Which Rollei to buy ?

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by brendan_leung, Dec 16, 2000.

  1. Hi. I've been taking pictures for 5 years now and I currently own a
    Cannon A2E/Eos-5 system with half a dozen lenses. I do mainly sports,
    landscape and portraits. I like to get into the medium format world
    (knowing it's superior image quality over 35mm) and I was thinking of
    getting a second-hand Rollei TRL due to their small size, square
    frames and lower price comparing to other systems. I am planning to do
    mostly landscape, portrait and still life with this TLR in B&W and
    color. Can somebody please give me a few modle suggestion and what I
    shold be looking for in a used camera? Many thanks :)
  2. Your going from one spectrum (ultra modern whiz-bang 35mm) to the other (full manual TLR) but that's great. I'm sure you'll enjoy yourself getting into photography "basics".

    In reality Brendan, you can pick almost any working Rollei from the 1937 Automat on up. I know one fellow who shoots with a Rollei "Old Standard" from the early 30's and produces great photographs with it. With old TLR's, the glass (especially the taking lens) is everything. Repeat: The taking lens is 98% of the battle; if its good, chances are the other parts of the camera can be repaired or saved. Rollei's especially, where great production numbers produced more parts and parts cameras. If you start low you can find a nice Rolleiflex MX (sync) with either a Tessar or Xenar (both are great) or a newer Rollei T with a removable top for fitting an eye-level prism. The 3.5E/F and 2.8 series are great camera's that won't come cheap, but you get what you pay for. You'll need a good meter (your Canon would work great for this) a shutter release cable, a lens hood and tripod. That should get you started. Check the MFD archives for more information on different Rollei's, and other great TLR's like the Minolta Autocord, YashicaMat, Mamiya C2/3 ect. Good luck!
  3. I also shoot with an A2E. I find that I get superior images with my Rolleiflex 2.8E, and not just because of the larger negative (although it is gorgeous). The simplicity and slowness of operation (no exposure or metering modes, no eye control auto focus, no selection of focus spot or focus mode, no exposure comp etc., etc.) and the act of looking down at the square image helps me to visualize the image and get better results. As the previous post stated, the glass is everything. Get yourself a 3.5E or F, or a MX EVS or a T, or a 2.8E or F, depending on how much you wish to spend, and I guarantee great enjoyment.
  4. I bought a Rollei 3.5E a couple of months ago. It is a pleasure to use! Portraits and candids are much easier with the Rollei compared to my Nikon setup. The wasitlevel finder gets you closer to the subject and the lack of mirror slap makes the camera handholdable down to 1/30 s.
    I would recommend a 3.5 Planar or Xenotar over a 2.8 because of the price difference. Some people also believe that the 3.5 is sharper than the 2.8. The Tessars in Rolleicords and Rolleiflex T models have some pleasing characteristics although they are not as sharp as the Planars/Xenotars.

    When you buy, check the taking lens first. Open up the back and look through the lens towards a flashlight. Watch out for fungus and lens separation which should be visible as discolorations or haze. The coating on the old Rolleis is rather soft so check for cleaning marks and scratches. The whole focusing rack should be absolutely parallell, check this by focusing from infinity to just a tiny bit from infinity. The little gap exposed when the whole focusing rack moves out should be the same all around. Also check the flash sync by opening the back, attaching a flash and fire away at all speeds. You should be able to see the flash at all speeds through the lens. Check all the other mechanical parts by fiddling, cranking and twisting. Check the dof-scale on the focusing knob which should move when changing aperture. On a nice Rollei, all knobs and cranks move silky smoth.

    When you have found your camera; be sure to buy a lens shade which is mandatory on these single coated cameras. Don't bother with those original, leather every-ready cases. They are expensive (collectors) and is a pain when it is time to change film. I use the smallest Tamrac bag which fits the Rollei, a handheld meter, 10 rolls of film and a remote release.

