Picture of a camera
5 frames with...

5 frames with my Rollei 35B and Ilford HP5 in Paris – By Alessandro Bellafiore

January 14, 2023

I am, if you want, an analogue native. And, for a number of lucky circumstances film photography never really went away. But being slightly lazy, my SLR would rarely follow me on trips and outings: I couldn’t be bothered to carry it around the whole day.

Then, about 9 months ago, something changed, and so the amount of photography I did. The trigger was my honeymoon trip. We were going to visit three main European cities and my, now wife, loves photography (especially when she’s in the frame!). I wanted to take pictures of this trip. it was a happy moment, we would be visiting stunning places, I did not want to be left with a million of rushed pictures on my phone. However, the idea of going the whole time, in the summer heath, with my trusty Fujica AX-3 hanging from my neck, like a postmodern St. Bernard, did not appeal to me.

I needed a camera for this trip, a new film camera, small, very small, but with manual controls. Long story short, I ended with my eyes on the Rollei 35 series. Small for sure, opinions were good, although I realised it had divisive ergonomics, it looked adorable. I wanted this late child of the Bauhaus! Fixed lens? I was OK with the idea, I mean I was going on holiday, no to shoot a reportage.

Now, as this felt somewhat pure indulgence, I decided that I would keep budget in check. The original 35 was going to be expensive, shortly followed by 35S and 35T. All of them seemed to have a common issue: batteries. I am not a very confident ‘Sunny 16’ photographer, so I needed a working meter. Over time I have overcome this MR-9 syndrome, hence the recently purchased Olympus 35RC, but more about that in the future.

So 35B? I can hear voices screaming: “What?! What about the Sonnar and Tessar lenses? A Triotar, really?” … yes. If it had to be a 35B it had to be a ‘no issue’ one: as much as I find selenium cell meters extremely cool, I am aware of their issues when ageing, and the last thing I needed was a sticky shutter. I found a freshly serviced one, sold by a photography shop. A few tenners more, but it gave me peace of mind.

The first roll had all the usual Rollei 35 beginner issues: setting the ISO, looking at the meter, pressing the shutter, realising you haven’t changed shutter speed or aperture; shutting with the setting of the previous picture because… you forgot it again; focusing without seeing.

This last one was particularly interesting, because it made me realise how unaware I was of distance of things. It had the added benefit of extra exercise: countless times I have walked to the subject and back to ‘measure’ the distance. I can vouch you get better over time. On the other side I wasn’t too concerned. I was going to mostly use ISO 400, it was summer, I would be working most of the time at f16 or f22, depth of field was my friend. Shot a couple of rolls before going on the trip, to get to know the camera, developed the film… what I saw was very interesting.

Louvre – The Rollei is actually quite suited for some architectural photography

I will not go through the specs, they are exceedingly well known. But I will say, I like the lens, it’s very nice to use, results often striking, generally sharp, and I am a convert in fact of leaf shutters. I have managed to take good pictures in situations where I would not have stood a chance with a reflex; hand-held with seriously slow shutter speeds.

Nowadays I go through the whole routine of shooting with the 35B without too much thought. I don’t do action photography, not many candid shots of street photography – even if I am trying to push myself a bit in that direction – so the 35B is a good companion for me.

La Samaritaine

Tour Eiffel – A fixed lens doesn’t mean you cannot get an unusual angle on a well known attraction.

Perfect camera? Assuming one exists, it’s not this one. I find the general use easy enough and its size has innumerable advantages. The selenium meter is not too helpful if light goes down significantly (but quite reliable other ways), and, in those same conditions, when you shoot wide open, focusing can become more of a concern. But nothing too bad.

Here are some pictures of our stay in Paris. I quite like the whole effect, the way the details and the tones are rendered, both with natural and artificial light.

Guess who? – of course she had to be in one of the pictures! I like the details of the blouse, the way the skin tone is rendered and the gentle blur of the background

Orly airport – cancelled flight, time to take pictures…

I owe the Rollei 35B a great debt. I took lovely pictures of our honeymoon, many more thereafter, it has reignited the joy of taking pictures, also in situations where it would not have happened other way. It’s in my pocket when I go to work, when I take a walk during my lunch, when I go somewhere new. It has pushed me to try new things, new films, new ideas, learning to develop and scan my film, read and understand more, look back at my other cameras in new ways. Dangerously, since then a few accessories and a couple of cameras, somehow, ended in my letterbox… that’s photography for you. But she isn’t going anywhere!

This is my first contribution on 35mmc, hope you will find it interesting. If you’re curious to see a few more shots, check out my Instagram.

Contribute to 35mmc for an Ad-Free Experience

There are two ways to experience 35mmc without the adverts:

Paid Subscription - £2.99 per month and you’ll never see an advert again! (Free 3-day trial)
Subscribe here

Content contributor - become a part of the world’s biggest film and alternative photography community blog. All our Contributors have an ad-free experience for life.
Sign up here.

18 Comments

  • Reply
    Steven G
    January 14, 2023 at 10:13 am

    Thanks for the article, and very nice photos – better than most IMO!

