Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Kodak's Rolleicord - The Reflex I

When Franke and Heidecke released the Rolleiflex back in 1931, they had set the bar very high for TLRs.  It has been copied, and copied, and copied some more, but the Rolleiflex is still a very prestigious and versatile camera.
By the mid-40s Rollei had a model known as the Rolleiflex Automat, which basically denoted that it could count the frames without the ruby window.
In the mid-40s, Kodak released their first Twin-Lens Reflex camera, the Kodak Reflex I. 
Unlike the Rolleiflex, it had 80mm ƒ/3.5 Anastigmat (Tessar type) lenses to help combat Vignette, while the Rolleiflex had 75mm lenses.
The taking lens, and the viewing lens, on the Reflex TLR were exactly the same, helping save in manufacturing costs and camera costs, as they did not have to had two different lenses to be manufactured for the production of the camera.
Of course, Kodak did copy, somewhat, the Rolleiflex design in that they used a MATTE screen for focusing, which is considered to be rather dull, and hard to focus with, by many photographers.
Focus is achieved by rotating a geared helical which moves the upper and lower lenses in and out in tandem, keeping the focus even with the two lenses.
Located around the taking lens (lower) is the shutter and aperture select levers.  The shutter is a Kodak Flash Kodamatic 200 shutter, with speeds from 1/2s up to 1/200s, including BULB and TIMED, and aperture settings from a wide ƒ/3.5 to a narrow ƒ/22.
It uses a five-bladed iris, with some impressive Bokeh, not to mention some very impressive out of focus rendering.
As mentioned about the Rolleiflex doing away with the Ruby Window, you can see Kodak did not do away with it.  In fact, every model medium format Kodak Camera I own or have used has a ruby window.  Even the great Kodak Medalist, which has a film counter, still has a Ruby Window.
The big difference here, though, is that Kodak has incorporated a Flip Lever to open and close the window, which should only be opened when you are in subdued light. 
When the camera was introduced the films were not as sensitive as modern films today, so when using this camera today, the flap over the window is very important!

But, of course, speaking of film, this camera takes 620 film, which is now obsolete, but is the exact same size as 120 film.  In fact, you can use 120 film on a 620 spindle in the camera.
I personally usually unload the 120 spool, reroll the film without a spool, and pop it into the camera.  Of course, this is all done in the dark, and it will then be rolled onto a 620 take-up spool afterward.
There is little to say about the Kodak Reflex I TLR, other than the fact that it is a very fun camera to use.  It is fairly light-weight, considering the all-metal body, no bakelite here.  The M/F flash bulb setting is easily set on the bottom slider of the camera (under the Taking Lens) with a COCKING lever for the flash sync, which is rather odd.
The shutter release and cocking lever is integrated into the same lever, with it being slid upwards to cock the shutter, then back down all the way toward the bottom to release the shutter.
Similar to the Rolleiflex cameras, those that don't have an auto cocking shutter with the handle crank.
The viewfinder is fairly dim, but with the Reflex II that is corrected.  See, Kodak did something no one else at the time did.  They used a Fresnel screen for their model II, and it wasn't until years later that Rollei did the same thing.

So in short, this camera is a treat to use.  I have used it with B&W and even E6 film.  I have been told I am very brave for using it with E6 as with older cameras, the shutter may not work properly, be off timing, and over-expose the images.
Well, my model has working shutter speeds from 1/25s and up, and even B and T work, but anything below 1/25s does not.  It either sticks, or clicks away at full 1/200s.
The only shortcoming of this camera is the shutter.  It really should be faster, and could be faster.  The Supermatic shutter on the Medalist, which is of similar era, is up to 1/400s, as is the Supermatic shutter on the Speed Graphic.
But, that is neither here, nor there.
The lens is very sharp, and renders the out of focus area very well, giving a smooth transition. 
I have not noticed any swirly bokeh, but then again, I've never been able to get any, even with my Helios 44/2, no matter how hard I have tried.

I would highly recommend this camera to anyone who is looking for their first, or a second, TLR.  Granted, you may want to spend a coin or two extra and go for the Reflex II instead, as it has a better focus screen, but the Reflex I is a wonderful camera.

"Camera Talk" - Kodak Reflex I - Kodak Ektachrome

"Decisions" - Kodak Reflex I - Kodak Ektachrome

"Washing Fruits" - Kodak Reflex I - Kodak Ektachrome

"Window Seat" - Kodak Reflex I - Kodak Ektachrome
In conclusion, you can see that the camera performs very well with colour film, rendering faithful and well contrasted images.
An excellent performer, and one that I shall hope to get working for some portrait work in the near future...

Kodak Reflex I TLR
Twin Lens Reflex Camera
Kodak Kodamatic Flash Syncro 200 shutter 1/2s to 1/200s +B +T
Kodak 80mm ƒ/3.5 Anastigmat (Tessar type) Taking and Viewing Lens
Matte Focus Screen with Flip-Out magnifier
Drop Down SPORT Finder on Chimney
60mm X 60mm Frame size on 620 Roll Film
ƒ/3.5 Maximum Aperture and ƒ/22 Minimum Aperture w/5-Bladed Iris

Until next time fellow bloggers.  Keep those shutters firing!

Stay tuned for the next review on...

.........The Pentax Spotmatic

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