    As the previous posters said, the taking lens is all that matters but a camera in nice mechanical condition will likely work for another 40 years.
  5. When you have decided on a model, follow the prices on Ebay for a
    while, to get a sense of the market. If you buy a really good-looking
    camera, with perfect glass, the chances are it was NOT owned by a
    working pro and has not been regularly serviced, so budget for a CLA
    by one of the expert repair persons whose names you'll find on this
    site: Marflex, Fleenor, Yerkes, Maxwell and several others. Expect to
    pay about $150 for a thorough cleaning and shutter service, but
    usually the transport mechanism won't need any work -the lubricants it
    uses are very long-lived.
    You may wish to have a modern, bright focusing screen installed at
    the same time. I think the best are the Maxwell screens, which can be
    ordered for installation by anyone. On the later models with
    removeable hoods, you can do the swap yourself. Screen replacement can
    run anything from $100-185, so say averageis $150. Are we through?
    No, unless your camera came with three extras you must have: a lens
    cap that folds out to cover both lenses [irritatingly , the caps are
    different for different models], a lens hood, and a rolleifix tripod
    quick release plate. This last gadget is not a luxury: The Rollei's
    tripod fitting is on the film door, it' s very easy to twist it and
    cause a light leak. The rolleifix strengthens this weak junction.
    I have seen several nice 2.8Fs, both Planar and Xenotar, sell
    recently in the $700-750range. I prefer the 3.5E Xenotar, partly
    because many of them came from the factory without selenium meters on
    their fronts and so look better to my eye, partly because they weigh
    8oz less than a 2.8F, and partly because they are available in
    handsome condition for about $400. I bought one last fall for that
    amount and sent it straight to Bill Maxwell. I shopped for extras
    while he worked on it, and my total investment has risen above $800.
    But that's only slightly more than one magazine for a
  6. excellent and helpfull advice from the previous two posters!
    Robert C. Harvey
  7. Yes. Yes. Yes. It always amazes me when someone will buy a quality camera and be too cheap to have it properly serviced. Would we buy a used car and never check it's brakes. I would rather buy something with a known service record. On these TLRs, especially, if the focus is off, you will never enjoy it. The cost of a good CLA pales in comparision to the COST of film, processing, printing services or our own printing, the time and money and effort spent on getting to and taking photographs during the time to the next reasonable servicing. FINALLY, TLRs are still the best portrait camera going in terms of image quality, rapport and our relative position to the subject-zooming in on warts and noses is not a portrait.
  8. I can't really add anything that hasn't been already covered in the extensive answers you have recieved so far. I have a Rolleicord V which I love because of the simplicity and the surprisingly superb quality of the Schneider Xenar lens. I put a Maxwell screen in the camera to update the old dim ground glass. What I like about the cord is that the focusing is on the right, which makes shooting with a flash bracket on the left easier than the Rolleiflex. For about $200 for one in near mint condition, the Cord model V is on my short list of great cameras per dollar. I have brought it with me places I'd hesitate to take more expensive cameras. The down side is having to cock the shutter which is auto on the Flex models. I also recently picked up a F model 3.5 Flex, and it is a superbly made camera on all counts. I paid $500 for the 3.5 F and it did need to have the transport gone through for $100. By the way, I have taken the same shot with both of my cameras, and can't really see any difference in quality on the negs--both are really sharp and have great color.
  9. Brendan,
    Your plan is excellent. Look for a camera in good condition more than particular model. Condition is essential.
    If you are interested by my (modest) experiences about rolleiflex you may read an article that I wrote. It's a guide for buying these kinds of cameras.
    Since three years I study other cameras like Isolette and Ikonta 6*6. These foldings are also a good choice for landscape, light, small...I own several Isolette with Apotar (3 elements) and Solinar (4 elements like xenar) and one Ikonta with a Novar 4,5 (3 elements). For landscape I think that Ikonta is better because its lens is a 75mm more wide than the 85 mm of Isolettes.
  10. I have bought the tessar, xenar, xenotar, and planar lenses to try them out and do my own comparisons. The supposed advantage of the xenotar and planar lenses is that they will give sharper corner to corner coverage at wide lens openings. I don't find that an advantage because it means the light is poor and I would try to compensate by relying on depth of field. However, depth of field with an 80 mm lens in a 6x6 format is much shallower than you are used to in 35 mm work. I found to my dismay I had to close down two stops to get the depth of field I wanted in the larger format. So, I want lots of light, thank you, and will shoot at f8 or smaller. Under those conditions, the tessar and xenar lenses in my experience are wonderfully sharp and yield excellent detail in the prints. I regard the cost of cleaning the camera and upgrading the viewing screen as simply part of the purchase price of the camera. And the cost is still far less than the obscenely overpriced modern version. So, my advice to you is the same advice given to me when I was worrying this question - just get one you're comfortable with, get it working right, and bang away with it. Last word, accessories for the Bayonet 1 models are a lot cheaper and easier to come by than for the later models, and you might want to factor that into your decison.
  11. David, I find your findings and comments both fascinating and informative. I have been trying (as time and finances allow) to collect all four "popular" Rollei lens types in search of the "best" for a few years now. I have tried all you mentioned except the Xenotar and profess to many of the same conclusions; The sharpest, most pleasing of the bunch I have is a early 50's MX model with a Jena-Tessar. Totally rebuilt, serviced and CLA's by Paul Ebel in Wisconsin. I will admit to not having tried any of the 2.8 models on a consistant basis, but I'm sure I'll get to that someday soon. As all of my TLR's share Bay I accessories, the 3.5's are most attractive and desired. Simply put; Its hard to imagine better sharpness or a more plesasing image coming from any other lens or camera combo in MF...although I enjoy searching out different camera's and lenses when I'm not working. I also have a Minolta Autocord that performs in similiar fashion, leaving me the challange of improving *my* technique and abilities, without worrying about finding a better lens or camera.

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