Rolleiflex Automat MX issues (to CLA or not?)

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by jspillane, Mar 21, 2013.

  1. jspillane

    jspillane Member

    Messages:
    175
    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2012
    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I suspect I know the final answer here ("get a CLA") but I figured I would put these issues to the people first.

    I have a Rolleiflex Automat MX (K4A) from 1953. I've had it about a year and use it quite regularly, running at least a couple rolls through it every week. It's in semi-rough condition (worn leatherette, a few nicks, etc.) and I suspect it hasn't been serviced in decades, if ever. I've been very happy with its performance until the last couple months, when two issues arose.

    The main issue is loading. It generally performs flawless, but more and more frequently it's been having trouble properly detecting the film. Sometimes this results in it winding through a whole role without locking, sometimes it incorrectly sets the counter to a number over "1" after a fresh roll is put in (usually it jumps all the way to "10," even when it's on it's first frame). I initially assumed that this was a user error on my part, but no matter how scrupulously I load, there is a chance of this problem. I was living with it peacefully until it resulted in trashing my final roll of Delta 3200 last night, preventing me from taking photographs in the lowlight situation I was in, and I decided it wasn't worth putting up with anymore.

    The second problem (perhaps not a problem at all), is image softness. I'd always been happy with the results from the camera, until I recently acquired a Hasselblad 500c with the 120mm S-Planar. I know that the S-Planar should be sharper than the Tessar on my Rollei, but the disparity is remarkable. So much so that I've become a little concerned there may be some kind of issue with the Rollei's lens. I am asking for peoples thoughts on this front, because I don't want to run the Rolleiflex through a costly CLA if it has inherent lens issues-- I am guessing at that point my money would be better spent picking up a 80mm for the Hasselblad and shelving the Rollei for the time being.

    Many thanks for your time, thoughts and expertise!
     
  2. elekm

    elekm Member

    Messages:
    2,059
    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2004
    Location:
    New Jersey (
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    First thing I would do is to check collimation of the lens. That is, is infinity focus correct? As far as photographic lenses are concerned, there is a single focal point for infinity.

    If it is, I would have the camera serviced, which should correct the film loading issue.

    Many of these cameras are nearly 60 years old, and any mechanical device should be serviced.
     
  3. Dan Daniel

    Dan Daniel Subscriber

    Messages:
    764
    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2009
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    The film start issue is a dirt and old grease thing.... and you know what that means.

    The softness could be that the viewing and taking lens are out of alignment. Check over images to see if there are areas in sharp focus other than what you thought you were focusing on? Lens alignment could be off- not unusual for any TLR. There could be old oil and such hazing the lens.... you know the answer to these issues!

    As to the Hasselblad question, there isn't a simple answer. I think the 120 is a pretty darn sharp lens in its own right by reputation? Tessars aren't known for 'bite' like more modern lenses, but they are very capable and shouldn't be grossly soft compared to other lenses. Personally I don't like the blackout after firing the shutter on a Hasselblad and find a TLR much more enjoyable to use in the street and such. I might think about this first- which camera type works well for you, fits the way you like to shoot?
     
  4. ToddB

    ToddB Member

    Messages:
    1,136
    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2012
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Doesn't sound like it's to bad of shape. I would invest in CLA. I have T model with Tessar and the image quality is pin sharp. It might need minor adjustment.

    ToddB
     
  5. arealitystudios

    arealitystudios Member

    Messages:
    229
    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2008
    Location:
    Portland, Or
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I have this exact same camera and yeah, I think a CLA is in order.

    When I bought mine the first thing I did was send it to a camera repair expert and had it fixed up. It has been trouble free since that day (about five years ago) and gets regular use.

    The lens is pretty damn sharp so I'm suspecting an alignment issue. Wide open it might be a tad bit soft at the edges, but it should still be nice and sharp in the center. The Tessar lenses are quite nice and I would put them up against just about any other lens I own.
     
  6. jspillane

    jspillane Member

    Messages:
    175
    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2012
    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    This would actually explain something I noticed exactly. I was doing a tripod shot of a group, with myself in the middle holding a shutter release. I framed and focused, then stepped in and took it. In the final image, I am sharp but the rest of the group is soft-- and I was standing a little bit in front due to the length of the cable. Is a lens alignment adjustment something that would generally be separate from a CLA? I'll start contacting repairmen in my area.

