Some Rolleiflex FX questions

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Matus Kalisky, Nov 17, 2011.

  1. Matus Kalisky

    Matus Kalisky Member

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    Rolleiflex FX is a very intriguing camera for me, for some reason (as does the the Contax 645, to be honest). I used to have a Rolleiflex T which I loved, but at some point used it to fund the Mamiya 6 which I still have (and like). Still - I keep missing the Rolleiflex, so here I am asking a few questions. This time about the FX.

    First of all - I am fully aware of the high price the FX commands, but I would like to put that aside. I am also not really asking whether the lens is "better" than previous modes. From the samples I have seen it seems to be bit more contrasty (not a surpris give the modern coatings). Of course if anybody has some interesting remarks, please do share :smile:

    What I would like to ask is how does the FX compares to late F (3.5 and 2.8) models in real use. How does it feels in hand? In particular I would like to ask how is the light metering implemented. I am actually used to hand held meter both with the Rolleiflex and Mamiya 6 (must be the camera with the world's worst built-in metering), but would actually prefer to have a built in meter - as long as it implemented in some user friendly fashion.

    Question to those that know the camera from the inside too - how is the build quality? Should I expect the camera to serve for next 50 years as the previous models do (when CLAd).

    Simply put - I would like to know how is the FX like.
     
  2. gedra

    gedra Member

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    I had many of the same questions as you and just ordered a new FX. It should arrive within the next few days and I will try to find this thread and post a direct comparison between it and my 3.5F. The price was high, but the 3.5 has become my all time favorite camera and I wanted to experience the final evolution of the design.
     
  3. Matus Kalisky

    Matus Kalisky Member

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    Excellent! I hope you will enjoy you new camera. Please share your opinions then.
     
  4. dpurdy

    dpurdy Member

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    I bought an FX new in 2008. Depending on where you get the camera it is going to be a little different now. They have changed the leather to black and gotten rid of the chrome edging on the back door. I think both of those things are an improvement. The brown stain on the cowhide of mine wears off a bit in the places you repeatedly handle the camera and the chrome edging loses it's very high shine after you have handled it awhile. I think the new black leather is more durable and there now is no chrome edge to wear off. Also I think the black looks much better.
    If you get the camera new from fototechink in Germany the lens is no longer called a Planar. It is still a Planar but they no longer have the license from Zeiss to use the name so they have created another name.. that escapes me right now. It is still the same lens though with the same coating.
    The loss of the auto feeler from the old F is a good thing. That auto feeler is nothing but a pia in my experience. I am happy to line up the arrow with the red dot on the FX. This removal of the auto feeler makes the transport mechanism a bit simpler in design.
    I have both a late version 2.8F Xenotar and the FX. Both have been to harry fleenor for adjustment and maxwell screens. When the FX arrived it would focus slightly through infinity.. meaning if I had to focus the lens out a tiny bit to get infinity in focus. If I racked the lens all the way into the body, infinity was a little out of focus. Harry fixed that for me no problem and I don't know if they all come that way or if mine was an oddball. I do have a friend with a very new FX and he didn't have that problem.
    The feel of the cameras is very similar. The weight feels the same. The FX has slightly easier focus movement and slightly easier fstop/shutter speed control movement. The FX feels very solid in use. The shutter release is not as smooth as the old F but it is smoother than the GX and it is merely a matter of learning the sweet spot. I have no problem with it and if you are going to use the meter, the led lights will help you know the sweet spot.
    Some of the parts of the FX and F are interchangeable, the WLF and prisms of course but also you can buy old stock replacements for the F strap hangers with the opening hinge and put those on the FX and then you can put an old F back door on or even the sheet film back.
    The older Rolleis have chrome rollers inside, that caused reflection problems for a lot of people and they fixed that in the FX by putting in black rollers.
    The magnifier in the WLF on the FX is a little bit stronger than in the old F, sort of in between stock and +1 diopter.
    As I understand (Idon't know for sure) the focus screen on the FX/GX is interchangeable with the 6000 series cameras. It is not interchangeable with the older TLRs. It is a bit smaller.
    The sound of the shutter releasing on the FX is a little louder than the F but not something to worry about.
    The meter is good as far as everyone who uses it likes it. I don't use it and don't even keep a battery in my FX. The led lights coming on at the top of the view is a bit annoying to me.
    I will stop my writing now but maybe you can ask specific questions if you have them.
    If you decide you would rather have a really nice F with the Planar instead, I am selling one now on ebay. It is in really good condition with perfect lenses. It is item number: 180755359269 I have a reserve on it at 2000.00.

