The Rollei 35 may be the best secret of all. Introduced in 1966, this miniature 35mm film viewfinder camera is more than the sum of its beautifully engineered parts. With a little practice this camera can create a magical image and that is the reason I call it “The Art Machine”. This article covers my early experience with 5 rolls of Ilford Delta 400, a Rollei 35S camera and a few days around my daughter’s wedding.
The COVID pandemic has changed the way we work and play. I picked up shooting film again last year after a 20+ years of hiatus. I stumbled across the 35mmc website and was inspired by the articles here where hobbyists shared their experience in shooting different cameras with different films. What caught my interest were the articles on the Rollei 35 family of cameras, a tiny camera is much more than the point and shoot cameras of the late 80’s and 90’s. I was able to purchase a good condition Rollei 35S last year and have been learning about zone focus shooting. The size of this camera makes it a perfect companion for travel.
Since becoming re-interested in film shooting a couple of years ago, I’ve acquired a modest but high-quality collection of classic cameras: a Nikon FM and FE, a Mamiya M645, Olympus XA, Canonet QL-17 GIII, a couple of Yashica-Mat TLRs, a Rolleiflex 2.8C, and most recently, a Rolleiflex 3.5 MX-EVS (I also have a FujiFilm X100f, which is a damned fun little camera). I’d love to get a primo Leica at some point, or a Plaubel Makina or Mamiya 7, but for now, such indulgences are the stuff of fantasy. I paid less than $150 for most of my current cameras, and no more than $300 for any of them (X100f excepted). None are immaculate, but they’re all solid shooters. I find them beautiful beyond words.
In college I shot with a Nikon FG. It was my one and only personal camera for about a decade, and I stopped shooting for about a decade other than family snapshots. The week my daughter was born I went to have some prints made at a local lab and poked at their used cameras …