How to identify and use Rolleinar lens attachment sets

One of the great things about film photography is just how much information there is on the internet about various esoterica related to cameras, accessories, film development, and more. But it’s sometimes surprising just how much information is not actually available, and the Rolleinar close-up attachment system for Rolleiflex cameras is a prime example of that.

I’ve stumbled across multiple sites that replicate the same information — often with the same errors — over and over again, frequently just extracting content from a random Rollei manual. The problem is that for Rollei filters and lens attachments, what’s in the manual has varied considerably over time, and across camera models. And while I’m certainly not the expert on Rolleiflex, or Rolleinar, I wanted to take an opportunity to document the stuff I do know about Rolleinar sets — especially the three-piece versions — so that others can find it.

Let’s begin with the basics. The Rolleinar is a lens attachment system made by Rollei for the Rolleiflex cameras, beginning in the 1940s. As you probably already know, Rolleiflex cameras have bayonet filter mounts, loosely known as Bay I, Bay II, Bay III, and Bay IV. Different Rolleis from different eras have different bayonet sizes. My tiny little Rolleiflex Automat MX from 1951 has Bay I lens accessory mounts, so for obvious reasons, this is what I’m familiar with.

Brief digression; I think it’s worth mentioning that the bayonet mounts on the Rolleiflex have both an internal and an external component. With genuine Rollei accessories, the lens hood attaches to the outer bayonet, while filters go on the inner bayonet, allowing both to be used at the same time if desired. Cheap, third-party hoods you see on Amazon and elsewhere attach to the inner bayonet, meaning that they cannot be used at the same times as the filters.

The bayonet mount has both an internal and external component.
Both the inner and outer parts can be used at the same time, as shown here, with both the hood and a Rollei-hellrot filter being used. Note that cheap third party hoods use the inner mount, making filter attachment with the hood impossible. It’s worth getting a real one.

Back to the subject at hand: Rolleinars. Virtually every Rolleinar resource online talks about them as a two-piece system. The trouble is, that’s only partially true. There are actually two types:

  • Early Rolleinars are a three-piece system. Made from the late 1940s to the early 1950s, they consist of two lens attachments labeled Rolleinar, and a third piece labeled Rolleiparkeil.
  • Later Rolleinars are a two-piece system. Made from the early 1950s onward, they consist of one lens attachment labeled Rolleinar, and a second piece labeled Heidosmat-Rolleinar.

The Rolleinar sets of both types are numbered 1 or 2, and for later versions, there is also a Rolleinar 3 available. Each set provides progressively closer-up focusing.

How do you know which type you have? If you have a piece engraved with the word Rolleiparkeil, you have an earlier three-piece Rolleinar set. If you have a piece engraved Heidosmat-Rolleinar, you have a later two-piece Rolleinar set. It’s that simple.

This is how the later two-piece set looks on the camera:

Later two-piece Rolleinar set on a Rolleiflex. You can see the last few letters of “Heidosmat” on the engraving of the upper attachment. There is also just one knurled ring on the upper attachment. Photo courtesy of Wide-Angle.nl.

And here’s what the earlier three-piece set looks when installed:

Earlier three-piece Rolleinar set on a Rolleiflex. You can see the last couple of letters of “Rolleiparkeil 1” on the engraving of the upper attachment. Note also that there are two knurled rings on the viewing lens, because it’s two separate pieces, joined together — outer is the Rolleiparkeil, inner is the Rolleinar.

The thing you need to understand with these early three-piece sets is that one Rolleinar is placed on each lens (viewing and taking), then the Rolleiparkeil is placed atop the Rolleinar on the viewing lens, just like you can see in the image above.

BUYER BEWARE: I have seen numerous eBay listings for Rolleinar sets that:

  • Have only one or two random pieces with the name “Rolleinar” on them, so the seller just goes with it.
  • Are supposed to be early three-piece sets, but where a part is missing, and yet are still sold as “complete.”

As for the former, these are of no use unless you’ve broken or lost a piece of a set. That’s definitely a decent reason to buy something, but beware if you’re looking for a complete, usable set.

As for the latter, here’s a great example of one such eBay listing, where the Rolleiparkeil 1 is missing, yet the listing is described specifically as a “full set” when it is not a full set, and with the missing Rolleiparkeil 1, isn’t even fully usable:

The worst part is that in this case, the seller is a camera shop, and should know better. It’s still on eBay as I write this post, and I’m sure some unsuspecting person will end-up buying it, unfortunately. I’m not sure I’d consider the listing “fraudulent,” but it is most certainly misleading and inaccurate.

The way that some sellers photograph the sets can also lead to confusion about what you’re getting. Look closely and carefully, and either skip the listing or contact the seller if it doesn’t seem right. It goes without saying, but many sellers of these items have no real idea what they actually have, often because they’re not photographers; they’re selling stuff they found in Grandpa Joe’s closet after he died, or reselling something they found at a car boot or garage sale.

For the remainder of this article, I’ll be speaking solely about the earlier, three-piece Rolleinar sets. The principles are the same with the later two-piece sets, however, so read on.

First, for the record, a truly full set of early, three-piece Rolleinar 1 and 2 is six pieces, like this. Note that three are marked with a 1, and three are marked with a 2 — Rolleinars on the outer edge, Rolleiparkeil on the inner surface.

