The basic design of the Rolleiflex TLR dates back to the Automat model of 1937. Later refinements date from the Fifties and Sixties. It is a 100% mechanical camera and it will need service now and then. In those days sending a camera in for service was quite common. Many cameras, including the Rollei’s, were not exactly designed with easy access for service in mind. The cost of labour was not a major concern and Rollei’s, Leica’s, Contaxes, etc, were used professionally or owned by the rich anyway.
Today, things are quite different. You do not have to be rich to own a classic Rolleiflex, and the cost of labour has risen considerably. Getting a Rolleiflex serviced will cost you money! Some major disassembling has to be done to provide access to the usual problems. It will take a few hours to put things back together again and these hours have to be paid for. Everyone who has bought a Rolleiflex TLR camera should be prepared to have it serviced sooner or later and it may cost the equivalent of US$300. After this has been done thoroughly, you can expect to be out of the woods for the next 10 odd years. Rollei’s were professional cameras built to last, hardly ever ware out, but do need a service once in a while. This is often the case with cameras up for sale. Some have been resting on a shelf for decades. Others were used only now and then and are offered for sale now that a costly service is needed in the foreseeable future.
Some of the problems
The most common problem is a sticky shutter caused by dried out lubricant. This will happen to classic lubricants when the shutter is not fired regularly for a very long time. Your newly discovered mint Rolleiflex 2.8A from 1949 will probably suffer from this condition unless previous owners were kind enough to fire the shutter once a month. The slow shutter speeds are going to be affected first. The fault can easily be detected. Select the shutter speed of 1 sec. and fire the shutter. It should snap open, followed by a nice even buzz of the timer. After 1 sec the shutter should close with a snap. If the buzzing sounds uneven, more or less hesitating, and lasts longer than 1 sec, a service should be planned for the near future. Usually the faster speeds will still be correct, but the fault will get worse in time. No buzz at all, while shutter stays open, means that you will have to send the camera in right-away. The timing device for slow shutter speeds is completely gummed up.
A nasty problem is lens surface damage by scratches, persistently called "cleaning marks" by sellers. They hastely add that the cleaning marks do not diminish lens performance. That may be true but it seriously affects the value of the camera. An other one is damage by fungus. Hydrofluoric acid produced by fungi permanently damages the lens surface.
In the following list I shall mention some addresses to send your Rolleiflex TLR to for a CLA (Clean, Lubricate and Adjust). TLR includes both 6 cm square and 4 cm square image sizes. This is a general list. There is hardly any specific information about CLA or repairs of 4 cm square ‘Baby-Rolleiflex’ cameras. The Page Index is based on continent now rather than based on country. I felt that I had to shorten the list now that I use button links to accommodate the tablet and smartphone users instead of traditional links.
The names on the list were put forward by members of the Rollei List, the Rollei Users Group and other reliable friends with first hand experience. I have no relationship with any of the repair shop on this list except that I am a patron of two of them. Some shops are well established and have a splendid reputation backed by a great number of loyal patrons. From time to time new repair shops are added. Occasionally one is deleted. If you want to know why an entry was dropped, contact me. Most of the time the repairman retired or passed away. The alphabetical order is by the first significant word of the company name or by surname of a person if no company name is known.
Of course there will be others who would do a good job on your Rolleiflex. I suggest that you send your TLR to a person whith ample experience in servicing Rolleiflex TLR’s. They are quite complex cameras.
I am in more or less regular contact with some of the listed repair shops. I know that others are still in business. From some I have not heard since being recommended. That can be many years ago. Following some entries I may have added a request for information. I fear those shops are closed. If you should find out that one is still open, a message to me will be very much appreciated. It will be a good idea to visit the websites and to mail or call the repair shop first to check the services on offer and the present address, before sending any equipment. Any particulars I know are added to their entry in the list. If you feel you should contact me before or after a repair, do not hesitate to do so. To re-assure everyone: this hardly ever happens.