The Best Camera I Never Knew Part I: The Rollei Rolleimatic

SamRolleiFACBK

We can’t always have winners…

In the first post of this series, I take a look at cameras that I have come across, which may or may not be Camera Legends, but somehow they didn’t work out for me.

I’m sure there are cameras that many of you have used, that you heard a lot (or a little) about, you wanted them, and eventually got them, but for some reason or another they didn’t live up to your expectations.

First up is…

THE ROLLEI ROLLEIMATIC

The Rolleimatic is a uniquely designed camera introduced by Rollei around 1980, I believe. It was designed by the famous camera designer Heinz Waaske.

The camera features a 38mm f/2.8 Tessar type lens lens and relies on scale focusing.

The camera’s claim to fame is a rather odd design where the “flap” that covers the lens also doubles as a film advance mechanism.

The camera looked very cool to me, certainly stands out among point and shoot cameras of its era. I love anything retro, so at under a hundred bucks, I had to give it a try. With the legendary Rollei name, you would think this would be an instant winner. However, for me, it wasn’t.

WHY IT DIDN’T JIVE WITH ME

Information on the Rolleimatic is scarce on the web. One great review I read was from a cool guy named Mike Elek, also a classic camera aficionado, and he stated that the camera is a little fidgety to load film.

Well, he was right and then some! I couldn’t get one roll of film to load in this camera! 🙂

Ok, so I thought…maybe there’s something I’m doing wrong. So I found the online manual, I tried and retried, and retried…couldn’t get a damn roll to stick in this camera.

Sometimes, I would get close and it would latch on for like two winds, then the film came loose and I’d have to start over again.

The problem is there is no “slit” in the film take-up like other cameras. Instead there is a “film like thingy” in there that you’re supposed to hook the film up to. I should’ve taken a picture of it, but the best way I could describe it is that the part looks like a piece of 35mm film, but stronger, and is removable. It has “teeth” that is wrapped around the film advance roller and you’re supposed to get your film under the “teeth.” Well, that I did, but it still didn’t work!

Being that he was the only person who seemed to know anything about this camera, I emailed Mike and he was kind enough to write me back. He even made a YouTube video to show how to load the film, what a good guy!

Anyway, despite all his help, I couldn’t do it. Maybe something was wrong with my particular camera.

The camera looked awesome cool, but all it gave me was a headache 🙂

BOTTOM LINE

The camera was sent back for a refund. I’ve been using film for more than thirty years, this was the first camera that I couldn’t load. I’m convinced that it was the ‘funkiness’ of the design 🙂

Mr. Waaske, God Rest His Soul, was a brilliant and creative camera designer. A Legend. I have nothing, but respect for his creations. However, sometimes being too creative might not be such a good thing.

If hunting for one of these, and I’m not sure that’s a good idea, prices are trending at $50-160. So they are not expensive, but they do seem scarce.

The Rolleimatic is one of the Best Cameras I Never Knew. But it is not alone. There will be more to come 🙂

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3 thoughts on “The Best Camera I Never Knew Part I: The Rollei Rolleimatic

  1. Hello,I have Some of these,I never had any problem with loading film on these camera’s.Maybe Some thing is missing on the take up spool?
    Problem is to find a good working one,they all have defects,and nobody
    Wants to repair these camera’s because it is a complex machine.
    They all have shutterproblems,working with magnets who become sticky
    During the time,now i have found one full working machine,they are and
    Can make good shots.Beware of buying one,concentratie That the
    Aperture must move when shooting also on the backside is a switch for
    Moving the aperture for blitz.Look on the front if the aperture Moves,
    If not,don’t buy! Also when shooting foto,and the aperture doesn’t change
    ,don’t buy!
    That’s my experience with these camera’s,I have four,2 I can Use.

    Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Will, I suspect what you say is true, something’s missing and that’s why it’s not working. Also as you say, no one wants to work on these, I tried. But just like you said, I have no doubt a working one would be a great shooter! Till I come across a fully working one at a good price it will remain a mystery to me. Thanks for all the great info, anyone interested in this camera will surely appreciate it!

      Like

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