There’s a lot of cameras in the world, but in my opinion, there are only a few that look as good as the higher-end Rollei 35 series cameras. There are probably equally as few that succeed as well at what I perceive as being their design goals too.
I now have two Rollei 35 cameras – an early German Rollei 35 with the Tessar lens and a later Rollei 35 SE (previously reviewed here). Though I don’t shoot them very often, for the way they look and their success as cameras, I can’t help but absolutely love them.
I have owned my Rollei 35SE for a while now, but have long coveted the original Rollei 35. I finally took the plunge when Jeremy Rata launched his film camera restoration/refurbishment company, FilmFurbish. I’ve looked at a lot of these cameras on eBay, but there’s often been something that has put me off, even if that has just been a high price and lack of guarantee.
I will come back to Jeremy and the services he provides later in this article, but for now I shall just say that if you find yourself tempted by one of these cameras, and want to ensure getting yourself a good copy, you should definitely check out his website!
The Rollei 35 Series
There are a fair few versions of the Rollei 35. The series can be split into two: the higher-end models, and the entry-level models. The entry level models had a more basic Triotar lens and had the shutter and aperture controls integrated into the lens barrel and in most cases have selenium light meters.
The higher-end models had either a Tessar or Sonnar lens, can be easily identified by the shutter and aperture dials on the front face of the camera. All of the higher-end models have meters, but they are CdS meters and so are a lot less imposing on the design of the camera.
I should say, I’m not snobby about the entry-level cameras, I have shot and enjoyed a Rollei 35B before, and when reading up about the models again for the sake of this article, I have given myself some 35B GAS again. But, for my money the higher-end models have a design charm that really appeals to me. As such, though I might come back to the entry level cameras one day, the focus of this article is my experiences with the higher-end Rollei 35 cameras.
Rollei 35 – Higher-End models – Overview
The higher-end series of Rollei 35 camera is made up of the original Rollei 35, the 35T, 35S, 35TE and 35SE. There are a few subtle differences between them which I will come to in a second, but the basis of these 5 cameras is the same. They are all tiny zone focus cameras with surprisingly big, bright viewfinders, are all fully manual with a built in CdS light meter and all have collapsible lenses.
To extend the lens, you simply pull it out from the body of the camera and twist to lock it in place. There’s then a button on the top or front of the camera to release the lens to collapse it. The lens will only collapse when the film is advanced.
The film is advanced with the lever on the top of the camera and rewound with the winder on the bottom. The frame counter and hot shoe are also on the bottom plate along with the release catch to open the cameras. The Rollei 35 is rewound by flicking a lever by the viewfinder to release the mechanism, the the rewind lever is folded out from a neatly tucked away position to rewind the film.
To change/load the roll, the bottom/back of the camera comes away and film is loaded underneath the folding film pressure plate.
The higher-end Rollei 35 cameras are controlled via two dials on the front. Both dials have settings displayed in the upper edge of the dial so you can see the settings as you look down at the camera when holding it to shoot it.
The right hand dial (as you look at them over the top of the camera) sets the aperture. The exposure index dial for setting the ISO is also set into the front of this dial.
The left dial sets the shutter speed with a film reminder set into the front of it. The film reminder has no impact on the photos, it’s just there to help remember what type of film was loaded.
The camera is focused using a control at the front of the lens. There’s no viewfinder based focusing aid, it is purely a zone focus camera that is focused using the distance and depth of field indicators on the top of the lens. Again, the settings are visible as you look down at the top of the camera.
For flash photography it is intended that the flash is mounted onto the bottom of the camera and then the whole camera used upside down so that flash illuminates from above rather than below the camera.
Rollei 35, T & S
The original Rollei 35 has a 40mm f/3.5 Tessar lens. This was followed by a 35S which has a f/2.8 Sonnar lens and a 35T which also had the Tessar but had the T suffix to differentiate it from the S. The original Rollei 35 and later 35T are, but for the T designation, essentially the same camera.
All of these versions have a built in light meter with a matched needle readout on the top plate of the camera. With the meter on the top of the camera it is also visible when looking at the shutter, aperture and focus settings. It is designed as such that all the camera settings are adjusted and set with the camera away from the eye.
The earlier cameras also took a PX625 battery that was installed in the camera inside the film chamber meaning the battery could only be changed when a roll of film wasn’t loaded.
Rollei TE & SE
These early versions were followed by 35SE and 35TE models which had an LED light meter readout in the viewfinder. With the light meter readout being inside the viewfinder, the way the later models are operated differs quite dramatically from the earlier models. It is intended that the settings, to a degree at least, are changed with the camera to the eye. I talk about how I made this work for me in some detail in my previous Rollei 35SE review.
The later models also had a battery compartment that was accessed via a plastic hatch on the top plate of the camera.
