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...
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