Friday, October 05, 2007

Rollei 35

As you can see from the image the camera is about as tall as a 35mm film box and just over twice the width, weighs about 12oz (340g) and is of pretty high build quality certainly up there with most of the 1970's 'semi -pro' cameras like the Nikon FM, Canon A1, Olympus OM1 etc.

When the Rollei 35 was introduced in 1966 it was the smallest full frame 35mm camera in the world. However even though it is only roughly the size of two film boxes the designers still manged to design a camera that gives the user complete manual control.

The small size however leads to some design quirks especially with control placement. The film advance lever is on the left, shutter and aperture dials are on the front and the re-wind lever and flash hot-shoe are on the bottom plate.

Loading a film is done by sliding off the back and placing the cartridge in the right hand side, threading and advance are similar to other cameras.

Operation is hardly 'point and shoot' firstly the lens needs to be extended from the body and twisted to lock before use, the focus is not by a range-finder but by scale focus "guesstimate" the lightmeter on this model is always on and only turned off by putting the camera back in its case (rectified on later models) Aperture and shutter dials are twisted until the needle is aligned with a red lever.
The shutter is mechanical, and works without batteries 1/2 sec to 1/500 sec + 'B' (only down to 1/30 on Triotar model) and being a 'leaf' type flash sync is available at all speeds.
Despite its 'Quirkiness' the Rollei has a couple of strengths, firstly all manual control, secondly first rate lenses.
Lens Choices
The Rollei came with three different lenses, in order of increasing quality:
Triotar F3,5 (3 element cooke triplet)
Tessar F3,5 (4 element Zeiss classic)
Sonnar F2,8 (The Classic Zeiss design)
Actually for a short time some had a Schneider lens similar to the Tessar. 
The following are results from the Tessar

Tessar F3,5 at F11 – Fuji Neopan 400
And a 100% crop showing detail
'Yes you can have your cake and eat it Daddy'

The above shot of my daughter was shot at F3,5 and shows the Tessar to be a very good performer, with good contrast and fair sharpness even wide open, they say the Sonnar is better- that must be a very good optic indeed as the results I'm getting from the Tessar are pretty much on par with a SLR lens of the era and certainly better than most compact Point and shoot cameras.
My opinion of this camera after just a week of using is that despite some design quirks it offers a taste of true photography.
That is that it give complete control over settings (and creativity) that P&S cameras rarely give, is a full frame camera in a package that will fit it most peoples pockets, has a build quality that means it will give good service for many years.

All images and Text © Mark Antony Smith


Under18 said...

Uh..oh.. that's THE camera for me... I learned photography with this one... it was my dad's trusted camera over decades and he borrowed it to me when I started to get interested in photography as a kid. I learned about focusing, aperture and shutter by trying to shoot proper pics with this camera (and nobody told me the theory - that I read much much later).
Now that beloved thing is sitting in my dry box - my father gave it to me after the meter was not working anymore (which then I got repaired in Germany). Recently I even manage to get another almost unused exemplar from my uncle (who got it from my father as gift in the 70s).
This reminds me to bring them out to the fresh air to take some nice pics... .

Photo–Smith said...

Hi yes use it!!
These are great cameras, even with the quirks.
I bought it as a carry around
I didn't think the Tessar lens would be as good as it is, so far I've only put 400ISO speed films though it and really like the camera.
I'm going to try some 25 ISO and see how the lens stands up.

The Rollei is a great little carry round camera.

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Michael said...

Love your blog. I tried the Rollei 35 with a Sonnar lens, expecting to like it (I'm a big fan of retro manual cameras), but found it a pain to use - pulling out the lens, twiddling the wrong buttons etc ... so I sold it and went back to my simple Olympus XA.

Photo–Smith said...

Thanks Michael.
Yes the Rollei is a pain to use especially if you are used to other cameras control placement.
i really like it- total control in a small package and the sonnar is a GREAT lens, the Tessar is good but the Sonnar is better.
So once you get used to the camera (if you can be bothered to persevere) you'll love it.
BTW I had a XA once too and like it as well, but feel the Rollei has a better lens.
Thanks for commenting!

darren said...

I love it! And it gets pretty easy to use pretty quickly. I put high speed film in it (1600 neopan or natura) and it's a great street shooter. You can see a few examples here...

Spontaneous Services said...

using it right now for a studio portrait. (Checked flash output with a dslr..... cheating?)
Only issue is the focus ring which is too loose, it's knocked out of focus too easily. Wonder how I could get it to turn stiffer?