During my time in the United States I had the opportunity to buy a Ciro-flex Model D in full working order at a very cheap price ($20 + $10 shipping). The seller said it had belonged to his/her father and was well cared for throughout the years and he remembered his father making family pictures with this camera when he was young. I'm very happy to be able to have taken ownership of the camera and make sure it still gets to see use.
Ciro-Flex TLRs actually hold a special place in American photography, because when they were manufactured in the 1940s and 1950s they competed not only with the fledgling American TLR market but also the much higher quality German TLRs from Rollei. Ciro-Flex TLRs also lasted the longest by remaining simple and cheap but with high quality optics. There's a great article called "The Best and the Rest" by R. Oleson that provides a brief overview of the American TLR that I recommend reading.
I initially heard about American TLRs and Ciro-Flex over a year ago while watching my favorite YouTube channel, The Art of Photography (here's a link to the particular episode on TLRs and here's a link to an episode on medium-format photography where Ted Forbes mentions the Ciro-Flex). Obviously buying a Rollei is extremely expensive, so American TLRs were something to look into. Unfortunately finding one in working order can be quite difficult and finding one in Europe is nigh impossible, so as I got closer to my trip to the USA last month the search got more intense and I hit paydirt with the Ciro-Flex Model D that I now own. Once I got back to Austria with it (probably the only Ciro-Flex in all of Austria), I went straight to the camera shop and bought the necessary 120 film and started shooting.
It became readily apparent, though, that shooting with a TLR is vastly different than shooting with an SLR or a rangefinder. Looking down through the glass and having the camera hang around your neck takes a lot of getting used to. Focusing can be especially difficult, too. I had fun shooting the first roll, though. I put an ISO 400 film (Ilford XP2) into the camera because that was the only 120 film I could buy in a single roll from my camera shop of choice but then weather turned beautiful and sunny in Austria, so I suddenly had a great deal of sun but only a maximum shutter speed of 1/200, which forced me to stop the camera down a lot. The next time I send a roll through I'll likely be picking a lower ISO. Again, the learning curve was rather steep and nothing like what I was used to, so my photos on this roll weren't that great (although some did turn out quite nice!) but I had fun and look forward to shooting another roll soon. Here are the photos I've shot thus far with the Ciro-Flex.
Things I learned:
- The slower shutter speeds need to be avoided unless on a tripod - the neckstrap is a good support but not good enough for slower speeds.
- Framing a shot requires a great deal of patience and practice.
- Do not slowly press the shutter down - just press it and keep the camera steady.
- You're going to be looked at funny - get used to it.
Here are some other helpful links I found when I was getting some information on Ciro-Flex cameras: