I decided it was time to evolve my film photography a bit. My scanner (an Epson Prefection V600 Photo) can scan 6 cm as well as 35 mm film, but that feature had gone unused. After extensive research, I picked up a Rolleicord Va for about $200 off eBay. Buying cameras there is always risky, since you can’t handle the item first. But as you can see below, what I got can take better photos than I can.
The camera is an old style called twin-lens reflex (TLR), due to the two lenses: the top is for viewing through the waist-level viewfinder, the bottom exposes the film. The film in question is 120 film, also known as “medium format”, which is about 6 cm wide. The cameras that use it expose frames in various lengths. The Rollei TLRs take square images; 6×6 cm. If you thought square frames were only a recent internet phenomenon, think again! My particular camera was manufactured between 1957 and 1961, which somewhat precedes Instagram.
Compared to what I’ve done before with digital and 35 mm, this camera and the film that goes with it is a totally different experience. My text and still images can’t do it justice. Check out this video for a demonstration.
Why go through all this hassle? For one, bigger negatives! A 6×6 cm frame (which is really 56 mm x 56 mm) has nearly four times the area of a 36 mm x 24 mm standard 35 mm frame. The detail is phenomenal, and only surpassed by so-called “large format” frames, like 4×5″. Digital has only recently caught up to what 120 film can do.
Below I show all but one frame from my first film roll. The missing one ended up at the end of the film strip and didn’t fully develop. That was my fault; I didn’t wind the film enough before I started shooting. A roll of 120 film will fit 12 6×6 exposures, but I only got nine good ones this first time around. As usual, I processed this myself at home.