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  1. #1

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    Rolleiflex Automat MX issues (to CLA or not?)

    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. #2

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    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. #3

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    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. #4

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    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. #5
    arealitystudios's Avatar
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    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. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Daniel View Post
    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.
    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.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Daniel View Post
    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?
    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. #7

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    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. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by jspillane View Post
    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.
    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.

    Quote Originally Posted by jspillane View Post
    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.
    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?

  9. #9
    Richard Sintchak (rich815)'s Avatar
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    Rolleiflex Automat MX issues (to CLA or not?)

    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.
    -----------------------

    "Well, my photos are actually much better than they look..."

    Richard S.
    Albany, CA (San Francisco bay area)

    My Flickr River of photographs
    http://flickriver.com/photos/rich815...r-interesting/

    My Photography Website
    http://www.lightshadowandtone.com

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Daniel View Post
    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?
    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!

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