Rollei 2.8GX vs. others

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by don_lindich, May 24, 1999.

  1. Has anyone ever compared the on-film results from the Rollei 2.8GX
    with its modern HFT Planar lens to contemporary mf system camera
    80mms, like a Zeiss Planar 80 mm 2.8T*, or a Bronica Zenzanon-PS 80mm
    2.8? I am a long-time lover of Rolleis and have considered making the
    financial stretch and purchasing a GX as it will probabaly be my last
    chance to own a brand new Rollei TLR. However,I would expect that for
    $3,000+ that the on-film results be at least as good as any 6x6 out
    there. I currently have a 3.5E Planar and while it is very sharp, I
    think my Bronica PS80mm may be a bit sharper... as well it should be,
    given the advances in optics and computer design in forty years. When
    it comes to color rendition, the multi-coated Bronica lens wins hands
    down. I haven't heard much about the GX... only that it is not as
    well made as an old E or F series Rollei. I have a Bronica system, so
    the lack of flexibility in the Rollei doesn't bother me... but I want
    the pictures to be at least as good technically as a Hasselblad 80mm
    or a PS Bronica 80mm. Anyone own both and done a side-by-side
    comparison? Please email me if you have some feedback!
  2. Don: I asked the same questions about two years ago in deciding between a 2.8F Planar, 60's version, and the newer GX. Bob Solomon (sp?) from HP Marketing, the importer of Rolleis, responded here that the newer lens on the GX was superior, expecially for color work. I bought the 2.8F older body anyway. I also own Hasselblad equip., and I think the older Planar is as sharp; but I don't shoot color in the TLR, so I can't offer a comparison in that respect. Bob Cook
  3. The GX 2.8 lens is considerably better than the older TLRs. I have used an SL66, with the multicoated/HFT version of the Planar, as my primary camera for years. To decrease weight on backpacking trips, I researched and tried a number of different used medium format cameras. A used Rollei 3.5F turned out to be the best value. However, after a few years of using it, I was so impressed I decided to test the GX. After testing one, I bought a very clean one from Chamberlain. It's a terrific camera.

    In general, I concluded that the GX 2.8 is the best medium format lens I've used, with a few caveats. The good news is that the multicoating is extremely effective and the lens has a noticeably flatter field of focus. The bad news is that the simpler design of the TLR Planar is evident in the deep red (#29) part of the spectrum and at f4 and f5.6. I'll expand my conclusions, based on both resolution testing and field use, below.

    The multicoating is rather important, especially for a TLR where the lens is often exposed. I've been able to shoot into the sun with almost no noticeable flare. On the flare front, the simpler (5 element) Planar also has an advantage over the SL66's 7 element design because it simply has fewer surfaces to cause trouble.

    The relatively flat field is also very important. The GX at 2.8 is flat enough for relatively sharp full frame shots. No other medium format 80 mm lens I've tested has been able to achieve this. (I have not tested the Mamiya 7's, which may be among the best out there now. However, I've also seen comments that it has a flare problem.)

    Oddly, although the GX has relatively high resolution (but not top notch contrast) at 2.8, f 4 and 5.6 are not as good in some respects. I think this is because of focus shifting that occurs between 2.8 and f8. By f8 the lens is terrific again. I'd guess the designers were less concerned with focus shifts due to the TLR design. (Although the SL66 Planar's focus shift is about the same.) As a practical matter, since the focus screen is supposed to be set at 2.8, one is in focus there, and by f8 depth of field will cover the errors. (You might find, however, that focussing in about 1 mm on the focus knob at f8 and on improves sharpness slightly. Of course, except at infinity, focus errors and depth of field requirements make these degrees of exactness moot in even the best focussing systems.)

    I might also add that, due to the smoothness of the Rollei, the GX at f8, even on a flimsy/light tripod and when the negative is cropped to 35 mm size, easily out shoots my Canon EOS 85mm on a heavier tripod. The 85 Canon is one of the best out there. (See Photodo MTF tests.) It's the shutter vibration that is the killer of high resolution in my experience as a backpacker who will not take 5 lb. tripods on hikes.

    Optics aside, the GX meter is also very good. If you consider the price of medium format cameras with built in meters, the GX is not really overpriced.

    Paul Roark

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