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1930's Giant Baby Rolleiflex 4x4 Promotional Replica

In Cameras > Rollei Cameras > Show & Tell and Advertising > Store Displays > Show & Tell.
Rollei Cameras12 of 15Rolleiflex Wide AngleRollei:Heidoscop 1925-1940.
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    Posted 8 years ago

    (36 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 at 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 good friend, 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 that Franke & Heidecke 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 9 of the 10 replicas: 4 in Germany (two of these are in the collection of Mr. Frank-Peter Hoffmann and one of these two was found in the US), 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 the 1960's).

    The last picture shows Mr. Stuart Whitworth holding one of the replicas, found in France at Cipière Photo, the pioneer camera shop on the Rue Beaumarchais, Paris. The picture was taken in the late 1990's. The copyright of this image belongs to Mr. Stuart Whitworth. Cipière Photo was founded in 1887 and closed its doors in the end of 1997.

    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.

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    1. zguy2112 zguy2112, 8 years ago
      GREAT camera! Nice piece.
    2. Moonstonelover21 Moonstonelover21, 8 years ago
      Welcome to CW!!!!!
    3. mcheconi mcheconi, 8 years ago
      Thanks a lot Phil...I will surely check them out.
    4. SEAN68 SEAN68, 8 years ago
    5. tombraider, 8 years ago
      its wonderful when you get the history of a piece and the camera is a good find well done
    6. mcheconi mcheconi, 8 years ago
      Thanks for commenting tombraider
    7. mcheconi mcheconi, 7 years 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:
    8. mcheconi mcheconi, 7 years 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.
    9. mcheconi mcheconi, 7 years 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.
    10. vetraio50 vetraio50, 7 years ago
      *°·`*~~ SEASON'S GREETINGS - MCHECONI!~~*`.°*
    11. mcheconi mcheconi, 7 years ago
      Thank you vetraio50! I wish you all the best in 2014!
    12. minicooper712 minicooper712, 7 years ago
      This is absolutely incredible. That's an amazing find-I'm absolutely envious. Has your collection grown at all?
    13. mcheconi mcheconi, 7 years 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.
    14. mcheconi mcheconi, 7 years ago
      Phil...someday I'll certainly do it. I still have to find advice on the restoration. I suspect I should adopt a very strict approach on this. Chosing the right materials and techniques is key when restoring a rare piece like this. The problem is: where to find information? Franke & Heidecke/Rollei history is nebulous in many aspects. I read everything I could find, except for Claus Prochnow's Rollei Reports because these are written in German. Unfortunately, these are the most comprehensive books on F&H/Rollei production. I was told by Frank-Peter Hoffmann that there's a picture of this replica in one of the Reports.
    15. mcheconi mcheconi, 7 years ago
      The replica's paint wasn't the same used in the real cameras. Some parts (fortunately parts that were left pretty much intact) were painted with something called "crackle finish" or "crackle paint" that isn't produced anymore because it contained led. Other parts of the replica were probably spray painted matte black and gloss black. Apparently there wasn't any preparation before painting because the original paint simply peeled off from the aluminum leaving a smooth surface. It is known that aluminum requires preparation before paint is applied, so I believe they didn't consider these replicas anything else than disposable promotional pieces.
    16. mcheconi mcheconi, 7 years ago
      The parts covered with leather in the real cameras were covered with black texturized paper in the replicas. My camera has parts where this paper is still in its place (the camera "back"). This paper's texture resembles the leather grain but isn't accurate at all. First, it is not glossy as the actual leather used in Rolleiflex cameras but flat. Second, the paper's "grain" doesn't follow the replica's giant proportions, being too small and close to the grain found in normal size cameras. The general effect isn't accurate. This also contributes to my theory that these promotional replicas were not made as perfect copies of the Baby 4X4 Rolleiflex they were made to promote.
    17. mcheconi mcheconi, 7 years ago
      Some small parts, like the film advance lever and shutter lever were probably nickelated and this can be reproduced today. The shutter ring is also nickelated in the real cameras, but was painter silver in the replica. That said, except for the black textured paper that I would not be able to find in the exact same pattern, the restoration would not be difficult. By the way, I found genuine leather with grain big enough to make the replica look better than the original. I could also use leather textured black wall paper to reproduce the original not-so-convincent material.
    18. mcheconi mcheconi, 7 years ago
      I would like to hear from an expert anyway. I won't risk compromising the value of this piece.
    19. mcheconi mcheconi, 7 years ago
      I wrote "texturized" and meant "textured" and "nickelated" means "nickel plated" English bites me sometimes.
    20. mcheconi mcheconi, 7 years ago
      Thanks for the love ho2cultcha
    21. mcheconi mcheconi, 7 years ago
      Thanks Windwalker, catteann for the love!
    22. mcheconi mcheconi, 7 years ago
      Thank you VioletOrange and dutchfarmgirl. Spread the love!
    23. mcheconi mcheconi, 7 years ago
      Thank you fortapache!
    24. mcheconi mcheconi, 7 years ago
      Thanks tom61375 for the love!
    25. mcheconi mcheconi, 7 years ago
      Thanks artdecogirl and is never enough!
    26. mcheconi mcheconi, 7 years ago
      Trey, catteann, fifties50s, thank you for the love!
    27. mcheconi mcheconi, 6 years ago
      Yes Phil, it pops open like in the real Rolleiflexes, the viewfinder hood flaps have springs on them and are exact copies of the mechanism found in the actual camera. And inside the viewfinder there's a ground glass plate too. The german collector who halped me to identify it said that some of these giant replicas had lamps inside to simulate the light passing through the viewfinder lens.
    28. mcheconi mcheconi, 6 years ago
      Thanks toolate2 for the love.
    29. bladerunner22 bladerunner22, 6 years ago
      This is such an iconic camera display, too beautiful !
    30. rniederman rniederman, 5 years ago
      Hi mcheconi ... I read your note to me wanting to know about restoration of this piece. First, it's a rare item and really cool. I've never handled one of these and do not any suggestions. Are you able to call the other collector for advise? - Rob
    31. mcheconi mcheconi, 5 years ago
      Rob, thank you for your help. Calling the German collector is difficult, mostly because he doesn't speak or read English very well (actually he doesn't understand almost any English). Anyway, I thought of you because of your impressively well restored cameras. I own this piece for almost five years and I fear screwing things up but it hurts my heart to see it like this. Thanks again!
    32. rniederman rniederman, 5 years ago
      Thanks for the compliment, mcheconi. In reality, all my cameras are in their original state! ... no restoration. I will do "preservation" meaning that materials, such as leather, are stabilized to prevent or slow down deterioration.

      I hope you find a way to restore this wonderful display item. One of the rules of restoration is to make sure you can reverse any work. Maybe there is a museum nearby with experts that might have suggestions.
    33. PhilDMorris PhilDMorris, 5 years ago
      Such an amazing piece, just the fact that it exists is extraordinary !~
    34. Roycroftbooksfromme1, 2 years ago
      So whats the outcome on the Rolleiflex 6 years later .. would love to learn what has happen in 6 years to it ......
    35. mcheconi mcheconi, 2 years ago
      Roycroftbooksfromme1, I still have it and didn't restore it yet. I am afraid of compromising its value by doing something wrong. I am not ready to sell it yet and the new plan is to contact specialists from a museum to learn more about what can or can't be done in this case. Thank you for your comment.

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