1933 Rolleicord I (Art Deco), Los Angeles, California, October 2011.
After spending a couple hundred dollars and many hours of time spent slowly working on this, I’ve finally gotten it to where I want it to be. When I first received this camera I was in awe of how remarkably good shape it was in for being 78 years old. The shutter still fired, the viewfinder opened smoothly, all of the mechanical parts seemed to be in relatively good shape. I discovered that shutter speeds slower than 1/10th of a second would cause the shutter to just stay open, which is a problem. Also, the original mirror in the viewfinder had collected it’s fair share of dust, rust, and grit and was in too bad of shape to really see much when I was aiming the camera to take a picture.
So I braved the 101 in rush hour a few times to transport it to this camera shop I discovered online in downtown Los Angeles…actually in Chinatown. When I got there, it was this tiny, quaint little repair shop owned and run by a man named Walter, who was easily in his mid 60’s, maybe older. He spoke very broken english, and kept telling me that my “metal” needed to be replaced. I misunderstood him for a solid minute before I realized he was saying “mirror” instead. He also agreed to fix the shutter issue (quite complex when you actually see how small the pieces are…imagine the inside of a watch) and do a general cleaning to get my Rolleicord back into well working condition.
I patiently waited a week until my camera was ready to be returned to me. The day it was, I went out and picked it up. Everything runs flawless now. I couldn’t have gone to a better repair shop. I asked him where I could pick up some 120 film downtown, and he told me a store to go to. For those non-photographers reading, 120 film is different from conventional 35mm film, as the negatives are 6x6 centimeters, a square image, and much larger than a regular 35mm negative. I had actually ordered two rolls of 120 film online but they hadn’t arrived in the mail yet when I got my camera, and I didn’t want to wait another minute.
Before this, I had never shot medium format film on my own time (outside of schoolwork) before. I went out and bought a roll of 120 film and shot twelve images (yes, 12 images to a roll, not your typical 24). I recently just sent out the film to be processed and scanned and should be getting a call either today or tomorrow to come pick it up. I couldn’t be more excited. There’s something about this camera that makes me feel directly connected with the man who originally bought it, my great-grandfather, Hans, whom I never got to meet but have only heard great things about. I feel some sort of stamp of approval by fixing this camera up and using it well, just like Hans did in Germany just before World War II broke out. It’s just amazing to me to think of the things this camera has seen, and I get a strange thrill by adding to its resume.
If the images turn out well, I’ll post one or two. But I can’t promise they will because A) I mostly guessed the exposures and B) the camera’s more than three-quarters of a century old. But hopefully I’ll have something to share.