The Rolleicord Va is a medium format (6×6) camera using 120 size films, with which you will get 12 frames per roll. It is a twin lens reflex (TLR) camera and has a Xenar 1:3.5 75mm as the taking lens and a 1:3.2 75mm as the viewing lens. My Rolleicord Va is a version 2, according to camera-wiki.org, and this model was in production from 1958 to 1961.
The Rolleicord Va features a flash cable socket, a self-timer, a double-exposure prevention/release, a focusing knob, a film winding knob and a WLF (waist level finder), with which the framed view is reversed (left to right). It is an all manual and mechanical camera with shutter speeds from 1s to 1/500s with B (bulb) mode and apertures from f/3.5 to f/22.
A weakness of this medium format camera, for me as a spectacle wearer, is focusing. The ground glass without micro-prism is a bit tricky to focus in low light, so I often rely on the depth of scale on the focusing knob.
However I like the simplicity of this camera which forces me to go back to the basics of photography. No more multiple dials, buttons and menus to contend with on modern digital cameras, which can be distracting. That said, it doesn’t have a built-in light meter, therefore, the speed of the film needs to be taken into account when you measure the light.
The build quality of Rolleicord Va, which is over 60 years old, is impressive – fairly heavy due to all metal construction but light enough to be hand-held if needed. The taking lens is amazingly sharp.
In October last year, I visited Westonbirt Arboretum in Gloucestershire with this camera loaded with a roll of Ilford Delta 100. The weather was dry but very cloudy and the autumnal colours were not yet on full display. A black and white film might seem an odd choice for autumn colours but I wanted to play with tonal ranges and the contrast between the trees themselves and their light coloured autumnal leaves.
When I saw this tree, it reminded me of a multiple-armed monster in a fantasy horror film. I love the imposing grande stature of this tree.
This tree appears to be extending a big arm to embrace its shivering leaves (there was a slight wind that day). There is a good tonal separation (2-3 stops) between the leaves and the dark trunk.
The minimum distance on this camera is approx 3 feet. I spent some time moving the tripod forwards and backwards in order to get as close as I can. This is a cropped version of the original but I feel it needs further cropping to strengthen the impact. Perhaps when I next visit, I will take a DSLR with a macro lens too.
I came across more trees which were full of drama. Having spent some time circling around them, I settled down at this vantage point. Two trees were interconnecting, giving impression of almost dancing together.
This would have been a beautiful image in colour, so I hope I did a decent job in my attempt to convey the autumnal mood in black and white. Under the flat ambient light, the difference between the leaves and mid-tone area of the trunk was about two stops. The contrast was increased by ‘dodging and burning’ (digitally) at the final editing stage in Photoshop.
I almost always combine ‘dodging and burning’ and ‘luminosity masking’ whether it is colour or black and white in the digital darkroom (the final editing stage in Photoshop).
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