Photographica Pages

An online guide to collectable cameras and related stuff

Rollei (Franke & Heidecke)

Paul Franke and Reinhold Heidecke founded Franke and Heidecke in 1920 to pursue Heidecke's dream of producing the twin lens reflex, an idea he had come up with during World War I. He had conceived of the camera as practical for use on the battlefield. It would take advantage of Kodak's new film base which had minimized the problem of film curl, and the new sharp Zeiss Tessar lens. He felt that bellows were unsuitable, as a rat had eaten holes in the bellows of a camera he had left overnight in his basement. The reflex viewing was inspired by trench periscopes. In trench warfare you don't want to stick your head up to take a picture. He was a designer for Voigtlander, one of the most presigious photographic manufacturers of the time, but they rejected his design, as they were able to sell all of the cameras they could produce using current designs.

Lack of capital forced them to start production on stereo cameras, a proven seller during that time. Franke's juggling of bills and incoming payments, especially from cameras exported during a time of rapid inflation, allowed the company rapid growth and good working conditions in the factory.

In 1929 Franke and Heidecke introduced the Rolleiflex, a camera that took them to the forefront in camera design, and was to be copied by Voigtlander, Heidecke's former employer who had first rejected the idea, as well as Zeiss Ikon and a host of Japanese and German firms Eventually, they bought Voigtlander..

With smaller cameras taking an ever greater market share, Franke and Heidecke began producing subminiature and 35mm cameras in the 1960's. Some production was moved to Singapore to lower production costs. But they were fighting a losing battle against the Japanese camera industry. In 1981 the company went bankrupt. But in 1982, the company was back as Rollei Fototechnic, with production back in Germany. Today they still build Rolleiflex twin lens reflex cameras.

Rolleiflex TLR
Rolleicord TLR
Rolleiflex Baby TLR (4X4)
Rollei 35