Rollei B35

5 Frames with a Rollei B35 and expired Orwo NP27

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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23 thoughts on “5 Frames with a Rollei B35 and expired Orwo NP27”

  1. never fails that after I read the latest post here I want to get that camera! Wish I could give them all a home and a spin.
    Thanks for the review.

    1. Lol. They are great fun and so handy to keep in your pocket. You can still get them cheaply on eBay, I have seen them for £25. I think people either don’t fancy them or presume they aren’t that good but they are every bit as sharp as an Olympus XA and give you full control. Buy one 🙂 you know it makes sense 🙂

  2. Nice images, nice little pocket camera. Film photography is very much alive these days and that’s a good thing. Vintage cameras continue to soldier on in the digital era.

  3. Michael Zwicky-Ross

    I used to have a Rollei that was similar to yours but foolishly sold it many years ago. Now of course I’m going to be looking for another one! Excellent photographs of Lancaster, I know it well.

  4. I love my Rollei 35 for its image quality but I hate it for its ergonomics (or lack of same). For me the XA is the better package, maybe even the Voigtländer (Balda made) Vito C. But that’s just my preferences.

    1. To be fair, a friend of mine wasn’t impressed with the Rollei because it was just too small. Re. the Vitos, I had a vitomatic ii and the build and feel were lovely, I just didn’t get great results, good but not great. Maybe I had a duffer 🙂

  5. I have a small Rollei 35 predecessor. Mine has a clip on lens hood and cap. Have you got an easy solution for using filters with yours? I want to use my NISI ND kit with the camera. The kit is 49mm out of the box. Also have you tried any of the Pyro developers with that film?

    1. I haven’t used filters with it but I am sure I have seen something online. Re. The Pyro, I really want to try 510Pyro. The results I have seen have been excellent and I bet it is great with this. I currently use Rodinal, HC110, FX-39 and caffenol 🙂

  6. Oooh, what a cute little camera. Nice score on the expired film, and a good tip, to look for bulk-loaded expired film. You have some good shots there, I particularly liked the first one, and the film seemed to quite nicely fit those streetscapes. Thank you for this article and photos!!

    1. They are eminently collectable 🙂 I would like the original as the lens is supposed to be a cracker. Mine is a nice model as the meter is still accurate and it doesn’t need batteries 🙂

  7. Maybe if everyone bought fresh film we would help to guarantee that film would still be made and available in the future. Help out those still making film. This will help everyone that shoots it.

    1. I couldn’t agree more. In my case the expired film was dirt cheap, we are talking around £1 per metre, and my budget is minimal. I do have fresh film too, especially in 120. The thing that makes me shake my head is the fact that expired film on ebay is often dearer than fresh from Analogue wonderland. One slight niggle is the fact that film prices went up alarmingly, only to come back down again (Kodak, Lomography) suggesting the prices may have been over inflated. Kodak bulk film is now as expensive as buying individual rolls meaning that it is out of my reach. Thank goodness for Fomapan 🙂

  8. Peter, don’t you understand I am trying to recover from years of Gear Acquisition Syndrome? Now I’m looking for a Rollei. Thanks a lot!

  9. Love the little Rollie and have always liked the look of this camera. Intrigued by their fabulous lenses, I picked one up for a bargain price in my local camera shop a little while ago. I’ve also got a 5-frames article queued up on here ready to go which is coming out soon. My experience is very similar to yours, it’s great fun to use and easy to have loaded with film at all times. Mine came with a leather carry case so I keep it in my work bag so it’s ready if I want to grab a few shots on my travels. It’s not my every day camera but I’ll often use it for some impromptu street photography when it’s all I have on me and I love the results. I shoot mainly expired Tri-X in mine but have had great results recently from Expired T-Max, pushed 1 stop.

    1. I need to get a case for mine 🙂 I picked up a push on lens cap for it from Simon Forster. Its a rather dapper shade and supports Analogue Wonderland’s “She Hearts Film”.

      “She Hearts Film is an Analogue Wonderland initiative that aims to put a spotlight on female film photographers through the hashtag #Sheheartsfilm. Simon Forster Photographic and Analogue Wonderland have collaborated to create some special She Hearts Film lens caps. The lens caps are available in the signature She Hearts Film purple, helping to spread the mission of the project through colourful photography accessories. For every #SheHeartsFilm lens cap sold, £1 will be donated to Hundred Heroines, a UK based charity dedicated to promoting women in photography”

  10. I had one of these and had some lovely pictures out of it. Unfortunately the shutter dial was very stiff and I got fed up with it. And, if one advanced the film too quickly it would tear through the sprocket holes.
    The first time it happened, I didn’t realise, and end up with with a wacky do-deca-exposure (or so) of various things on Brighton seafront.

  11. Great images – I’m impressed by the quality of the negs. I too have just developed 20 year old np27 and np15 in 15 year old rodinal with crystal lumps in the bottle. For a post next year!

    1. What speed was NP15? I tend to shoot NP27 at 100, likewise some Jessops pan 400s. I don’t mind grain but always found shooting at box to be a bit much for my tastes 🙂 I am very much looking forward to your post and seeing your results 🙂

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