THE ROLLEI XF 35- WHAT IT’S NOT
I’m sure a lot of the readers of this blog will know of the classic Rollei 35. It was the smallest 35mm viewfinder camera upon its release, and it’s still a very popular camera with a much reputed lens.
So, when my Dad said that he was sending me a Rollei 35 kit that included a camera, bag, flash, strap, and manuals I was intrigued. I’ve never actually wanted the 35, as it is a zone focus camera, but free is something that’s hard to turn down.
But the 35 isn’t what showed up. This was an XF 35.
WHAT IS THE XF 35?
The XF 35 is a very small, true rangefinder camera. No, not as small as the 35, but it’s still pretty small!
Thanks to Achim Pfennig for the awesome comparison shot!
It’s got a Sonnar 40mm f/2.3 lens and is a match needle automatic camera. This means it has shutter speed synched to aperture, so at f/16 the shutter speed is 1/640 and the bigger the aperture the slower the shutter speed goes, all the way down to f/2.3.
Here’s the specs (thanks to camera-wiki):
- 40 mm f/2,3 Sonnar (5 components, 4 groups), made under licence by Carl Zeiss (Oberkochen).
- Filter size : 46 x 0.75mm
- Coupled rangefinder with bright spot.
- Nearest focusing distance: 1 m.
- Programmed exposure from 1/650 s at f/16 to 1/30 s at f/2,3.
- Bulb mode for long exposures.
- Aperture and Shutter speed chosen is indicated by a metering needle in the viewfinder.
- Hot shoe for Rollei 100XL flash, syncing at 1/30 s. Flashmatic system for proper flash exposure.
- CdS light metre; range from 20 to 16 000 cd/m² with ISO100 film.
Supports film speeds from 25 to 400 ISO.
- Power: PX625 mercury battery.
- Dimensions and weight: 112x71x32 mm, 355 g.
Here’s a shot of my XF 35. Not as pristine as Achim’s but not bad:
When I got it, it still had it’s battery in it, an old mercury 1.3V PX625, and it had no power. I went to my LCS and got a 1.5V equivalent knowing it might not expose properly, but it got the light meter working, so I wasn’t too worried.
The problem with my copy was that the shutter was a bit sticky. I spent a couple of days with some lighter fluid and it helped, but the slow speeds were very bad and I kind of gave up on it for a bit. I also noticed that the RF, a very strange design that you can look up on the web, was a bit sticky too. I got frustrated, and well, I got a Rolleiflex TLR in the meantime, so I set it on a shelf.
A few weeks later I was moving stuff around in my camera cabinet and picked up this camera again. I took off the cap and fired the shutter…and it quietly snapped like it was brand new! I threw a roll of VERY expired non-refrigerated TMAX 400 that I got from a friend and decided to test it.
I’m not a huge fan of cameras that don’t let you have aperture control, but every time I went to shoot with this camera, I just glanced at the match needle and just accepted the fact that it was choosing an aperture. I actually started composing pictures slightly differently because I knew what aperture it was going to shoot at. Kind of a new, cool method.
And let me tell you, this camera is such a fun camera to shoot. I love the size, and since it’s a rangefinder, it’s super fast to shoot. Just put it up to your eye, notice the aperture/speed and then, very quickly, decide accurate your focus has to be. It really was fast and easy.
I shot indoors with the flash on bulb mode (more on that in a bit) and then bought a red filter and shot with that too. It was a blast! I got home, developed my film and hoped for the best.
When I pulled the film out of the soup, I was pleased. It looked like it metered really well, and exposed about spot on. The expired film was a little grainier than I expected, but nothing too bad. But then I noticed the film strip change…uh oh.
Apparently after a flash shot I forgot to turn the camera from B back to A…see, like in this picture:
So, about 10 or so pictures were all shot with Bulb mode on. sigh.
But the other shots were pretty darn good, and this Sonnar lens looked great. Here’s some of the better ones.
I was surprised at how well it was doing exposure, especially with some of the roof shots. And the sharpness of the lens was pretty awesome! It’s great when a trip to Home Depot turns into a photo shoot!
I took it inside as the light was hitting the sink and once again, the camera did a great job of choosing exposure, and the nice big rangefinder made it a snap to compose.
And even in the subdued lighting at Home Depot, it was a snap to walk, compose, snap and be on my way.
OH, BULB MODE
I actually wasn’t going to scan in ANY of the shots that had been shot on Bulb mode as I thought they were trash, but I decided to scan one, just because I remember walking behind these girls with their tiara’s on and I thought I had gotten a great shot, well, when Bulb mode wasn’t on…but I actually really like the result I got. Shot with a red filter as well.
I actually haven’t seen this camera show up on ebay very much since I’ve been aware of it, but if you can find one, they seem to be in the $40 range, which is a great deal. I’ve been told they weren’t built that well, so you have to be very careful buying one, but as a Yashica Electro owner, I know what that’s all about.
All I know is that this is my new “throw a camera in a bag” camera. When I don’t have a lot of space, I’m going to have this little guy loaded up with some HP5 + and just shoot.