    I love them both and wouldn't want to give up either, ideally. I don't much like the Rolleiflex on a tripod and I find the normal focal length slightly restrictive, which was what led me to pick up a SLR + 120mm. I find it much more satisfying for detailed work (portraits, macro, etc.) but obviously far worse as a walk-around or travel camera.
     
  7. R.Gould

    R.Gould Member

    Messages:
    751
    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2010
    Location:
    Jersey Chann
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I would get a Cla, these are lovely old cameras and well worth the cost of service, and ask the repair shop to check the focus, could be that in the past the camera has been banged or droped and put the adjustment out, These Tessar lenses are pretty good , I have three cameras with Tessars and even wide open the center is very sharp indeed, closed ton 5.6 or better then I would put it up against anything save one, the Ross xpress lens, I also have the same rolleiflex automat as you, dealer bought and serviced, and it just purrs,
    Richard
     
  8. Dan Daniel

    Dan Daniel Subscriber

    Messages:
    764
    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2009
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Seriously, just get an overhaul or walk away from the camera. The film start issue is bigger than the lens issue, actually- you can't get NOTHIN' if the Automat mechanism doesn't kick in. By the time someone cleans that and starts dealing with lens board alignment and focus alignment, you are 80% of the way to a full overhaul. Get a new mirror and update the focus screen and you'll have an almost new camera.

    Great, then, keep them both AND get the 80mm Hassy lens. And the 60mm! And the 50, the 150.... oh wait, that's not your question, eh? :smile:
     
  9. Richard S. (rich815)

    Richard S. (rich815) Subscriber

    Messages:
    4,962
    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2003
    Location:
    San Francisco
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    If the parts are overly worn or any evidence or rust, or if the lens is scratched or has fungus sell it for whatever you can get with an accurate description. If not send it to a GOOD Rollei tech and get a complete overhaul done. Treated right after that and you'll have an awesome camera for years. And trust me on this (from one who speaks from direct experience) do NOT skimp on who does the CLA, get it done by a Rollei specialist. More $? Yes. Better deal in the medium to long run? Absolutely.
     
  10. jspillane

    jspillane Member

    Messages:
    175
    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2012
    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    It's never ending! The plan was just to pick up the 60mm when I find a good one and try to hold off on others for the time being. I'm sure I'll end up with an 80mm (and 180mm and 40mm...) sooner or later. This Rolleiflex overhaul might slow that process down a little, though!
     
  11. jp498

    jp498 Member

    Messages:
    1,465
    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2009
    Location:
    Owls Head ME
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    This is better than a rolleicord. I've got one and wouldn't mind another, but they are selling for big $ on ebay. Keep it and get it working right.
     
  12. FL Guy

    FL Guy Member

    Messages:
    45
    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2013
    Location:
    right here!
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Service overdue

    Good advice on the "who" does the CLA. I had my 3.5 F CLA'ed about 5 years ago by Bill Maxwell (Maxwell Precision Products) in the Atlanta area. Bill also has a line of replacement focusing screens that you might want to upgrade to at the same time. I didn't have a focus issue like you are having but I recall Bill verified the taking lens focus with the viewing lens as part of his service package. Bill and Harry Fleenor (did I spell that correctly) on the W Coast are apparently buddies, if that says anything professionally.

    Good Luck!
    FL Guy
     
  13. jspillane

    jspillane Member

    Messages:
    175
    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2012
    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    The plot thickens. I've been speaking with some repairmen, and the other issue mention regarding possible focusing issues is if the lens elements were swapped out with a different 'flex at some point by a previous user or repairman.

    Sure enough, a quick serial number check reveals my Rollei, No. 1219317, is a MX with 75mm Tessar-- however that model number should have a Tessar Jena lens. My example has an Opton Tessar. Perhaps I'm incorrect, but I assume the serial numbers don't lie, and that there shouln't be any No. 12XXXXX models with anything other than a Jena on them.

    Does any body have any experience our thoughts on this issue? Am I (as I fear) starting to enter lost-cause territory here?
     