My Rollei 35 Experiences
I first handled a Rollei 35 when I worked in camera retail something like 15 years ago now. If memory serves, it was a 35S. A customer brought it in to show me after we’d had a bit of a chat about compact cameras. He left it with me to tinker with, and even said I could put a roll though it… but I was too scared that I was going to drop it or lose it, so I didn’t. It actually already had a dent in the top plate, which added to the idea that it was something I could easily damage. As such, it just stayed behind the counter for a week or so until he came to collect it, slightly disappointed that I hadn’t tried it.
Regardless of the fact I didn’t use it, the time it remained in the shop was enough seed a fascination with the series in me. Back then, as I guess I have just hinted at, I was a lot more in awe of older cameras, particularly valuable ones. I’d never even seen a Leica in real life at this point, so this little Rollei was at the time one of the most interesting and valuable older cameras I’d handled.
To this day they remain a little jewel-like to me. They feel solid, or perhaps a better word is dense since they dent quite easily. They are also mechanically pleasing, albeit a little fiddly, and just generally feel like high quality objects that I think look quite technical… or at least that’s how I remember perceiving them when I first handled the 35S.
Despite appearances, and short of the how the subtle differences in features and design impacts on the user experience (something I will come to in a mo), they’re actually very simple cameras. They just have everything a metered manual camera requires to function crammed onto a tiny body. There’s something about this cramming of the features that makes them very satisfying to me – not least because they manage to look as good as they do despite being so small.
My Rollei 35 cameras
As I said at the beginning of this review, I now own both a German Rollei 35 and Singapore 35SE versions. I can honestly feel no difference between the quality, though I am sure there must be some out there that prefer the original German cameras. Personally, I’m not fussed about the German provenance of the earlier model – just as my favourite Leicas were made in Canada and Portugal, I see no benefit in being fussy about where a camera was made. In the case of my original model, I just liked the idea of having an early Tessar model to go with my late Sonnar model.
Zone Focusing Joy
My Rollei 35SE was very kindly gifted to me by a reader of the website a good few years ago now – and, to say the least, I loved it. It totally reinvigorated my appreciation for zone focus photography. In fact, I’d possibly go as far to say that sealed the idea in my mind that Rollei 35 series camera are up there with the absolute best of the zone focus cameras.
That might sound a little like hyperbole, but from my point of view, the choice to shoot zone focus is a choice to limit oneself. And to my mind, there should always be advantages to imposing such limitations.
Zone focusing has – as many of its advocates will tell you – the potential to be the quickest way to focus. Not through shot-by-shot focusing, of course, but through good anticipation and pre-focusing. Get to grips with pre-focusing and the Rollei 35 series camera can be a very quick camera to shoot with.
But the real key advantage that comes with this speed is the size of the Rollei 35. There’s nothing to stop you from zone focusing with a lot of older SLR or rangefinder cameras, not to mention the vast swathes of other zone focus cameras from a wealth of other brands of camera. But the Rollei 35 cameras really are tiny. As such, if small size is your primary desire for a camera, and zone focusing is either something you can live with – or indeed something you enjoy – then they make for an obvious choice in my opinion.
Focusing method aside, as I have already said, the manual operation combined with this tiny size is the key attraction to the Rollei 35 cameras to me. There are very few 35mm film cameras that are as small as the Rollei 35 series cameras, and there are none that I know of that take 35mm film that offer entirely manual controls. It’s true, they aren’t the least fiddly cameras out there. The small aperture and shutter dials on the front aren’t perfectly easy to operate. But for me, this isn’t an issue. These camera are all about being prepared. Pre-focusing and pre-setting exposure settings to as close a degree as is predictable will definitely reap the best user experience.
Rollei 35 (/T/S) vs. Rollei 35SE (/TE)
As I’ve already said, the later ‘SE’ and ‘TE’ cameras had a light meter inside the viewfinder and a battery compartment on the outside. The original Rollei 35 cameras and the ‘S’ and ‘T’ variants had the light meter on the outside and the battery compartment on the inside.
When I first had it, I came to really enjoy how the SE worked, though if you read my review, you’ll see me comment that the LED light meter almost spoils the view through the very nice viewfinder. That said, I did find a knack for using it that allowed me to make minor changes to the camera settings with it to my eye, and found myself very comfortable using it that way.
Interestingly, especially reading that review back with a few more years of my photography journey under my belt, I find myself with a different perspective. As someone who had less experience with manual cameras at the time, I think I found a way to find favour with the viewfinder based light meter readout for the added confidence it gave me in terms of correct exposure.
These days, I’m somewhat less concerned about shooting based on a camera’s meter reading, and slightly more concerned with making a metering judgment based on the combination of a light meter, my awareness of the film I’m shooting, my desired end result and the environment I’m in. I’m also slightly more aware of the ramifications of over and under exposure. For a start, you’ll note in that old review that I mistook underexposure for overexposure in my results…
The result of all of this is that were I to shoot the ‘SE’ now, I think I might find myself a little less happy with the disruption to the view through the finder that the LEDs cause. With the intervening years of experience using non-metered cameras, I’m also a lot more comfortable using external light meters.