    Dennis Purdy
     
  5. Matus Kalisky

    Matus Kalisky Member

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    Denis, thank you very much for your detailed answer. I did not know that the brown models preceded the black ones. I do have a few questions left though:

    Does the FX takes standard cable release? The PDF manual says yes, but all the images I have seen show the release that looks like a "soft release" without any thread in it. Or does one has to screw it out to be able to attach a cable release?

    I did not really understand the part where you said: " ... you can buy old stock replacements for the F strap hangers with the opening hinge and put those on the FX ... " Does this means that FX uses different style of attaching the neck strap to the camera than the older Rolleiflex models? It does look a bit different and it seems that one does not have to re-attach the strap to the camera case if the camera is stored inside it - contrary to older models.
     
  6. dpurdy

    dpurdy Member

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    The FX takes the regular old cable release. it comes stock with a little soft touch button screwed in but you screw that out and it is just like the older rolleis.
    The difference between the FX strap holder and the older ones is that the older ones have a release latch that allows you to take off the back door. The FX does not have that release switch built in. It is completely unnecessary unless you want to replace the back with the sheet film back.. or previously the plate glass back. So the only reason I mentioned it is to say the bodies are the same as the old rolleis. I do have the sheet film back and it was interesting to me to be able to put the back on the FX.
    The FX uses the old style alligator strap connector. I am not sure how the new case works as I have never seen one. The old one you have to connect the strap outside the case... another PIA

    The coatings on the Planar do make a difference for flare. Previously the Planar had a bit more flare tendency than the Xenotar but the HFT coating makes it more flare resistant than that.
     
  7. aeoc

    aeoc Member

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    dpurdy,
    Since you have both the 2.8F xenotar and 2.8FX, I'm wondering if you could help answer some questions. Right now I am tossing up between the 2.8F xenotar and a 2.8GX (apparently similar to the FX) and I'm finding it hard to make a decision. The GX is however, cheaper than the F.
    I like the physical design of the 2.8F (rollei emblem on top of waistfinder, nicer name plate, no strap rail on the sides), the fact that the shutter is softer and shutter button easier to depress are big pluses. I also am quite fond of the idea of shooting a xenotar lens, from what I've read online, apparently it is slightly sharper and has more contrast than the older planars.
    How bad is the selenium meter? From what I've read online, it seems like no one trusts and uses the meter.


    The GX is cheaper, newer, and has a electronic meter, which would be very useful.


    If you could only own one rolleiflex, would you pick your 2.8f xenotar or 2.8fx?


    Another question, regarding the xenotar and hft planar, how do they compare in contrast, bokeh quality and temperature? I'm sure the differences would be subtle, but please share your thoughts.
     
  8. dpurdy

    dpurdy Member

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    Interesting that you are finding the GX cheaper than an F. I have been trying to decide for 3 years now which of my two cameras I should sell. I have done side by side testing over and over shooting exactly the same things or test subjects. Setting up a tripod and switching cameras back and forth. They are just too close to tell. It always comes down to slight focusing errors or differences. Also I have been a Rollei lens testing idiot for years in search of the holy grail slightly sharper individual lens. I have owned and tested both 2.8 and 3.5 Xenotars and Planars. I have come to the conclusion that the most amazing thing about Rollei lenses is just how exactly the same they all perform. I have shot a lot of very tightly controlled sharpness tests even going so far as to set up test patterns in the basement on concrete floor and make the exposure by turning the room light on and off so there was no possibility of camera shake. Then putting the negatives at the highest my enlarger will go using a 50mm lens and examining them with a grain focuser. At that point you start to realize that focusing error is the only thing that makes one lens less sharp in a given test.
    Right now I have 3 cameras on hand all with pristine lenses. a 2.8 Xenotar, a 2.8 single coated Planar and a 2.8 HFT coated Planar. I have done my side by side testing with these 3 and I am convinced that the only difference is flare control... and that difference is slight. The HFT coated Planar is slightly better than the single coated Xenotar and that is slightly better than the single coated Planar. I have tested this with a variety of back lit situations and it is consistently true. It is most noticeable when using a Rolleinar close up lens on a back lit subject.
    That said, I think a little bit of flare is not necessarily a bad thing. It can give a sense of atmosphere and light.

