Rolleiflex virgin

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by john_kelly|18, Feb 14, 2014.

  1. An acquaintance recently gave me her father's Rolleiflex, a 2.8E Planar (serial number 1655409). I'm somewhat familiar with medium- format, having taken ownership of my father's Mamiya C3 and its assorted lenses. I've done a fair amount of surfing on the Rollei, but still feel I lack a basic understanding of the camera's qualities. I'm almost done with the first test roll, so it's possible I'll discover the camera doesn't even work, but in the hope that it turns out to be in fine shape I wondered whether someone could fill me in on one basic thing: What is the camera best suited for? I see discussions of Planar vs. Xenotar, 2.8 vs. 3.5, coated vs. uncoated, etc. Are there applications where my particular camera will shine? Are there types of film that will show the camera to its best advantage? I'm excited about the camera. It feels so pleasing in my hand. I am a little worried by the cost of things associated with Rollei, compared to the Mamiya. (It lacks a strap, lens cap and tripod adaptor, and those things are on my shopping list.) But I suppose it's like the difference between buying parts for a Mercedes and buying parts for a Toyota. Thanks in advance.
  2. Congratulations on your Rollei! The 2.8 Planar is a legendary lens. Don't worry about the stuff and nonsense you read about the differences between 2.8 and 3.5 or Planar vs Xenotar. That's just photo enthusiasts splitting hairs. In it's day, the 2.8E was THE pro camera, used by photojournalists around the world before the 35mm Nikon F came on the scene. It's good for anything you want to throw at it.
    The shutter might need cleaning and lubrication if the slower shutter speeds seem sluggish. The focus might drift out over time if used hard. KEH is the place to go for parts. Don't buy an original leather strap - they are expensive and the old leather is often rotten.
  3. I agree. The Rolleiflex is one of the finest cameras ever made. I have used a 2.8E Xenotar for years. The meter still works and is accurate. I shoot black and white and my film of choice is Tri-X. The slow shutter speeds were sticky when I bought it but had it cleaned and lubed and never had a problem again. Don't worry about Planar vs Xenotar stuff. The only people who care about that stuff are collectors. Either lens will give outstanding results. Just use it and enjoy it.
  4. The Rollei is maybe not so well suited to still life photography due to lack of close focus and interchangeable lens. It is well suited and has been used very successfully for about everything else. Irving Penn and David Bailey used it for fashion, Vivian Meyer used it for street photography. If you are happy with just the one lens it is great for travel and landscape photography. You can get a close up lens attachment called a Rolleinar that lets you shoot more close up details and get closer for portraits.
    The problem is with today's processing options. You will get much more of the optical quality if you can learn to process your own film and do a better job than the retail labs. The Rolleiflex has a very sharp lens, sometimes even too sharp, but in my opinion the tonal quality is the best part of the German lenses. That is what bad processing will screw up.
  5. Thank you for the enthusiastic responses. The slower shutter speeds do seem sluggish. I've seen on this forum that there
    are folks on the West and East coasts who can clean and repair the Rolleis so after I get my test roll back I may send it
    off for some TLC. Perhaps this lovely machine will inspire me to learn how to develop my own film.
  6. Your 2.8E by the serial number seems to be a 1956.
    I'd suggest that you have it serviced. IMHO the best place to have it done is by Harry Fleenor. He's did my 1952 2.8 and it's a joy to use. And a 3.5 1952 as well.
    Good luck!
  7. Heckuva great gift! One of the only cameras I regret selling was my Rolleiflex 2.8C. Those Rolleis are so well made it's a pleasure to handle them. Versatile too. I used mine for everything from tabletop still lifes and landscapes to candid street photography.
    Something about a TLR seems to elicit friendly responses from folks in public. Perhaps it's the "quaintness" factor. It wasn't unusual for perfect strangers to actually ask me to photograph them when I was toting a Rollei or Yashica TLR, with no expectation of ever seeing the photos.
  8. You can also try Krikor Maralian at Krimar. He often has parts that Harry Fleenor doesn't have.
    Tel: 201 796-0554
    Mon-Fri 9:30 - 6 Eastern
    Sat: 9 - 4PM
