Rollei 35S – 1978

Rollei 35S

No vintage collection is complete without the infamous Rollei 35 – allegedly the smallest, all mechanical (bar meter battery) full frame 35mm cameras of the 1970s (and beyond?).

Originally made in Germany in 1966 priced at 487DM (£44) with cost cutting production moving to Singapore in 1971 – The Rollei 35 was available in either black or silver livery and coveted by many aspiring photographer as the “must have” back up/pocket camera!

This black 1978 S model (£99 off eBay) sports the Carl Zeiss Sonnar 40mm f/2.8 lens.

Mainstream production ceased in 1981 although limited “classic edition” production re-opened in 1992 until 1996. These classic models were made available in various colours e.g. blue, gold, titanium etc.

There’s no doubt that the Rollei 35 is a quirky camera, aperture and shutter dials on the front, film wind on the left, hot shoe on the base and distance scale focussing (yes, you have to estimate distance) on the lens.

Some owners suggest the 35 (S)onnar (f/2.8) lens was better for colour while the slower 35 (T)essar (f/3.5) lens was deemed more contrasty for B&W. Stopped down both lenses yield incredibly sharp images across the frame and many put this down to the design of the hinged film pressure plate.

The lens collapses into the body, which by design also prevents the shutter release from operating when closed. Although the shutter has to be cocked and the film wound on first.

This copy is in fairly good condition and shows no sign of paint loss and little denting. The latter being a common problem due to the use of very thin aluminium for the top and bottom shells. Earlier versions had brass shells and were equally thin but tended to suffer more from paint loss – especially black models.

Shutter speeds seem to be within 1/3rd stop (even at low speeds where sticking problems usually occur due to old lubricants) and the lens does have some internal dust.

Size-wise, its comparable to a modern day Sony RX-100 -weighing in at 350g (with film).

Build quality-wise, it’s an all mechanical Rollei and will probably out live me – bar the cosmetics!

Image quality-wise, well, I’ve only just put my first roll of film through it, so the jury’s out until I get it processed…as there’s no WYSIWYG viewfinder or LCD on this puppy!

The original German Tessar models command a much higher price than the Singapore models due to rarity. The later Sonnar lens version also costs a little more than the Tessar lens version. Expect to pay anywhere from £50-£200 for the Singapore model depending upon lens, age and condition.

All in all this a very discrete and competent manual camera, and given the quantities made (100,000s) and used price, it’s an absolute steal for anyone wanting to get into film photography!


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