Because of all this, I now find using the light meter on the top of the camera very appealing. It’s coupled to the camera’s settings, so when you look down at the top of the camera you can change the settings and see the meter readout responding. Combine this with being able to set the focus settings and depth of field scale, you have everything in front of you to be able to adjust the settings to that which are appropriate for the subject without having to even lift the camera to the eye.
The result of all this is a sense of preparedness. The process of presetting the shutter and aperture and pre-focusing the lens is innate to the activity of shooting a zone focus camera, and the early cameras make this feel very natural to me now.
Additionally, where I previously thought the external battery was an advantage just in case the batteries ran out mid-roll, those sorts of concerns are much lower on my list now. As someone who used to find comfort in a viewfinder-based light meter, I would have felt a little lost without it. These days, if the meter in the Rollei 35 died, I’d just rely on Sunny-16-gut, or more likely just revert to using the Lumu app on my iPhone. Though I would lose the benefit of the coupled meter, the experience wouldn’t be that different either.
There’s no doubt, there’ll be a lot of photographers out there who also absolutely prefer a camera with a light meter in the viewfinder. For them, finding the knack I found with the SE will likely result in a more comfortable user experience. Alternatively, for those who are have greater preference for an approach to photography that involves presetting will likely find preference for the older style meter.
For me, now, that’s where I am at. I find it much easier to use the early Rollei 35 by pointing it roughly in the direction of the sort of light I want to shoot, looking down at the top of the camera, reading the settings off the two dials, and twiddling them until I get the meter to match with what I feel my gut thinks is the right exposure. I just need to pay more attention than I did when I shot this roll…
Sonnar vs. Tessar
I suppose the next logical direction for this article would be to compare the Sonnar and Tessar lenses. Unfortunately – at least in terms of image quality – I’m in no position to make a full and proper comparison. I’ve not shot either of them enough to comment fully, and shot the SE too long ago to judge the results against my current Tessar results anyway.
But, one thing has struck me when reading my previous review is that I used to be a lot more concerned about finding cameras that worked well in lower light, or at very least in a broader set of circumstances. This seems to be one of the key arguments in favour of the Sonnar-lensed models. It’s a f/2.8 over the Tessar’s f/3.5 maximum aperture. Of course, the difference between 2.8 and 3.5 isn’t that great, neither have a light meter that works in lower light, and from my personal perspective now, neither would make an obvious choice for lower light shooting anyway.
But again, I think this speaks more about my personal preferences now versus what they were then. When I was thinking about adding an older model Rollei 35 to my collection, my primary interest – aside from just wanting an older one to go with my newer one – was in owning one with the light meter on the top of the camera. Of course, there was some thought to whether or not I should go for another Sonnar or get a Tessar one, and I was motivated a little bit to have the Tessar just to have one of each. But when I thought about how and where I would now shoot a Rollei 35 camera, I knew the slower lens would be plenty adequate for my needs.
I really love shooting zone focus. At some point last year I sold my Leica iiia in favour of a ic because I never used rangefinder on the iiia. My 28mm f/3.5 Voigtlander lens mounted on the ic makes for a perfect combination of small size and total manual control for wondering around shooting in the daytime. The f/3.5 maximum aperture of that lens has never been as issue.
If I know I’m going to go somewhere that might be lower-lit, I just don’t take that camera. For me, the Rollei 35 fits into the same category as my Leica ic – it’s a daytime camera. A camera for broader depth-of-field snaps where zone focusing is easy. And therefore – for what I want it for – the f/3.5 lens is more than adequate. Your mileage may vary, but that’s my rationale, and I’m sticking to it.
Sorry none of this answers the Sonnar vs. Tessar debate properly… what can I say, Google is your friend. In fact, if you do that search, you might come across Calogero Randazzo’s article that has lots of comparisons here. I like his conclusion too: “Get one of these, no matter if S or T, go out, shoot, print and enjoy!”
As I said at the beginning of this article, I got my original Rollei 35 from Jeremy Rata of Filmfurbish. I’ve known Jeremy for a little while now; a few years maybe. He’s written for 35mmc and I’ve sold him kit before. He’s a Leica shooter, and quite discerning when it comes to the quality of kit whilst also not being snobby. He has, for example, made a good case for a couple of the better Chinese M-Mount lenses.
So when he got in touch with me to say he had a lockdown plan to set up a company refurbishing cameras, I was all ears. I was even more interested when I hear his initial focus was to be Rollei 35 series cameras. He’d managed to team up with an ex-Rollei camera engineer who was going to do some of the more complex repairs. Jeremy was then going to use the best bits he could get his hands on to put together Rollei 35 cameras that were good enough that he was comfortable offering them with a 12 month guarantee.
