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Using the 1957 Rolleiflex 4x4 "Baby" Models (Updated 2 January 2014)

The 1957 Grey Rolleiflex 4x4 is a very fine camera. Although it was designed and released in 1957, it is still useable on a daily basis today.  Earlier models can be used but I would not recommend it.  Find a Grey '57 4x4 and have it overhauled if you want a daily user.

So why would someone want to use a 50 year old TLR, in 4x4 size no less?  Here are some good reasons to use the 4x4: 

  1. The lens is a sharp Schneider 60mm f/3.5.  Negatives are easy to print.
  2. Its great in the studio as it will sync flash at 1/500 second with its Compur leaf shutter.
  3. Its a square format camera.  No need to ever turn the camera to get a vertical shot.
  4. Super Slides.  4x4 mounted slides will fit in a standard 35mm slide projector and they look great when projected (Well since 127 E6 film is no longer made, this may not apply anymore!)
  5. No viewfinder black out.  You see exactly what was taken.
  6. Lightweight.  Its a lot smaller than a 6x6 TLR.  Easy to carry backpacking.
  7. Doesnt need batteries.  Will never run out of power!

 Now here are some reasons not to use a 4x4 TLR. 

  1. 127 film is very hard to find. Very hard.
  2. No internal light meter
  3. No auto focus or auto exposure (you have to think about what you are doing!).
  4. Square negatives have to be cropped if you want a rectangular print.
  5. 127 film is hard to find
  6. 4x4 accessories are hard to find.
  7. Viewfinder is dim.
  8. No digital back.  Scanning 127 negatives (46mm) is hard to do.
  9. 127 film is hard to find.  Not many varieties available.  Did I mention this before?

 The first thing you must do is to make sure that the 4x4 is working properly.  The shutter needs to be accurate, the focus set correctly, and the film plane flat. Send your Baby 4x4 out to a competent repair shop to get it CLAd (Clean, Lubed, Adjusted). Not every repair shop can repair Rolleiflex TLRs, especially the Baby 4x4. 

For Service try Marflex or  Ross Yerkes at 323-256-1018 in California.

One of the best Rollei repairmen in the country, Harry Fleenor, doesnt work on the Baby 4x4. (Note :If you have a 6x6 Rollei, Harry is the person to send it to).  http://www.rolleirepairs.com 

Leaf shutters gum up when not used and need a CLA regularly.  With light use, once every 5 years should keep them running smooth.  Its a cost of ownership.  Have it done.

 

 I will assume that you had your Baby 4x4 CLAd, it  is working properly, and you want to use it to take pictures.

 The main drawback of the Baby 4x4 is that it uses 127 film which is hard to find.  There are a number companies that can supply fresh 127 film; the selection, however, is very limited. One or two black and white types and one colour negative C-41 type is all that is currently available.  There are some re-spooled films out there as well.

 Once you have the 127 film you will need the following accessories to take pictures:

 1.  A good hand held light meter.  The Baby does not have any kind of light meter.  Unless you use only flash, you will have to use a hand held light meter, especially if you are shooting E6 transparencies.  One solution is to use a B30 flash holder and use a small clip-on light meter such as the Voigtlander  VC II meter,  Gossen Pilot 2, or Gossen Digisix light meters.

 

The other solution is to use a regular hand help light meter.  I use a Sekonic L508 light meter which is great.

2.  Lens hood.  It is imperative that you have the proper lens hood.  Rollei made a grey color hood marked 4x4.  The regular Bay 30 hood will NOT fit.  The two lenses of the Baby are closer together than the lenses of its big brother the 6x6.  This requires a special notch to be milled in the top of the mounting ring in order to clear the top lens of the camera.  See the two pictures below.  Current market price (May 2009) for a nice Rollei 4x4 shade w/ the grey leather case from a dealer is about $70.  On ebay expect to pay from $40 - $80.  A good substitute is the Japanese well made Waltz brand shade.  It is grey and it is an exact copy of the Rollei lens hood.  I have both and there is no difference between the two.  Market price seems to be $20-$30 for a grey Waltz 4x4 shade.

