Rolleicord Stereo – my “TriLR” (2013)
Stereo Photography has my attention, currently. I enjoy looking at stereo slides in a viewer, and I wonder why – in history - this subject has found attention, lost all attention, found attention again, lost it again…
Now, somewhere in one of the (few) websites that deal with stereo photography, I have found the quote that “until you have seen a good medium format stereo slide in a good viewer, you don’t know what stereo photography is about”. To find out about this claim, I bought a 6x6 Sputnik stereo camera, which taught me two things: a) that the claim may be true, but b) that I surely do not want to run around with a Sputnik, there must be nicer MF stereo cameras (that fit my budget).
But I haven’t found any, so far.
What I have found is a prototype of a stereo Rolleiflex in one of Claus Prochnow’s Rollei books, even meant to be mounted in a Rolleimarin.
So how about making one myself? I am not the first
person to try this, there is at least one similar camera pictured in the Kurt
Tauber camera museum website.
Thinking about the layout of such a camera, I dropped the idea of taking two Rolleiflexes, because the crank operated shutter cocking mechanism seemed difficult to be actuated by just one crank of one camera. Instead, I went for two Rolleicords. One camera I already had (a late Rolleicord II), I believe it is the very camera that I have hanging from my neck on this picture…
As second camera I purchased a Rolleicord IV, already with the more advanced film transport, that prevents double exposures. Lenses of both cameras are “identical” coated Schneider Xenars.
The idea was to leave both cameras unchanged as far as
possible, but to mount them as close together as possible, to achieve a stereo
base of some 75mm. For this, I removed the panels of the mating camera sides.
To couple the focusing drives of both cameras, I made a coupling piece from a focusing knob and some sheet alluminium (and, of course, two component glue). The part is clamped onto the focusing drive shaft of one camera and slots in one of the holes of the curved disk on the other camera.
Initially, this didn’t work well. With the two cameras rigidly mounted together, the focusing became pretty stiff and I eventually found out, that the two axis of the focusing mechanisms were not perfectly in line, with the film plane as base line. They were out not by much, but by enough to make the focusing uneasy. No problem for a single camera, if you think about it: All that is required is that the axis of the focusing mechanism is parallel to the film plane (which it is). If it is some tenths closer or farther away of the film plane, this has no effect, the calibration happens with shims on the mounting plate anyway. But for two coupled cameras it does matter…
As a consequence, I had to mount the two cameras slightly offset with regard to the film planes. My Lego fixture was fine-tuned with tesa film pieces until perfection was (almost) achieved.
When I was already filing pieces to make the mounting brackets that I planned to hold the two cameras together with, I first thought about gluing it together, and then … I just did it. Should need be, I can force the two halves to separate again, but the two flat side surfaces were just too inviting… So now, the two cameras are indeed glued together, which saved me the hassle of making brackets. The focusing is still just a little stiff, it wasn’t as easy as on a new camera anyway, on any of the two, so I added a bigger focusing knob (a focusing ring from another Schneider lens) which may not be to everybody’s taste, but which works perfectly well to give a little more ”torque”.
The film transport action is from the right camera to the left camera (the left camera obviously has no film transport mechanism anymore) via two more short coupling pieces, that connect the four film spools through holes in the body. One with flat noses, that transmits the transport action and one just with pins, for the lower spools that can turn freely.
Loading film is a little complicated, as first the “right” film is put into the lower chamber, the pin pushed into the spool from the left, then the left film added. The take-up spools need to be connected with the coupling piece with “noses” and the two film papers threaded into the slots, the spool turned a little and the film tightened:
What I have also found is that the backs of both cameras do not need to be connected. Even after both backs have lost the hinge on the inner side, they hold perfectly well onto the body when closed – an ingenious Rollei design: the backs are strapped onto the bodies (sort of) so that the stress is in pull direction, rather than having to rely on the stability of hinges (you just have to remember that the backs are now loose, when the camera is opened).
The (surplus) right camera viewing lens I have removed – so this became a TriLR, as opposed to a QuadLR…
On both cameras I have cleaned the shutter and I have connected the two shutter levers with a rod, to allow simultaneous action. The finder on the left camera I have equipped with a bright Rollei 6000 screen (and the viewing lens adjusted). Instead of the right camera finder I have installed a lower top plate with a (cold) hot shoe, into which a small exposure meter can be slotted, like a Gossen Digisix or Sixtino.
This is the finished camera:
The whole thing looks surprisingly unspectacular…
The first test films turned out underexposed quite a bit, which I do not understand so far - I will find out. Here are some pictures nevertheless from the Knechtsteden cloister, north of Cologne.