Rollei 35S

The Rollei 35 was the smallest “full frame” 35mm camera, today it remains the smallest manual full frame camera ever made.  It is a professional camera in a point & shoot form factor.

It sure is a quirky little camera, and I think cute in an ugly duckling that is really a swan, sort of way. You are either going to love it or hate it. I can’t help thinking that the designer ( Heinz Waaske ) must have either been insane, or just too brilliant for us mere mortals to understand. The more I use this quirky, cute little camera the more I think he was a genius.  My review will focus on the 35S as opposed to the other models.


Format: 35mm

Lens: Rollei HFT Sonnar 40/2,8

Shutter speeds: 1/2 – 1/500 + B

ISO setting: 25-1600

Match needle metering system Metric/feet scale focus Zeiss designed sonnar 40, on a point and shoot! This is the sort of lens you would expect on a Leica, Hasselblad or someother medium format goodness. But you have to keep in mind the Rollei 35 is not a point and shoot. Think of it more like a leica. A professional lens for a professional camera. The HFT designation refers to the Rollei’s patented lens coating.

Metering is achieved via a reflective match stick meter on the top of the camera. This is not as accurate as a center weighted meter or the type you will find on a SLR or TTL metered RF. It still seems to be reasonably accurate, but it doesn’t hurt to carry around a handheld meter.  Focusing can be a bit hit and miss as you must ‘use the force luke’ and guess the distance as there is no range finder. You should use zone focusing technique here by stoping down the lens so that you have a larger depth of field. With a little practice judging distance is not all that hard. I know how long my step is (larde stride is about 1m) and then look at my distance to the subject and say that is 3 large strides away therefore 3 meters away. ergonomicly the camera takes a little getting use to.

The winder is on the wrong side and you really need to make sure it travels it’s full distance, when winding on. People have reported that frame lines are very close together if you are not carefull with winding on. The hotshoe is on the bottom of the camera, so you need to think about this if you are using the flash close in. Shouldn’t be a porblem if you are shooting in portrait or at a distance as the angle won’t be coming from under the camera as much.


One last thing to be mindfull of is the shutter at low speeds needs to be held down for the full length of the exposure. Taking your finger off the shutter button will close the shutter even if the escapement hasn’t finished.  It’s a fun little camera and very collectable.

If you get a chance get one. If you need more encouragement, our own dear queen has one, so it must be good 😉

Further Reading:

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