Daily Archives: September 17th, 2012

Paul’s Primer on Beginning with Rolleiflex TLRs

If you are new to film photography, you probably want to start out with a 35mm system. See my SLR Primer for details on building one. That primer specifically focusses on manual focus Konica SLR cameras, but can pretty much apply to any manual focus camera. As I said on my main photography page, there is really no substitute for learning about photography with a manual focus camera.

If you’re looking to make 16×20 or larger prints, then medium format is the next step for you. If you think medium format means big bucks, then think again. With the digital age means prices for film gear are coming down as the market gets innudated with used gear. I have found success with Twin Lens Reflex (TLR) cameras (e.g., the Rolleiflex) and the SLR cameras (e.g., the Hasselblad). TLRs are cameras with a viewing lens (what you see in the finder) and a taking lens (what the film sees when the shutter release is depressed). I started out with a YashicaMat 124 that I got via Ebay and had some shutter problems. I also got a real cheap Minolta Autocord via Ebay. It had a broken focussing knob. I only ran two rolls of film through each and found the whole experience dissapointing. I ended up not getting them serviced and instead I upgraded to a Rolleiflex 3.5E Planar. The Rolleiflex far surpases the other TLR models in terms of craftsmanship. I decided that my philosophy with 35mm cameras should hold for medium format cameras, so I bought mine through renowned Rollei repair person Harry Fleenor (at Oceanside Camera). He did a CLA, complete shutter refurbishment, and put in a super bright Maxwell screen with split image focussing. So when I received it (just like when I received my 35mm Konica N-T3s from Greg Weber), I knew I could shoot with confidence. I was right.

Medium format TLRs produce negatives or transparencies 6cm x 6cm in size. This is a square format found on classic cameras like the Hasselblad. It’s commonly called just “6 by 6” (in cm) or “2 and a quarter” (in inches). 6×6 cameras will give you 12 frames on a “120” format roll, and a few allow you to use a “220” format roll. But stick with the 120 because 220 film is harder to find in 2006.

There is a major first decision you need to make when buying a Rollei TLR. It is whether you want to go with an older Schneider Xenar or Zeiss Tessar 4 element lens design or go with a Schneider Xenotar or Zeiss Planar 5 element lens design. I am going to restrict my comments to the 6×6 format. That excludes the 1930s-1950s Baby Rolleiflexes. Also in the 1930s the Rolleicords came out. There were many models of these. If you are going to buy a Rolleicord (lower cost) then stick to one with a Xenar of Tessar lens. These give you an image that is reputadly soft around the edges and soft wide open. Some photographers I have talked to actually prefer this softness. I do not. If you are like me, and you want a super sharp lens rivalling anything on modern cameras, then stick with the Rolleiflex models with Xenotar or Planar lenses.

The Rolleiflex 3.5E, E2, E3, 3.5F, 2.8C, 2.8D, 2.8E, 2.8E2, 2.8E3, 2.8F, 2.8FX, and 2.8GX all have Xenotar or Planar lenses. The 2.8’s are 80mm and the 3.5’s are 75mm. In practice, there’s not much of a difference between the 2.8’s and 3.5’s. I saved some money by going with a 3.5 and I never need the extra speed. And according to everyone, there’s no difference between the Xenotar or Planar, though the Planar tends to command higher prices on the used market. The later models, of course, will command higher prices. So, I don’t see the need to go with newer models. Your decision should be based on condition of the camera and not on which model.

All of these allow 35mm use with a Rolleikin (though why would anyone do this I don’t know) and come with or without exposure meters. I prefer not to have the meter since I want an all mechanical machine without an old unreliable selenium meter plus I take my time shooting with my Rolleiflex so I meter carefully with my Shepherd Polaris incident/reflected meter.

All of the 3.5 models I talked about use a Bayonet II lens fitting. All of the 2.8 models use the Bayonet III lens fitting. Lens hoods and filters have to fit these settings. There are work-arounds I have seen (like a Bay to threaded adapter), but I don’t like these. If you wait on Ebay, you will find both genuine hoods, filters (which I don’t use on the Rolleiflex), lens caps, and a Rolleifix. I always shoot with the hood on the taking lens, store the camera with the lens cap, and use a Rolleifix. A Rolleifix is what you will need to attach quickly release the Rolleiflex from the tripod. You probably will need a 3/8″-16 to 1/4″-20 bushing to attach the Rolleifix to your tripod. Search here at B&H.

