Rollei TLR recommendations...

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by jasonjoo, May 23, 2007.

  1. jasonjoo

    jasonjoo Member

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    I was looking through KEH's used catalog and wandered over to the Rollei section. It seems like there are plenty of different kinds of TLRs. For the best bang for your buck, which would you recommend?

    Parts availability and ease of finding a repair service are 2 things that really concern me. BTW, I will be doing landscapes and candid portraits almost equally, so a fast lens would be nice! Also, do TLR's have the ability to switch to different films rapidly? I know cameras that use the "back system" can have back changed fairly easily, but I am not sure how a TLR is setup.

    ANY TLR recommendations would be appreciated, though Rollei seems to be a favorite!

    Thanks again for helping me out guys, I truly appreciate it! BTW, my budget is around the $1000 range, though I'd like to spend roughly half of that to perhaps fund some other things. $300-500 seems ideal!
     
  2. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    Nope...once you put film in TLR, you gotta run it all the way through.

    My choice is a Rollei 2.8 TLR. But it is a personal bias. Still many good repair people out there for them.

    Dang collectors with Rolleis sitting unused on shelves have driven up prices -- $1000 will get you a good one. You might be lucky and find something for $500, probably a 3.5, but it might need to be sent to a repair person for a CLA.

    Vaughn

    Your milage may differ....
     
  3. jasonjoo

    jasonjoo Member

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    Thanks Vaughn. I guess prices are judged by the speed of the lens?

    Are the lenses the same caliber in terms of sharpness and other aspects other than the speed?

    BTW, I am open to other companies as well. I'm drawn to the TLR's due to their small form factor and quietness. I'd like a WLF and built in meter as well!

    Any recommendations?
     
  4. Richard Wasserman

    Richard Wasserman Member

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    I don't know about current prices, but I have a Rollei 3.5F with a Planar lens and it is probably my favorite camera. I had it CLA'd by Harry Fleenor who installed a Maxwell screen and it is a joy to use, the reults are stunning. I highly recommend them.

    Richard Wasserman
     
  5. jasonjoo

    jasonjoo Member

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    Richard, I was JUST looking through Harry's website! He is conveniently located not too far from me!

    I just emailed him, asking if I should purchase a beat up Rollei TLR (bargain or perhaps even an ugly model on KEH) and let him fix it up. I'm not sure if this is the smartest way, but I'm looking for a cheap alternative and a working Rollei TLR.

    Has anyone bought UGLY items from KEH? How did things turn out?

    Thanks again guys!
     
  6. Peter De Smidt

    Peter De Smidt Member

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    I have a 3.5 Automat from 1953. (They can often be bought for $100 -$200) It works really well, but an enhanced brightness screen is manditory for any of these cameras. I have a Beattie Intenscreen +, and it's a huge improvment. I'd probably go a Maxwell now. (I have one for my 4x5, and it's terrific.) The early "non-removable hood" Rolleis like mine have a different sized screen from the later models, and so be sure to get the right screen. (Note: it's easy to replace the screen on the "non-removable hood" Rolleis.) Then plan on getting it overhauled by Fleenor. Make sure the glass is great and that the focusing mechanism (the part that moves in and out with the lens) doesn't have much play.

    In my opinion carrying a separate light meter is a much better idea than paying a ton more for a Rollei with a build in meter. Also, I don't see much advantage in going for a 2.8 model over a 3.5.

    Enjoy!
     
  7. Rolleiflexible

    Rolleiflexible Member

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    Jason, as you have noted, there are many flavors of Rolleiflex. The basic divisions may be made by lenses. Earlier models, and later less expensive models, were equipped with 75mm f/3.5 Zeiss Tessar lenses or Schneider Xenar lenses. Both are effectively the same lens. They are bitingly sharp, very contrasty. Wide-open they begin to show softness in the corners but that's gone by the time you stop down to f/8.

    Later models came with Zeiss Planar/Schneider Xenotar lenses -- again, no meaningful difference between the two. The principal distinction between the Tessars and the Planars is that the Planars are sharp across the entire field even at wide apertures. So, if you need to shoot wide-open, and you want your corners sharp, then the Planars may be the lens for you. That said, there are many Rollei shooters who prefer the Tessars -- the differences are subtle, and not simply a matter of sharpness at the extremes.