 

Rollei also made a BLACK 4x4 shade for the rare 1963 K5 Baby 4x4.  These are very expensive if you can find one.  Market value is $150 for the black variety.  If you have a black K5 that you want to use, get a grey shade.  If the color really bothers you, just spray paint it black.

 

3.  Neck Strap.  Every single original 4x4 neck strap that I have seen for the Grey baby 4x4 have been rotted and are NOT safe to use on a daily basis.  My original Baby 4x4 strap broke and it was off to Marflex for a repair (not cheap!).  Do not take a chance with an old strap breaking!  Since the Baby 4x4 uses special strap lugs, salvage them from a rotted strap.  The best replacement neck strap that I have found is the OP/TECH USA Classic Strap in steel (black & grey) color, with 3/8 straps.  It costs about $20.  B&H sells them:

 

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=productlist&A=details&Q=&sku=140201&is=REG

 It is the best $20 you will spend. 

4.  Filters.  The Baby 4x4 uses Bay 1 or B30 size filters. B30 is the Japanese designation and Bay 1 is Rolleis.  Both are exactly the same size. B30 accessories pop up on eBay all the time.  Look for a Hoya Sky 1B, yellow, and red filters.  Other brands are Rollei, Tiffen, B+W ect.  New B+W filters in Bay 1 can be ordered but cost about $50 each.  If you dont use black & white film then you can get by with just the Skylight filter.  Some users dont use any filter at all.  I have always used one without ill effect.

You can also get soft focus filters & close up lens sets. You can also get a B30 to 46mm, 49mm, or 52mm step-up ring to use normal filters.  If you do, you can't use the lens shade and you might block part of the viewing lens.

 5.  Focusing screen.  The Achilles Heel of the Baby 4x4 is its poor focusing screen.  Its just a plain piece of ground glass.  If you want to use your Baby on a daily basis do yourself a big favor and get a modern focusing screen.  Screen technology has changed dramatically in the past 40 years.  Now heres the bad part.  A Maxwell screen will cost you $150.  Yikes!  I bit the bullet and all I can say is that it is a joy to use!  The other drawback is that the waist level hood has to be modified to fit the Maxwell screen.  If you are serious about changing screens, email me and I will send you all the details. 

 This is the best upgrade you can get for your Baby Rollei!!!

Maxwell Precision Optics,
P.O. Box 33146
Decatur, GA 30033-0146

404.244.0095      maxwellprecisionoptics@toast.net

http://www.mattclara.com/maxwell/index.html

 

 6.  Developing Reel.  If you do your own developing of B&W, you will need a reel to hold the 127 film.  I use the stainless steel type.  You can also use a plastic adjustable reel.  Search ebay for 127 reel.  Note that 127 film is 46mm wide and sometimes people list the reels as 46mm reels.  The lab I use to develop my 127 E6 film doesnt have a 127 reel.  I take one with me when I drop off the film and when I get my film back they give me the reel back!

 7.  Save your 127 spools and backing paper!  You can slice your own film and reload your 127 film.  Im saving up spools and once I get 20 reels or so Im going to slice down 120 Ilford HP5.  If you have your local lab process your E6 or C-41 film ask for the paper & spool back.

8.  Using Flash.  There are many nice B30 size flash arms that attach to the upper lens on the Baby Rollei.  When you use the flash arm, the Bay 1 Rollei lens shade will not mount.  I sent two Bay 1 flash arms to S.K. Grimes and they machined the flash arms so that the lens shade can be mounted.  Not cheap, cost was about $50 per arm to have them milled.

The Agfa Tully AG1B flash is a nice bulb unit to use.  It works great for fill in flash and AG1 bulbs can be found on eBay.  I also use a small Vivitar 2000 electronic flash but you should see the looks I get when I use my flash bulbs!

 

 

 

 With the correct accessories you will be able to take great pictures using a 1957 Baby Rollei 4x4.  Feel free to email me at  aoresteen AT oresteen dott kom  if you have questions on using the Rollei Baby 4x4.

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Last Updated: 01/29/2014

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