He sells the cameras boxed with manuals, accessories and even a roll of Rollei film. He also grades them very well and honestly, so you know when buying one exactly what you are going to get. In the absence of new film cameras in the marketplace, I find it very difficult to argue with this sort of service/offer. The best thing is, taking into account inflation, they are still cheaper than they were when they were new.
The primary criticisms of these cameras are the facts that they only offer zone focusing, can be a little bit fiddly to use and that they quite often come dented or broken.
The fact they are zone focusing is of course a limitation, and it will be a deal breaker for some. For me, I love the fact that they don’t have a focussing aid in the viewfinder. As they are, the viewfinder is wonderfully bright, and as I have said with a bit of forethought zone focusing can actually be an advantage rather than the opposite.
It is true they are a little fiddly to use too, but again with forethought and using them as they are intended makes for a user experience that quickly makes light of their fiddly nature. And anyway, the tiny size of the camera brings advantages that outweigh the compromise in my opinion anyway.
On both zone focusing and the small size advantage, I think Trevor Hughes’ street portraits of Bike Messengers with the Rollei 35SE go a long way to prove what can be achieved with these cameras in the right hands.
And, of course, if you’re worried about dents or functional issues buying off eBay etc, now you have the option to spend a little bit more and buy one from FilmFurbish too.
For me, they are total gems. I doubt I will ever sell either of mine – despite the fact that I don’t and won’t use them very frequently – they just feel too perfect not to own. There are very few cameras that I think all die hard film photographers should own at some point, but I find it very hard not to make that statement about the Rollei 35!
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31 thoughts on “Rollei 35 – My Experiences and Love for these Little Cameras”
Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Wish I had never sold mine!
I adore my 35S, the lens is a cracker and i love 40mm. However, it’s the ability to put it in a small pocket and use it to take high quality photos anywhere, all the while liberated to compose through that superb viewfinder, knowing that zone focus is doing the job. I mostly use Tmax400 in it, as I can shoot at both 400 and 800 to give myself the speed to get a small aperture and a good shutter speed to make zone focus work even better. When hiking, I’ll take this over my Leica Ms any day, and I know I’ll end up with just as good photos.
Hiking, cycling, common themes amongst users it seems!
I have found an old service technician who worked at Franke & Heidecke in Braunschweig. He just serviced my beloved black 35 S and it works like a treat! As a student, my holiday transport was my bicycle and I learned the hard way that small is good. My 35 S became my travel companion and the Contax 167 stayed home… The little Rollei is just perfect for biking. I shot Ektachrome 200 back then, exposure was very good and I never missed anything.
Thanks for posting!
Yes, great cameras for biking for sure! Did you see the Street Portraits article I liked to?
very interesting and complete review, as always. What about the Rollei XF 35 and its Sonnar 2,3 lens?
I’ve never seen one in working condition – that’s not to say they don’t exist, one just haven’t existed for me yet…
actually, they are built like a tank, and will mostly be in working condition. I have never seen one not working.
oh hold on, sorry you are talking about the XF35..
Hamish, I think you must be psychic as it was only this morning that I decided to research all about the Rollei 35s. And now you’ve saved me all that work!
I have a few Minox 35s and have read a lot of comparisons between them and the Rolleis. Clearly they both have their pros and cons but I think it’s time to source perhaps a Rollei 35S, based on what you’ve written.
I won’t know if it’s right for me unless I try one. But thanks for directing me as to which ones do what.
Ha! It was all for you Dave! ???? Glad to be of service! The ‘S’ is a fine choice – they are the most popular!
Thanks Hamish, I have had a B35 as well as now two 35SE’s. My feelings on them are pretty similar to yours. I may even go so far as to say that it may be the 35mm camera I’d pick if I could keep only one. The Sonnar is a sumptuous lens. I’ve no experience with the Tessar but I’ve read that it works well with B&W for its higher contrast, which may or may not be true. Sounds plausible though.
Like you I use an external light meter which some may say defeats the purpose of such a tiny camera. But a Sekonic L 208 is even tinier.
Thanks for mentioning FilmFurbish, I checked it out a while ago when you first mentioned it and it seems to be an excellent resource.
Cheers Jeremy. For where I am at now with these cameras I would definitely use a meter with the SE, but I quite enjoy the meter on the camera in the earlier models now. Either way, there’s no defeating purpose, it’s just what works that counts int it
I had a Rollei 35 S for years that I used often. It was always ready and never in a bag or on a strap. I still practice my zone focusing habits but on the Leica M these days. Although one of the better looking cameras (I even considered picking up a limited version) they do feel comprised due to the tiny form factor. I highly recommend using a flash on these during situations when the sun is out. Heck, I might pick one up for the summer. Great read as always.
Compromise is exactly the word. Small comes with compromise, but it’s a compromise that I think is work it!