    The Planars and Xenotars come in two sizes -- the 75mm f/3.5, and the 80mm f/2.8. Again, as with the Tessar/Planar division, there are religious camps for each lens. Those in the f/2.8 camp say the extra half-stop makes for a faster lens. Those in the f/3.5 camp say that the extra increment is meaningless, and that the f/3.5 lens design is superior and uncompromised (the Zeiss designers had to work hard to make an 80mm lens fit on a Rolleiflex).

    I've shot them all. I can't see a bit of difference between any of them: Tessar, Xenar, Xenotar, Planar, 2.8, 3.5, they all look delicious to me. My 2.8C (Xenotar) does not seem to resolve detail quite as well as my 3.5E (Planar) but I hesitate to attribute that to the lens -- the 2.8C has a dimmer viewscreen and it could be my error, not the lens's.

    And that in the end is the deciding factor: The user. User error will have a far greater impact on the negative than any attribute of any of these lenses. The bottom line is that any Rolleiflex with clear lenses in good repair will give you extraordinary photographs, if you use it with skill and care.

    If you are looking for a good entry-level Rolleiflex, I would recommend looking for an MX-EVS in good shape. They will be outfitted with a Tessar or Xenar, they're built like tanks, and they can be found in good condition on eBay for maybe $300. Take the money you save on passing up a 2.8F and invest it in (1) a Maxwell screen, which will give you a much brighter viewfinder, and (2) a CLA from a reputable Rollei repair guy. Then your camera will be better than new, and you'll shoot it with confidence for another 20 years or so.

    Have fun.

    Sanders McNew
     
  8. jasonjoo

    jasonjoo Member

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    Thank you Peter. I think a good way to determine if the extra 2/3 stop is necessary is walk around with my DSLR (forgive me folks!) and shoot in f2.8 or f3.5. To be honest, I shoot mainly with fast lenses and a flash for the most part, so I am a bit weary with using a f3.5 lens. However, even f2.8 is not fast enough for some of the indoor work that I do, but the Rollei will be used for different purposes as well.

    Sanders, thanks so much for that write up. I'm assured now that the lenses do not matter too much. While image quality is important, I've become less and less "picky."

    So far, it seems like the f3.5 Rollei's are the best "bang for your buck." I'll have to do a bit more research into them as well.

    BTW, is it just me or do Rollei TLR's look cute? They're so small and compact :smile:
     
  9. Rolleiflexible

    Rolleiflexible Member

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    No, Jason, it's not you: They do look cute. Women swoon at the sight of them. (So do I.)

    Another reason to avoid the 2.8 series is the cost of accessories. All the Tessars and Xenars take Bay 1 lens hoods and filters. They are plentiful and cheap. The 3.5 Planars and Xenotars take Bay 2 attachments -- less plentiful, less affordable. The 2.8s all take Bay 3 attachments, and they are scarcer and expensive.

    A lens hood is an absolute necessity, to protect the taking lens from fingers and doors and such as much as the sun. Expect to pay maybe $50 for a Bay 1 hood in decent shape -- triple that for a Bay 3 hood.

    Sanders
     
  10. jasonjoo

    jasonjoo Member

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    Thanks again Sanders. I was looking through the KEH catalog and it seems like some of the f2.8 lenses are cheaper than the f3.5 lenses in similar condition.

    For example, the Rollei TLR w/ 2.8 C XENOTAR in bargain conditions is $429, while a Rollei TLR w/ 3.5 Planar is $499. What's the reason for this? I thought the f2.8 lenses were more expensive?
     
  11. Rolleiflexible

    Rolleiflexible Member

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    They tend to be. But the 2.8C is an older camera, and that has good points and bad points. One good point is that the shutter is an older design, with a round aperture. But that is also a bad point -- many will prefer the more advanced shutter design, that allows aperture and shutter speeds to be adjusted together. The 2.8C also has plastic tabs for the shutter lock and flash sync, that are prone to snapping off -- a weakness to be aware of. I think the 2.8C's body has a more Deco look to it than later Rolleiflexes. My guess is that the Planar is an E or F series, which would command a higher price.

