A common question I often see asked in classic film or vintage camera discussion groups like Vintage Camera Collectors on Facebook, is for advice on what is an inexpensive way to get into medium format film. Like most questions asked by people new to the hobby, the correct answer usually starts with “it depends”. And even when the person asking the question provides more details about what they’re actually looking for, the advice given usually spans the gamut of semi-pro cameras like the Mamiya M645, some kind of folding camera like a Zeiss-Ikon Nettar, or a Twin Lens Reflex camera like a Rolleiflex.
TLRs like the Rolleiflex are often good suggestions for new photographers because they are easy to use, make great quality photos, and have a distinct look that appeals to most people. The problem with Rolleiflexes though, is that what one person considers “inexpensive” may not be the same as someone else. And if you fall into that latter category, your choices for an affordable TLR usually turn to another brand.
One such brand that isn’t often the first, second, or even third most commonly recommended TLR is Ciro. Ciro-Flex TLRs were produced by an American company between the years of 1941 and 1953, at which time the final model in the line, the model F, was re-branded as the Graflex 22.
I have previously reviewed a Ciro-Flex D back in October 2015, so if you’d like to know more about that camera and see some results I got from it, check out that review, but for this article we take a look at a thorough eight page review first published in the October 1950 issue of Modern Photography.
Back then, American made cameras like the Ciro Flexes were seen as bona-fide alternatives to more expensive German cameras like the Rolleiflex. While the build quality and list of features was not up to par with their European counterparts, these cameras were no slouches, and represented a significant cost savings.
Author, Ford Bancroft thoroughly explores Ciro-Flexes models B through F, covering their use, accessories, and lenses, offering useful tips for flash photography, maximizing depth of field, and shooting the camera candid. His review is mostly positive saying it was easy to use and the Wollensak designed lenses and shutters delivered sharp results. On the negative side, he commented that the camera felt front heavy, especially with the focus set to the minimum setting, and he did not care for the position of the cable release.
Nevertheless, at prices ranging from $76.98 to $148.75, the camera was a heck of a bargain for someone wanting to get into medium format back then, a recommendation I would say is still true today. Whether you are a fan of TLRs in general or just want to try out medium format film, you could do a lot worse than picking up a nice Ciro-Flex.
All scans used with permission by Marc Bergman, 2019.