1943. The fate of the war was beginning to turn, but Germany was still on its feet. The major industries in Germany were contributing to the war effort, and this included the optical and photographic industries such as Franke & Heidecke and Carl Zeiss factories, engaged in developing optical devices for the army (binoculars, periscopes, telescopic sights for sniper rifles, theodolites for directing artillery, etc.) and other warfare components. Some materials were in shortage, such as nickel for the metal alloys, and thus many cameras made during or shortly after the war can have lower material quality. Due to the war F&H stopped all research and advancement of Rolleiflex cameras from 1940, and a true new model would only emerge from the Braunschweig factory in 1949, the Automat X. But with the leftovers from the earlier few years and a very limited new production, F&H managed to make a few cameras during the war, mainly the Automat II, Rolleicords IA type 2/3 and II type 4, and the 4x4 Sports.

 

There are some inconsistencies in the literature regarding the exact production numbers of the wartime batch of the 4x4 Sports Rolleiflex. Claus Prochnow and John Phillips refer that a maximum of 500 were built and Ian Parker 1,000. I follow the authoritative information by Prochnow and Phillips, but in any case it is surely nowadays one of most rare batches of Rolleiflex cameras.

A rare find: the wartime Rolleiflex 4x4 Sports and its earlier sibling

 A

 B

 C

I came across one such camera in an online auction in 2016, selling from the USA. And I guess the seller, although from a respectful photographic online shop, did not have a clue of what he was selling. I ended up paying much less than what I would normally pay for a regular non-war time camera. Its history may be related to events at the end of the war. The British Army that took over control of the F&H Braunschweig factory in 1945 seemed to have been quite respectful in spite that Paul Franke and Reinhold Heidecke were openly convicted followers of the Nazi regime. According to Ian Parker the commander of British troops in charge, Capt. Cullum Brown, had to cool down the difficult temper of R. Heidecke, who was most uncooperative. But Mr. P.W. Harris, sent by the British Government to report on Germany’s optical and camera industry, managed to develop a reasonable relation with him and which actually lasted for a while. 

 C

 B

 A

Capt. Cullum Brown later reported that anything worth any value vanished from the factory with the American Army, and that there was virtually no stock of finished cameras. So this could be one of such ‘predated’ cameras, or maybe it was sold at the time or after the war when F&H were in desperate need of fresh cash for the business, or simply by someone that would own one and needed the cash. Undoubtedly there should be plenty of such situations back then in Germany.

 

Well, enough of history and guesses, and back to the camera. The camera was in good aesthetical shape and functioning, but its lower bayonet was slightly bend putting pressure on the shutter casing. This was interfering with the levers for speed and aperture, making them very stiff. I had it fixed and CLAed by an old school technician in Lisbon, which fixed all original components and it became great! The mechanisms are now soft with the exact tension for accurate operation and the camera is aesthetically superb for its age. It was a great addition to its earlier pre-war sibling.

But the same did not apply to the US and Canadian troops that first arrived to Braunschweig. The soldiers had an attitude of trophy seeking, and apparently predated on the available cameras at the factory. Ian Parker refers that when arriving back in the US a couple of soldiers even had two of the rare studio Rolleiflex 9x9 cameras (seen by the reporter Robert Pins), which vanished and now probably trashed or rotting in the back of an old garage.

Serial no.: 642643

Date: 1938

Viewing lens: Heidoscop-Anastigmat 6cm 1:2.8 (serial no. 608543)

Taking lens: Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 6cm 1:2.8 (serial no. 2096821)

Notes: Exposure table on back in English. Focusing knob not covered saying “Made in Germany” (export camera).

(A) The taking chamber, and the upper uptake spool chamber.

 

(B) The lower spool chamber.

(C) The back is hinged and detachable. Externally it has an exposure chart in English and the middle red window to position the first frame. The closing mechanism is simple without locking lever, and the tripod mount is 3/8-16’ fitted with conversion to 1/4-20’. The inside of the back is similar to the last previous model, with fixed channelled pressure plate and crackled paint.