Hamish – I enjoyed the article… no surprise there really as I have one of Jeremy’s SE’s… I am happy with the lightmeter, don’t find it too intrusive but I understand what you are saying, but I’ve always preferred a bit of a crutch when metering. I measured it against my Sekonic recently and it was spot on. Most of the time, for general walkabout use I set it when I get out and stay with that setting unless very dark or light scenes intervene. Nice with Rollei film but better for me with Tri-X. I have to add Jeremy Rata is a fantastic guy to do business with – helpful, friendly and quick to resolve anything that crops up for a new user like me. I may well get another as they are lovely jewel-like cameras and very easy to use but will have to wait til the piggy bank grows again… A red one perhaps ;-). a T/S probably
Hi, Hamish. I can well understad your love of these little beauties.
Although I stopped using film shortly after defecting to digital (42 years of d&p were enough!) it hasnt put paid to my interest in film cameras, and I continued to add to my collection. My first Rollei was the B35, and this gave me a “feel” for the format. Later, I decided to add examples of specific types, without actually duplicating a model for want of a different model number. So next a 35, not a 35T, and like yours it has had a little prang on the front leading edge of the toplate. And when adding a Sonnar lensed model, the 35SE. Last to be added was the 35LED. Sadly, the meter readout no longer works. It was fine the last time I had it out to play with, but getting it out having read this article so I could better comment on it, the blighter’s stopped working! I thought it may have been the new PX27 battery adapter or the silver batteries, but it powers up both my A110 cameras one chrome and one black, the latter picked up on ebay the other week for £8 untested. If it didn’t work, hey it was just £8!
I’ve thought of adding a C35 (B35, minus the meter) but these are quite rare and attract collector interest, hence the unjustifiable, IMO, prices being asked for them.
Handling the 35SE is a joy, quirks and all, but I still rate the simplicity of meter setting of the LED superior, which works in the same fashion as my M6.
An interesting observation of these latter models is have you ever considered how Rollei TLR-like they are with aperture and shutter setting being the same, visible from above?
And did you know H.M. The Queen used one, when she wasn’t shooting with her M Leica?
I like the look of the early C35 too. In fact I wondered the other day if a 35B could be modified to look/work like one.
There is certainly an element of that TLR user experience isn’t there – though a Rollei wouldnt make me sway like a Rolleiflex might…
And no, I didn’t know that about the queen… I have often wondered about the quality of her photos though
I can’t believe the price these are commanding. It was a fun camera to own, but I traded it toward an Olympus OM-10 for my wife. That is also long gone (the camera, not my wife!)
I always thought that this was the camera Leica should have brought out instead of the CL in the 1970’s. Add a rangefinder and keep the fixed collapsible lens. What a gem that would have been.
Thanks again for another good posting! Keep yourself & your family in continued good health!
Hamish, your experience with the Rollei 35 quite mirrors mine. I’ve bought a T variant not long ago not expecting much, but 2 rolls in and I was hooked. The top-mounted meter coupled with the shutter/aperture dials made shooting a breeze and soon enough I was snapping away with the ease of an autofocus P&S. A cracker of a camera in daylight and inseparable as part of my everyday carry.
Thank you for the info, been reading various articles and all about the Rollei 35. This little thing will be my next purchase, I’ve bookmarked them in various sites I shop at. I do not see much difference in the German or Singaporean-made ones but I’m also excited to try it out with my new lightmeter. In my side of the world, it’s obviously more common to see the Singaporean-made ones.
I truly loved my 35S. Took some of my best pictures with it while traveling and was so sad I gavotte camera away. in Morocco back in the day. Like the dented camera in the picture I dropped mine. I was so sad that I gave the camera away..
I truly loved my 35S. Took some of my best pictures with it while traveling in Morocco back in the day. Like the dented camera in the picture I eventually dropped mine. I was so sad that I gave the camera away..