    One last thought: You might contact Ken Hansen and see what he has available. Ken had a shop on Madison Avenue for decades, and sold Rolleiflexes and Leicas and large-format gear to New York's most prominent photographers. (He sold 31 Rolleiflexes to Richard Avedon over the years.) Ken closed his shop a few years ago, but he continues to trade in Rolleiflexes and Leicas from his apartment here in the city. His prices are not the cheapest. But he has every Rolleiflex he sells cleaned and adjusted by Krikor Maralian of Krimar Camera (on a par with Harry Fleenor), and a Maxwell screen installed, before the camera leaves his hands. And Ken warrants the cameras, and will always take a camera back if it does not meet your expectations. I bought my first Rolleiflex from Ken in 1999, and I just bought a Tele Rolleiflex from him last November, and I cannot overstate his integrity, or recommend him highly enough. You can certainly find a Rolleiflex less expensivley on eBay, but you will likely end up spending more money putting it into working condition. With Ken, you get a measure of assurance that the camera is in sound condition, with no hidden issues, and no need to send it out for repair.

    You can reach Ken at KHPNY19@aol.com. Honestly, you should check with Ken before springing for a camera from KEH. KEH is a fine business, but I'd buy from Ken first if he has something that meets your needs.

    Sanders
     
  12. jasonjoo

    jasonjoo Member

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    Thanks Sanders. I will be sure to send Ken an email and let him know you sent me there!

    But at the moment, I am looking for the best deal in town. However, since I am already considering the Maxwell screen and a complete CLA by Harry Fleenor, I may just spend the same amount of money with Ken. Harry Fleenor is local to me, so that is a bonus as well.

    Do you have any specific models I should request for? Since the f3.5 models seem cheaper, I may just go with one of those, though I am a bit weary at this point. I'd like to take indoor candid portraits with available light.

    Thanks again for your help!
     
  13. Rolleiflexible

    Rolleiflexible Member

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    Harry is local to you, but Harry usually has a backlog of work measured in months. If so, and you are in need of service work, you should consider using Krikor. You can find him at www.krimarphoto.com -- his turnaround is usually a few days and his work is dependable.

    As for models ... I would ask for a 3.5E. It is the acme of Rollei build quality, and the last Rolleiflex not to have light meters coupled to the shutter.

    I shoot portraits under hotlights and in available light, so I totally appreciate your concern for speed. Trust me: The 2.8 doesn't get you any further than the 3.5. This is film, not digital. The extra half-stop is lost in all the variables of metering and exposing and developing your film. And as you come to know the camera, you will find that they balance well in the palm of your hand, making it very easy to shoot handheld at slow shutter speeds. I've shot handheld at 1/15 and 1/8 second with great results, with the help of a cable release to minimize camera movement.

    The concern for shooting handheld portraits in available light might -- might -- lead me to opt for the Planar/Xenontar over the Tessar/Xenar cameras, because they will be sharper (in theory) wide-open. For that kind of work, it is probably worth the extra cash for the better lens. But I wouldn't lose sleep over the 3.5's speed vis-avis the 2.8 lenses.

    Sanders
     
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  15. jasonjoo

    jasonjoo Member

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    Thanks again Sanders. You really know your Rollei's well and I apprecaite all your help!

    I'm really not TOO concerned with sharpness, though if one lens is particular sharper than the other, that would always be a bonus. I will have to take a look at the 3.5 Planar/Xenonthar lenses. I'll also have to contact Harry and see how long it will take for a CLA.

    Edit: After a quick search on eBay or KEH, I cannot find a 3.5E. If the TLR does not have a light meter built in, does it mean the camera can run without a battery? Not so much necessary, but that seems pretty cool to me!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 24, 2007
  16. Ulrich Drolshagen

    Ulrich Drolshagen Subscriber

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    There is another issue to consider as it comes to available light indoors. DOF is much shallower with MF than it is with 35mm or even d*****. So this 1/2 stop is of limited use anyway. The focusing lens is always 1:2.8

    Ulrich
     
  17. jasonjoo

    jasonjoo Member

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    Thanks Ulrich. I've been thinking about that as well. I guess the DOF would be VERY shallow at f2.8!
     
