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Nick's Classic Corner - No 33 - Rolleiflex SL35E

Discussion in 'Classic Models & Marques' started by Benchista, Nov 11, 2013.

  1. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    There's a strange irony about this camera - although it's perhaps most famous for dodgy electronics, it feels like one of the most solidly metal cameras I've ever used.
    But we'll come to those points later...
    I've touched elsewhere on the Singapore factory originally belonging to Zeiss Ikon, and sold to Rollei (along with the Voigtlander brand name). Rollei had already begun a 35mm SLR ranged beforehand in 1970, with the SL35 - a very nice camera that will be featured later on. Production switched to Singapore, before it was replaced by the SL35M, a camera that was actually pretty much a Zeiss Ikon design. This was tweaked to become the SL35ME, but in 1978 a completely new product was released that was very much of the time - the SL35E. At the time, there were a plethora of similarly-specced cameras being produced from all sorts of manufacturers - the aperture priority/manual 35mm SLR with autowinder facility was a key battleground, being pretty much the most favoured enthusiast's option. The SL35E (and it's clone, the Voigtlander VSL 3E) hit this head on, and it had all the features that were expected at the time: exposure compensation, DOF preview, full info viewfinder, electronically-controlled vertically running metal shutter, with speeds from 16s to 1/1000, diagonal triple-wedge split image/microprism screen and so on. And of course a good range of lenses, although in typical Rollei style, that wasn't enough - there were actually TWO good ranges of lenses available, from Carl Zeiss, and a Rolleinar/Voigtlander badged range, that were actually mostly made by Mamiya.
    The camera is fairly standard for it's time - the differences came with the batttery check button on the topplate, electronic self-timer selecing switch, rewind/multi-exposure switch behind the windon lever, and the shutter release and dial setup - the dial is around the soft-touch shutter release, but almost uniquely is not click-stopped; it locks on A, X and B, but all the shutter speeds are selected steplessly. And to the right is the shutter lock, with a cable release socket inside.
    The DOF preview locks in place - this is to allow stop-down metering, particularly with M42 lenses - the camera is designed to allow the automatic aperture of M42 lenses to be actuated when used with the M42 adaptor.
    So, quite normal, with a few oddities - however, the thing really does feel like solid metal. It's fairly compact, which makes the heft even more surprising.
    However, lots of them have problematic electronics - I suspect sticky shutter magnets, and certainly problems with the viewfinder LED display for shutter speeds. I've two copies of this camera; my chrome one is a little temperamental, but the black one is just lovely. Would I recommend one? On balance, no - there are better models that use the QBM mount, either the simpler SL35, or the crazy SL2000F/3003. However, a good one is a capable machine, and can give access to excellent Zeiss lenses generally much cheaper than the equivalent in Contax mount. And those Mamiya lenses aren't bad, either.

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