  9. I wondered whether someone could fill me in on one basic thing: What is the camera best suited for?​
    It's best suited for taking photographs of any and all sorts. I've used mine as a travel camera a couple of times with trips to Scotland 4 weeks ago, and Canada last year. The only thing I worry about is getting it stolen...but that could happen anywhere.
  10. Agree with all of above! What's a Rollei for? It was designed in the 1920s as a light and portable camera for those who wanted freedom of mobility but didn't think 35mm was good enough (it wasn't at the time). Rolleis were virtually the standard-issue press camera (almost always with a flash attached) in the 1950s, when people were giving up 4x5, and 1960s until the Nikon F started to become dominant. Others have mentioned Irving Penn, David Bailey and Vivian Meyer as users - there were many others, too, including Richard Avedon, John French and above all the noted Anglo-German photojournalist Bill Brandt - BB's work in particular shows what can be done with the Rollei's "limitations". "Rolleinar" close-up lenses (which come in pairs with parallax compensation) can be fun to play with:
    A strong strap is a good idea - the Rollei takes one with so-called "scissor" fittings at the end, search e-bay for "Rollei scissor strap" and you should find a Chinese-made one for not too much money:
    Your camera needs bayonet 3 size filters - might be worth getting an adapter:
    to use new b+w or Heliopan filters - old Rollei filters can be pricey, are only single coated and are hard to find in unmarked condition.
  11. PS - tripod fixing. You can of course use a normal tripod mounting screw, but the "Rolleifix" is quite handy:
    and reduces the strain on the base of the camera (it also means your fingers go nowhere near the locking lever for the camera base when you're mounting or demounting the camera on a tripod, so you can't open this by accident).
  12. The Rolleiflex is a true classic: a well built camera that produces outstanding results. Your C3 is a very good camera too, as you know.<br>Comparing the two (and i don't know, but suspect that's part of what's behind your question what the Rolleiflex is best suited for, the answer would be: anything that doesn't require any other lens than the 80 mm, and doesn't require through the (taking) lens viewing.<br>The Mamiya with it's interchangeable lenses is already a more versatile machine. Which is a nice, and often necessary, thing. Hence the expansion of the TLR concept to include interchangeable lenses by Mamiya (and Rollei's own take on that, offering wide and tele versions of their fixed lens TLRs).<br>There are roughly two approaches to the fixed lens camera thing: you either make do, adapt your way of working to suit the possibilities and impossibilities of only having a single focal length available, or find it an unacceptable imposition and move on to a different camera system to allow your creativity to make use of any means it could need.<br>But, of course, the two aren't exclusive (unless the fixed lens camera is all you have): you can switch whenever you like, work around, or with, the limitations of the Rolleiflex when you so choose, use the Mamiya (or other more versatile camera) when you do not. Both will be fun.
  13. There's no reason not to use Chinese-made knock-off lens caps and lens shades (and YES, a lens shade IS important. I wonder about the quality of the scissor clips on the Chinese straps, but have heard no reports of their failing. An alternative might be to buy a used, worn-out original strap and have a shoemaker rivet the clips to a new strap. I had my old clips attached to the stub ends of a nylon strap, which I've buckled to a Domke "Gripper: strap, my favorite kind. I second the recommendation of a Rolleifix, if you want to use the camera on a tripod. It's not essential, but the thin sheet metal back of a Rollei could easily be damaged if you knock it against anything while using the camera on a tripod.
    I use a 2.8E (Xenotar) that I bought used in the early '60s. It's my favorite camera, and I use it for at least 3/4ths of my photographs, occasionally using my heavy MF SLR when I REALLY need other focal length lenses.
    There are other cameras better-suited to special uses, but a Rollei can be adapted to almost any use. BTW, the excellent quality Rolleinar close-up lenses are really good quality, even though extension tubes on an SLR have a theoretical advantage.
    FWIW, I've used Krikor Maralian, of Krimar, for repairs and recommend him highly. I've also heard good things about Harry Fleenor. You wouldn't go wrong with either repair person although, by most accounts, Krikor completes repairs considerably faster.
