The Rollei 35 Legend
This review will try to cover all Rollei 35’s. Personally I have a Rollei XF 35. (weirdest of the bunch) And use Rollei 6000 series medium format cameras. Yes, still. But I have to start out this little light review by saying there is only one Rollei camera I’ve ever had that I disliked to the extreme. A Rollei 35B. I know it was suppose to be a stripped down, relatively inexpensive compact camera when released. But ergonomically and lens wise, it was a stinker. So while I’ll show images of it here, it’s just for reference. The review is basically the 35. I was surprised so many people asked about this camera when I used a picture of one on “10 Best Stocking Stuffers“. (which was actually about P&S cameras) The picture was not meant to be a “bait and switch”,…just a pretty analog camera pic.
The Rollei 35 – A Leica Mini?
Let me start with the Rollei 35. When Rollei first came out with the concept, this was the original camera. The original 35. And amazing it was. How big is it? Just big enough to fit a 35mm roll of film in. Not one millimeter larger. It’ll fit in the palm of your hand! The only slightly smaller cameras were the Minolta TC-1 and Minox 35. The Tessar lens was a 40mm f/3.5. Very, very sharp and contrasty lens. The later S model had a Sonnar 40mm f/2.8, which while a bit faster, was just equal in sharpness. would be released. The next Tessar models were named 35T. Basically, I would say they were basically all the same with just 2 different lenses. (except the B, with it’s 40mm f/3.5 Triotar lens and weird centered viewfinder)
The lightmeters were CdS photoresistor types, and very accurate. The Rollei 35SE’s and TE’s were the same, but with “better” lightmeters. They also now had LED readouts in the viewfinders. The economy models were built after. (the B and C) Again, the Triotar was a terrible lens. Some may find it fine. Uhhh,…whatever floats your boat. The 35B, 35C and 35LED’s I would NOT buy on the used market. If you’re considering one of these little beauties, that’s all you need to know. Batteries were originally mercury, but non-mercury replacements are common on Ebay. And probably Amazon.
The E15b Flash
I don’t know why people don’t talk about the Rollei E15b flash. It works beautifully. But, of course, it’s not TTL and fits on the bottom. (see exception) But for $10 to $20 on Ebay, you can’t go wrong. Of course, any thyristor flash will work. Now on to my actual camera, the Rollei XF 35. The unsung hero, (in my opinion), of the 35 grouping. While the original came out in 1966, the XF came out in 1974. They built them to about 1980, so it was a very short production life. (I guess not by today’s standards)
The XF 35 is a “secret”, and can be had for a song and a dance. The flash connection is back on top, the film advance is more logically positioned. While it’s called a rangefinder all over the internet, it’s really a ‘viewfinder’ camera that can be used almost like a point and shoot. Shutter is in the lens, and the lens is a Sonnar 40mm, f/2.3. Again, very sharp. Takes 25 to 400 film, has a 1/250 shutter, is super, duper quiet,…and it’s beautiful.
Forgotten But Highly Rated
You can find old user guides from the 70’s on the Rollei 35’s, usually on Ebay. But they are rare. Especially the hardbound copies. Custom designs, called ‘Specials’, for the Gucci, Pucci and Fiorucci crowd appeared to have been done more for this camera than most. Gold plating, leather, denim,….and more. Why? No clue. I heard a ‘denim’ one sold recently for $11,000+. These cameras were very popular and highly rated when they came out. I’m of the opinion that if Sony or someone had partnered with Rollei to make ‘Digital’ versions, they would probably be more popular than Fuji X100’s. Of course, what I think in that realm is pretty inconsequential. Let me get back to my fixer.