Rollei 35 Rangefinders

Rollei 35 Rangefinders 

DESCRIPTION

A classic 35mm "point and shoot" rangefinder introduced in 1966.

USER REVIEWS

Showing 1-10 of 38  
[Jun 29, 2013]
Geoff
Intermediate

Strength:

Fantastic lenses, excellent build quality, smallest mechanical 35mm available

Weakness:

Experience with manual photography or a desire to learn is required, slow to operate, no rangefinder (although an external one may be attached to the shoe)

If you want a fully mechanical 35mm camera that will fit in your pocket, the Rollei35 family is literally your only option. Luckily it's a supurb option. Other 35mm cameras are smaller and/or lighter, but they only get there through some level of automation and electronic components. The Rollei35 is fully mechanical, so when your battery dies you loose the meter, but the camera is otherwise fully functional. The downside to this is that while it's very small, it weighs a ton, so if you plan to put it in your pocket, you'll need some stout pockets to do the job. I wear a heavy 9oz workshirt that works nicely.

Any of the lenses are good choices, with the sonnar preferred for color and the tessar for black and white, but both handle either job well. They are Zeiss designs (some actually made by Zeiss, the rest under license from Rollei and are just as good) and are on par with any Leica lens of the time, making a Rollei35 one of the cheapest ways to get into a lens of this quality. It outperforms all of my Olympus prime SLR lenses.

If you're familiar with manual cameras the Rollei is easy to use, although the ergonomics aren't for everybody. The lack of a range finder means you'll have to fall back on a mix of hyperfocal distances and guessing, which works fine in good light but gets very tricky shooting wide open, meaning you may have to bracket. With practice and good light, it's actually a very quick camera to operate, and is even surprisingly easy to load, but this is no point and shoot with autofocus. I wouldn't recomend it for beginers or as a first manual camera, although with patience it could work.

The light meter is a very primitive averaging meter, but it appears accurate and its simplicity turns out to be a virtue. With some knowledge of exposure, the meter readings are easy to interpret and adjust.

Some were made in Germany, but most in Singapore. Don't fear the Singapore models, Rollei built their own factory there, and didn't just farm the contract out to the lowest bidder. This is a German camera, with typical German build quality, even though many were built in Singapore. The German examples are more collectable, but in use they're exactly the same. If you want the sonnar (arguably the best lens available) you'll be buying a Singapore model anyway.

I love my Rollei35S but being fully mechanical comes with a lot of trade-offs, primarily problematic weight, slow operation, and difficult focusing. Other good options exist out there if being fully mechanical isn't a priority, or autofocus/exposure is, such as the Ricoh GR1, Contax T-2, and Minox35. These cameras are all about the same size or smaller, and significantly lighter with comparable optics.

Similar Products Used:

OM-1n

OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
5
[Apr 18, 2005]
truando
Expert

Strength:

Size, weight, cheap to get

Weakness:

batteries, focussing, image quality

I bought two 35 SE with the Sonnar 40mm f2.8 lens after reading the reviews on this page. The pictures looked OK until I compared them with my Leica M6 ones - then they faded into insignificance. What a disappointment! They looked dull and boring, while the Leica ones jumped off the lightbox. I will sell my Rolleis as soon as possible. I bought myself a Mamiya 7 II instead, that should help me get the quality I'm looking for.

Similar Products Used:

Leica M6

OVERALL
RATING
3
VALUE
RATING
3
[Aug 04, 2004]
pastor1045
Expert

Strength:

Compact size, easy to use-- if you understand photography

Weakness:

None, if you are willing to underastand its quirks!

I have been using this camer for about 5 years now. I take it with me when I go hiking. I have consistenly produced unbelievable images. The camera is sturdy, the meter is accurate and the lens is one of the best ever. Using ISO 400 speed film helps to reduce and errors metering or focusing, since you can shoot at higher fstops and the film has a high latitude. Learn how to use hyperfocal distances and it will become second nature. Black and white shots come out great. This camera is silent in operation and best suited for shots you can take your time with: Landscapes, portraits of friends, etc. I have a Nikon 90s and several lenses from 24mm to 300mm, but this is the camera I most enjoy using!

