Off to Google I went. I quickly learned what a Rolleiflex camera is and about the type of film it shoots. The Rolleiflex (called a Rollei for short) is a twin lens camera that uses one lens for framing and focusing and the other to capture the image. Compared to the large format view camera, the Rollei is very compact and portable - perfect for travel.
Part of learning about the Rollei involved learning about medium format film. These days, the term medium format film most often refers to film that is 120mm in size. Each resulting negative is about the size of a post-it note. It offers the big negatives with full resolution that I loved about large format, without being so massive that it's hard to travel with. 120mm film is shot on a roll, each roll is 12 images.
A Square Affair
At first I wasn't interested. Unlike the other film sizes (large format and 35mm), 120mm film is normally shot as a square. There are other rectangular shapes, but they aren't as common - it's almost entirely a square format affair. This did not appeal to me. It seemed faddish- probably because Instagram has made square photos popular on the internet. And everything I shot was cropped to 16:9 (widescreen) format. How could I go to square after being in love with big rectangles?
Although I didn't like the square format of 120mm film, I figured I would go look at a used Rolleiflex and see how it felt and worked in person. It is hard to really get a sense for using and holding a camera by just watching internet photos or YouTube videos - I needed to experience it to decide. Thankfully it's not hard or expensive to find used medium format film cameras; as attics get emptied the market has filled with affordable choices. Of course there's some risk involved in buying a 40 year old camera - parts can be hard to find and issues like fungus and mold become concerns.
I headed to one of the local camera shops that specializes in film cameras called West Yorkshire Cameras in Leeds, England. They advertised having a mint condition Rolleiflex model T Whiteface Edition in stock for a reasonable price, so off I went. First impression was that the camera was surprisingly small. It was lightweight and straight forward. Instructions for use were easy: load film, wind crank, focus, set aperture and shutter, push shutter release, rinse and repeat. The camera is completely manual - no batteries, no light meter, no circuits to break. This version, the T Whiteface, was in impeccable condition and looked like it'd never been used. Although I was still very skeptical about the square format, I liked the camera, so I figured why not. I bought it and a roll of Ilford HP4+ and went home to play with my new camera.