Point and Shoot Pity Party Part 2: The Rolls Camera

This is Part 2 of a recurring series on basic point and shoot consumer cameras, the details of which can be found here.

It's a Genuine Rolls Camera proclaims the original box.  I guess that was supposed to be special for some reason?!?  Though it lacks much in features as it has in advertising bravado, the Rolls is among the earlier "Point and Shoot" cameras aimed at the casual photo market. With just two settings: for time exposures and normal exposures, the Rolls is certainly simple to use.  But what sort of photos can it take on 127 size roll film.  Have a look! 

Front View

Top View 

Through the Viewfinder

Name: Rolls Camera
Format: 127
Type: Fixed Focus Point and Shoot 
Year: 1939
Features: Time or Instant Settings.
Lens: 50mm f/16 Rollax.
Battery: None.
Manual: http://www.butkus.org/chinon/rolls/rolls_camera.htm

Cost: $4.22
Cost When New (and adjusted): $3.98 but often discounted ($69.00)
Where I found it: Came in a batch lot with a more desired camera.
Why I got it: I wanted the other camera in the lot and this came along for the ride.

What film: Fresh Ilford Pan-F Plus 50 cut down from 120 format. 

What I liked: 
  • Easy Film Advance
  • No mode buttons to push through
  • No need for batteries or anything complicated to remember.
What I didn't like: 
  • Viewfinder doesn't frame very accurately
  • Felt like I had to hold still on all shots
  • Overlap among the half frames due to spacing of advance windows


A shot taken in somewhat overcast light of a tree my wife pointed out to me came out actually far better than expected on the Rolls Camera.

A half-hearted grab shot looks just that. 

These are the sort of shots I like to see from cameras like this.  A crisp center and a muted periphery that really recalls a retro look.

Sometimes, Pan F 50 can build contrast.  The result is a shot like this where the stream in the distance just fades into darkness.  Still an interesting shot to me. 

Framing through the Rolls' rudimentary viewfinder is a challenge.  Still, with a bit of inclination, it isn't impossible. 

For some reason, the tonality of the Pan F in full sun really lends itself to a near orthochromatic feel in the results from the Rolls.  Note that the blue sky renders as near white. 

These sort of shots are fun and revealing to show what the best places and distances are with the Rolls camera in use.  It seems 20 feet and centered delivers some of the sharpest parts of the image. 

This camera is a definite step up from the Cardinal Cinex 127, another half frame basic camera.  I actually found myself enjoying some of the results I got back from this camera, which was something more than I expected. 

Brightly lit scenes were often overexposed on the Cinex and the marble structures of the Nations Capitol were just too much in the strong afternoon sun, even with 50 speed film.

Despite better pacing of the roll through the camera than on the Cinex, there was still some degree of slant in the film advnace, causing straight lines to fall out of whack. 

With a little bit of shadow to assist in definition, I get a more favorable result in the harsh sunlight. 

The results from the Rolls certainly can look like they were taken in the 1930s and 1940s when this camera was produced.

Come to think of it, shooting with this odd little bakelite camera is actually a good bit of fun!

Yet another great shot of an art deco classic on this art deco classic! 

Thoughts: This camera seems to fall somewhere between the Cinex 127 and the Univex AF-5 with regards to image quality.  Though it wasn't always entirely even, the film certainly advanced through the Rolls with no issue and handily snapped photos. The Pan F film was about the slowest I was willing to put through the camera, and in most cases, it did well at capturing a scene as long as it wasn't overly bright.  Seeing these photos at times, it often reminds me of thumbing through an older book of amateur shots of the time, and the ability to recreate these so easily is something that I really like about the Rolls.  It certainly won't be a constant companion of mine, but if I'm feeling 40's Black and White nostalgic, and can find the proper scenes to capture, this one is definitely coming along for the ride.