This sturdy little vintage camera has a lot to offer. The Rollei 35 is a metal 35mm film camera with a variety of manual settings including film type, shutter speed, lens focusing, film ISO, and aperture setting with an easy-to-read light meter. It also works with a tripod, external flash, and cable release.
The Rollei 35 was actually what got me into Lomography. While perusing various articles on the Internet, I somehow stumbled across an article on the Rolleiflex and then I suddenly remembered that I had a Rollei 35 in my room that I had found while I was cleaning — one of the several vintage cameras that my grandpa had owned.
Before this rediscovery of analog photography, I thought digital was the only practical way to go and that only a few hardcore film junkies still used analog and developed it in their darkrooms at school. Once I found the Lomography website, however, I was surprised at the huge amount of people who still use film, and I spent hours just looking at all the different types of effects film could achieve.
But I digress. Once I realized what analog photography can do I bought some film and started experimenting on my own, I found out what a great little camera the Rollei 35 is. I did a little bit of research and learned that this camera was originally made in Germany, then in Singapore, and it was one of the first compact analog viewfinder cameras designed by Carl Zeiss.
The many different settings provided me with a lot of ways to experiment. I can set the type of film I’m using (color negative, color slide indoor, color slide natural light, and black and white negative) and the ISO (25, 50, 100, 200, 400, 800, and 1600) or DIN, whichever you prefer. When I’m ready to take pictures, the lens actually expands out of the camera frame, which prevents accidental photos while it’s not in use. The shutter speed can also be set to my preference (from 1/2 of a second to 1/500 of a second) and even had a B setting for multiple exposure shots.
One feature I thought was really cool, having grown up on disposable cameras, was the handy little light meter at the top of the camera. The light meter and aperture setting on the front of the camera make it easy to get a well-exposed shot; on my first roll of film, I only had one or two badly lit shots.
There are only a few things that I’d improve about the Rollei 35. The lens must be manually focused depending on how far you are from your subject, and unless you have a tape measure with you at all times, you must approximate your distance. It’s not that difficult with practice but it does leave room for error. There’s also a “safety” mechanism that prevents double exposure shots (and blank frames), so that’s one cool effect that can’t be created. As for weight, this metal camera isn’t the lightest camera out there but it’s not horrible. I can easily carry it and its flash around in my bag but I wouldn’t put it in my pocket.
I’ve mostly used my little Rollei 35 for street photography (I hope to do portraits too, but have not yet had a chance) but I’ve found that it’s very good at what it does for a camera of it’s time and size.