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  1. #1

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    Rollei TLR recommendations...

    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. #2
    Vaughn's Avatar
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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. #3

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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. #4

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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. #5

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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. #6

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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. #7
    Rolleiflexible's Avatar
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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. #8

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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

  9. #9
    Rolleiflexible's Avatar
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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. #10

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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?

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