Everyone loves the Olympus XA for its pocketability but there is one little camera that beats it for size and capability, The Rollei B35. The rollei is tiny, smaller than a packet of cigarettes. It is so small, they had to place the rewind crank and accessory shoe underneath along with the rewind release button and the film door catch and yet it still has a selenium light meter and is fully manual. The readout for the light meter sits on top with the crank, frame counter and shutter button and is extremely accurate.
The lens is a 40mm f3.5 Triotar which, whilst not quite as nice as the lens on the original Rollei 35, it is still very nice indeed. It is a collapsible lens similar to those on early Leicas & Feds. the shutter speed dial is at the body end of the lens and gives you B, 30, 60, 125, 250 & 500. The aperture ring is towards the front of the lens and gives you apertures from f3.5-f22 in full stops. In front of that is the distance setting from 3 feet to infinity. There is even room for a rudimentary DOF scale. The camera has to be cocked in order to collapse the lens, which goes against the grain as I hate leaving cameras cocked, but it is getting on for 50yo so I guess its ok.
Loading film is easy. There is a latch in the centre of the base that you turn anticlockwise to release the rear of the camera. This slides away to reveal the inner workings. the distance from film canister to spool is hardly more than a frame so it is possible to gain a frame by loading it carefully. The pressure plate is hinged to the inside and needs to be flipped down so you can load film. Once loaded you simply locate the back plate in the grooves on the camera and slide it home. There are no light seals to worry about. Once the film is shot you simply hold the button underneath, locate the pegs on the winding handle into the top of the spindle and wind.
A word of warning, the spool puts a fold into the film leader which makes it a bit tricky to retrieve should you wind the film back into the canister. It is fairly easy to hear when the film disconnects from the spool, just don’t rewind too enthusiastically.
As for shooting, it couldn’t be easier. There is a dial on top of the meter to set the ISO. the readout on the meter is very clear, all you need to do is set the shutter speed, the F stop and the distance, frame the shot and shoot. in most cases the light won’t change so all you need to do is change settings for artistic effect. I have read a number of reviews of this camera that were less than complimentary but mine is absolutely great. The viewfinder is large and clear and the camera is just great fun. I keep it loaded with wolfen and it nestles in my pocket, ready to capture those priceless moments. Mine was another £25 ebay punt and is one of my most used cameras.
Orwo NP27 was a 400iso panchromatic film and was probably quite nice in its day. The day in question in my case was 1997. This was another ebay purchase. I managed to pick up 17m of it prior to expired film reaching the eyewatering prices of today. Being old Orwo, the information was limited and I spent plenty of time experimenting. Rodinal semi stand probably produces the best results but in this instance I developed it in HC110, dilution B (1:31) for 10 minutes. I like HC110 with expired film because it handles base fog very nicely. My first experience of HC was with Bellini EuroHC which is excellent. once that ran out I bought the original Kodak. The Kodak version is far more viscous and requires more diligent handling. I had issues initially, mainly because I wasn’t shaking the bottle, vigorously stirring the dilution and using the Kodak agitation scheme. Once I got my act together It behaved quite nicely. As for the film, as you can see it’s a grainy film but still pretty good for something that is 26 years out of date, and in that time probably wasn’t stored optimally.
I have about six rolls of this film left, nestling in the fridge, awaiting a situation that just cries out for grain. I must say I have enjoyed experimenting with the film and would thoroughly recommend grabbing bulk rolls of expired film if they’re cheap enough.
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