    I have been reading in another forum lately how the Planar has better bokeh than the Xenotar. In my tests I have not seen any difference at all but I have always tested for sharpness rather than unsharpness. I don't shoot a lot of color but the single coating on the Xenotar has a bluish/purplish color while the single coated Planar has a yellowish coating. People say that carries over in color so that the Xenotar gives slightly cooler color images than the Planar. I have shot a few rolls of color in the FX and it just has a very modern look to it, well saturated color and clean contrast. I am not very knowledgeable in color film or photos.

    I have no idea how to decide which of my 2 cameras I would keep. The third camera I have is only because a friend wants me to sell it and that is now on ebay item number 180755359269

    My 2.8F has an old world feel to it with buttery shutter release, the 2.8FX has a new camera feel to it with shinier metal with sharper edges and a snappy new sounding shutter. I have taken them both on extended shooting trips including going to Mexico twice, once with the FX and once with the F. They both are very dependable.

    The shutter release with the hitch on the GX or FX is a big concern for a lot of people. The new shutter release now activates the meter half way down. I have never used a GX but I hear it has more of a hitch than the FX. For me it was a matter of learning how the shutter button feels and knowing right where the shutter will trip. I think if you use the new meter with the red and green LEDs it is easier to know that spot because they come on.

    I am sure the new TTL meter is better than the old selenium meter. The new meter reads a spot about the size of a dime in the center of the view. The old one is that row of sensors across the top of the camera. The old one reads a huge area including a lot of sky. You have to think about what all is affecting the reading of the old one. Also the little circle that you have to match over the needle in the meter on the handle of the older camera is not a very precise or fine adjustment. I am sure though that it is a matter of learning to use it and the types of things you shoot. I have always used a hand held spot meter. I don't even keep a battery in the FX because I don't like the LEDs coming on.

    It is definitely fun to think and write about this stuff. thanks
    Dennis
     
  9. dpurdy

    dpurdy Member

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  10. Henning Serger

    Henning Serger Member

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    Hello Matus,

    I've seen the camera from inside, because I had the opportunity to visit the factory in Braunschweig (two times, it's not far from my home town), see the production and talk to the people who build it.
    From what I've seen I say yes, you can expect the camera to serve for the next 50 years. Excellent build quality.

    Best regards,
    Henning
     
  11. dpurdy

    dpurdy Member

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    That would be an interesting tour. Did you take photos? Did they give any sort of talk and did they address the issue of the quality compared to the older Rolleis?
    Dennis
     
  12. Henning Serger

    Henning Serger Member

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    Hello Dennis,

    yes, it have been two very interesting tours, organised by German aphog.de.
    We talked a lot, especially with our "guide" who has been working for the company for decades and have experienced all the ups and downs of the company (this company has got in insolvency many times and every time "rise from the ashes like Phoenix :wink: ").
    We even had the possibility to talk to some workers which assembled the FX, FW and FT TLRs.
    Well, concerning quality: Probably even a bit better than the older models because of now more modern and precise machines (computer operated, they had the newest machinery there for some production steps). And more modern and precise quality control gear.
    Assembling ist still all hand made. As well as quality control.
    Very interesting was also the lens production, and the new Hy6 model (which is now again in production after the restart of the company as DHW Fototechnik).
    They are now producing the classic Rollei 35 again as well (but extremely pricey, this model is aimed at collectors, whereas the TLRs, the Hy6, 6008 and the famous slide projectors are aimed at photographers).