Just wanted to share my experience (horror story more like it) with the UK reseller FILMFURBISH. After ordering a two-tone unit and paying £60 for shipping, I received the 1st of 2 cameras after ~2-3 weeks in a nice bulletproof presentation box with all the included goodies (Yey!). Upon inspection, I found that shipping was only £29 (Argh), not £60 as charged. The camera had good clean glass with perfect view finder and framelines, but the lightmeter front window was dirty. After cleaning the lighmeter, meter readings were spot on. However, I found that the aperture blades would open, but not close when changing settings via the aperture wheel. I informed the seller and said he inspected the camera and that it might have been caused by shipping. So, trying to fix it myself to save time, I opened the unit and found that the sliding mechanism actuated by a cam underneath the aperture wheel was sticking and would not freely return with the help of the intact return spring. Damage was not caused by shipping. I shipped the camera back to the seller and received the 2nd unit, which was not an upgrade as promised, after ~3-4 weeks. This time I found the framelines to be dirty (covered with small black dots), lint in lightmeter top screen, and chipped lightmeter front window glass (3mm diameter) that’s recessed and protected by a ring. How is this an upgrade, it’s not even a black unit. I measured the lightmeter readings using the correct batter voltage of 1.35V against a known reference, my other lightmeter that was used to confirm the 1st unit, and found it to be 3 stops off. It appears the chip is acting like a lens dispersing some of the light entering the orifice past the sensor. I informed the seller regarding the chipped glass and claimed the lightmeter was verified and that damage might have been caused by shipping — again. I don’t think a chip on a tiny recessed glass would have been caused by shipping especially in a bulletproof package. Neither camera have been film tested (eg., shutter speed verified) at this point. I tried to negotiate for a 3rd unit, an actual upgrade to no avail. I will just need to punch out the chipped glass or look for a replacement top plate. Both units supposed to have been cleaned, lubricated, and adjusted (CLA), but that does not appears so based on my observations. Who in their right mind would send two lemons to the same customer and have the customer wait for an additional 3-4 weeks for the replacement. The seller should have know better and sent the replacement unit expedited shipping. Moreover, who sends out a unit with chipped lightmeter window that should have been caught during CLA and QC prior to shipping. How does that window even get chipped unless hit by a nail. This outfit lacks customer service/satisfaction and quality control, not to mention overcharging shipping cost from the UK to the US. Furthermore, the limited one year warranty requires the camera to be serviced by them in the UK during the first 6 months of ownership for it to be valid. Appears seller doesn’t trust his own product or quality of work. These things should not need service for years if properly CLA’d. I could not make lemonade with one lemon, but can with two. Great packaging and website though. Order with caution, you’ve been warned…
Let me start my detailed response by saying every camera I sell comes with a 12 month guarantee and has been fully serviced and inspected. There is a full refund policy in place if the camera is either faulty or not as described. I offered Andrew Carino a refund immediately as per my t&c’s under Refund Policy for all to see, so why wouldn’t I? In all fairness if If anyone ever wanted to return a camera for whatever reason I would be unlikely to refuse, regardless of their motivation, it is not in my nature.
I have sold over 200 cameras since I started just over a year ago so I suppose you have to expect some negative feedback occasionally although so far I have not had to experience this, now I have but in this instance I tried, I really tried.
I set up FilmFurbish in November 2020 as a lockdown project specialising in Rollei 35 & Nikon cameras with the modest ambition of selling a few cameras whilst lockdown was in force.
Given the cameras I sell are nearly all over 50 years old I am determined to offer a 12 month warranty and a
‘like buying new’ experience with professional packaging as I found buying old cameras on eBay and the like to be an underwhelming experience. I chose Rollei 35 cameras to start off with because the ex Rollei trained technician I use for my Rolleiflexes knew how to service them, so it enabled me to offer a 12 month warranty. This is a USP I am proud of.
I have been overwhelmed with the positive response to FilmFurbish, way exceeding my expectations. As a result I have uniformly positive feedback with no issues and lots of positive feedback particularly on my Instagram page @filmfurbish.
It has been going so well and has been an extremely positive experience for me, to the point that I am now scaling back my photography (see http://www.jeremyrata.com) to focus on this venture.
My reputation as a good and honest seller had never been questioned before. I try hard to do a good job and take care of my customers by responding quickly to their enquiries, shipping quickly and making sure I don’t ‘oversell’ my products. When you are dealing with cameras that are in many instances over 50 years old you very occasionally come across an issue, on the rare occasion where this has occurred I have sorted it quickly and to everyone’s satisfaction.
If you take time to read the history of this transaction below you will see why I feel this way.
It has to be said I have never dealt with a more unpleasant character. I find his review to be very unfair and disingenuous, omitting to mention his attempt to force me via email (so I have the proof) into a significant upgrade or he would post poor reviews on social media, even though I had already offered a full refund. I think that could be considered blackmail?
When I first received the enquiry from Andrew Carino in the US asking me to check 5 different cameras from different price points I recognised I was dealing with someone who was after the best possible camera for his budget and that I should be quick and precise in my responses or I risked losing a sale. No problem with that at all.
So I personally checked each one (including the one he eventually ordered) for all functions and got back to him within a couple of hours. Each one was perfect with varying cosmetic differences. He eventually opted for the lowest price silver camera (which was perfect but cheaper due to hand engraved numbers on the top plate by a previous owner) even though his preference was for a black one. I didn’t give it a second thought. I should have in hindsight.
Here’s the timeline of emails:
Sunday 5/12/21 Camera order received with specific request to check the camera for light meter, shutter speeds etc. This is unusual as it clearly states on each camera description that every camera has been serviced and is checked prior to dispatch. Nevertheless I complied and confirmed.
Tuesday 7/12/21:Camera shipped with specific confirmation that the camera was fully working and without issues. It is fair to say it took longer than usual to arrive, but it was just after Thanksgiving in the States and the pre Christmas rush so these factors and COVID probably had a detrimental effect on the system. But not the 3/4 weeks he is claiming.
