Brian Tompkins

Back in the fifties the front cover of the weekly magazine Amateur Photographer always had the same banner advertisement.  The advertisement was for Wallace Heaton, a very up market photographic shop. Every year they produced their catalogue which was known as ‘The Blue Book’ because of the colour of the cover.  Everyone in those days wanted one.   It carried a vast amount of material and was well worth having.  In fact now I see that they are collected in their own right.  However, getting back to ‘The Classic Pair’, each side of the advertisement was a line drawing, one was a Leica,  the other a Rolleiflex, separated by the words Wallace Heaton and a couple of Royal Warrants.

Now this was fifty or so years ago, I don’t know when the front cover was changed to the present gaudy glossy style. But I feel that W.H choice of these two cameras is just as true now as it was then.  Both have survived the passage of time and both have become classics and highly sought after collectors items.  But perhaps of more importance, both are just as usable today as ever they were.

rolleiflex leica

On the left is a very late 1976 Rolleiflex 2.8 F Zeiss Planar; Type 2 1976. On the right is a late Leica 111g 1959 with 50mm f2.8 Elmar.

These two cameras must symbolise the pinnacle of German photographic expertise. Both made regardless of price to a standard which I believe has never been equalled.

I feel privileged to own these and a few other examples.  Funnily enough I and many others do not consider the 2.8 F as the ultimate in classic Rolleis even if they command a big premium.  I think the balance of the lens size against the front panel with the 3.5F Planar is somewhat more elegant, so….


Two Rollieflex

…what does everyone think?  These make a lovely pair but unfortunately although both work perfectly they are just too good to use.  The 3.5F is certainly mint but the 2.8F has never had a film through it and is complete down to the box, packing and paperwork.

No photographer should go through life without experiencing the joy of using a Rollei.  The performance will certainly blow any 35mm off the face of this planet.  A properly serviced Rollei is definitely the smoothest, best engineered, mechanical camera and was created without a thought to the accountants.  Cameras in the condition of those above are rather expensive and exceedingly difficult to find.  But although many Rolleis have led hard lives they can usually be made to work perfectly and if they are cosmetically a little tired so what?  At least, unlike mine, they can be used.  Often the original screens have dimmed but replacement with a Beattie type transforms the screen, making it about 2 stops brighter than the original.

I and many others prefer the screw cameras to the M.   For a start they are just that bit smaller, and with a collapsible lens they are very pocketable.    As for engineering and build quality, sorry to say folks, the 111g makes a modern M appear rather lacking in both respects.

Leica IIIg

Leica IIIg

Just look at that engraving and the attention to detail.  A Photographic Masterpiece.

Just look at that engraving and the attention to detail. A Photographic Masterpiece.

A Classic Pair

A Classic Pair


©2013 WPA Brian Tompkins



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