Rolleiflex TLR f/2.8 Wide Open

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by duane_goff, Mar 11, 2000.

  1. Have heard the f/2.8 Planar is "outstanding" wide open. As this is
    where most of my work is going to be, has anyone done resolution
    tests on the f/3.5 planar or xenotar wide open? Am trying to make a
    decision on which camera to buy. This seems to be a rare ability among
    the TLRs, Autocords,Rolliecords,Yashicamats... Thanks for any help.
  2. Yes, I've tested the 3.5 Planars and Xenotars, and the 2.8 Planar (GX)wide open. I dumped my 3.5 Xenotar (tested equal to the Planar 3.5) to get the 2.8 on the GX. It's much better. The field of focus is much flatter. With the 3.5s you've really got to stop down to control the curvature. With the 2.8 Planar on the GX, you can shoot at 2.8 and enlarge to 16 by 20. At 2.8 the contrast is, of course, not up to what it is at f 8 or 11. However, it's a good image. (In fact, I think 2.8 may be better than f 4.)

    I might add that at least some of the experts on the Rollei User Group list claim that the GX 2.8 is identical to the 2.8 Planar used on the older models, except that the GX has multicoating. I have not tested the older 2.8 Planars, so I can't say. (Have you ever seen a test of an old classic lens that really matches the newest version? -- I haven't.) Even assuming that the old 2.8s are equal, the multicoating is quite significant. The GX meter is also very good. I'd strongly recommend finding a good used GX.

    Paul Roark
  3. "Outstanding" is a relative thing.

    I've found the modern f2.8 Planar for Hasselblad and Rollei 6000 to be somewhat better wide open than the older f2.8 TLR Planar, especially out towards the corners. I don't have a GX, but I presume it'd show at least higher contrast due to better coatings.

    Otoh, I've found the 75 f3.5 on the Mamiya 6 to be substantially better than any of those Planars wide open, in terms of contrast and apparent sharpness, and RF focusing is lots easier. It's my choice for available-darkness work, although I do love using the old Rolleis.

    Resolution tests really aren't going to show anything useful since none of these lenses are really designed to shoot flat test charts. The best test is to shoot the sort of subjects you plan to, renting equipment if need be to do so, before investing in something based on what's essentially hearsay.

    FWIW, there was a test in a European photo mag several years ago that rate the Rollei 6000 80 Xenotar "best," followed by the Bronica SQ 80, then the Mamiya 75. The SLR Planars were well down the list.
  4. I concur, in part, with what John said above, but also must disagree with some of what might be implied from his comment.

    First, I think resolution testing can substantially shorten the time it takes to learn one's equipment and help avoid lost images due to not knowing the limits of that equipment. I test at a 32:1 magnification for these "normal" focal length MF lenses. At this magnification, I've found the curvature of the field of focus I see is not far off from what I get even at infinity. For landscape shooting, which is my most critical use, this curvature really matters. For available light portraiture work, the importance of this might be significantly less.

    Second, comparing the Planar for the SLRs and that for the TLR may depend of the version (newness) of the lens. My GX 2.8 is substantially sharper (due to its flatter field) than the 2.8 HFT Planar I have on my Rollei SL66 -- which may well be one generation back from the latest for the Hasselblad.

    The 7 element SLR Planar and the 5 element TLR Planar seem to have simply different characteristics. The Rollei rep., as well as other supposed experts, have said that the TLR has an advantage because the mirror of the SLRs forces that version of the Planar to actually be a slightly retrofocus design. Note that Hasselblad recommends the 100 f3.5 Planar (a five element design like the TLR Planar) for really critical work. It is sharper than the 7 element version. That said, however, the corners (outside the 8 by 10 framing area) of the 7 element design are, according to my tests and actual experience, sharper than those of the 5 element design used in the TLR. The 5 element design seems to be better only within a narrower field of view. Also, the 7 element design appears to be better with a deep red, #29, filter.

    If one is interested in relative performance of optics, I strongly recommend the site. They have the best collection of MTF test results of lenses.

    As to the Xenotar, I too have heard that it is about the best MF normal focal length optic. The Photodo tests seem to concur. However, I do not believe that the old Xenotar on the TLRs is the same. I think the relative prices of the used Rollei 2.8s reflect a well-deserved better reputation for the Planar.

    Despite all this talk of lens performance wide open, I must concur with John, above, that the viewing and focusing at those light levels can be a challenge. The wide open shot I have on my website was taken at infinity, and the viewing screen was so dim that I used the "through the hood" viewing of the GX to frame the subject. (It was after 9 p.m. from the deck of a boat, using 400 ISO film and 1/60 second.)

    Moreover, getting the sharpness that is reported in the tests takes very accurate focussing. Even with lots of light and under rather ideal testing conditions, I take shots not only at the apparent best focus point, but also with the camera focused in and out slightly to be sure I've actually hit the true focus point. I suspect in the real world, the differences between the better MF optics is mostly observable when comparing images shot with fine grain film, focused at infinity (assuming the infinity stop is accurately set -- not the case with some old TLRs), and only if the shooter knows how to be sure the film in the MF camera is flat on the film plane -- another thing resolution testing can help to master.

    Good luck.

    Paul Roark
  5. The biggest problem trying to shoot the Rollei wide open isn't the lens sharpness,its film flatness and having a PERFECTLY calibrated camera so that the focusing screen and the film are in perfect allignment. A friend of mine repairs these cameras, and told me so many of the Rollei's he's worked on are out of whack due to repair people not having the right factory tool for syncronizing the focus. Rollei took into account that the film bows out towards the lens a bit, and had a calibrating screen that was actually inset into the opening at the film plane a small amount. Many cameras have been adjusted by using a regular flat ground glass, and this can throw the taking lens and viewing screen out of sync slightly. At f8.0, you probably won't see it, but at f2.8 and 4.0, it can make a big difference if everything isn't perfect.
  6. Hi,
    I enjoyed very much the wide-open portrait shooting last month, indoor, nature light, under a heavy rainning day, handheld 1/15, 2.8. Print on 30 X 30. The 2.8F is absolutely good for handheld portrait photo.
    3.5 E is more universal, looks sharper (but different taste), very good both for B/W and color.
    T1 w 3.5 tesser, to my experience, very good for landscape, lighter and ease to use.
    I love the Rollei TLR (the taste of picture for 30 X 30 ), try to hunt for Rolleitele and wide. Althought I already have sets of SL66 (from 50-500), hasselblad , mamiya 6mf, mamiya645 pro (use Rollei sl66 lens on it) and makina 67.
    Enjoy the Rollei TLR !
    HUGO AIK 2-10-2000

Share This Page