The Rolleiflex 3.5F wasn’t my first TLR – that honour goes to the MPP Microcord. But the Rolleiflex is a name up there with Leica and Carl Zeiss.
When one thinks of a TLR, images from TV and Film from ages past come to mind – of Movie stars such as Marilyn Monroe and used by greats to make some of the most iconic photographs in history: such as David Bailey, Richard Avedon, Robert Doisneu, Fritz hence, Eduard Boubat, Lee Miller and Robert Capa amongst many others.
It may be that The Rolleiflex is still being made by DHW Photo to this day, with modern ground glass and super bright image – expensive, but cheaper than a Leica. I heard somewhere that they’ve gone out of business but the website still exists, so I am not sure.
Ever since I saw one in a camera shop down the West End of London many years ago I had always wanted one – it looked like a piece of jewellery, precious, as if I was handling a Patek Phillipe or something – I wanted to buy one, if only to keep and cherish and as luck would have it a few years back I found one for a bargain on vintageclassiccamera.com and bought it. I bought mine with a Rollei bayonet II yellow Filter, lens cap and a Rolleinar II close up filter. (I always shoot BW with a yellow filter attached – taking some advice from Don McCullin – but that’s a different story).
The Rolleinar I will enable you to shoot head shoulder shots with the 75mm f3.5 standard lens. The Rolleinar II which I have is good for face shots – or close-ups of other subjects.
The one I had had an inbuilt meter but I have been used to using a Minolta Autometer. A very good reliable incident light meter.
TLR’s can seem daunting at first but Using it was easy, straight forward to load, to focus and to shoot – and the screen can be changed for brighter images. Just a different style of shooting I guess and not any better or worse than a normal SLR. I also love the 6×6 format – it enables easy composition and more consistent pleasing results than oblong format framing.
Agfa Ultra 100 is my favourite 35mm negative film – it has wonderful colour which really pops. Especially the primary colours. Unfortunately I couldn’t find it in 120 but I did manage to find Agfa Ultra 50 and thought I’d try it out.
I had a couple of trips planned – to Kusadasi in Turkey and also to the Karakoram and Himalayas in Northern Pakistan. I only had 3 rolls and it was going to be my secondary camera (primary being a Contax G2 which I’d been shooting with since the early 2000’s) and I decided to bring it and shoot with it carefully to see how this film fared compared to the 100 speed.
I was pleased with the shots but the colour wasn’t up to Ultra 100 standards. I found shadow detail to be lacking and it to be overloaded with Green and highlights are often blown – that being said, I was pleased with my results.
Scanning was done in the lab and wasn’t HQ – I’m pretty lazy at scanning colour negative (I mainly use E6 and BW) so just kept the (mediocre) lab scans. I must find some time to dig out these negatives and scan the film properly as I think I’ll then be able to get better detail and it’s quite possible the defects are a result of the lab scans.
How’s the Rolleiflex like for travel? Well it’s quite bulky and using a waist level finder all the time has its plus and minus points. Great and not an issue on sea level but higher up in the mountains when trekking one sometimes wishes for something lighter and faster to shoot with. Nevertheless as it was my secondary camera the only issue I had was carrying the extra load. But the experience and joy of using it trumps any limitations it has in terms of size. It certainly turns heads and locals will turn it around to see if they can see the results on the LCD – they’re bewildered when they don’t see anything!
I would recommend getting one in good condition and as the prices seem to be going up and up – it’s a likely investment – that’s if you have the funds. I foolishly sold mine and now for me it’s quite unaffordable.
Here are a few snaps taken in the ruins of Ephesus, The Basilica of St John and the ruins of The Temple or Artemis near the Aegean Coast of Turkey. If you haven’t been here before, just book a cheap holiday to Kusadasi and you’ll have your fair share of some wonderful photographic opportunities.
Some reading on the above locations:
And now, the Karakoram and Western Himalaya, The Hunza Valley, around Rakaposhi – these are trips more difficult to plan and to fund but it’s well worth it.
I hope you enjoyed my images.
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