Rollei 35S

5 Frames with Rollei 35S and Ilford XP2 – Bike Trips Around Singapore – By Tsang Tsang

The COVID pandemic has changed the way we work and play. I picked up shooting film again last year after a 20+ years of hiatus. I stumbled across the 35mmc website and was inspired by the articles here where hobbyists shared their experience in shooting different cameras with different films. What caught my interest were the articles on the Rollei 35 family of cameras, a tiny camera is much more than the point and shoot cameras of the late 80’s and 90’s. I was able to purchase a good condition Rollei 35S last year and have been learning about zone focus shooting. The size of this camera makes it a perfect companion for travel.

Earlier this year, I relocated to Singapore and cycling has been my way of daily commute and weekend pastime. As the pandemic has grounded everyone, cycling has emerged as a new form of recreation for many here in SG. Over the years, the government has built many new bike trails around the island and converted an old rail track to bike and jogging path that stretched from the south shore to the northern end of the island near the Malaysian border.

Rail corridor
The old Tanjong Pagar – Johor Railroad now converted to a bike and jogging track. The shot is unintentionally overexposed.

The Rollei 35S is a nice small piece of gear to carry in the handlebar pouch of my bike. The Zeiss Sonnar lens is especially sharp and contrasty, producing results comparable to much more expensive M mount glasses. I bought a yellow filter and small hood from eBay and loaded the camera up with the Ilford XP2+ to capture the scenes while I travel around the island with this camera on my bike.

Alexander Canal
Alexander canal in River Valley with bike tracks on both sides of the water. This shot has the nice contrast that I like.

I quite like the Ilford XP2+ film. The film has the type of contrast that I prefer and even at ISO400, the grains are like ISO100 films. The other benefit is that I film can be processed with C41 makes it much more convenient and cheaper to develop. I have yet to develop BW films myself here in SG where the ambient temperature is always around 30 degrees. Probably need lots of ice to make a 20 degrees water bath.

Singapore River
Singapore River with a boutique hotel converted from an old warehouse

One may notice that some photos are overexposed. I am using some silver oxide SR44 batteries with a convertor in place of the mercury battery that the camera was designed upon. With time, the batteries drained and the needle moved less with the same amount of light. With the battery around 9 months in the camera, the meter now is around 2 stops overexposed. I should have realised this by using the sunny 16 rule and not rely on the meter only for exposure. However, the design of the camera made it impossible to change the battery in the middle of a roll. My subsequent shots I used an iPhone app to do the metering. Unlike digital, films tolerate overexposure much more gracefully.

Esplanade Park
Esplanade Park at the mouth of the Singapore River

Overall this is my favourite camera for travel landscape photos. In daylight and a fast film, I can stop down on the aperture and get pretty sharp pictures even if my distance estimate is not 100% accurate. The camera can tuck nicely into small backpack or bike pouches and take great pictures that rival expensive rangefinders. I have to thank 35mmc for introducing me to this nice gem and helping me rediscover the fun of travel photography.

Bukit Timah Station
Bukit Timah Station. Last train passed here in 2011.

Thanks Hamish for creating this great website for photo enthusiasts to share their work. Travel photography while biking is a fun way to explore a place.

You can find more of my humble works on Instagram.

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12 thoughts on “5 Frames with Rollei 35S and Ilford XP2 – Bike Trips Around Singapore – By Tsang Tsang”

  1. Wonderful. You can develop XP2 very well in Caffenol. Temperature doesn’t need to be 20 degrees, but one can put the water in the fridge beforehand.

    1. Yes, one day I shall try developing film in tropical weather. Do you know how much time I need to adjust if the water temperature is around 28C?

      1. I develop BW at home here in Singapore (funnily enough, also often shot with a Rollei 35s + yellow filter!). I simply keep a large bottle of water in the fridge and use it to balance the temperature out of the tap when preparing my chems, just before I develop.

    1. Search for “Rollei 35 hood” on eBay and there will be a few sellers from China selling hood of different design.

  2. Tsang,
    You seem to have nailed the zone focus technique.
    I wonder how much even more improved the perceived grain will show if you achieve the exposure you desire.
    Great job, and yes that is an interesting looking camera,.. wondrous what small and effective packages a quality rangefinder can accomplish with film!

    1. Hi Roger,

      Thanks for the compliments. I would not have shown you my utter failures!
      Actually with a ISO400 film and outdoor landscape shooting, stopping the aperture to f/8 or smaller, zone focusing is not too difficult.

      I would say the lens of the Rollei is excellent.

  3. I have a broken Rollei 35 and it is not easy to find someone to fix it. But used ones are not that expensive, so maybe I should just get another one for the cost of the repair even if I do find someone to do it. In the meanwhile, it sits on the cabinet next to the door to my office and I see it every time I go in and out. I have two other working film cameras but the 35 just sits there making me want another. Hard to resist.

  4. if you want to pay a little more and get both quality and the assurance of a warranty I encourage you to take a look at Jeremy Rata’s Covid start up business I bought my SE there two years ago and the service was outstanding, as is the wee wonder of a camera. Zone focusing encouraged !! Please note that I have no commercial interest in his business, I just like what he does.

  5. Hi , if you feel like trying another even more compact 35mm , I recommend the Minox 35 range. They also used a battery no longer available but Minox sold an adapter to mount 2 lithium cells in. Hopefully any Minox 35 now for sale would have this adapter already.. I loved the smooth compact outline of the Minox 35 when folded shut. Masterpiece.

    1. Yes, the Minox is also another small film camera but I never had the chance to try it. Apart from the size, the other advantage of the Rollei 35 is the excellent quality of the lens. It trumps most point and shoot cameras, especially the plastic toys made in the 80’s.

  6. Great read. Great shots. And love the comments above. The Rollei 35S is a camera I still lust after. You got great results w/ the Ilford film!

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