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Cameras132 of 859beer sign and a flash bulbMignon Bicyclists’ Camera by the American Optical Company; c.1886
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Posted 10 months ago


(7 items)

About a year ago I found this incredible giant Rolleiflex 4x4 replica for sale here in Brazil, in our local "ebay". It measures 44cm (H) x 27cm (W) x 27cm (D) and weighs about 10 kilos.

The previous owner didn't know much about it except that it used to sit in the window of an old camera shop in Rio de Janeiro until the 1960's, when the shop closed. The shop owner kept the big camera with him 'cause it was a gift from a camera salesman who brought it from Germany to Brazil.

He told me that when the camera shop owner turned 90 years old, he decided to get rid of his old belongings and he gave it for free to the guy who sold it for me.

As soon as I saw it I knew it was made by Franke & Heidecke (Rollei) due to the fine details it has. All the low relief markings are accurate, there are lens markings and even a serial number (118959). It is all aluminum made, with brass details (screws, film advance crank, shutter lever).

The top viewfinder pops up open just like in the real Rolleiflex cameras and it has even a ground glass inside it. It has no mechanical parts, the interior of the replica is empty, the lenses are glass with nickel plated round plates behind them to simulate reflections.

I was so amazed with it that I started an extensive research to know the history behind it. I contacted collectors and enthusiasts all over the world and thanks to them I found a German collector, probably the most important Rollei collector in the world, Mr. Frank-Peter Hoffmann, who lives near Braunschweig, the city where Franke & Heidecke / Rollei was born. He owns two of these giant replicas and he told me there were made ten of them to be presented at the 1932 Leipzig Spring Fair to promote the launching of the "new" Baby Rolleiflex 4x4 camera. Up to now, I was able to know the whereabouts of 8 of the replicas (3 in Germany, 1 in the Netherlands, 1 in France, 1 in Argentina, 1 in Brazil (mine!), 1 probably in Hong Kong, China, as I found a picture of one of the replicas taken there in 1966).

Well...after a whole year researching, web-surfing and reading all the books on Rollei history I could find, I got the antique camera collection fever. I obviously had to start with the 1930's Baby Rolleiflex and then decided to start a small collection of 1930's cameras. My second camera was a Zeiss Ikon Box Tengor 54/2. That's it for now, I hope you guys enjoy the pictures.


  1. bratjdd bratjdd, 10 months ago
    What a great story thank you for sharing. to were we share our treasures
  2. zguy2112 zguy2112, 10 months ago
    GREAT camera! Nice piece.
  3. Moonstonelover21 Moonstonelover21, 10 months ago
    Welcome to CW!!!!!
  4. PhilDavidAlexanderMorris PhilDavidAlexanderMorris, 10 months ago
    Great on you, to get this piece of history, what a terrific find ! I get the catalogs from Germany's premier auction that handles a lot of the best cameras and artifacts in the world and have bought my Rollei SL66 from them, Westlicht !~
  5. PhilDavidAlexanderMorris PhilDavidAlexanderMorris, 10 months ago
    Here is a link to the auction and their retail store.
  6. mcheconi mcheconi, 10 months ago
    Thanks a lot Phil...I will surely check them out.
  7. SEAN68 SEAN68, 9 months ago
  8. tombraider tombraider, 9 months ago
    its wonderful when you get the history of a piece and the camera is a good find well done
  9. mcheconi mcheconi, 9 months ago
    Thanks for commenting tombraider
  10. PhilDavidAlexanderMorris PhilDavidAlexanderMorris, 4 months ago
    I still cannot get over this massive Rollei, what a piece of advertising history and what a great collectible, it probably would command a high price at auction. Biggest piece of Rollei that is an absolute gem, you must have had a great day that you found this incredible find !
  11. mcheconi mcheconi, 4 months ago
    Phil, you are right about how I felt the day I found it. It was like discovering a mini-holy grail. The worst part was having to wait for it for two or three days since it was sent from Rio de Janeiro to Sao Paulo by mail. I couldn't stop thinking something could happen to it while being transported or that it could get lost. Fortunately these were only paranoid thoughts and it arrived well packaged and safe. Just as an update on the whereabouts of the other nine giant cameras, I was contacted by an antiquary in Argentina that bought the one that exists there from the guy who originally found it in an auction. The new owner has a camera shop in Buenos Aires and will display his copy at the shop's window. Here's the link for the man's camera shop:
  12. mcheconi mcheconi, 4 months ago
    Also (I almost forgot it), the guy from Argentina told me that he tried to buy that same giant replica 15 years ago. At that time, the owner told him that the replica was brought to Argentina by Rolleiflex' sales representative for the region. The history is very similar to the one I was told by the original owner of my piece.
  13. PhilDavidAlexanderMorris PhilDavidAlexanderMorris, 4 months ago
    When you buy a piece online, there are so many things that can cause worry.I remember years ago seeing one for sale, it was so long ago I almost forgot, I bet you will get some great firsthand info from the camera store owner who has another of these. You may be found looking in that window I imagine from time to time. One of the first great cameras I bought and used was a baby Rolleiflex and it took fantastic photos, the quality was excellent. Loved doing black and white photos with it and I learned how to develop my own at the time.
  14. PhilDavidAlexanderMorris PhilDavidAlexanderMorris, 4 months ago
    After that first Rollei I was hooked and my favourite became one that may have come out in 1983 or 4. It was a Rollei with 2.8 gold plated Planar lens and the pictures were fantastic also. Loved that gold plated Rollei. Left it at my fathers one weekend - the same weekend that he got broken into. I was able to buy it back after the insurance settlement and they found the thieves, about 5 months later.
  15. mcheconi mcheconi, 4 months ago
    It makes perfect sense one of these being sold in the US or Canada. Apparently Franke & Heidecke/Rollei sent one of the giant replicas to each one of the major camera markets of that times.

    I bet the two I was not able to find yet are in the US/Canada and UK.

    Paul Franke was a great salesman and travelled all over the world promoting their cameras. To spread the ten giant replicas all over the world seems very much what he would do.
  16. vetraio50 vetraio50, 4 months ago
    *°·`*~~ SEASON'S GREETINGS - MCHECONI!~~*`.°*
  17. mcheconi mcheconi, 4 months ago
    Thank you vetraio50! I wish you all the best in 2014!
  18. minicooper712 minicooper712, 3 months ago
    This is absolutely incredible. That's an amazing find-I'm absolutely envious. Has your collection grown at all?
  19. mcheconi mcheconi, 7 days ago
    Hello minicooper712, thank you for your comment and sorry for the late reply...Yes, my collection has grown a bit since this post. I have two "new" box cameras, a Rolleicord and a near mint Voigtlander Bessa. I will make a new post on them.

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