Bye bye, Baby

I’ve just sold my “Baby Rollei” 127 camera and realised that I’ve never actually blogged about it so now seems like a good time while it’s fresh in my mind.

I bought the camera in about October 2012, from the much-missed Bonsers photo shop in Newcastle’s Bigg Market. I couldn’t justify the purchase unless it counted as a Christmas present so I handed it over to my wife for safe-keeping until Santa visited.

I was attracted by the small size and it’s general cuteness, and the fact that it said “Rollei” on the front – I didn’t have any other Rollei cameras. I was aware that it took 127 format film, but at the time of purchase I didn’t know much about 127 film except that there was one or two suppliers still left in the market.

Unfortunately, just after I bought the camera – and before I got to use it at Christmas – I became aware that the most significant supplier, Fotokemika of Croatia, had ceased production. At that point I searched for what 127 film I could find and tracked down a few rolls of Rollei Retro 80S and about 15 rolls of Efke R100. Later on, I purchased a few rolls of Bluefire Murano 160 – which was relabelled Kodak Portra 160NC – from Canada.

Once I was able to start shooting my 127 stash I realised that there were some practical downsides to shooting 127 film, which weighed against the fun/novelty/cuteness factor.

The first problem was that the Efke R100 film was the most curly film which I have ever had the misfortune to use. So getting it on to a developing spiral was a pain, and finding a way of scanning it was a pain, even after it had been flattened between books for a few weeks.

Neither my Paterson System IV or my Jobo developing reels accept 127 film. I did have an older model of Paterson which could be adjusted to take 127, which I used only for that purpose. It had a really small spout so filling and emptying the tank was a very slow process, so I didn’t use that tank for 35mm or 120 film.

A similar problem arose with scanning because 127 film is too wide for the 35mm film holder for my Epson v700 scanner and too narrow for the 120 film holder. If I tried to lay the negative directly on the scanner glass it would curl upwards. I didn’t want to tape it to the glass in case the tape left a mark, and in any case that method makes it difficult to line the negatives up straight within the scannable area. to I could get a reasonable result by taping the negative to the anti-newton glass for the BetterScanning medium format holder. But then, scanning a roll of 127 film would take three times as long as scanning a roll of 120 film.

The price of 127 film is now about 3 times the price of a roll of 120 film, but of course it has a smaller negative area as well as being more difficult to handle. I actually ended up re-selling the Efke film I had hoarded because I realised I wouldn’t get through it.

If you’re a darkroom printer, then you might have problems finding a suitable negative holder for the enlarger, as I have described in relation to scanning. Fortunately I have recently acquired a glass negative carrier (with one side of anti-newton glass) for my Durst Laborator 1200 enlarger. This (the enlarger and the neg carrier) takes 4*5 negatives, and anything smaller, allowing the smaller negative sizes to be masked off. The double glass means that gripping the smaller negs is not a problem. So ironically, having sold my 127 camera, I’m now in a position to go back and try to get some decent darkroom prints from the negatives.

The point of this blog post is that we all have to make our own decision about where we lie on the continuum from “camera collector” through “camera enthusiast” to “photographer” or “image maker”. Over the last year I have got less interested in keeping hold of cameras that don’t get used regularly, either because they aren’t the most practical cameras in use, or because they have some fault which makes them less reliable, or because they no longer fit with the style of photography I like.

Hence, the Baby Rollei went up for sale because, although it is capable of taking high quality images, it is expensive to buy the film, difficult to source the film in quantity, and difficult to process and scan the film. The small size can be seen as a benefit, and it certainly adds to the cuteness factor, but in reality there aren’t any circumstances where I couldn’t carry around my other twin lens reflex, a Yashicamat 124G which gives the benefit of a larger neg, but would be able to carry the Baby Rollei.

I’ve also recently sold a non-working Olympus XA2 for parts, an Olympus 35ECR, which is fine except that I have two Olympus 35RCs that do a similar job, and my Fujifilm GA645Zi. I’m not actually sure why I sold that last one and might regret that decision ….

Anyway let’s send Baby Rollei out into the world with a slideshow of the relatively small number of images I took on it.


    • At the time my son was carrying the ventriloquist dummy around. He might have got it the day before as this was taken on Boxing Day

      I visited the site of the tree and stile last week, and the tree has been chopped down after a lightning strike.

  1. Obviously it took great pictures – but sad that it is really no longer useful. While I like vintage cameras, I also want to be able to shoot with them, so I stick with 120 and 35 cameras. The historical value of “unusable” cameras is very important, though, so it is good people like to collect them. Great post.

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