Tuesday 21/12/21: I receive an email from Andrew claiming the camera is faulty and that the aperture dial doesn’t work properly. I thought this very strange but I immediately offered either a refund or return and to cover the shipping costs of the replacement camera which is only right. He opted to return the camera whilst demanding that I send him out an upgrade (preferably a mint black camera) by way of compensation. He also requested I refund the shipping costs of the return which I did. He then commenced the return of the camera but insisted I send out a replacement camera immediately even before I received the first camera back. Given it was nearly Christmas I thought this odd but reluctantly agreed as I wanted him to be happy.
Thursday 22/12/21 Andrew emailed to say that he would send the camera back and that I should send his replacement without delay and he was expecting to receive a free upgrade, preferably a black camera. To be fair to him I was already planning on replacing it with a better camera by way of an apology for the hassle but this did raise suspicions that things might not be all that they seemed.
Thursday 23/12/21 He emailed to confirm the camera was on its way back to me with tracking and repeating that he was expecting a free upgrade, preferably a black version.
Friday 24/12/21 I emailed Andrew to say due to the Christmas posting period of guaranteed delivery halted for Christmas I would send out the camera after the Holiday period.
Friday 28/12/21 Andrew emailed asking if I had sent the camera, I replied that I was waiting until the new year to avoid the postal backlog. He replied instantly that I should send the camera that day.
Saturday 29/12/21 I sent the replacement camera – a Silver one as I didn’t have any mint- black ones available – and confirmed to Andrew that it was an upgrade.
Later that week I received back the ‘faulty’ camera. It had been tampered with and the front skin removed, something he had hitherto failed to mention. I sent it to the technician I use (the very well known and reputable factory trained ex Rollei technician). He said the fix was simple but it was very odd that it had occurred in the first place. I began to wonder if I was being played.
18/1/22: Predictably the replacement camera arrived with Andrew after over 16 days stuck in the postal system in the States. There is nothing I could do about that.
19/1/22 Andrew sent a raft of emails to me, claiming the camera was not an upgrade, that the meter didn’t work, that it wasn’t black as he had hoped, that the meter window was cracked, and that the framelines were deteriorated. The only one I would concede to is the framelines. Other than that the camera was perfect when it was dispatched.
He demanded various compensations culminating in a request for a 25% refund. By now I was getting pretty disillusioned and requested he return the replacement camera and I would give a full refund but minus Paypal fees (around £12). Eventually we agreed that he would keep the camera and would receive a £60 refund which I paid immediately in full and final settlement and apologised for the hassle he had experienced. Once he received the money he suddenly changed his mind.
20th-21st- 22nd-23rd/11/22 He emailed several times and was all over the place with differing demands from a new camera, to a new top, to a enhanced refund for his trouble, culminating in a demand that I send him a Mint Black Camera at my cost (‘on my dime’ as he put it) or he would post unfavourable reviews on Social Media.
24/1/22 He emailed demanding £455 (on top of the £60) or a replacement mint black camera. If I did he would send the Silver one back at his cost. I finally succumbed and agreed that if he were to return the silver camera I would send him a black camera. I even took a Mint one down from the site that I had listed the previous day in anticipation. I was tired and dispirited and a bit anxious about the threats he was making.
24/1/22 Andrew emailed saying he was not going to send back the Silver camera now until he had received the black camera as he wanted to make sure it was ok. That was the final straw. I felt that there was something going on here and I didn’t like the feel of it.
25/12/22 I thought about it overnight and decided to decline and request that he return the camera for a full refund. I stated that I was no longer willing to deal with him after the last two experiences and in particular his threatening behaviour.
25/1/21 He then emailed me with a couple of demands and finally emailed to say that he had decided that the camera was now ‘just fine’ and that he would keep it. He pointed out that he had planned to buy a second camera and his nephew and his girlfriend were in the market but he was suggesting eBay as a better place for them. He signed off Good Luck! So my loss it seems.
So in summation. There are a couple of possibilities here as I see it. Bearing in mind that at all times I have offered to refund Andrew and apologised for the inconvenience he was enduring.
1. I messed up, sent him two faulty cameras, one after the other and he has every right to demand I correct that. He was just an honest customer who had been in receipt of poor quality controlled cameras and was therefore fully entitled to feel aggrieved.
2. He may not have been completely straight about the cameras he had received and decided to try and see if I would buckle under a series of threats.
Both may be possible I guess, no one is perfect and I make mistakes like anyone else, but I would state that I have sold a lot of cameras since I started and there are many who will vouch for my integrity. If I ever get anything wrong I will always face up to my responsibilities. I have always been that way.
What is undeniable is that Andrew Carino of Daly City, USA isn’t a very nice person, who uses bullying tactics to get what he wants. Be warned.