    • Reply
      Alessandro Bellafiore
      January 25, 2023 at 8:26 am

      Hi Steven, thank you! You’re too kind 🙂

    • Reply
      Alessandro Bellafiore
      January 25, 2023 at 9:16 am

      Thank you very much Steven! You’re too kind 🙂

  • Reply
    Ted Ayre
    January 14, 2023 at 1:08 pm

    These shots are great Alessandro! Thank you for sharing, I especially love those angles of the Eiffel Tower. It certainly took me time to learn and estimate appropriate distance when I first used a rangefinder or a zone focus camera. I can’t wait to hear more about your photography journey, and congratulations on your first article!

    • Reply
      Alessandro Bellafiore
      January 14, 2023 at 3:31 pm

      Thank you so much Ted! Hopefully many more pictures are on the way! 🙂

  • Reply
    Bill Brown
    January 14, 2023 at 3:01 pm

    Alessandro, Evviva gli sposi! A honeymoon trip and a film camera, a match made in heaven. You are fortunate to enjoy a wife who wants her picture taken. My wife is opposite so the few images I have are at special occasions. This little gem of a camera seems quite adept at various lighting conditions. The backlighted shot of your wife could have been nothing but a silhouette. Be sure to put those negs in a print file sleeve and list info on it. Keeping your film organized will be of great benefit 30 years from now as you look back and fondly remember this time in your lives together. Tante belle cose.

    • Reply
      Alessandro Bellafiore
      January 14, 2023 at 3:35 pm

      Grazie mille Bill! Even though I am not the most organised person I am already finding useful to be disciplined with a growing amount of negatives! The meter on the Rollei 35B is, I must say, surprisingly wise. Sometime I compensate a little, in difficult light situations, but most of the time I follow its advice, with generally good results. Ciao

    • Reply
      Alessandro Bellafiore
      January 14, 2023 at 3:38 pm

      Grazie mille Bill! Even though I am not the most organised person I am already finding useful to be disciplined with a growing amount of negatives! The meter on the Rollei 35B is, I must say, surprisingly wise. Sometime I compensate a little, in difficult light situations, but most of the time I follow its advice, with generally good results. Ciao

    • Reply
      Alessandro Bellafiore
      January 15, 2023 at 5:54 am

      Grazie mille Bill! The meter on the 35B is generally quite accurate, occasionally I have added a little compensation in more difficult light situations, but I know that I can usually trust it. Even though I would not describe myself as the most organised person, I have already realised the importance of keeping in order a growing amount of negatives! I am sure I will go back to them in the future. Ciao!

  • Reply
    Alessandro Bellafiore
    January 14, 2023 at 3:35 pm

    Grazie mille Bill! Even though I am not the most organised person I am already finding useful to be disciplined with a growing amount of negatives! The meter on the Rollei 35B is, I must say, surprisingly wise. Sometime I compensate a little, in difficult light situations, but most of the time I follow its advice, with generally good results. Ciao

  • Reply
    Shaun Edwards
    January 14, 2023 at 8:24 pm

    Nice photos Alessandro.

    I have the original Rollei 35. It’s very easy yo use in zone focus, especially with 400+ film as it still gets you a fast shutter along with an aperture for depth of field.

    I struggled a bit, and still do, with closer focussing. If you have a iPhone with faceid there are various apps that use the LiDAR camera to show very accurate distance. I use LiDAR pointer which is free.

    Alternatively try this “human rangefinder” that you can print out. I use an old hotel key card.

    Try it, it’s very funky and works really well.

    https://tomchuk.com/rf/

    • Reply
      Alessandro Bellafiore
      January 15, 2023 at 5:49 am

      Thank you Shaun! I agree with a higher ISO is actually quite easy to get sharp photos, and as I was mentioning in the article, being confronted more directly with the distance factor was quite interesting.
      I’ll definitely try the card, looks like good fun 🙂

  • Reply
    Lilianna Elrod
    January 14, 2023 at 8:39 pm

    Lovely images! The Triotar is vastly underrated IMHO. I love mine on my Rollei 35 LED.

    • Reply
      Alessandro Bellafiore
      January 15, 2023 at 5:43 am

      Thank you Lilianna!

    • Reply
      Alessandro Bellafiore
      January 15, 2023 at 6:14 am

      Thank you Lilianna! I agree, it’s a nice lens, very capable and I took many great pictures with it. I think its ‘reputation’ is more due to the constant ‘I could have a better lens…’ attitude, rather than to its actual merits.

  • Reply
    Floyd Takeuchi
    January 15, 2023 at 12:30 pm

    Well done! I also own a B35. It like the rest of the Rollei 35 series is a fussy camera — particularly the drill to open or close the lens into the body. And unless you have experience with Kodak Retina cameras, having the film advance lever on the bottom of the camera takes some getting used to. But once you get used to its quirks, it is a solid shooter. And that triplet Triotar, particularly at F/11 or smaller, holds its own, as your photo La Samaritaine shows clearly.

    • Reply
      Alessandro Bellafiore
      January 16, 2023 at 8:48 am

      Hi Floyd, thank you for your comment 🙂 It’s certainly a camera of the type love-hate it. What won me over, apart from the side that it looks very cute, was it size. It’s quite incredible how much the managed to pack in such a small thing. As you say, the Triotar can rise to the task very well!

  • Reply
    Floyd Takeuchi
    January 15, 2023 at 12:37 pm

    Alas I should have noted the film advance lever is on the left not the bottom of the body The ;problem is if you are left eye dominant, like me. The lever tend to get in the way a lot.

Leave a Reply

This site uses User Verification plugin to reduce spam. See how your comment data is processed.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.