November 10, 2010

Rollei 35 Tessar

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The Rollei 35 is a small, fully mechanical jewel.  I was a boy when I saw it for the first time in a photo magazine and I was amazed at the features of a so small camera. I was amazed at the price too, so I quickly put it in my archive of dreams. But one day ebay arrived and I was eventually able to buy it.

A total of about 2 million Rollei 35 cameras have been produced since 1966, the year it was launched (production lasted 30 years), so today is not difficult to find one in the second-hand market. You need just to check that there are no dings or scratches, quite common in an all-metal camera like this.
Fortunately, my Rollei was virtually mint.

The Rollei 35 is a real concentrate of mechanical technology and it is very small. Oppositely, when you take it in your hand, you might be surprised it is so heavy.

The position of camera controls is very unusual: the winding lever is on the left, the flash hot shoe and the frame counter are underneath, aperture, shutter speed and ISO controls are in the front, the battery is inside the camera (you can replace it only after removing the film). This unergonomic layout was probably motivated by design issues related to fitting many things in a so small body.

The lens is rectractable and the shutter is very silent. There is no rangefinder, so the focus has to be estimated and set on the lens scale. Focusing errors can be reduced relying on the good depth of field of the 40mm lens and, possibly, using at least an aperture 5.6 or 8. Using a medium speed film (e.g. 400 ISO) can be recommended.

My Rollei has a Tessar lens (f3.5). However, I would suggest to buy the one with the Sonnar (f2.8), not only for the better optical definition (which is, however, irrelevant in most situations), but also because it mounts 32mm filters, definitely easier to find on the used market.

The light meter is not very sensitive in low light and becomes totally useless at night. In those cases, a small external light meter is recommended.

I use my Rollei 35 mostly with the TRI-X. I use it whenever I wish to take with me a good old-style film camera that fits in my pocket.

Specifications:
  • Compur shutter, with speeds from 1/2 s a 1/500 s + B
  • aperture from f3.5 to f22
  • 40mm f3.5 Tessar lens (retractable)
  • scale focusing, from 90 cm to infinite
  • 35mm film
  • CdS light meter
  • 24mm filter thread
  • 370 grams
  • sold at $229.95 in 1969
A few useful links:
References:
  • Todd Gustavson, 500 Cameras, 170 years of photographic innovation, page 274

1 comment:

  1. Rollei is available since 1966. But i never listened the name of rollei camera ever. My hobbies include photography and first time i brought rollei camera for experimental purpose but i am really very satisfied with picture quality of rollei camera

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