Rolleiflex TLR - which to buy?

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by colin_whittle, Feb 5, 2001.

  1. I am seriously concidering the purchase of a Rolleiflex but welcome
    some advice.
    I have been using a friends 3.5F Planar, from reading other threads
    it looks like the consensus is that the Planar lens is the one to go
    There appears to be some differences of opinion on the merits of 2.8
    v 3.5.
    My question is:
    Given cameras of the same quality, what would be the 'best buy' 2.8F
    or 3.5F, and which model (are some models/years better than others).
    I have read that the older models with coupled shutter/exposure are
    not as valuable as the later model without this?
    Basically if 'you' could select your 'ideal' rolleiflex which would
    it be.
    I know this is very subjective, but really welcome your opinions and
  2. You're right, it's subjective: but I think I'd look at a 3.5E Xenotar. The lens is equal to the Planar but costs less because of the Schneider name; the 3.5 costs less than the 2.8 but performs at least as well; and the E costs less than the F but will serve you just as well.

    rick :)=
  3. Colin,
    I owned several Rolleiflex since thirty years not as collector but as user. I keep two of them, a 2,8 C with a planar (1953?) and an Automat 4 with a Xenar (1951?). They are like new and I get very good results (b and w, colour slides).
    My advices is to avoid all complications like a lightmeter (failure) and EV system which is never understanding.
    This is why I chose my two "friends" after tests of other kinds of rolleiflex. Don't neglect Rolleicord, less prestigious. It's a very good choice on account of quality and simplicity and price.
    Look also for a camera overhauled really, shutter, lens clean...A clean Tessar or Xenar is better than a cloudy Planar.
    Other advice, for me in practise differences between these lenses are minor if they are in the same condition.
    If I have to choose between 2,8F and 3,5F I choose 2,8 because BAI 3 is more current.
    Michel from France
  4. Colin, I own a 2.8F Planar (first edition, built in 1960). What I like is the ease of replacing the screen; ability to use a Rolleifix. The Planar is wonderful, but I'm not sure it is any better than the Xenotar. If I was offered a 3.5F Xenotar in significantly better condition than a 2.8 Planar, I'd take the 3.5F. I never shoot wide open anyway, so the extra speed is not important to me. And other than on a test bench, I don't believe you will see a difference in lens performance. Regards, Bob Cook
  5. Colin, I have used 3.5F Planar and Xenotar Rolleis and a 2.8 GX model. They are each so fine that your limitation as a photographer will not be the camera. My advice is to get either a 3.5 or a 2.8 based on condition and age. The newer cameras benefit from the decades of engineering experience at Rollei. (I actually like the selenium meters in F model Rolleis, though I use them in conjuction with a spot meter.) I also think that a new screen (I use the screens make by Maxwell Optics) will improve the performance of your camera significantly.
  6. Well, Colin, a year ago I bought the camera I had always wanted
    - a Rolleiflex! Choice was limited and I went for a 3.5 T. Contrary
    to a post above, I have not found the EV scale to be a nuisance,
    in fact it's rather easy to use. I have fitted a new Beattie screen
    (although everyone says the Maxwell screens are better, but I
    didn't know that at the time. The shutter is fine and the winding
    mechanism as smooth as new.

    I have been told that the 3.5 Tessar is not inferior to the 2.8,
    particularly stopped down to f8.

    Do buy a camera that will take the Rolleifix adaptor. The adaptor
    is also part of the pistol grip attachment which, for some reason
    is cheaper to buy than the Rolleifix alone. Worth hunting for.

    I bought mine from a local dealer with a 30 day warranty. In my
    opinion the best way to go for a camera that might be 30 to 40
    years old. . . .
  7. I have an SL66 outfit but needed a lighter camera. So, I started with a 3.5F. I tested several 3.5 Xenotars and Planars and found them to be equal. I bought a 3.5 Xenotar, and think it was a great value. However, all the 3.5s I tested had the same defects. The corners are not sharp. When cropping a black and white to 8x10 proportions in the darkroom, it's not a problem. However, if you are shooting slides and showing the full frame, then the corners of the 5 element 75 mm lens is not good. That is, I believe, why Rollei went to 6 element 75 mm lenses for the very last of that breed. Some say that while the corners are improved, if you do B&W, stick with the 5 element.

    The second defect of the old 3.5s that I looked at is that the meters were worthless.

    I bought a GX to replace my 3.5, and it's a huge improvement. The 80 mm lens does not suffer from the soft corners. The corners may not be a good as the 7 element Planar, but in almost all other respects, the GX Planar is better than the 7 element HFT lens of the SL66. The GX 2.8 Planar is the only MF 80 that' I've had the pleasure of using that can shoot at 2.8 and be enlarged to 16x20. The others just do not have flat enough fields to give good results unless stopped down to middle apertures.

    The GX meter is really a good meter. Having a good meter on the camera is also a huge advantage.

    The ultimate TLR is, in my view, the GX. As a user camera it's a very major improvement over the old 3.5F. However, if you're looking at value, carry a separate meter, will always use a tripod and stop down when you need sharp corners on your 16x20s, and don't need the very corners to be sharp, then the 3.5s are a great value.

    Paul Roark,
    Solvang, CA,
  8. First choice will always be a 2.8 F Planar, second chice 2.8 F Xenotar, after that a 2.8 E anything.
  9. I have a 3.5E Xenotar and it is an elegant tool. I don't know how
    much of a difference you will find between the 3.5 and 2.8 other than
    physical size and if I were you I wouldn't be looking at anything
    other than the condition of the camera,lenses shutter and film
    transport. Find a Rollei that works well and get into the experience
    of shooting with a legend. I treat mine with reverence but I don't
    baby it because it's nearly 50 years old. It is pretty robust and can
    still take some punishment. What's up with these guys that are talking
    about testing lenses. I have never seen a lense test hanging in the
  10. My ideal Rolleiflex is the 2.8D with the Planar lens. I dislike the lightmeter in the E and F models, although EV is no hard to use. The Xenotar or 3.5 Planar are also just fine. No big difference. The only reason I would get an F model is for the removable viewing hood and screen. Easier to clean but most change the screen only once I assume. The bayonet III accessories are also VERY pricey. But if money is no object then go for the most expensive model and you will have a camera that will never lose its value as long as it stays in good shape. Did I mention that the photos from a Rolleiflex are fantastic? Perhaps a nice 3.5E model (with Bayonet II) would do as well. Have fun.
  11. Paul Ashton, sell your Beattie screen on eBay, and you can get $80 - $100 for it if it's in good shape. For the money you can buy a Maxwell screen! ;-)
  12. get a GX. despite rumors, same exact build quality as older cameras with a MUCH better lens and a really fine near-spot meter. ken hansen in NYC offers new GXs for 2200.

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