A new Rolleiflex Instant Kamera project is launching today on Kickstarter. This twin lens reflex camera isn’t a medium format TLR, as you might expect given the brand’s lineage. Instead, it exposes Fujifilm’s Instax Mini instant film, and today we’re bringing you all the details, plus some editorial commentary to help explain what it all means. Let’s get to it.
Rollei’s press release has all the pertinent info, plus specifications, so let’s get that out of the way quickly. From the brand :
“Rolleiflex™ Instant Kamera produces high quality images optimized for use with Fujifilm Instax Mini film. You will be amazed by the wide range of apertures from f/5.6 to f/22, accurate focusing from 48 cm to infinity with cinematic viewfinder and the built-in electric flash with automatic light emission control. This allows you to have a taste of instant photography with the well-loved twin lens system that Rolleiflex is known for. We hope to honor our legacy and let all of you enjoy the amazing visuals this camera will produce.”
A good start. The release goes on to describe the key elements and functionality of this new camera in detail :
“Twin Lens Design: Reinhold Heidecke was inspired to make the Rollei TLRs while photographing soldiers in the German trenches in 1916 – the twin lens design provided a periscope approach to focusing and taking photos which radically reduced the risk of the photographer being hit by sniper fire.
Aperture Control: Enjoy shallow depth of field with f/5.6. This allows you to get the most out of the instant film format and really help your subjects stand out.
Viewfinder Design: A Fresnel anti-glare coated viewfinder that is operated at waist-level allows you the perfect setup for street photography while on the move: shoot photos any time just by looking down.
3-element Aspheric Lens: Takes sharp images bursting with detail, and has a focal length of 61mm.
Magnifier: As with traditional Rolleiflex cameras, our new instant TLR camera includes a magnifier so you can take a closer look.
Accurate Focusing: Adjust the focus manually so you can eliminate excess noise and hone in on what matters most.
Ambient Light Meter: Don’t worry about having to figure out the exposure, simply check the green/orange light to know if the exposure is correct. Then just point and shoot!
Multiple Exposure Mode: Create beautifully layered images by exposing a frame as many times as you like.
Long Exposure Mode: Keeps your shutter open with B mode so that you can unleash your creativity in light paintings or anything you could imagine.
Portable: 30% slimmer than traditional twin lens cameras with simplified knobs and buttons.
Built-In Flash & Flash Off Mode: Lets you decide just how much light you want to shine on your shenanigans.
Instant Films: Uses Fujifilm Instax Mini – the most common instant film and widely available!
We’re confident that Rolleiflex™ Instant Kamera will evoke memories of days gone by when in the hands of people who grew up with one in the 60s. But we also want to introduce ourselves to a new generation of analog photographers to help them release their untapped creative potential.”
And now for the editorial bit (that’s what you’re here for, right?).
If the specs of the new Rolleiflex Instant Kamera (and the camera shown in the company-supplied photos) look familiar, it might be because you’ve seen them before. The camera is essentially a Mint TL70, with some improvement. And that’s nothing to blink at – the TL70 is a very nice instant camera.
Word from Rollei is that the Rolleiflex Instant Kamera’s viewfinder is 10% brighter than the one found in the Mint TL70 Version 2. Additionally it has been said that certain internal changes have been made to improve the build quality of the camera. Representatives say that it’s difficult to notice these improvements in product photos, but that the feeling in the hands is that of a heftier camera (we’ll be sure to confirm this if and when the machine is Kickstarted and one lands in our waiting mitts).
But what exactly is going on here?
After more than twenty years of bumpy road that saw the brand pass through the hands of a number of different owners, some remnant of Rollei seems ready to move forward with new ideas. Rollei GmbH & Co. KG (formerly RCP-Technik GmbH & Co. KG) has owned the rights to the Rollei and Rolleiflex names since a restructuring in 2007. Since 2010 the company has owned world-wide distribution rights and for the past decade or so these names have appeared on a number of consumer-grade cameras and accessories sold throughout Europe.
This new instant camera signals, it seems, an intent to get back to work developing and growing the Rollei brand world-wide. But what’s most interesting about all of this must only be hinted at, for now. This Kickstarter could be a test.
Following the success of the Reflex camera, a modern interpretation of the classic SLR 35mm film camera, it’s entirely possible that Rollei is seeking to measure what level of interest might exist in TLR cameras and cameras that bear the Rolleiflex name.
Is Rollei’s ultimate goal a modern revival of the classic TLR design? It could be. But as is often the case in photography, only time will tell if good things develop.