Rolleiflex 3.5/3.5F with Studio Lights

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by RayCornett, Mar 29, 2019.

  1. Are there any good threads here, or videos anywhere online, that go in depth on using the Rolleiflex 3.5/3.5F synced to studio lights?

    I have found one single video and all it was is a video of a photographer showing you how she plugged her light to her Rollei.
  2. There's nothing particularly exotic about it...I don't think I've ever shot a Rollei with studio lights, but I have shot plenty of MF and plenty of cameras of this age with them.

    If you're using a wired trigger(bad idea) you plug the PC cable into the port on the front of your camera. If you're using radio triggers(which I recommend), use a PC cord to plug the trigger into the PC socket. If you're using optical triggers, you'll need to rig some sort of small flash up to the PC port on the camera and make sure it's facing the "eye" of the slaves.

    There will be a switch somewhere(I forget where it had made its way to with the F models) labeled M-X-V. BE SURE this is set to X-this is probably this single easiest and biggest mistake you can make with any kind of electronic flash on an older camera. The "M" setting is meant for medium peak flashbulbs, which need a bit of time to reach full intensity-it fires the flash before the shutter opens, and the electronic flash pulse will have already ended by the time the shutter opens. The "X" setting fires the flash as soon as the shutter fully opens, which is what you want for electronic flash, as they reach their full intensity essentially immediately and generally have a relatively short duration. The "V" setting is the self timer.

    In any case, the shutter speed actually doesn't matter all that much. It needs to be below the flash sync speed, which is 1/500 on the Syncho-Compur shutter, so you don't have to worry about going faster as if you were using a camera with a focal plane shutter. It needs to be fast enough that you don't pick up ambient light, which in my experience would usually mean a pretty darn slow speed unless you're outside. Unless you have a good reason to do otherwise, set your shutter speed to 1/250 or 1/500.

    The aperture(combined with the film speed and the output of your flashes) is the main thing you will change to get the exposure correct. This is true regardless of the camera type, format, or even whether it's film or digital. In my usual set-up, I'm often using ASA 100 film or setting my digitals to base ISO and still at f/22 or smaller-of course this can change if you're illuminating a larger area, can crank your strobe power way back(I use Normans, which aren't exactly the most flexible/adaptable design) or are using inefficient modifiers.

    Also, you really should be using a flash meter. My Minolta IIIf has a flash function, which is a bit clunky to use but none the less works well. I use it with the incident dome attachment and put it where the subject would be with the dome toward the lights(this is where having an assistant is useful if you're photographing a group, or want to pre-set before your actual subjects arrive). On the Minolta, with the film speed set, I set it to flash mode then with the meter in position I fire the flash. It senses that I've done so, and spits out an aperture reading that can then be transferred to the camera(be sure to account for a filter factor if you're using one). My model meter will "time out" in flash mode after I think 1 minute if it hasn't sensed a flash-I think some other brands integrate a PC socket directly to allow you to fire the flash, but the ubiquitous Minoltas work fine as long as you get the reading before they time out.
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  3. Agree in principle with most of Ben's comments. A camera with a PC port, such as the Rolleiflex 3.5F, is nothing special in terms of how it interacts with strobe lighting.

    Agree that a wireless (radio) trigger is the preferred option, because of improved mobility and convenience. I don't agree that a wired trigger is a bad idea. It works, just not as conveniently.

    A flash meter is nearly mandatory, unless you plan to test exposure (bracket) extensively.

    The Syncro-Compur shutter is a leaf type that syncs at all speeds. Go for it, have fun, and post your results.
  4. AJG


    One minor point regarding shutter speeds--some studio strobes have fairly long durations, in a few cases as long as 1/300. A gated flash meter like a Sekonic L 518 (should be available used for around $100) will tell you if a faster shutter speed on the camera is lessening the amount of light reaching the film. Radio transmitters/receivers also introduce a very small delay that could also diminish flash power.
    Wilmarco Imaging likes this.
  5. A Rollei 3.5F requires a special flash cable, which locks into the socket. Remove the cable by turning the lever surrounding the flash socket to release the lock. That lever also serves as the sync selector, X/M/F. For electronic flash, use the X setting. (M = 20 msec, F = 5 msec). The center of the flash socket looks like a PC socket, and can be used with a PC cable. The connection is unreliable unless you make a few adjustments to the cable (tighten the tube and bend the pin a little off-center).

    Rollei flash cables are still available, with PC or Household terminations.

    rollei flash cable | B&H Photo Video

    Ordinary extension cords can be used with Household plugs, which is what I did before PocketWizards were invented. I was never once tempted to see what happened if they were plugged into a wall outlet. Now I use at least one PocketWizard for the first flash, and photoelectric for the others. In the field, I use a separate PocketWizard on each flash. Fewer cables to trip over, no way for a guest to trigger my flashes.
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2019
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