medium-format Twin Lens Reflex line. They were lightweight, compact-sized, easy to use, and had bright viewfinders. But what sets it apart from its competitors is the superior glass optics made by Zeiss and Schneider. The Rolleiflex Automat is the first camera to have an automatic film counter system for twin-lens reflex types.
The first batch of the Automat was introduced in 1937, with enhanced models produced until 1956. Considered as a groundbreaking Twin Lens Reflex camera during its time, it had the automatic film loading and transport feature, which made it very convenient to load film. Back then, this feature wasn’t common - they had to feed the film between rollers and pass it over the film gate before they could mount it on the take-up spool.
Just like the other Rolleiflex TLRs, the Automat was equipped with a 3.5/75 Carl-Zeiss Jena Tessar lens, a self-timer, and a Compur-Rapid shutter (a high quality, German made shutter). In addition to the Carl Zeiss lens, it was the first Rolleiflex with a Schneider Kreuznach Xenar taking lens.
Lomographer vicuna is one of the lucky few who still uses the Automat today. His was a family heritage from a grandfather who purchased the camera in 1939.
"I'm the third generation of the family to use it and it's still working perfectly well as almost 70 years ago. The pictures are sharp, colors are perfectly reproduced with a fantastic subtle contrast in almost every situations. Whether I use color or B&W, the results are equally impressive. I only took it once to a specialized photo shop to make a general clean-up, about 15 years ago, and it still works like magic. Well, this camera is just the equivalent of perfection for me and the privileged witness of my family history for the last 70 years!"
Tips and Tricks
Here are two neat tricks to try if you have a Rollei, courtesy of Vicuna:
Rollei with yellow filter: I had the chance to have with my old Rolleiflex an original yellow Rolleiflex filter, called "Rolleiflex Filter Hell" with the filter holder of the cam. I tried it out and went to a beautiful graveyard in Nice, thinking that this yellow color could give a nice vintage taste to the shot. Very easy with the original filter holder, but you can easily hold a filter in front of the lens without it. The effect? A very smooth old taste, with sometimes a slight vignetting on the corners (surely the effect of the filter holder, because the Rolleiflex doesn't have this effect usually) and was very satisfied with that. So, if you have the chance to have a Rollei, try to find the original old filters and you'll not be disappointed.
Rolleifish trick: If you have the fisheye lens designed for LC-A (the one you attach magnetically with the metal ring), you can use it in front of your Rolleiflex, because the lens has the same size as the Rollei lens. The only thing, for sure, is that you need to hold it with your fingers on it. To focus, hold it first in front of the viewing lens, then just move it downwards to the shooting lens. If you can stay almost in the same position (to not lose the focus) it will be OK. You'll have very cool Fisheyes in square format with the usual quality of Rolleiflex shots!