Where to buy? I recommend buying from Harry Fleenor, but if you don’t, make sure you have him CLA and overhaul your camera. Figure this into your cost. You can find used Rolleiflexes on Ebay, but aside from accessories, I would recommend against doing this. Other options are KEH, B&H, and Adorama. Then ship it off to Harry before you use it and spend the 100+ bucks to have a bright Maxwell screen put in.

The Rolleiflexes come with ever-ready cases. But they are such a pain. After much searching I found that the LowePro Nova Mini is perfect. It fits the TLR, strap and my meter perfectly snug. The hood, Rolleifix and film fit in the pockets. There’s no wasted space. For straps, you can find the leather straps with scissor attachment. I chose to go with an Op/Tech Pro Loop strap. It doesn’t have the scissor attachment, but it works quite well and it feels better hanging on my neck than a thin leather strap would. Harry says I can get the scissor attachments rivetted to my modern strap by a leather craftsman. I will probably do that this winter.

For film, see my recommendations on my Film Primer, which is the same for the TLRs and SLRs. Basically I use Fuji Astia transparency (slide), Fuji Pro 160S color negative, and Ilford XP2 black and white C41 films and sometimes TMAX 100. I take my film to a Boston Pro Lab and always have the negatives or transparencies cut and sleeved. I also always have them scanned for Web display on a PhotoCD.

Rollei also made Tele and Wide-angle TLRs though these aren’t nearly as common and tend to be expensive. Instead of going that route to get other focal lengths, I decided to get a used Hasselblad 500C/M with 160mm portrait lens and 50mm wide angle lens.

If you want more information than I have given you here, then you should get Ian Parker’s books. Search here on Amazon. Also check out the Rollei links on the bottom of my home Photography Pages.

Rolleicord Repair/ CLA Tutorial

I usually don’t write articles, but I thought it would be interesting to share some recent experience I had with this camera. So before you read on, just keep in mind, that I’m not a professional repairman and there may be some real big mistakes in this article….

Anyway, here is the story: I found this lovely rolleicord for 30 euros on a flea-market and couldn’t resist buying it. The camera wasn’t usable when I bought it, as the slow shutter speed were stuck, selecting knob for shutter speed was not fluid anyway, and there was no focusing screen in it! So the rollei landed on my shelf as a decorative camera at first….

Some month later, I thought I would give it a try, and searched the internet for more information.

My first repair consisted of making a focusing screen. I didn’t want to spend too much money on it, as the shutter didn’t work properly anyway. So here is what I came with:

You take a cd jewel case, cut it to the right dimension and file it with sandpaper on both sides. Finished! You have a matte screen as a cheap replacement/alternative. Of course, it turns out to be very very dim, but for now it is just fine. But I think I will look for a real screen in a near future.

Next was the shutter:

This camera is equipped with a compur-rapid sutter and xenar 4.5 lens. I think this kind of shutter is relatively common and can be found on other cameras. I read a lot of times, that cleaning the whole mechanism would usually be sufficient to make slow shutter speed work again. So I began disassembling my rolleicord. Here are the steps:

1. Remove leatherette:

I used a cutter to carefully remove the leather covering, but found out later some people use water to dissolve the glue…. will try this next time….

2. Remove the screws:

Unscrew all the screws you will see (here in yellow, but I forgot some..), and you will be able to take out the lens and shutter:

Pull away the metal cover. This is really tricky because of the shutter button (which needs to be taken apart so you can remove this metal cover).

Now you should only have the frame with lens and shutter:

To remove the lens, just unscrew it.

Now you need to remove this metal ring, to fully access the shutter mechanism. But you will need a specialised camera repair tool to unscrew this little “screw” (see picture below).

Well, to do so I made my own tool…. out of an Iphone sim card ejector!

Just cut it halway, file the border so it fits the tiny holes and bend it to the right size. Finished!

