Friday, October 30, 2009

Rolleiflex 3,5F

Last year I bought a Rolleiflex T and re-acquainted myself with using a TLR and although not the perfect camera (what is)? it is one that works well for me with my style, I like square images and find composing in that format helps me to find a focal point.
The first TLR I used was a 3.5F with a Schneider Xenotar lens, which at the was the company 'training' camera, most of the photographers used Hasselblads because of the inter-changeable backs and lenses, the TLRs were considered 'learner' cameras.
So here am I twenty plus years later finally investing in what most see as one of the classic TLRs.
Xentotar vs Planar
The Rollei TLR during its long history was supplied with either Schneider or Zeiss lenses, depending what or whose web pages you read both a claimed to be superior, I have owned a F2,8 Planar a Tessar and two Xenotar models and can comfortably say at around F11 it will be hard to tell any of them apart. Conventional wisdom has it the Xenotar is sharper in the centre while the Planar is slightly better at the edges at wider apertures.
All I can say is that all the lenses used on the Rollei are excellent, quite capable of producing stunning results.

Operation and comparison with my Rolleiflex T
The fist thing I noticed was the F is heavier than the T, and feels slightly more substantial and robust; not a great deal more but no doubt the internals gears etc are also more robust, talking with service technicians confirms this.
The thing I like least about the T is the way the shutter speeds changes, the mechanical linkage has a less 'direct' feel, sometimes I even feel a slight slippage when changing apertures/speeds.
In contrast the rotating wheel used on the F feels very positive and accurate.
This camera has a built in Selenium light meter, it still works and as such is a welcome addition but I wouldn't like to trust its accuracy for really critical work.

One of the disadvantages compared to the T (and Rolleicord) is that the F has a 'bay II' bayonet fit, this means that accessories like lens hoods and my favourite close-up lenses the Rolleinars are all much rarer and expensive.
During the first few rolls I also found another feature that I like. If you push the F&H logo on the hood then look through the eyepiece on the back of the hood you get a focus magnifier, you cant see the whole field of view and its inverted (upside down), but the focus is more accurate using this method.
Here below are a couple of shots from the Rollei on the new Ektar 100 film not for any other reason than I like the colours...

This one is against the light
Summing up I find the F an excellent camera, not as a cheap way to get into MF photography, for that I'd recommend a Rollei T or even a Rolleicord/Yashica/Autocord.
What it will bring you is a camera that in my opinion is one of the classic designs of all time, if you forced me to pick one camera to use for the rest of my life it would be this one.
© Photo Utopia 2009


Mako said...

Hey Mark ... Mako here, from the DpReview thread on film, russian cameras, etc. You said to get in touch.

Thanks ... Mako, makofoto

Photo–Smith said...

You expressed an interest in a small camera like a Rollei 35.
I'm quite willing to send your son a Rollei as a gift towards his education.
I have a Rollei 35T (tessar) from the 1970's I hardly ever use-I think it should go to a good home.
Just give me your e-mail and I'll contact you.

Rui Morais de Sousa said...

Hi Mark,

Do you know the work of Fritz Henle (known as "Mr. Rollei")?
Great TLR user!
Nothing compares to the very soft and very silent click of a Rollei!
Those were cameras...
Have a nice time,


Photo–Smith said...

Thanks Rui
You know I thought I'd never heard of Fritz Henle, but a quick google showed I have seen some of his images, yes you're right he was a great TLR user.
Have fun

Canisavius said...

Thanks for this great blog.

I just stumbled across it looking for ideas to re-kindle the joy I used to get from my first cameras in the eighties (my Dad's Zeiss Ikon Contaflex and then 'my' first proper camera, a hand-me-down Praktica LB), and to get away from the frustrations of my (lovely but) know-it-all, over-cautious digital camera.

What a coincidence! I was just dusting off my Rollieflex 3.5e two hours ago. I bought it about 1992 for about £150 and haven't used it in years. Always wished it was a 3.5f because the ground glass screen improved after the 'e'. Mine is very dim.

You have inspired me though. Ta!


Photo–Smith said...

Glad to hear I have enthused you Canisavius, the 3,5 E is a great camera too.
I know what you mean about the darker screen though, I had a dark one on a mid '50s cord, I think you can fit a cheaper screen from a RB6x7

Have fun....