  18. Rolleiflexible

    Rolleiflexible Member

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    Shallow, but not unusably shallow, if you know how to shoot with it -- you have to make sure that all critical elements are near the focal plane but it can be done. I have no exact examples online, but here's a link to a portrait I shot at about f/5 with my 135mm Tele Rolleiflex, from 2-3 feet away -- a DOF thinner than what you will see wide-open with a regular Rolleiflex:

    http://www.apug.org/gallery/showphoto.php?photo=24296&cat=500&ppuser=5854

    As for light meters and batteries, the E-series Rolleiflex meters do not use batteries. I do not know when the Rolleis first required batteries. I prefer a mechanical camera without batteries.

    Sanders
     
  19. light leak

    light leak Member

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  20. dpurdy

    dpurdy Member

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    There are a couple of other concerns that might or might not interest you. There is a prism available for the rollei that I use a lot and is only usable on the later models.. E2, E3 and F. Also you will find with portraiture that you often need the close up lenses (Rolleinars) and they are more expensive in 2.8 (bay 3) than 3.5 (bay 2). I am committed to the 2.8F and 2.8FX and though the TLR has its drawbacks it is... (I can't think of an apt word) ..delicious? to use.
     
  21. ricksplace

    ricksplace Member

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    The prism also fits the Rolleiflex T.
    There is also a 6X45 kit for the Rolleiflex T that changes the film advance to 16 shots on a roll. Place the steel mask in the film chamber, and a small cam is actuated in the camera that changes the film spacing and exposure counting. (Gotta love that German engineering) Another mask is inserted in the viewing screen, et voila! a 645 TLR! You pretty much have to use a prism with it. Just try to cope with focusing a TLR on its side when right and left are reversed. I think it may cause brain damage...

    BTW -the prism attachment for Rolleiflexes produces a viewed image that is correct, like an SLR.

    Of all my MF gear, I use my Rolleiflex T the most.
     
  22. Rolleiflexible

    Rolleiflexible Member

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    Here's a portrait shot at f/4 with a Rolleiflex 3.5E, focused as close to the subject as the camera allowed:

    http://www.apug.org/gallery/showphoto.php?photo=22022&cat=500&ppuser=5854

    If you want to frame more closely than this, you must use a set of close-up lenses called Rolleinars. The Rolleinars will not degrade the images, but at some point perspective distortion will become an issue with the regular Rolleiflex 75/80mm lenses. One reason I shoot with a Tele Rolleiflex now (with its 135mm f/4 Sonnar lens) is to minimize that distortion while shooting tighter portraits -- see my APUG gallery for numerous examples.

    Sanders.
     
  23. Greg_E

    Greg_E Member

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    Not one mention of the poor little Rolliecord?

    And Sanders, thanks for the mention of your prefered repair place... I have an old original model 'flex (f3.8) that I bought for a song. I was going to restore it myself because I like that kind of work, but haven't had the time to do so. I may just send it in for a rebuild. It is mostly in great shape for its age, but the hinges and locking braces for the viewfinder shade need to be repaired. Needs paint and leather, and probably shutter timed and focus lubed.

    But one question... Does anyone know of a brighter screen that also has a bubble level embedded in it for the original 'flex?
     
  24. Helen B

    Helen B Member

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    The later Rolleiflexes like the FX, GX and FW etc that have batteries for the light meters do not rely on the batteries - they are simply mechanical cameras with light meters.

    Best,
    Helen
     
  25. jasonjoo

    jasonjoo Member

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    Thanks for the information on the prisms. However, I am really drawn to the WLF (they're just so big and beautiful :smile: )!

    As for the minimum focusing distance, what exactly is it? I'm looking at the f3.5 TLR's at the moment if that matters. I'd like to get tight crops, but this could be achieved with a bit of cropping as well correct? With the negative being so large, I'm sure I would not lose TOO much detail when cropping.

    And thanks for that information Helen!
     
  26. dpurdy

    dpurdy Member

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    You will find the minimum focus distance around a meter. the lenses do hold up to cropping well enough for head and shoulders but I think you will probably find you want the rolleinars and the distortion from the number 2 can be used very interestingly. See Irving Penn who I think used a 3.5 a lot.