A Tip for Buying a Rolleiflex Online or From Photographs
An excellent indicator of a Rolleiflex’s amount of previous use is the condition of the original paint on the crank side of the camera. The circular rim around the crank, and on later models, the small “button” are two spots to check to judge a Rolleiflex's general condition. The yellow box below indicates the area. The red arrows highlight typical wear points on a Rolleiflex to look for.
Area to Examine
Below is a camera that has seen heavy use. It took a lot of cranks to wear all that paint off.
The wear below shows modest to moderate use of the camera. I would suggest that cameras graded as being in "EXCELLENT" condition should look similiar to this, but no worse than this.
Below is a camera that has been barely used and would likely grade at least EXCELLENT PLUS if not MINT-
As a Rolleiflex is "cranked," the user's hand, thumb, glove – whatever - rubs up against the “button” and the crank's edge. Over time, that repeated friction and abrasion cause paint wear and eventual loss. A minor amount of paint loss can also come from the camera being taking in and out of the leather case. In any event, I have found a large correlation between the condition of the paint finish in these two areas and the camera's overall condition. The more wear on that paint, the more likely the camera has been heavily used more and correspondingly, the lower value the camera should be as it will likely need work/repair/CLA or should be avoided.
A “minty” camera will have absolutely NO paint loss in these areas - in fact, the paint shouldn't show ANY marks or abrasions in the paint at all. The paint should have an unbroken, beautiful, soft gloss, enamel paint finish.
A professionally used Rolleiflex will reveal complete “brassing of the button ” and significant paint loss on the crank edge.
I’d recommend staying away from these purchases as they usually require significant tune up costs that can run $ 300-400 ! Unless sold at a dirt cheap price – walk away. There is a large supply of used Rollei’s – be patient and look for a camera with clean paint and a fair price. Lastly, also look for signs that these areas may have been re-painted over to conceal previous paint losses.
Here is an example of a photo from an ebay auction where the seller calls the camera “mint.” I disagree, the paint loss on the button, while relatively modest, does not qualify it – in my eye – as “mint.”
All this isnít rocket science, but it is a reliable and simple way to judge a Rolleiflex just by looking at some photos of this area.