Entry Level Questions - Rolleicords/Autocord/Flexaret

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by christopher_barbey, Jul 22, 2010.

  1. I've been a faithful film photographer for many years and I'm thinking about stepping it up and going medium format. I'm looking at Flexarets, Minolta Autocords and Rolleicords. It's unlikely that I'll be able to find such cameras at a store within my price range (it tops-out at $200, being a student) so I'm turning to ebay. Unfortunately, I've got no experience purchasing from this website and I'm curious about people's experiences buying older cameras off of it. It's hard to tell whether or not $150 for a fully working rolleicord is a deal too good to be true when the next seller on the list is about to sell a semi-functional one for $700. Any advice?
  2. Chris, people sell things for what they want. Some people are unrealistic. It is that simple. Others are not so greedy or whatever the word is.
    Buying from eBay you can't check out the camera so you rely on the seller to say the truth. Check the feedback. If the seller isn't doing the right thing then buyers wouldn't be giving him/her good feedback.
    I don't know if it is against Photo.net rules so I won't mention any seller by name but I happen to know a reliable eBay seller who does have a good Minolta TLR and if you provoke him enough he will likely sell it to you well within your price range. I'll e-mail you the name if say so.
  3. Check the completed listings for what the camera has been averaging over the past 90 days.
    Cosmetics and collectability are responsible for the higher asking prices. Don't buy without a return privelege. Older cameras frequently need a CLA, about $100 for tlr's.
  4. My advice: be patient. Do your homework, and buy the best camera you can afford, but don't make your choice based on the name. A Rolleicord is a great camera (and the first camera I ever bought with my own money, age 16 or 17), and the prices are such that you can most definitely buy one within your price range.
    So: decide which models of 'Cords you would accept (ignore those people are buying as collectibles), which lenses (I recommend the Xenar), and what condition is acceptable (do you have someone who can do a CLA at a reasonable cost, or does it have to work out-of-the-box?). Then, check the completed listings to get an idea of the average sale price. Make sure you actually look through the page to be sure you're getting all the factors that might influence the price, such as fungus, bad shutter, sold 'as-is', seller with bad or no feedback, etc. Once you have your price range, save a search or several on eBay, so you're notified whenever a new one is listed. Watch these auctions for a few days to see how people bid, and then (and here is the most important part): Use a 'sniping' program. Anyone who sells on eBay hates those, and I won't be making any friends suggesting it, but if you're looking for a working camera on a student budget, just do it.
    Don't get caught up thinking you've found the perfect camera and you have to have this one. If the price goes up above your range, wait, and tomorrow there will be another one listed. If you're patient and learn to eBay properly, you should get what you need well under the budget you've listed. Yes the camera will likely have problems. Very few sellers (IMHO) are completely honest with their descriptions, or even know how to thoroughly test a 50 or 60 year-old camera, but you do stand a very good chance of getting a bargain that will do exactly what you need, and you have the protections you need against fraud and dishonest sellers with the feedback system and Paypal.
  5. I've had a great Rolleiflex, a Rolleicord, and a couple of Flexarets. I recommend the Rolleicords, because they are mechanically simpler, and so more reliable. The Flexarets were nice, very capable cameras, but very complex in terms of film transport, linkages, etc. For that reason, I'm not too keen on recommending them. Also, TLRs depend on a mirror in the viewing system, and these are prone to tarnishing which can make the viewfinder virtually useless.
    On ebay, go with dealers who sell cameras, not those who sell jewelry, watches, china, and anything else they find in their local thrift stores, because they rarely know anything about the cameras they are selling... and only auctions that offer a return period. Sellers from your own country are not necessarily better than international ones (although shipping will be cheaper).
    You might want to consider a medium format folder instead of a TLR. Having had both kinds, that's what I would do. Zeiss Ikons tend to be expensive, but there are many nice Agfa, Balda and other folders.
    I can say that I have used everything that I am talking about here and in other posts at some point in the past. I can also say that I was once where you are now. I eventually returned to 35mm for almost all my photography. How come I had so many kinds of cameras? Well, I collected them, but used them too. At one point, I had permanent, long term health problems with great financial implications, and I had to sell everything. Now I just have my old Nikons, and a few left over old, cheap medium format cameras that nobody wants. At this time in my life, which I am darned lucky to have because of a deceased donor kidney transplant after years on dialysis, 35mm is easier and more affordable to deal with. Medium format film is more expensive, and uses twice as much chemical to develop (and is more expensive to have done). I also think that 35mm is actually easier and better to scan on a flatbed, buit that's just my opinion.
  6. I got my Rolleicord 2D for 40 euros, with patience you'll surrely be able to pick up one at similar price.
  7. Rolleicord III with Xenar lens usually runs $100-125. I'd recommend searching for one of those. Xenar is superb, sharp and contrasty. Do be ready for a service, lubricants dry up, making the film advance sticky. Best to buy from a camera store or swap meet where you can inspect the camera before paying for it. Best to buy from a business with a return policy or warranty. Ebay is famous as a vast dumping ground for broken cameras. I know I've bought quite a few described as "pristine" and they turned out to need an expensive repair. Never again.
  8. My Rolleicord Ebay experience. Paid $120 for III/Type 2 "everything working". Was complete junk and could not be CLA'd. Next up to $268 for Vb "excellent". CLA (including parts) $150.
    Beware and budget for additional CLA as mentioned above.
  9. Chris, in addition, let me suggest one of the older Yashica TLR's. You can easily google a Yashica history. You might find the "D" model for under $100. I took one to Europe and liked the negatives a lot. Also a repair job on the Rollei costs three times the price of an overhaul on a Yashica. I have both the Rolleicord V and Yashica 124--I can see no difference in the negatives.The YashicaMat 124 has a brighter screen than the Rolleicord.
    The Yashica D--has the lesser lens--the three element---but as I said, you can easily make 10X10 black and white enlargements that look very good. In fact, I might take one to Rome on my next trip. If it's lost or stolen, no big deal!

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