  14. elekm

    elekm Member

    Messages:
    2,059
    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2004
    Location:
    New Jersey (
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    Those serial number guides aren't always accurate. They usually are accurate but not always.

    For example, I have a Rolleicord that is part of a batch that should have a Schneider-Kreuznach Xenar, when in fact it has a Carl Zeiss Jena Triotar.

    What is more important is that the serial number on the front of the lens should match the number on the rear element.

    It usually is engraved on the lens barrel, so you normally cannot see it. If you have mismatched elements, that definitely could be the culprit to a soft photo.

    If the camera is a bit beat, it's always possible that the camera might have been dropped at some point, knocking the lens out of alignment. With beaters, it's just so hard to say what might have happened to them in the past.

    I hope you are able to get the issues resolved.
     
  15. Brett Rogers

    Brett Rogers Member

    Messages:
    145
    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2012
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    May I suggest you check the alignment of the viewing and taking lenses in the first instance? It's possible the composition of the lens elements has been tampered with, however the focus discrepancy you described in the group photo could be very easily explained by the likelihood the viewing and taking lenses are not tracking together. In which case, you may have obtained a sharp image of the faces on the viewfinder screen, however if the viewing lens is a little off the true focus of the taking lens, the actual point of focus on the film will be slightly different. I mentioned this recently in my first post at APUG here and provide detailed instructions for dialling in the two lenses of a Rollei to achieve accurate focus.

    It is of course also possible there is a focus misalignment due to the parallelism of the lens board to the camera film plane being out of factory specification. This is 0.05mm across diagonal corners, and is fiddly and time consuming to set back to spec unless you have some particular equipment to make the process faster and easier. If this was the case, you may (or may not) be able to notice that objects in the image at the same distance from the camera are variable in sharpness across the frame (Eg. one side sharper than the other). Hope this assists.
    Regards,
    Brett
     
  16. FL Guy

    FL Guy Member

    Messages:
    45
    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2013
    Location:
    right here!
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Get 2nd Opinion.........

    I think you have basically 2 options:

    1- Get Hasselblad 80mm lens and go with a SLR kit.

    2- Send the Rollei to a repair facility, with the first question being the focus issue. A competent repair tech can probably quickly determine if the focus issue is terminal. The CLA is a given at this point, related to $s, it is more a case of can the focus issue be resolved.

    The cost of the repairs/CLA for the Rollei probably are equal to the lens purchase, and if you go the CLA route with the Rollei you should do yourself the favor of upgrading the focus screen, so likely all-in more than buying the 80mm. It may come down to your desire to continue with the TLR experience vs. the SLR. I own both a TLR and SLR (SLX) Rollei, they are a totally different shooting experience in practice.

    Good Luck!

    FL Guy
     
  17. jspillane

    jspillane Member

    Messages:
    175
    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2012
    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    @FLGuy

    That is essentially what I am pondering now. I've spoken to a few technicians, and while I don't have concrete info until I take the camera in somewhere, it sounds like it is unlikely to be a terminal problem. However, the cost of the full CLA + new mirror + new screen is making me wonder if I'm in the financial position to meaningfully support two medium format systems. I love the Rolleiflex, but I don't think I can choose it over the Hasselblad, if only for reasons of versatility. I almost wish I hadn't recently come into the 'blad, just so the decision to go all in on the Rolleiflex wouldn't be so hard!

    I'll spend the weekend hand-holding the Hasselblad and continue to explore the repair options for the Rolleiflex. The idea of seeing it restored and functioning perfectly is very appealing... I suspect I will end up shelving it for a month or two and setting aside the funds, because it would be sad to see it go.
     
  18. FL Guy

    FL Guy Member

    Messages:
    45
    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2013
    Location:
    right here!
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Aging Camera, kinda like Aging Relatives................

    There are similarities between the "aging" process for both cameras and people, how do you keep them vital and relevant as they age. In your financial analysis, think of what you might sink into the Rollei as a pre-payment on another 40 years of usage. Right now it is probably 60 years or so old, so the CLA and repairs are like a visit to the "fountain of Youth" for the Rollei.

    You do have some decisions and choices, and your choice of the "Blad in the first place had merit, but the Rollei has cornered you into a financial balancing act of "what to do?".

    Decisions, decisions................

    FL Guy