It all happened in slow motion. The aged leather strap broke unexpectedly in two places. I watched helplessly as the camera fell from my hip to the concrete. “Oh shit!” I heard myself saying, as it bounced, and then bounced again, stopping finally to rest on its side.
In disbelief, I looked at my once flawless camera resting peacefully on the concrete. Each bounce felt like a punch in the gut! “Will it ever be the same?” I wondered.
The fall crushed the side meter housing, and the focusing knob now hesitated about midway going and coming. I carried my poor camera home carefully in my arms as if it were a wounded puppy.
Back home, I searched the internet for a good Rolleiflex repairman and found Harry Fleenor of Oceanside Camera Repair. I sent him my camera for a complete overhaul. Harry told me he didn’t have replacement parts for the camera meter readout so I asked him to remove the meter altogether, sensor and everything. Who needs a meter anyway, right? Well, I suppose I do, since I use a nice little hand-held job called the Gossen Digisix. Eight weeks later he returned it looking brand spanking new. Now, I’m not in the habit of dropping cameras, but if you ever drop your Rolleiflex, send it to Harry. You won’t be disappointed.
Taking photographs with the Rolleiflex 3.5F is pure pleasure. First, it’s a mechanically precise instrument. The focus is smooth as silk and the film advance feels like creamy butter. I’d say the Rolleiflex 3.5F represents German camera engineering at its finest.
(By comparison, the Yashica Mat 124G, a great camera in its own right, sounds a little tinny, feels a little clunky, and its film advance lever ratchets like the crank on a Jack-in-the-Box.)
The Toyo 45AII is a 4 x 5 inch format field camera made by Toyo. http://www.toyoview.com It’s a nice, heavy duty, precision engineered camera. The first impression that strikes me when I pick up this camera is how robust it feels. When folded up it reminds me of a turtle withdrawn into its armored shell.
Unfolding the 45AII reveals a finely-crafted instrument capable of a wide range of easily-controlled motion and adjustments. In addition to the usual tilt and swings, it has a rotating back that makes it a breeze to switch between portrait and landscape view. It supports front rise and fall and the back extends to accommodate long focal length lenses.
If you’ve never used a view camera you’re probably wondering what they’re good for. Good question. They’re good for taking photographs that require precise lens positioning to achieve your desired photographic vision. Many of the adjustments offered by the Toyo45AII or similar camera are simply impossible with fixed film plane cameras.
The use of a field camera lends itself to a different mindset from that of a digital SLR. The former requires time and contemplation while the later offers convenience and speed. I tote my Toyo 45AII around in a backpack along with lenses, filters, focusing cloth, ground glass magnifier, and film holders. If it has been a while since I last used the camera, I give it a thorough inspection and practice loading and unloading the film holders with a sheet of ruined film before committing to a live run. I also review my system for keeping track of exposed and unexposed film.