    Best regards,
    Henning
     
  13. aeoc

    aeoc Member

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    dpurdy,

    Thank you very much for answering my question in such perfect detail. I really do appreciate it.

    I think I might go for the 2.8gx now, unless I can find a 2.8F xenotar for much cheaper.

    I noticed that you mentioned you don't use the meter on your 2.8FX, do you meter exclusively using a handheld meter?


    Again thanks a lot for your time and effort!


    Kind regards,
    Charles
     
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  15. dpurdy

    dpurdy Member

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    Yes I have always used a spot meter. It is not a reflection on the quality of the FX/GX meter, it is just the way I was taught in photo school and I have always used a Pentax spot meter.
    As I understand it from the FX manual, the meter in the GX/FX is very center weighted. It reads a spot about the size of a US dime... a small coin. At that size you have to be careful about what your meter is reading. You almost have to think like you are using a spot meter.
    Dennis
     
  16. dpurdy

    dpurdy Member

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    Great to read this positive report. Some people are saying how cheaply the FX is being made and that it is full of plastic parts. That it isn't really a Rolleiflex anymore.
    The only cheapness I can attest to is the lens name plate around the Planar. It used to be screwed in and now it is glued in.
    Dennis
     
  17. Henning Serger

    Henning Serger Member

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    Hello Dennis,
    from what I've seen at the factory I have to disagree to those who say the FX may be cheaply made.
    If I had the money I would go for a new FX, without hesitation (my prefered photo shop / minilab here in my town has an FX in the showcase; I am tempted every time when I am there.....:whistling:)
    A friend of mine is using one and he is extremely satiesfied.

    And others with much better knowledge in camera construction then me also have confidence in the FX.
    For example Claus Prochnow, an engineer and designer who worked at Rollei for decades.
    After he had retired he wrote some excellent books about all Rollei products (and Voigtländer as well).
    This book series is called "Rollei Report", six books in total. Published at Lindemanns Verlag, Stuttgart, Germany.

    In book/report 2 the Rolleiflex 3,5 and 2,8 models and the FX are described in detail. In report 4 the GX is described. He clearly points out where the differences between all these models are.
    And from his description I have no clues to doubt the quality of the GX or FX.

    Best regards,
    Henning
     
  18. Matus Kalisky

    Matus Kalisky Member

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    Some very interesting information, thank you guys. I am also happy to hear that FX is made to high standards. Seems like it could be a good investment if one plans to use one for a long time.

    Now, concerning the GX and FX models. What are, apart from the stiffer shutter release, the relevant differences? Can the stiffer shutter of the GX be mitigated by a technician?
     
  19. dpurdy

    dpurdy Member

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    Except for the strap hanger, the difference is only cosmetic. I think the answer to the shutter release is just getting used to it. Also if you use a cable release it is a moot point.
    Dennis
     
  20. gedra

    gedra Member

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    After all of Dennis' information, I'm not sure if I can add anything specific but here are some thoughts on my 3 day old (to me) FX. The feel in the hand is nearly indistinguishable from my 3.5F. Fit and finish are superb. Focus control is smoother on the FX and aperture adjusts by 1/2 stops rather than smooth transition. The opening back on the FX feels lighter and the knobs to secure the film spools are plastic and have no hold open detent on the FX, where the F has steel knobs with a hold open feature. I like the F setup better, but that's a small item. The meter is either spot on or 1/2 stop slower than both my Sekonic spot meter and Luna Pro reflected meter making casual shots easy. I haven't collected all the parts yet to test the TTL flash. The shutter is not quite as precise and has a longer throw on the FX, but after a roll or two I don't think this would be a problem for anyone. Build quality is outstanding on both cameras. The FX controls have, to me, a more modern and precise feel something like the difference between my Nikon F2A and FM2n. The two rolls of Tri X run so far look great, but I cannot make a lens comment on this small sample other than to say they are both excellent. You really cannot go wrong with either the classic or new Rolleiflex. If longevity is a major concern I'd recommend the newer camera as the build quality is just as good and the materials and manufacturing techniques are advanced by 30 years. Good luck with your choice.
     