After reading Andrew’s comment regarding his experience buying a Rollei 35 from FilmFurbish I would like to say that it was through 35MMC’s excellent review of the little Rollei 35 that introduced me to FilmFurbish and Jeremy Rata. As I still use film and have a love for old cameras, (to date almost thirty) the temptation proved too great to pass and I contacted Jeremy. All I can say is that Jeremy was a complete joy to deal with. We spoke at length on my black and white photography and seeing some of my work he recommended a camera to me. A few days later a beautiful Rollei 35S arrived exactly as described and what a joy it has been to use and add to my collection.
Would I buy from FilmFurbish again? yes I would and did so, a second Rollei 35S from the bespoke range. It was exactly as described and worked flawlessly. To date I have run quite a number of films through both of them with no issues whatsoever.
I have nothing but the highest praise for FilmFurbish and its quest for excellence, but I would add should anyone, unlikely, find a fault with one of their cameras to NOT open and tamper with the internals of the camera but just return the camera to FilmFurbish for a refund. Simple, but to some not so simple for some reason.
I’ve purchased 3 cameras from Jeremy at FilmFurbish and have only the highest praise for him and the cameras he sells.
Back story I purchased 2 Rollei 35s one from Facebook and another off EBay both sold as in “Excellent” Condition and both were barely functional upon arrival and neither returnable or with any kind of warranty, it was literally money down the drain.
However, I loved the feel and everything about the camera, so I was determined to find a usable copy. By accident I stumbled into the Rollei35 Facebook group where I kept hearing the FilmFurbish name repeated. I contacted Jeremy who I kid you not probably spent4 hours answering my onslaught of dumb questions and helping me pick just the right camera. I finally bit the bullet and ordered two cameras because I could t make up my mind, Both arrived fast to the US within 1 week and in a stunning presentation box with lots of extra goodies and a few rolls of Rollei Film (nice touch)
Both cameras were as flawless as a 50 year old camera can be so much so I opted to purchase a 3rd camera which I had been obsessing over. This camera arrived in the same quick manner and presentation but after a roll or 2 began to have some issues. I contacted Jeremy and with no questions asked he had me ship it back and repaired it at absolutely no cost, yeh it was a bummer that it developed an issue but I’ve also been at this game long enough to know if you are buying old equipment, things happen so if you are not one who likes to deal with repairs perhaps vintage cameras are not your thing.
All in all I could not be more happy with Jeremy and Film Furbish, I’ve had some great personal conversations with him and feel like I have a kindred photog spirit on the other side of the pond. Save yourself the time and hassle of buying a rollei35 sight unseen from eBay, you will pay a little more but it’s totally worth it IMHO.
My counterpoint to Andrew’s ‘point’. I thought Andrew’s rant was egregious at best so I would like to describe my own experience of Jeremy Rata’s impeccable service and gem of a site. First of all, I take me hat off to anyone who in the face of the unparalleled social experience of lockdown can respond to his own business crashing around his ears by starting another one – bravo alone for that! These little Rolleis are exquisite little cameras and I was intrigued by them and had too many lockdown hours on my hand.
I ‘conversed’ with Jeremy and he provided me with a Rollei education where I had none and I went for a 35 SE so I could have the crutch of light metering (yeah I can do sunny 16 and all that but I am also lazy). It duly came in a bit of a packaging marvel with various accessories and boxed up in a way other more expensive brands might usually work.
He was generous of his time and in other ways. It was early days for both him and I and there was a bit of a wobble with the light meter (old versus new battery strengths). Of course he would take it back he said, without a millisecond of delay, but he suggested I try something first if I would, as he felt confident he could sort this out and I would really enjoy what I had.
Well, it was immediately corrected and now sits in an equal position alongside some other pretty fancy pieces of kit because there is always a time for a small camera with a roll of B&W in your coat pocket. Not quite trouser pocket admittedly, but that might be because I should wear a size bigger…
Jeremy’s sale proposition is super clear (I’ve just rechecked) 12 months guarantee with return of goods when registered with in seven days of receipt. No quibbles, no weasel words, just tell him its not right then send it back.
Andrew’s demands are strident and seem premised on the basis that he was cheesed off therefore Jeremy should send him a more expensive ‘upgrade’. This is where I start to get grumpy on Mr Rata’s behalf. It just smacks of the classic Tripadvisor scam – “if you don’t give me a room upgrade/better seat/free starter I’ll write negative feedback”. It’s one of the many reasons for being sceptical about feedback because it often hides truth rather than revealing it.
So to all who may be interested in a different point of view, I think Filmfurbish offers an intriguing camera proposition, fine products, packaged well and an impeccable after sales service. Do go and try them out.
Please note I am not buddied up with Jeremy in any way commercially or though family and friends, I am just a very, very happy customer
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I have a 35S for sale – service book, leather case, flash and other gadgets … like new condition, if you’re interested, reply
I have a 35S for sale – service book, leather case, flash and other gadgets … like new condition, if you’re interested, reply