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

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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 🙂

The Minolta TC-1

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The Minolta TC-1 is a compact “luxury” point and shoot camera from 1996. It features a brilliant Rokkor-G 28mm f/3.5 lens. The lens is superb, and a rare version of the lens can be found in Leica screw mount, but that lens is scarce.

The camera can be quite fragile in my opinion. I had one that died on me in four months. Fortunately, the shop in Japan where I ordered it from gave me a prompt refund.

I loved the size and jewel-like feel of the camera, but prefer cameras I can toss in my pocket and not have to baby.

Prices are trending from around $450 to over $1000 for the rare black version. Most of the vendors selling this camera on eBay are from Japan. Don’t let that put you off; I have bought many items from Japan and have always found the items to be as described, and the shipping prompt, less than a week to the USA in many cases.

I am currently looking for another one of these to give it a proper workout. I did get some great shots from the one that broke down on me, but the photos are mostly family stuff and boring test shots, so I won’t bore you with these.

The TC-1 is a beautiful camera to look at and to use, but the finish scratches easily, and again, I feel the camera is quite fragile. By that I mean the electronics, motor, and moving parts seem quite delicate. And let’s not forget, this is an older camera that may be in need of a CLA. I’ve heard that Konica/Minolta in Japan may still service the TC-1, but that it would cost close to the price of just buying another one.

All that aside, the TC-1 is one of the most desirable and collectible Minoltas ever made and a point and shoot classic.




The Olympus Pen F/FT Series

The Olympus Pen FT with the 35mm f/2.8 Zuiko pancake lens.

Classic half-frame camera from the brilliant mind of legendary Olympus camera designer Yoshihisa Maitani.

The camera takes two frames on one 35mm frame. That’s why it’s called a “half-frame” camera. So on a 24 exposure roll, you get 48 shots.

You might be inclined to think that this would lead to inferior quality photos as compared to a full sized 35mm shot.

However, in my experience, the quality of the Zuiko lenses for the Pen F film system were so good that you really can’t tell the difference.

Mr. Maitaini was such a brilliant, brilliant camera designer and his Pen F/FT creation lives on in the Olympus Digital Pen series of cameras.

Note: Sorry this was meant to be a short post. I will be updating this with images from the Pen film cameras in the near future. Thanks for stopping by!

The Koni-Omega System

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Koni-Omega Rapid 100 and 90mm f/3.5 Super-Omegon

Awesome and affordable brute of a camera.

This was my first medium format camera back in the 90s. The system itself dates back to the 50s, although the Rapid 100 was a later production model, maybe 70s or early 80s. There are numerous bodies including the Konica Press, Rapid, Rapid M, and maybe a couple older bodies. The Rapid 100 and 200 seem to be the later models and probably better buys than the older models.

In the 90s, I became interested in medium format photography after reading a book by the late Leif Ericksenn called “Medium Format Photography.”

He had some photos from the Koni-Omega that he used on a tv production and I began to seek one out.

The Koni-Omega is a rangefinder camera system that consisted of several bodies and interchangeable lenses. The lenses are sharp. They make for excellent images on 6×7 negatives or slide film.

They are not expensive, but big, bulky and a bit fussy to use, which is probably why I sold it. However, the Koni-Omega system is capable of excellent results at a bargain price. The lenses have built-in leaf shutters and the cameras do not need batteries to operate. But again, they are BULKY and I suspect that is the reason they end up getting sold by owners who sell them.

Prices are trending anywhere from $50-200, depending on body, lens, and other accessories.

If you want to get your feet wet in medium format photography without breaking the bank, this is it.

Note: Sorry I do not have any photos from the Koni-Omega to share with you. As mentioned, I got it in the 90’s and at that time, there was no such thing as a great economical home photo scanner, at least not one that could do medium format on a budget. However, I do remember having prints that were done for me by a photo lab, and if I can find them, I’ll be sure to scan them in and update this article. Thanks for stopping by.




The Pentax Auto 110

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Pentax Auto 110 and Pentax 18mm f/2.8 for the Pentax System 10.

The Pentax Auto 110, introduced in 1978, is a truly iconic “little” camera. Part of the Pentax 10 system, including the Pentax Auto 110 Super, they were among the smallest interchangeable lens SLR’s ever made.

I still have memories of my Mom’s first camera which was a long, odd looking Kodak 110 camera.

Believe it or not, you can still get 110 film these days from companies like Lomography. Developing the film however, is another story! You’ll probably have to send it out to various online vendors who can develop the film for you.

As a young boy, I was fascinated by the ads I saw for the Auto 110 in the old photography magazines. When I finally saw it in real life, I could not believe it was a real camera!

There were 5 prime lenses, the 18mm f/2.8, the 24mm f/2.8, the 50mm f/2.8, the 18mm “Pan Focus,” the 70mm f/2.8 telephoto and one zoom, the 20-40mm f/2.8. Just like today’s micro 4/3’s or other small sensor interchangeable lens cameras, you have to convert the lenses to their 35mm counterparts to get the true focal length. For example, the 18mm lens would actually be a 35mm in focal length if it were a full-frame 35mm slr.

Because 110 film is pretty much dead or at best, a novelty today, you can get the Pentax Auto 110 and a few lenses pretty cheaply. Some of the lenses though, such as the 70mm f/2.8 or the 20-40mm zoom can be hard to find.

The Pentax 10 film series is no doubt the inspiration for the Pentax Q system of today and they remain a marvel of the amazing camera engineering of days gone by.

Note: Shot this a few years ago using a Speed Graphic 4×5 large format camera on Tri-X film.

Now why would anyone want to do this when you could just use your phone or digital point and shoot? I don’t know, I like to make life hard I guess 🙂

No, actually I want an easy life, as easy as possible! However, the Speed Graphic 4×5, or any large format camera requires a lot of practice to master and I was practicing the craft, so to speak.