B

 A

C

The pre-war 4x4 Sports

Model

Factory name: K.1A Model 430

Prochnow name: 4x4 Model 4 (PR 084)

Serial numbers

Batches within 622,000 – 735,000 range

Production dates

February 1938 - February 1941

Production: 2174

The wartime 4x4 Sports

Model

Factory name: K.1A Model 440

Prochnow name: 4x4 Model 4 (PR 084/1)

Serial numbers

850,000-850,500

Production dates

April 1941 – December 1944

Production: max. 500

The Baby Rolleiflex of 1938 (later called ‘sports’) did not bring a new concept that revolutionised the original 4x4 concept. It was in fact a disappointment for those that expected a model based on the Automat that appeared the previous year, with its brilliant mechanism that would stop the film at the first frame and simultaneously tension the shutter. Instead, its mechanism was exactly the same as the previous 4x4 model, with the need to use the red window for positioning the first frame and separate shutter tensioning. It would be only in 1957, with the short boom of 4x4 cameras, that the new Grey Baby Rolleiflex would acquire such capabilities.

The Sports Rolleiflex looks definitely more modern than its predecessors, but the major difference is the double bayonet on the taking lens and the encasing of the shutter around it. All the rest, including the viewing hood, is basically the same. So, many authors including Claus Prochnow, consider it as the last type of the Original 4x4 Rolleiflex, and not a true new concept model. Nevertheless, a magnificent piece of camera! A few references refer that the last specimens would have double bayonet also on the viewing lens, but no solid evidence is available. This would have required additional structural changes as the lenses are too close to simply add the bayonet, so I doubt this hypothesis has credibility, except perhaps if some sort of study prototype was made, of which there is no record. 

Serial numbers are stated to begin at 850,000. Claus Prochnow in Rollei Report 1 refers that the only specimen of this batch he could observe is that at the Braunschweig Municipal Museum, which bears the nameplate number 850,205. The only other reference to one of these cameras I could find is in Ian Parker’s Rollei TLR Collector’s Guide, a camera that was in the collection of Irwin Smoler in New York with the serial 850,029. 

Internet sales and websites of collectors do not refer any other to my knowledge. But undoubtedly a number of these cameras are out there, preserved with care in private collections or simply forgotten in house shelves. During the war these cameras were only commercialised domestically in Germany, and thus in all of them the face of the focusing knob is covered with leather like the rest of the camera, otherwise it would have written “Made in Germany”.

Serial no.: 850342

Date: 1943-1944

Viewing lens: Heidoscop-Anastigmat 6cm 1:2.8 (serial no. 561099)

Taking lens: Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 6cm 1:2.8 (serial no. 2263036)

Notes: Exposure table on back in German. Focusing knob leather covered.

As in most early Rolleiflexes and Rolleicords the name of the company (Franke & Heidecke) is displayed between both lenses, and ‘Compur-Rapid’ below the taking lens. A lever below the taking lens accomplishes shutter tensioning and firing. Shutter is tensioned for all speeds but not for the B and T positions, in fact forcing shutter tension while at these settings may damage some components of the shutter.

On the left side, the focusing knob, larger than that of previous versions, accomplishes all distances from 0.9m to infinity within one turn and thus allows for the display of the depth of field, which is located above the knob. In this face you find also the knob for holding the film in the upper chamber and the anchor to attach the neck strap. On the opposite side there is the crank wind, and above you find the small window of the frame counter. The neck strap anchor bears the reset button. 

The four views of the camera.

(A-D) View of the four sides of the viewing hood in position for waiste level view. The viewing hood is similar to the previous 4x4 models, with independent lateral flaps and eye level vision via the cross flap with central mirror for pupil reflex.

 

(E-F) The viewing hood from top, closed and opened, showing the magnifying loupe.

(G) The viewing hood in position for eye level view, with the back front panel closed.

 

(H) Bottom of the camera.

 A

 B

 C

 D

 E

 F

 F

 E

G

H

The whole front plate is movable by focus as in any other Rolleiflex. The lens mount encases the Compur-Rapid shutter, and lateral levers operate speeds and apertures. Values are displayed in the small window on the top of the viewing lens. The viewing lens, a triplet Heidoscope-Anastigmat (6cm 1:2.8), has a simple slip-on bayonet of 28.5mm. The taking lens is a four-element Tessar from Carl Zeiss Jena (6cm 1:2.8) fitted with a bayonet 1. Apertures are within the range 2.8 to 22 in a normal scale.