A truly full collection of early, three-piece Rolleinar 1 and 2 sets.

To be even more clear, what you’re looking at is:

  • Rolleinar 1 Set
    • 2 ea. Rolleinar 1
    • 1 ea. Rolleiparkeil 1
  • Rolleinar 2 Set
    • 2 ea. Rolleinar 2
    • 1 ea. Rolleiparkeil 2

Unless you have a later set with a Heidosmat-Rolleinar, anything sort of what I just listed is incomplete. They’re not intended to be mixed and matched; e.g., using a Rolleiparkeil 2 with a Rolleinar 1 isn’t going to provide accurate parallax correction, which is the entire purpose of the Rolleiparkheil. The story is the same with the later versions; 1 goes with 1, 2 goes with 2, etc.

Attaching the three-piece Rolleinar

When I first got my Rolleinar sets, I was confused by the three-piece arrangement, since nothing online (as I said above) mentioned it, and no manual reference I saw mentioned it either. I mistakenly placed the Rolleiparkeil alone on the viewing lens, and wondered immediately why the red dot didn’t align at the top of the lens as the instructions indicated. (The image wasn’t magnified either.) Once I finally found evidence online of the three-piece versions, and placed what I initially thought was a weird, “extra” Rolleinar under the Rolleiparkeil, the red dot was perfectly at the top, the parallax correction angle was suddenly correct, and all was as expected. Perhaps this should have been logical from the start, but again, I was blindly going from stuff I easily found online that had little to do with the Rolleinars I had in my hand.

Refer to the picture farther up the page for the finished look from a side view. From the top, the red dot should aligned with the aperture/shutter speed window, like this:

It is actually critical that the red dot is on top; it’s aligned with the direction of the angle that provides the parallax correction. Any other position, and what you see through the viewfinder will not be what you photograph. (This is true of both the earlier and the older versions.)

My two Rolleinar sets were part of a filter set that I purchased from National Camera for US$200, advertised as being in “very good” condition. But both the case, and its contents, were in near-mint condition in my view — certainly “Excellent+” or better. The set contains a hood, two full Rolleinar sets, and six filters. Only five filters are designed fit in the case; the sixth was loose and bouncing around inside the hood. (I’ve since gotten a separate, Rollei leather single filter case for that extra one.) While US$200 was a lot compared to the price of the camera itself, I’ve since seen these sets going for US$300, US$400, and even more. But given that they’re around 70 years old at this point, finding them at all is a good thing, and finding them in outstanding shape is even more unusual, so I bit.

Contents of the filter set, with my Rolleiflex. The 6th filter I mentioned in the narrative is not included in this photo of the set.

When stored in the case,  the Rolleinars are simply connected to each other — both Rolleinars connect, then connect the Rolleiparkeil last, as shown in the photo above. They fit nicely in the space provided in the case. This configuration makes it easy to put them on as well. Simply take the entire, three-piece connected group, place it on the taking lens, and lock it in place. Then twist-off the outer Rolleinar/Rolleiparkeil pair, and place that on the viewing lens, locking it into place, making sure the red dot on the Rolleiparkeil faces the top of the camera. To remove, do the reverse, putting the three pieces back together, and put it back in the case.

Unlike extension tubes on an SLR camera, or the bellows on a Mamiya C series, the Rolleinar doesn’t require any changes to exposure, so whatever your exposure meter tells you (assuming you use one) is correct.

Lastly, it’s worth noting that my Rolleiflex Automat MX manual says that Rolleinar 1 provides a focusing range of 18 to 40 inches, while the Rolleinar 2 provides a range of 12 to 20 inches.

The results

The results you can achieve with the Rolleinar sets are pretty impressive, and extend the utility of the Rolleiflex considerably.

Rolleinar 1. Water (?) value inside an IKEA parking garage. Copyright © 2019 Wesley King.
Rolleinar 2. Side scuttle on my MINI Cooper. Copyright © 2019 Wesley King.
Rolleinar 2. Parts bin in my garage. Copyright © 2019 Wesley King.
Rolleinar 2. Dutch language decal on the side of my MINI Cooper. Copyright © 2019 Wesley King.
Rolleinar 2. Rosemary branches drying in my garage. This was actually taken with a Yashica Mat-124G, on which the Rolleinars fit and work perfectly. Copyright © 2019 Wesley King.

Conclusion

If you own a Rolleiflex* (or a Rolleicord), and don’t own the Rolleinars, I can strongly recommend them. Particularly in the small Bay I size, these filters are… I’ll just say it, they’re cute. Really, really cute. And like the Rolleiflex itself, it’s a throwback to a simpler time, when things seemed to move a little slower, and with more intention. Like film photography itself, you sort of have to slow down a little, think ahead, put all the pieces together, etc., before you can move on to actually taking your photo. That’s something I actually really enjoy about using the camera, and using its attachments.

And the results? Those speak for themselves. Not bad — at all — for a camera and accessories that were made just a couple of years after World War II came to an end.


* One final note: The Rolleinars work rather nicely on the Yashica Mat-124G, as shown in the last picture above. That’s what we call “added utility.”