  21. dpurdy

    dpurdy Member

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    I forgot about the film knob difference. From time to time I have seen old stock replacement knobs on ebay and they look like they could be put on in place of the new style. I agree with you that the ability to click the knob in the out position is better.
    Another thing I am interested to find out about the new FX is the tensioner with the bandaid on it where you put in a new roll of film. When I got my FX new that tensioner held a new roll of film very tightly so it took quite a pull to get the leader pulled out. Then the bandaid had a hole worn in it after about 10 rolls of film. I took the bandaid off my camera and it got a little better. Now I have run another 75 rolls of film through the FX and I see no negative affect from not having the band aid in there.
    Dennis
     
  22. gedra

    gedra Member

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    Hi Dennis,
    I also note that the film advance feels tighter on the FX and am glad to hear that it improves over time. Perhaps the camera parts simply need to be used and broken in. Removing the band aid at some point might improve mine as well. In researching my decision to buy an FX I read many posts by you on the internet and do appreciate your insight.
     
  23. dpurdy

    dpurdy Member

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    Yes I am guilty of spending too much time on the computer in forums. When I was thinking of buying an FX I couldn't find anyone in my part of the world who had one, so I had to buy one before I ever saw one except in pictures. I still have only seen the one I bought. But for that reason I try to give people who are considering buying an FX all the user information I can.
    I actually went to the trouble to take that steel tensioner out of the camera. It is held in only by 2 screws. The film is way too loose without the tensioner. The teflon band aid pulls right off like a regular band aid. It stays sticky so you could probably take it off and see if the tightness is less or if you like it better on you could put it back on. In my camera I can't tell that the band aid did any good at all. And I don't seem to be causing a wear mark on the steel without the band aid.
    Another change I made was to replace the rollers above and below the film gate inside the camera. I put in old stock chrome rollers. The reason I did that is because of the rough paint they used on the little mask connected to the rollers. that rough paint causes a jagged edge to your image. I prefer a smooth edge. I also figured out later that I could just file the rough paint smooth with a fine file.
    Dennis
     
  24. Matus Kalisky

    Matus Kalisky Member

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    Oliver, I appreciate your (and of course others too) willingness to share your experience with the FX. In particular I find your little updates and corrections on the camera interesting.
     
  25. aeoc

    aeoc Member

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    Just a quick update. I was previously deciding between a 2.8f and 2.8gx and finally found a 2.8f at a good price.

    After receiving the camera, I am absolutely in love with it and I am kinda tempted to buy another just in case something bad happens to it.
    This camera is a thing of beauty and I'm fortunate enough to have procured a copy in very good condition (and white face as well!). I think the 2.8f looks nicer than the 2.8gx/fx in terms of physical appearance, and I'm glad I chose the 2.8f.

    One of my favourite features is actually the selenium light meter, I really like how it is implemented. Reflected values are accurate compared to my sekonic, except the meter on the rolleiflex has a more limited ev range in low light (approx EV6 is the lowest it measures). All you have to do is glance down at the light meter reading, then adjust shutter and aperture to compensate on how you wish to expose. It's just so brilliantly simple compared to using a dslr.


    I would just like to thank everyone here, especially dpurdy who provided such helpful information.
    I am really happy with my new rolleiflex :smile:

    Btw, does anyone know where to get a simple strap for the 2.8f?
     
  26. Matus Kalisky

    Matus Kalisky Member

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    Waking up the thread about the most expensive TLR camera :smile:

    No, I have not (yet!) got a Rolleiflex FX, but I did recently got a very nice Minolta Autocord III (late model). I am on the learning curve (my hands still remember the handling of the Rolleiflex T which is somewhat different). So far I would probably prefer the T, but I have exposed only 3 films with the Autocord, so it is too soon to tell.

    I have just realized that while many interesting details were discussed here, it was neither mentioned not asked - who is/was actually producing the lenses for the FX? It seems that the later (black edges) models have S-Apogon 80/2.8 which is supposed to be made by Schneider, but I do not know who actually produced the 'earlier' Planars - I suppose Zeiss because of the name, but it is not explicitly stated on the lens.

    Is there actually any relevant difference in the design of the two lenses? Just curios (I am NOT asking which is better)