Some Rolleiflex FX questions
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
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.
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.
Excellent! I hope you will enjoy you new camera. Please share your opinions then.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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
You will see a lot of my Rollei work at those two links if you are interested.
Originally Posted by Matus Kalisky
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.