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).
Iksung’s previous post with Rolleicord Va
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10 thoughts on “5 Frames on a roll of Ilford Delta 100 with Rolleicord Va 75mm – by Iksung”
Exposure control on the Rolleicord Va is greatly helped by shutter/aperture interlock and the red EV (Exposure Value) scale on the right side of the lens. Makes using the Zone System and a handheld light meter far easier. There are EV exposure meter and spot metering apps available for smartphones if you don’t want to get a Weston V or Weston Master light meter with the corresponding markings on its dial (also in red). This is the same EV scale and interlock mechanism as on the leaf shutter Zeiss lenses for Hasselblad.
Yes, you are right. Unfortunately the EV lock on my camera sometimes slips which is understandable given the age of the camera. I use a Sekonic spot meter.
Nice black &white photos Iksung with an excellent tonal range that I’m sure will look even better printed. I have the Rolleicord VB, but I’m not sure of the difference with your VA. Not much I think. I also have a similar vintage Rolleiflex, like new. I have a lot of affection for my VB as it kickstarted me into my own business back around 1970.
As regard the dim focusing screen I very recently replaced the screens in both my Rolleis with new very bright excellent screens from Aliexpress at around NZ$60 each. They are the same thickness as original. Quite easy to change as long as you don’t let the retaining leaf springs fly across the room! Rollei also made dedicated close up attachments 1 and 2 with taking and viewing lenses accurately correcting for parallax.
I’m fortunate to have both close up sets. Rollei also made the Rolleilux light meter built into a lens hood, so interchangeable between cameras. I’ve only just received a tiny Doomo S light meter also from Aliexpress which I’ll attach via an accessory shoe and a strip of brass to a Yashica lens hood, to mimic the Rolleilux. Although I have a cupboard full of old light meters built in or rather built on is handy.
In my opinion TLR Rolleis are just as good and certainly quieter than similar vintage Hasselblads if you are happy with a fixed focal length. Who wants to carry around a Hasselblad kit? I bought my ‘Cord secondhand about 1965 for NZ$50 and nowadays they fetch NZ$1000, but mine will be with me til I die.
Thank you for your compliments. I bought my Rolleicord Va in 2018 from a film camera specialist, who rated it on their website as ‘in very good condition & in full working order’. I, therefore, bought it with confidence. It came with a leather case, an operating manual (rather worn-out), a lens shade and a bayonet yellow filter which are all original. I was very happy with the purchase. I paid £169 for it, certainly more than if I had bought it from eBay. The only issue was a sticky shutter speed (at 1 second), which is a typical symptom of vintage cameras. Other speeds were all fine. Since I had it serviced by a former Rollei technician, everything has been working OK (so far). Touch wood! It is truly an amazing camera and the build quality is second to none. As you put, I will continue to use it until it dies or I die.
Thanks for your reply Iksung. I’m glad you could find someone to service your ‘Cord. It pays to often run the slow shutter speeds when there is no film in the camera, to keep them exercised, as normally they are little used. The stitching on my leather case fell apart. So on a trip to Viet Nam I took the case with me. At my accommodation in Hanoi I asked reception where I could get it stitched. They said that they would get it done for US$5. Then a man sitting on a box outside came in and ran off with the case. Later that day it was returned, expertly hand stitched, better than new.. I have no doubt that if the camera itself had needed repair, somebody in Hanoi, could have expertly carried out a repair.
The gentle who serviced my Va a few years ago was a retired Rollei technician. I was lucky to find him. However it is another matter if he is still available. Anyway, I am sure that you can still find a master craftsman in that part of the world. Sadly it would be impossible here in the UK.
Great images. These are the kinds of subjects that can be very hard to capture well. The complexity of the shapes made by the leaves and branches can easily end up with confusing images that have nothing for the eye to focus on. You seem to have captured all the details without unnecessary complexity.
Hi, Alasdair. Thank you very much for your kind words. Tree are one of my favourite subjects. I strive to capture the personality of each. Often it is challenging with too much distraction, as you discibed.
Wonderful images. The tones and textures are marvellous. I particulalry liked the leaf movements in the second photograph. The arboretum is one of my favourite places and using a Rolleicord myself (albeit a Vb), I can relate to the joys and struggles of using this lovely piece of mid-century tech! Keep it up – thank you so much for sharing these
Hi Jasper. Thank you for your compliments. Yes, arboretums are in deed wonderful places (also one of my favourite places). The Rolleicord is a amazingly well engineered piece of equipment. Long may it last!