Customer Service

Harry Fleenor at harry@rolleirepairs.com can do just about anything you seed

Similar Products Used:

Rollei 35 AFM

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
[Jun 19, 2004]
Cadenza
Intermediate

Strength:

- Lens! Lens! Lens! - Small size - Rugged construction - Flash sync up to 1/500" - All mechanical (except meter) - ISO & Aperture dials have 1/3 increments - Lens accepts filter & hood

Weakness:

- Hotshoe at the bottom - ISO dial stiff to adjust - CdS meter requires calibration for 1.5V - Service & Repair not easy to find - Shutter mechanism needs regular exercise

The Rollei 35 is the first compact camera. It is NOT a Point-n-Shooter in the modern sense. Designed some 3 decades ago, the Rollei 35 is ALL manual and forces the user to think through the steps of taking a picture. Like all things that attained cult status, it combined quirkiness with leading edge technology of its time. As already complimented by many, Zeiss glass can do no wrong! Mine is a 35S with the f/2.8 Sonnar and I love the photos this baby makes. The contrast, color, sharpness and saturation from this Sonnar can blow many modern lenses right out of the water. I'm so hooked on Zeiss that I got another compact P/S - the Contax T3 - which also came with a Sonnar lens. Woohoo!!! One loaded with color film and the other with B&W, they're fun, convenient and capable shooters for my backpacking trips or any occasion. Use pro films and a reliable lab and you'll be continuously impressed with the quality results. Now to its quirks... Hotshoe at the bottom can be a pain. Rollei has an accessory bracket to make things easier. Zone-focusing requires some practice, but with the DOF scale and manual aperture, it shouldn't take too long. The exposure meter is on the top while the shutter and aperture dials are on the front. To those who don't get it, they slam this arrangement as an ergonomic disaster. Listen up: the idea is to adjust the shutter, aperture and focus with the camera at the chest level. Once everything is set, raise the camera to eye-level. Frame the scene and CLICK!

Customer Service

No need yet...

Similar Products Used:

Contax T3, Contax G1, Minolta M5

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
4
[Jan 30, 2004]
Paul Johnson
Casual

Strength:

The amazing build quality that so many have commented on is there. The batteries last forever; think I've replaced it twice. Key is in keeping light off the meter except when using. It bounces well on the sidewalk.

Weakness:

beats me! Oh, maybe that I've gotten used to the auto stuff and often forget to focus.

The Rollei has been in my pocket since the mid 1970s, and taken untold rolls of film. The fact that it is always with me means I get many shots that one would often miss. As a motorcyclist, it is very easy to carry in a jacket pocket, and as a frequent business traveller, it is easy to drop in a briefcase.

Customer Service

Have only ever had to fix it once, after a really nasty sidewalk drop. That time the shutter speed knob broke, and I was down for several years before the Internet found me a repair shop (hence the Minilux)

Similar Products Used:

Leica Minilux. Now I keep b/w in the Rollei and color in the Leica.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
[Oct 19, 2003]
Daniel Kin kwong CHAN
Professional

Strength:

The HFT coating is the most important factor in tackling "sun-flare" situation.

Weakness:

Nothing

The new version of Rollei Sonnar 40mm f2.8 lens is superb. The quality of lens is excellent, better than Leica's 35mm lens,i.e. the combination of both Contax and Leica lens' quality. You do agree with me after you have owned one!

Customer Service

No comment

Similar Products Used:

Leica lenses

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
[Sep 22, 2003]
Tom Lockhart
Expert

Strength:

The obvious one - they take very very good pictures. Very reliable. The not so obvious one - because of their very small size, you are much more likely to have the camera with you when you need it. I consider the all mechanical design a strength - the light meter is the only thing requiring a battery, and these seem to last for years. The simple light meter and all manual controls force the photographer to think about the picture.

Weakness:

Small size, and easy to drop, judging by the number of dented examples out there. The lense caps have a very poor fit and are normally lost quite quickly. A film cannister cap fits the 35S version perfectly.

I've owned 3 of these, 2 Tessars (1 stolen, 1 passed on to family member), 1 Sonnar, and have enjoyed them all over a 30 year period. I have had no reliability problems, and have no difficulty with any of their quirky operating features. What's wrong with holding the camera upside down to take a flash picture? Estimating the focus distance has also not been a problem - most shots are at f8 to 11 in any case, and depth of field at 40 mm is very forgiving. For close-ups in low light, you have to think a bit harder, and that is also part of the charm of this camera. I can't see much difference between the Tessar and Sonnar versions - most of my shots are colour negs. with 100 film and commercial developing/printing, with an occasional foray into the basement dark-room for B. & W.. There is, however, a lot of variation in the colour printing - results range from extremely bright and crisp to the disposable (pinhole) camera look. Find a good service and stick with it.

Customer Service

The 35S I bought on e-bay wasn't reliable at slow shutter speeds - I had it overhauled and the meter calibrated by Commercial Camera Repairs in Toronto for a reasonable price.

