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Nick's Classic Corner - No. 9 - Rollei 35S

Discussion in 'Classic Models & Marques' started by Benchista, Oct 10, 2013.

  1. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Many cameras are quirky, but few are downright eccentric, and those that were seldom managed to also be excellent cameras; however, the Rollei 35S manages it with aplomb.

    The camera had an amazing route to market - originally, it was a private project carried out by Keinz Waaske, the chief engineer of Wirgin, maker of the Edixa, who was convinced there was a market for a small camera with a decent sized film format. However, when he got to show it to his boss, he was informed that Wirgin were getting out of the camera business, so he took the little camera to Leitz and Kodak, who both rejected it. Rollei, however, gave him a job and the go-ahead for what was to become the Rollei 35, launched in 1966 with a 4 element Tessar lens. Rollei expanded the range with both a lower spec model, with 3 element Triotar lens and selenium cell meter, and in 1971, the 35S with a 5 element Sonnar lens, which was to be made in Rollei's recently-aquired Singapore operation.

    So, to the camera: it's a very small model for full frame 35mm, which imposes quite a few of the peculiarities of the camera. First up, the lens is collapsible - to release it, pull the lens out and twist it to lock. To put it away, press the solid chrome button on the top of the camera, twist and push the lens in - but it can only be done when the shutter is cocked, for some reason. The lens itself is wonderful; a 40mm f2.8 Sonnar made by Rollei, with Rollei's HFT coating - their version of Zeiss' T* coating. Focusing is entirely manual scale focusing, with a scale in feet (3 to infinity) on top, and metres (0.9 to infinity) underneath.
    To the left of the lens is the shutter speed dial (1/2s - 1/500), to the right an aperture dial with film speed dial. It's an unusual method for changing settings, but works really well, and is a little reminiscent of Rollei TLRs. Also on the front is the meter window.
    On top, as well as the lens release button is the shutter release, a meter window - for good old-fashioned match needle metering - and on the left is the windon lever. Yes, on the left...

    On the back is the viewfinder, with bright frame., a rewind release lever, and a meter calibration screw.

    On the base is the hotshoe - well where else would you expect it to be? Next to it is the back release lever. In the middle is the tripod bush, surrounded by the frame counter, and on the right is the rewind crank.
    To load, the back slides off once unlocked. The pressure plate is hinged to the camera body, and folds down to allow the film to be loaded. The film cassette goes on the right, and winds to the left - above the film chamber is the battery chamber - it takes a mercury PX 625 battery, which is no longer available, but there are several alternatives - I use a battery adaptor to use a standard silver oxide battery. There's no meter switch, which combined with the battery position inside the film chamber is a real design flaw.

    So all in all, a strange camera, but one I like a lot - it feels great in use, and is capable of excellent results thanks to the outstanding lens - so long as you can estimate distance accurately.

    And amazingly enough, a version of the 35 is still in production today.
  2. mike_j

    mike_j Well-Known Member

    This was a camera I lusted after when it was current but couldn't afford it. Years later I bought one (35T) just for the collection and I HATED it.

    It was a mix of the quirks and various interlocks that had me frustrated.

    Portraits taken with the upside down flash certainly had a distinctive character though and it is a very pretty camera.
  3. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    I can completely understand people not liking it; I'm actually very surprised that I do like it, but I used one (sometimes two) for several years to supplement my SLRs, rangefinders or TLRs - I tried a lot of carry-everywhere cameras, but this ended up as my favourite.
  4. 0lybacker

    0lybacker In the Stop Bath

    You could also mention that the camera - along with its siblings - is very boxy, it is really just a rectangular box. Still very pocketable, though and very usable. Both the Rollei trio and the Minox 35 in its variants could be accurately scale-focused with experience & care and used with the lenses wide-open whereupon the sharpness, both actual & comparative ... all that bokeh before it had been invented :), was impressive.

    I have a notion that after the Olympus XA came on the scene, AP did a comparative test between it and the Rollei & Minox offerings.
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2013

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