Modern Photography, May 1952, pg. 57-98
The New Rollei
How Good is the New $385 Model 2.8C Which Incorporates Suggestions Made by
Photographers?…By Arthur Kramer
“The New Lens”
“The camera’s most important feature is its new 80mm, air-spaced
five-element f/2.8 Schneider Xenotar lens. The f/2.8 lens on a previous
model was a four-element objective which often gave trouble when used wide
open. The makers of the Rolleiflex claim this trouble has been eliminated
in the Xenotar lens. Optical and practical tests (which we will get to
later) indicated that this was true – at least on the cameras tested.”
“The Lens – How Good?”
“Finally we get to the most important of all the improvements – the lens.
This is not the first f/2.8 lens ever put on a 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 Rollei. Many
photographers who have used or tested the previous f/2.8 model, which this
new camera supersedes, felt that the definition was not up to their
acceptable standards. Wide aperture lenses which must cover comparatively
large film areas are often notoriously poor in edge definition at full
aperture. Practically all Automatic Rolleiflexes have up to this time been
supplied with four element Tessar or Xenar f/3.5 or Tessar f/2.8 lenses.
The new Xenotar is a five-element lens of the air-spaced type. It was not
until the advent of modern optical coatings that the full advantage of such
a design could be exploited.”
“The camera was taken to a well-equipped optical laboratory and placed on
an optical bench. The lens appeared to be free of astigmatism. It showed no
shift of focus when stopped down. There seemed to be the faintest trace of
flare at f/2.8 but this disappeared when the diaphragm was stopped down to
about f/3, a definite improvement in this respect to what we had previously
seen in other lenses of similar focal length and aperture.”
“The definition at the edges was far above that of the old four-element
f/2.8. This individual Xenotar lens looked excellent in bench tests, but
that did not guarantee excellent pictures. Only extensive tests on actual
film could tell about that.”
” The camera was also checked for lens, film, and ground glass alignment.
Then it was ready for the film tests. An f/3.5 Rollei of known image
quality was used as a control unit The first test was made on a cross-lit
brick wall A series of shots was taken at various distances and apertures
with both cameras. Negatives were carefully enlarged to about 30×30 inches
and examined over the entire field. Results showed that the Xenotar f/2.8
lens wide open was equal in most respects to the f/3.5 lens wide open. It
did not noticeably lose definition when stopped down to f/22. A second
Xenotar tested actually had better definition at f/2.8 than the older type
lens had at f/3.5! The tests were repeated on various objects and at varied
distances with the same result. The next test was of a more practical
nature. Portraits of actor Jack Palance (!) were shot at full aperture with
the camera at its closest distance, about three and one half feet (page
59). The inset on the enlargement shows the entire negative area. The 11×14
glossy prints were quite sharp, and had excellent image quality. Twenty
rolls or film were used on a variety of subjects. Results were consistently
I was reading RFF forum this moring and saw an good write-up on comparison between 2.8c and 2.8e, as well as xenotar and planar lens.
If you are in the midst of deciding on whether to get a 2.8c or 2.8e, this post would be very helpful.
Originally Posted by Sarcophilus HarrisiiI don’t think this is correct.
I have never seen a 2.8D with the plastic locks. Every image I have ever seen of one has metal types. My own D has these also. It’s not uncommon for Cs to have one or both missing; my own C does not have the PC connector lock. I have wondered how hard it would be to reproduce these but I suspect the cost of tooling up for a high quality replacement of a limited run of items would put people off price wise.
The C is better value for money. It’s also a historically significant model for Rollei.
What are the finest lenses Rollei ever fitted to their TLRs? I don’t want to start a flame war between Tessar/Xenar owners and others, because, honestly, I have never met a Rollei TLR I couldn’t love at first sight–but most would respond that the Xenotar and Planar lenses are the best of the best. Well, both these lenses debuted on the 2.8C model Rolleiflex.
I think the out of focus effects of all the lens and shutter types, from what I have seen, are wonderful, but I do confess I like the way the shutter of the C renders any out of focus highlights as circles, instead of pentagons.
Do you want a built in light meter? I prefer without, personally, and usually incident meter with a hand held meter. The E models have a cover plate for the meter cell if a meter isn’t fitted to a particular camera. One of the things I like about the older models like the B, C & D is that because meters were not fitted, they have a simple “Rolleiflex” plate in front of the viewfinder assembly. I therefore feel that, aesthetically, they are the most beautiful Rolleiflexes. Maybe the D, with those aforementioned chrome metal locks, is the prettiest of all?
Functionally, other differences between the two include the EV system, which is fitted to the D & E model but not the C.
The Synchro Compur shutter fitted to the C is a Compur Rapid type with booster spring for 1/500. There are several implications in practical use as a result of this. Firstly, it’s a reliable shutter. However it’s not possible to select, or de-select, the maximum speed after the camera has been wound and the shutter is cocked. In use it is not a major problem, because the C model was also the first to be fitted with double exposure capability. I have had to train myself not to wind my C on after shooting. If, in the rare instance I need to change on or off of 1/500, I simply stop the lens down to f/22, fire the shutter with the taking lens covered, and use the double exposure release to cock the shutter again after I have re-set it. So there is a work around, but, it is important not to try to adjust on or off 1/500 if it is cocked because it can damage the shutter.
Secondly, and also related to 1/500, you mustn’t set the self timer with 1/500 selected. It will lock the shutter up. Because I do some landscape I will often use the timer to trip the shutter without bumping the camera, so maybe I use a timer more than some. During my first roll with it, I set the timer with 1/500 selected and the timer wouldn’t release, and the shutter wouldn’t trip. I ended up disregarding my own advice, and shifted the shutter speed down to 1/250 (against the not-insubstantial tension from the booster spring) so I could free the shutter. Luckily, I got away with it but it’s not recommended. In any event, unless you need a group portrait in full sun, 1/500 should never be required with timer, but, FYI–it will lock the shutter up.
The last point regarding the C shutter installation is that, it does indeed feature a wonderful ten bladed aperture which keeps the lens opening nearly perfectly round at all stops. However. It also uses the “old” scale of shutter speeds; Ie 1/500; 1/250; 1/100; 1/50; 1/25; 1/10; 1/5; 1/2; 1s; Bulb. The good news is that the shutter can be set to select intermediate speeds Eg. 1/125 or 1/60. According to page 24 of the original owners manual for the C: “Intermediate speeds may be set at any points between 1 sec. and 1/10th sec. and between 1/25th and 1/250th sec.”
The most common lens fitted to the C is the Xenotar. A wonderful lens but sadly coatings are often less than perfect. At least the front cell is a single piece of glass, unlike the 2.8 Planar types, so re-coating isn’t nearly as difficult or, presumably, as expensive as removal is a straightforward affair. You need to check condition closely though, for scratches or coating deterioration.
The last point is that the E model has a nifty sliding depth of field strip inboard of the focus knob linked to the aperture control. So as you adjust the aperture the depth of field range automatically alters. The C has a traditional printed scale showing the numbers of all the stops next to their depth of field. For landscape use I think the old design is actually better suited to hyperfocal focussing because you can see the DOF for all the stops, not just the one that is selected. YMMV.
The most important factor should be condition. Apart from the Rolleimagic models I don’t think there is any such thing as a bad Rollei TLR model (and there are a few die hard who still use the Magics!). I’d love a pre-war model one day, because I believe they all have their own appeal. So by all means look for the preferred model type you want (you can’t really go wrong with any of them) but condition is always key.