As I said before, use this tool to turn the small screw a quarter turn, and carefully using a screwdriver, you will be able to pop up this metal ring. Leaving the shutter open:

Note that I didn’t play with the mechanism with this ring removed…I don’t really know what could happen….

At this point, the easiest way of cleaning it, is to use the “flood-cleaning” method.Put a generous amount of lighter fluid on the parts you want to clean, let it dissolve oil and dirt, then clean up with paper towel. Repeat if necessary. I let it dry a night long before reassembly just to be sure….The results have turned great so far: All shutter speeds are working again! and they do very smoothly, you can really see the difference before and after cleaning.  Of course I also  cleaned all the other parts in a lighter fluid bath before reassembling my camera.

The next step I’m planning is realigning my focusing lens ( especially because of my diy focusing screen…). This shouldn’t be too hard, and I will let you know if I succeed in it. For now, I will take some pictures and have fun with my new camera

thanks for reading this and sorry for my bad English 😉

source: http://perudography.tumblr.com/post/7779426376/rolleicord-diy-repair-cla


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Date your Rollei TLR Guide

Rolleiflex TLR models with Fixed Focusing Hood

Rollei TLR Model   Serial Numbers  Bay size Introduced

Rolleiflex 3.5  X Synch 1100000-1169999  I 1950

Rolleiflex 3.5  M-X Synch 1200000-1427999  I 1951

Rolleiflex 3.5  M-X E-V 1428000-1499999  I  1954

Rolleiflex 3.5 M-X E-V 1700000-1737911  I 1954

Rolleiflex 3.5E Exp. Meter  1740000-1869000  II  1956

Rolleiflex 2.8A 2.8 Tessar X – MX  1101000-1204999 Spec Hood – II  1950

Rolleiflex 2.8B 2.8 Biometer  1204000-1260000  III 1951

Rolleiflex 2.8C 2.8 Xenotar  1260350-1444000  III 1953

Rolleiflex 2.8C  2.8 Planar 1444001-1475405  III 1953

Rolleiflex 2.8D E-V Scale 1600000-1620999  III 1955

Rolleiflex 2.8E Exp. Meter  1621000-1665999  III 1956

Rolleicord III  X SYNCH 1137000-1344051  I 1950

Rolleicord IV M-X Synch 1344051-1390999  I 1953

Rolleicord V  M-X –  E-V Scale  1500000-1583999  I 1955

Rolleicord Va   5-format  1584000-1599999  I 1957

Rolleicord Va 5-format 1900000-1943999  I 1957

Rolleiflex 4X4  127 film  2000000-2099999 I 1957

Rolleiflex TLR models with Removable Focusing Hood

Rollei TLR Model   Serial Numbers  Bay size Introduced

Rolleiflex 3.5E-2  1st issue  1870000-1872999  II  1959

Rolleiflex 3.5E-2  Xenotar MX EV  2480000-2482999  II  1961

Rolleiflex 3.5E-3  MX EV  2380000-2385034  II  1962

Rolleiflex 2.8E-2  MX EV  2350000-2356999  III  1959

Rolleiflex 2.8E-3  MX EV  2360000-2362024  III  1962

Rolleiflex T Tessar 2100000-………  I 1958

Rolleiflex 3.5F  Ring gear shutter  2200000-2229000  II  1959

Rolleiflex 3.5F  Ring gear shutter  2230000-2249999  II  1960

Rolleiflex 3.5F  Coupled meter  2250000-2815050  II  1961

Tele Rolleiflex  4/0 135mm Sonnar 2300000-2304999  III 1959

Rolleiflex 2.8F  Coupled meter  2400000-2451850  III 1960

Rollei Magic  3.5 Xenar 2500000-2534999  II  1960

Wide-Angle Rollei  4.0/55 Distagon  2490000-2493999  IV  1961

Rollei Magic II Auto and Manual 2525000-2547597  II  1962

Rolleicord Vb 3.5 Xenar 2600000-………  I 1962

Rolleiflex 3.5F  Coupled meter  2815000-………  II  1969

Rolleiflex 2.8F  Coupled meter  2451851-………  III 1969

Tele Rolleiflex  4.0/135 Sonnar 2305000-………  III 1970

via Date your Rollei TLR Guide.


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