Similar Products Used:

I own other cameras - SLR and TLR, mostly for B. & W. Various point and shoots from other family members.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
[May 19, 2003]
James K
Expert

Strength:

Small, Tough, Simple. Leaf-Shutter will sych with any and all flashes throughout the shutter speed range. Lens quality with either Tessar or Sonnar is superb.

Weakness:

Heavy. Winder gears are delicate. You can strip the aperature adjustment gears if you don't know what you're doing. Read the Manual. Don't force ANYTHING. If you can't collapse the barrel, don't force it. You have to advance the film first! It's not the camera's fault! Don't force it.

In a world of auto everything, it's nice to ground oneself in an auto-nothing piece of art. It's the camera I learned on and the camera responsible for my falling in love with photography. A cult camara? Without a doubt. A little tricky, but never tempermental. Like driving a '66 Mustang; edgy; but you always know where you stand. More to the point: Since it is totally manual, even the "guess-estimate" lens, where you must manually dial in the distance to subject, one learns how photography works. I prefer this camara for committed beginners who want to learn the basics of photography over all other cameras, Pentax K-1000 included. 40mm lens. ASA: 25-1600, Shutter speeds: 1-1/500th sec. Aperatures dependent on model, either f3.5 (Tessar) or f2.8 (Sonnar) to f22. Both are Zeiss designs. Sonnar has better lens coatings and is a half-stop faster. Focuses down to 3 feet. It has an reflective light meter that must be used carefully before most every shot. Very small, and *extremely* well made. When you hold the thing in your hands, you feel like you are handling a "real" camera whose precision is legendary. And you are.

Customer Service

This can be a trick. I use a little shop in Seattle where a little man named Manfried works: ASA-DIN Camera repair. Manfried is a magician.

Similar Products Used:

Minox 35. Yashica T4. Konica Big Mini. Konica Lexio 70

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
[Mar 17, 2003]
HewlmutK
Expert

Strength:

Small, solid build, and above all else, a super lens. Even without battery you can still function using sunny 16 rule etc. Lens quality is on par with Leica Summicron 35 F/2.

Weakness:

I live with the quirks of the Rollei 35. it's simply DIFFERENT.

A great all mechanical / manual 35mm camera in the smallest package possible. I originally bought a Rollei 35 with the Tessar lens in the earlie 70's. I bought a used 35s on E-bay 4 years ago and it is the camera that is always with me. Great lens,40mm F/2.8, reasonable metering. Absolutely solid build. I had mine re-adjusted to take the 1.5 volt batteries and exposure is spot on. You need to watch for bright sky syndrome, meaning you shade the sky from the meter cell, and you exposures will be fine.

Customer Service

Had this one CLA'd by Kinderman in Toronto and adjusted for 1.5 volt battery. Very light lube. This is pretty good for a camera this age, and all shutter speed are spot on.

Similar Products Used:

Minox and other small PS cameras.

OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
5
[Aug 13, 2002]
mphillips12000
Professional

Strength:

Stellar optics Full manual control in pocket sized package Aesoteric snob-appeal

Weakness:

I've come to think of this camera as a photographic equivalent to an Alfa Romeo roadster: fabulous performance, when its working, but seemingly in constant need of service attention. In the 6 years I've had this one, its need four trips to the repair shop for adjustment. Once for meter problems and three times for dragging slow shutter speeds - although most recently, Marflex noted that the meter needed another tweeking.

For a think-before-you-shoot methodical approach to photography, the pocket-sized Rollei 35's are without peer. They're quirky and none-to-convenient, but offer full control in the tiniest package, along with a Sonnar lens that is still world-class. The Olympus XA is certainly much more convenient, but nowhere near the same league optically. My '50's vintage Agfa Karat 36 has a coupled rangefinder, and a lovely Schneider f/2 optic (though quite different in character), but compact as it is, still far exceeds the Rollei's size and weight and lacks a built-in meter. Mine has been tempremental and trouble prone - largely because these tiny mechanical shutters need regular excercise to keep running through their slow speeds (and I'm usually shooting larger formats), but thankfully, someone will always be able to work on a mechanical shutter - for a price. For whatever aggevation, I still won't part with my 35SE.

Customer Service

Oceanside Repair - good service but long turnaround times Marflex Service - excellent work, super quick turnaround, expensive

Similar Products Used:

I'm not sure that anything compares directly, but I've used other pocket-sized rangefinders including Olympus XA, Minox 35, various Kodak Retina, Agfa Karat, Voigtlander Vito model.

OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
3
Showing 1-10 of 38  

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