The front plate.

(A) The taking chamber, and the upper uptake spool chamber.

 

(B) The lower spool chamber.

(C) The inside of the back.

(A-D) View of the four sides of the viewing hood in position for waiste level view. 

 

(E-F) The viewing hood from top, closed and opened, showing the magnifying loupe.

(G) The viewing hood in position for eye level view, with the back front panel closed.

 

(H) Bottom of the camera.

 A

 B

 C

 D

 E

 F

 F

 E

G

H

 A

B

C

Do I find any differences between these two cameras? Besides the number written on the nameplate, I can’t find anything worth notice. Just that mythical number and what it evokes. So should it constitute a separate model in the line of Original 4x4 Rolleiflexes? Most probably not. It is just a batch that appeared in a critical historical context, and objectively it is only the most recent of several batches of cameras of a single uniform and stable model. If not, why then the batches of wartime Automats or Rolleicords are not treated the same way having their own model reference? Just because they survived the war and continued being produced after it for a while? In comparison, the structural variation in the 4x4 model 423 is greater and nevertheless all are treated as a single model. So my point is that calling the wartime 4x4 Rolleiflex model 440 or PR 084/1 has no objective structural meaning. It is only the last batch of model 430! 

Structurally I can’t find any major (or minor) differences in relation to the earlier sibling. It is interesting to note that the viewing lens has a lower serial number than the pre-war specimen I own. Well, this is quite normal, as the lenses were ordered to Zeiss in batches and were kept in the shelf and not necessarily used by order.

Bibliography

Web pages

Claus Prochnow (1993) Rollei Report 1

Ian Parker (1993) Complete Rollei TLR: collector’s guide

Ian Parker (1996) Rollei TLR: The History

John Phillips (2010) The classic Rollei: a definitive guide

#642643

#850342

The backdoor lock

The operating levers

Some very minor differences could be found, but these have no significance. The reinforced lock present on the wartime camera was also seen in other pre-war cameras. Also the tip of the levers was different, but in this case also variation is observed in other cameras.

I do not intend to list all possible accessories made for the Rolleiflex 4x4 Sports. Most are shared with other Rolleiflex and Rolleicord cameras. 

The Bernotar was a polarizing filter that has a 28.5mm push-on mount. It rotates in the mount at the viewing lens to obtain the desired effect (it eliminates reflexes and deepens colour, but with no effect on metal reflexion). It then must be colocated in a bayonet adapter (will also fit the 28.5 Proxar lens) on the taking lens, in the same position.

There were 9 filters for Black & White photography, as pictured. The size was Bayonet 1, and in the engraving was written 'Rolleifilter'+type+serial no. Later filters had 28,5ø, as the ones pictured. These are uncoated filters. The engravings show minor differences (eg caps use, Rollei vs Rolleifilter) which are related to the year of manufacture. These filters will fit on any Bayonet 1, and at the time were shared with the Automats, New Standard and Rolleicord II. But the earlier push-on 28.5mm filters will fit on the internal bayonet.

For UV and haze: U-V

For different contrast effects: Light yellow (gelb hell), Medium yellow (gelb mittel), Sport, Light green (hellgrun), Medium green (grun), Orange, Light red (hellrot) and Light blue (hellblau).

Close-up was achieved by a pair of Proxar lens, one with 28.5 push-on mount for the viewing lens, and another in Bayonet 1 mount for the taking lens. There were 2 pairs allowing for different focusing ranges:

D1 - 1m to 50cm

D2 - 50cm to 33cm

A complementary lens (Rolleipar 1 and 2, according to the Proxar used) should be fit at the viewing lens as to correct perspective. Above please please see the D1 set.

On the right see the set mounted on the camera, together with a Sport filter, Deckel release cable and the third party selftimer Haka Autoknips model I (from 1932).

The hood is a regular Bayonet 1. Only the Rolleiflex 4x4 from 1957 will required the model with broken rim. Both bayonet 1 and push-on 28.5mm filters can be used with the hood.

The everrready case is very similar to those available for the last models of the non-bayoneted 4x4 Original Rolleiflexes. This one can be recognised by the opening for the depth-of-field scale above the focusing knob.

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