  14. (i) I congratulate you on your good fortune. Do something nice for the friend who gave it to you.
    (ii) If you're a normal-lens kind of guy (and I am one), a Rolleiflex is arguably the best film camera in the world.
    (iii) One thing not mentioned is that Rollei TLRs are relatively light in weight. I use my 3.5E (or my 'cord Vb) for backpacking, with a lightweight tripod or monopod. They make excellent panoramas, if you stitch the scans in the computer.
  15. One thing not mentioned is that Rollei TLRs are relatively light in weight.
    Ahem! What's a Rollei for? It was designed in the 1920s as a light and portable camera ...
    However, the point is worth repeating. SLR camera lenses (particuaurly those with leaf shutters) need complex actuating mechanisms for the shutter and aperture and of course a linkage from the body to the lens. With the Rollei TLR, everything is much simpler and lighter and the result is indeed much easier to carry for extended periods.
  16. That being designed in the 1920s as a light and portable camera is compared to the cameras of those days, David, which were big Graflexes and such.
    Whether they are also particularly light and portable compared to other roll film cameras? Not so much that it would be of practical importance to me; it's not a deciding factor when considering what camera to pick up and use.
  17. Mea culpa, missed David B's post. FWIW, being a backcountry hiking nerd, I weigh everything.
    Rolleicord Vb: 940g
    Rolleiflex E: 1120g
    Century Graphic (lens, no back): 1162g
    Mamiya RZ67 ProII (lens, one back): 2495g
    Olympus Stylus epic (mju ii): 135g
    So my usual backpacking rig is one of the Rollei TLRs and the little Olympus, plus a lightweight tripod (Slik Sprint) or monopod. If I need wide angle, I pan and stitch. I've been leaving the meter at home for a year or two now-- I'm fine with Sunny 16.
  18. Thanks for all the great responses. A Rolleifix is on my shopping list. I'm scouring eBay, where I see they go for ridiculous money, but perhaps I can poach one relatively cheaply. I also see a $40 Chinese cloth strap with scissor clips. I have a single scissor clip, attached to one end of the rotten leather strap. Here's a question: Will a Rollei panorama head work as a tripod attachment, or do you need a Rolleifix for the panorama head to work?
    Finally, here's a link to a story I wrote about my growing obsession with old cameras, of which the Rolleiflex is the latest example.
  19. Will a Rollei panorama head work as a tripod attachment, or do you need a Rolleifix for the panorama head to work?
    I've never had a panorama head, but from a quick look at one it seems - yes, it does provide a means of fixing a Rollei to a tripod but you have to screw a screw into the camera - it doesn't have a quick-fix action. Incidentally I have a Chinese scissor strap - works great and is much wider and more comfortable than the Rollei original
  20. Ah, I remember that column, John. Several of us shared it around on Facebook.
  21. (i) One way to get a Rolleifix is to disassemble a Rollei pistol grip-- these things incorporate a Rolleifix as a camera clamp. The entire pistol grip sometimes sells for cheaper than a Rolleifix would.
    (ii) Some of the prices for Rolleifixes on David B's ebay list are not bad.
    (iii) My Rolleiflex pano head has a 1/4-20 screw which looks alarmingly long, but it doesn't bottom out on my 'flex E, so I think it would be safe. The ringed bearing surface on the camera bottom contacts the ringed surface on the pano head. Having said that, I always use it with the Rolleifix.
    (iv) One reminder about the pano head is that it's designed to give nonoverlapping prints if you rotate it around the ten numbered detents. If you want to stitch scans in the computer, you might want to take intermediate shots between the numbered positions.
  22. Congrats on your good fortune of being given a Rolleiflex 2.8E! Wow! I hope you enjoy it!
    You can buy new tripod mounts for nearly the same price as used ones go for on ebay, plus new leather straps, and even new Rolleiflex TLR's -- they still make four versions Wide (FW), Normal, Normal with close focus (FX and FX-N) and the telephoto ( FT).
    Apologize for the shameless plug as I'm the US Dealer, but it seems many don't know that all these are still available.
    Rolleiflex USA
  23. OCULUS New York

    OCULUS New York Still shooting, but posting less here.

    I didn't notice its STEALTH Value mentioned here. Nobody figures you're taking their picture when you're staring at your belt buckle. Works wonders for stealth/street pix.

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